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Batendo Agua

Luiz Marenco / Gujo Teixeira

See also:

Cedar tree seedling

Walking ahead

Three nations milonga


...'cause when journey demands it from me, I pay the price of my livelihood, even if the path seems unsheltered  

Batendo Água is one of the most popular songs composed by Luiz Marenco, a famous name in traditional music from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazilian state which shares border with Argentina and Uruguay. The music was composed in Santa Maria-RS, in an apartment in the city center. At the time Gujo Teixeira, author of the lyrics and Marenco's musical partner, was a veterinarian. It was a rainy afternoon in April 1997 and Gujo was studying while drinking mate* with his friend. Watching the falling storm Marenco, said: "Tá batendo água" which can be translated as 'water is hitting'. In this way, by chance, Marenco created a local expression referring to the sounds of the rain hitting the ground, the houses' roofs and everywhere.  Inspired by these words out together, Gujo immediately dropped his study notebook and pulled out another one to write some verses. “Look, Marenco, this theme has potencial for a song. I'll write some verses on it. If I finish them, you make the music”[my translation]. On the very same day, the verses were turned into music by Marenco. Soon after, no later than two months, the song was already being performed at several festivals.

The first verse of the song begins with: “Meu poncho emponcha lonjuras batendo água". Poncho is a traditional kind of coat worn in many Latin American countries for extremely cold days. In this way, the opening verses which turn the poncho into a verb conjugation (emponcha), aims to express that the coat itself is able to carry and 'wear' longing and distances by facing the heavy rains. Guilherme Howes - who develops studies within the fields of regional identities; ruralities; gauchismo and traditionalism- says that the song describes “the image of a man on a horseback, trotting, under the rain. He wears a very wet poncho, where the water retained in it represents his experiences”.


Batendo água is an example of the some regional poetics from Rio Grande do Sul. Its extreme beauty and singularity is, however, hardly even understood by Brazilians who were not born in these regions or are not part of its cultural communities. The song portrays the bravery of a countryside man who has the strength to endure adverse situations and who - even when facing storms along the way -  take life challenges as they come.


According to Howes:

“There is a whole specific vocabulary used in the lyrics, which will not be understood by an audience which does not have, at least a minimum, some contact with the rural universe. Music will only make sense if it is credible. If it looks like the truth. It does not mean everyone there experienced a similar situation to the one described, but everyone there is able to understand the meaning of it. They can really feel as part of that universe. In this way, the poncho [as a metaphor] represents their home, which is carried over their  shoulders. In the song, the countryside man raises his arms up, performing the image of a large bird with its wings spread, although he has been facing the cold, non-stopping for days. ”

When it comes to the musical genre, the link to the Paraguayan polka is noted, which in turn relates to chamamê, an Argentine hybrid genre widely performed in Rio Grande do Sul with a strong presence of the accordion. About this, Howes affirms that:

“The music is rhythmically a chamamê, written in a  which suggests the hoof-beating of the horse's trot. The expression 'trocando orelhas' translated as 'swaping ears' refers that it is suspicious, attentive, listening to everything. The animal keeps one ear at the front while placing the other to the side. Swaping ears all the time. The horse “changes the beat of ears with every step”, melodically over the damp vegetation. The link between the melody, the lyrics of the song and the scene described reaches its peak in the verses “My zaino took the night from the dark sky, and all that the night can hear is its bugle. Its paws hitting the water after the floodplain. Brake and spur rosettes at the same trin”. That is to say: the horse is of a dark color tone and it blends into the night. The only audible sound is that of its hoofbeats. The brake dewlap produces an strident sound rubbing against the metal, at the same time, at the same measure, and in the same way as the spur rosettes do. The audience is involved in the musical rhythm that accompanies the trotting of a horse, and simultaneously, through the lyrics, images and sounds of scene are featured. This production of fast and instantaneous images, closely linked to the daily life of the gaucho campeiro, is one of the successful strategies of the song which gain public interest. ”

In 2014, almost two decades after Batendo ãgua was created, the authors gather in the same apartment to remember the composition's process. In 2017, the song will be 20 years old. It has been recorded more than 50 times by various artists of nativist music. Due to its exuberant beauty, time does not seem to pass for this song which verses and rhythms continue to surprise for its singularity. Always up to date, the metaphor describes the path of anyone who is not afraid to face the storms of life.

Text by Romy Martínez (Royal Holloway/PROLAM-USP), based on research by Prof. Ms. Guilherme Howes (UNIPAMPA)

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