Mulher Rendeira – “The Bandit of Brazil”

The third chosen version of “Mulher Rendeira” is the English translation. After the success of the song in O Cangaceiro in 1953, the song soon became a hit worldwide with versions popping up all over the place. Though it is a little difficult to track down who wrote the first English translation, many seem to attribute the lyrics to Michael Carr and John Turner. The most known version in English was recorded by The Shadows and released in 1962 on their second album Out of The Shadows which reached number 1 in the UK charts:

This English version was also recorded by artists like US country singer Tex Ritter, British big band leader Frank Weir (and his saxophone..) and Chaquito and the Quedo Brass. The interesting thing is to look how the lyrics were translated. Here is a little section of the English version.

I’m the quickest on the trigger, when I shoot I shoot to kill.
I’m a hero down in Rio, where they talk about me still
Once I robbed a big ranchero, who was rich beyond compare.
And to ransom held his daughter, she was young and she was fair.

Compared to the Portuguese original it isn’t exactly translation, more like a complete rewriting. Amongst the Portuguese versions there were also new verses added and differences made but it is interesting to see how the lyrics have been adapted for an English speaking audience with, presumably little knownledge of Brazil at the time. The lyrics are almost as an accompaniment to the film, feeling pretty distant from Lampião’s original:

A pequena vai no bolso, a maior vai no embornal.
Se chora por mim não fica, só se eu não puder levar.
O fuzil de lampião, tem cinco laços de fita.
O lugar que ele habita, não falta moça bonita.

It is from here that the song begins to take on a life of its own, being transformed and reinterpreted by various artists, not to mention how it is heard and thought about differently by audiences around the world in varying contexts.


5 thoughts on “Mulher Rendeira – “The Bandit of Brazil”

  1. Let us just say it…the English “version” is crap. You can hear the stupid assumptions made about Brazil. It shouldn’t even be considered a version of the song. There’s certainly nothing of the seratao here, no verisimilitude to the life of an canganceiro, and certainly nothing of the enigma which was lampião.

    I originally became interested in this after hearing Marcos da Silva, (a Capoeria master from North Eastern Barzil, Mestre Barrão) sing his song, “Lampião.” There was line it, “Maria Bonita cantava Mulher Rendeira…” and so the search for what that song Maria Bonita was singing began. I think you likely answered it in your first post on this subject.



    • Thanks for the comment. I think it is a really interesting example of how the song has been modified and transformed over the years into something completely different. These lyrics are undoubtedly misinformed and very stereotypical of the exotic, mysterious and “backwards” Brazil presented to US audiences in the 1950s/60s but they have a whole other meaning to them. Also, the first translations were made simply to shift records and after all, exoticism sold just look at the boom of “latin” big band/standard records in the same era. I think we should ask to what point the international success of the film “O Cangaceiro” influenced the diffusion of the sertão culture and history.

      Interestingly, this song was quite successful in the US country scene perhaps because the idea of a cowboy/bandit resonated more with their own personal history. Behind each “version” there is a unique context and interpretation but the song, though having come a long, long way from Lampião’s original is still connected to the original.


  2. My mother had this record when I was a young girl in the 50’s – we pretty much wore it out. To this day, it’s one of the songs of that time that I still like. . . wish I could find it by the original singers of that time…I think our copy was broken in a move. I suddenly got a yen to hear it again and landed here. . . I think it’s so cool there are so many ways to relive precious memories – on a computer no less.


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