Um Dia Na Senzala – Lyrics, Meaning and Translation – Capoeira Music

Etymologically the word senzala comes from the bantu language Quimbundo (or Kimbundu) which meant dwelling.

Although there is evidence of the occasional use of word in Brazil from the second half of the sixteenth century, it did not begin to be widely used in its current sense until the eighteenth century.

A Senzala became the name for the houses where the slaves lived with their families. Before the eighteenth century they were called black houses or slave shacks or huts.

They were precarious houses without privacy or luxury of any kind, the only separation was between men and women who were rarely permitted to sleep in the same room.

Sometimes they chained the slaves in the senzala to prevent them from fleeing, and there would be guards posted at the door who watched to avoid escape attempts. These guards used to be black, the Capitão do Mato, and they were in charge of persecuting and torturing the slaves.

Near the senzalas (sometimes there was even one inside) there was always at least one pelourinho, the stakes to which they tied the slaves to punish them.

RUGENDAS, Johann Moritz.
Castigos públicos Plaza Santa Ana. Litografia. 1835.

Whist visiting Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, we visited an old Senzala, and it was a truly chilling experience. I can think of no better word to describe it than dungeon.

The Capoeira song “Um dia na Senzala” sings of how life was in the Senzalas.

At the end of the post you will find the video of Mestre Bigodinho’s version.

Capitão do Mato

Lyrics and Translation

Quem ja foi na Senzala um dia (Who has been in the Senzala one day)
Sabe me dizer como e (Can tell me how it is)
Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão (and pounding pestle)

Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão
(and pounding pestle)

O negro era escravizado (The blacks were enslaved)
Sobre o olho do capitão (Under the watch of the Captain)
De dia trabalhava descalço (They worked barefoot)
Com os pes no chão (With their feet on the floor)
Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão (and pounding pestle)

Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão
(and pounding pestle)

Negro sofria na senzala (The blacks suffered in the Senzala)
na vista do coronel (under the watch of the Colonel)
Onde olhava da sacada (Where he watched from the balcony)
Como um raio vem do ceu (Like a ray of lightning from the sky)
Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão (and pounding pestle)

Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão
(and pounding pestle)

Mas que vida era aquela (But that was life)
Hoje jã não existe mais (Today it is no more)
Como era ruim ficar (How bad it was to fall)
na mira de um capataz (under the gaze of a Captain)
Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão (and pounding pestle)

Moendo cana (Milling cane)
E socando pilão
(and pounding pestle)

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