“Um Sonho” (A Dream) was written by Gilberto Gil and recorded on the album “Parabilcamará” in 1992. It began to circulate again in 2012, shortly before the UN Sustainability Conference in Rio de Janeiro. The song became the unofficial hymn of the Xingu +23 meeting, where those who live along the rivers, fishermen, indigenous people, farmers, and others affected came together to resist the building of hydroelectric dams.

Gilberto Gil is a Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter, known for both his musical innovation and his longstanding political activism. He was a pioneer of the Popular Brazilian Music and Tropicália movements, a political prisoner under the military dictatorship in 1969, and, from 2003 to 2008, Brazil’s Minister of Culture in Lula’s administration.

Here is a link to Amy Goodman’s 2008 interview with Gil.

Here is a link to the original lyrics of “A Dream.”

Here is my translation of the lyrics (with the generous assistance of Gregory Horvath):

I had a dream
That one day I was
In an international conference
Discussing economics

I argued
In favor of more work
More employment, more effort
More control, surplus-value

I spoke of poles
Of industry, of energy
I demonstrated in a thousand different ways
How a country could grow

And I was beaten down
By economic strength
Based on the tonic
Of technology

I presented
Statistics and graphs
Demonstrating the malicious
Effects of the theory

That of laziness, of rest
Of the widening of the cultural space
Of poetry

I concluded
For all those in attendance
That a country only moves forward
If it works every day

I was certain
That everything I was saying
Represented the truth
For everyone who could hear

It was when an old man
Stood up from his chair
And went out whistling
A sad melody

That resembled
A prelude by Bach
A Pernambucan Carnival dance
A choro by Pixinguinha*

And in the hall
All the mouths smiled
All the eyes looked at me
All the men left

One by one
One by one
One by one
One by one

I stayed there
In the empty hall
All of a sudden I felt cold
I noticed: I was naked

I woke up
Startled and still dizzy
I got up and quickly went out
To the sidewalk to see the blue sky

The students
The workers passing by
Laughed and and shouted
“Long live the Xingu indian!”**

“Long live the Xingu indian!”
“Long live the Xingu indian!”
“Long live the Xingu indian!”
“Long live the Xingu indian!”

*Alfredo da Rocha Viana, Jr. (1897-1973), better known as Pixinguinha, was a composer, arranger, flautist, and saxophonist born in Rio de Janeiro. He is considered one of the greatest Brazilian composers of popular music, particularly within the genre of music known as choro.

**The Xingu River gives its name to a group of indigenous people representing fifteen tribes and all four of Brazil’s indigenous language groups, who share similar belief systems, rituals and ceremonies.

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