Paulinho da Viola followed the atmosphere of the decade that launched him. Since the sixties, he traces new paths without rejecting his peculiar subtleness. There are enough successful outcomes to justify a special section.
“Sinal Fechado” and “Roendo as Unhas” (Biting one's Nails) are good examples of this. The first, for several aspects, was studied by several scholars for a long time, who tried to discover its exact meaning. “Sinal Fechado” is a rare event. Modern erudite music and the samba melted together at that point of 1969. It is easy to figure out Paulinho da Viola hearing pieces of composers as Malcon Arnold, as he himself confirms, but “Sinal Fechado” is not just a well-done experimentation or successful amalgamation of modern concerts with the Brazilian music, it is something else.
Many people think that the words of this song are a picture of the urban life when the Brazilian was going through a military dictatorship, which, in the previous year, had suppressed the citizens' constitutional rights through the AI-5 (Institutional Act 5). The dictatorship is long gone, and a new look shows us that this work was not surpassed neither in the form, nor in the content, in the aesthetic experience nor in the encompassing words. “Sinal Fechado” is more up to date today than when it was conceived. The cold and tense aesthetics are no longer that strange. It is the hymn to the disagreement, to the contemporary world, of the busy cities, to the red lights always present, making us watch people inside their cars, to the urban life, to the need for securing a place in the future. “Sinal Fechado” had already looked for its place in the future when it was composed, and it surely found it.
“Roendo as Unhas” is another experience from the same period. Nothing is fixed in its form, there is no ground, just the displacements. It is impossible to determine the dominant note, it doesn't exist.
What we see is a succession of moments that evolves and creates a cycle of countless possibilities. The samba musician (sambista) acquires a deep awareness, he philosophizes about its relationship with the music and wanders round the streets with its "flor nenhuma" (absent flower). The anguish of a moment of transformation in Brazilian history could not be better represented.
That innovative spirit is outstanding in Paulinho's whole work. Few people know about the developments of this artistic side. Whether making music, as in “Sarau para Radamés”, or writing words, as in “Crotalus Terrificus”, a partnership with Arrigo Barnabé, Paulinho da Viola surprises with his willingness to innovate.