Black Orpheus – Luiz Bonfa

Here is an adaptation with the ukulele and a drum machine of a song composed by Luiz Bonfa in 1959 and from the film Orfeu Negro: Black Orpheus.

In 1959, the film Orfeu Negro, directed by Marcel Camus, was released. This film received the golden palm at the Cannes Film Festival that same year in front of François Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups. Over time, Les Quatre Cents Coups gained notoriety. In any case, Orfeu Negro remains the film that has contributed the most to the rise of bossa nova in Europe.

Here is an excerpt from the film with the song.

Why this song.

Black Orpheus is part of the standards of the bossa nova. It is also a fundamental piece in a career as a musician who seeks to know his classics. As a result, this is a song that I played a lot in different circumstances. Whether at music school, in improvisation jam or during an evening of musical animation.

Regardless of its unavoidable aspect, I happen to love this piece. Indeed, the Latin and binary rhythms touch me. The simplicity of harmony seems obvious to me and the melody, melancholy and clear.


The first melodic sentence immediately gives a climate. Indeed, the E brings the C, third minor of A. Then, in the second bar, came a G#. Thus, directly, the tonality of A minor is set up quite strongly.

This first sentence, of 4 bars, is then declined for the following 4 bars by changing only the G# in G and this brings us briefly to C major. The following 8 bars are a sequence of 2 bars that accelerate the movement.

For my adaptation, I chose to play the whole theme first. Then I play a variation on the first part of the A1 theme, then I resume the theme on the second part, sentence A2.
In my Alesis SR18 rhythm box, I programmed 2 patterns: one for the theme and another for the variation.

Score and tablature.

If you like, scores and tablatures of my adaptation are available in pdf format under this text.
I put the lead sheet of the Real Book as well as the tablature of my adaptation.

This is a non-commercial sharing.