Maria Bethânia
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OriginaleTraduzione inglese e note da O quartinho
Eu sou a chuva que lança a areia do SaaraI am the rain that hurls the sand of the Sahara
Sobre os automóveis de RomaOver the automobiles in Roma
Eu sou a sereia que dança, a destemida IaraI am the mermaid that dances, the fearless Iara*
Água e folha da AmazôniaWater and leaves of the Amazon
Eu sou a sombra da voz da matriarca da Roma NegraI am the shadow of the voice of the matriarch of the Black Rome *
Você não me pega, você nem chega a me verYou don’t catch me, you don’t even get to see me
Meu som te cega, careta, quem é você?My sound blinds you, you square, who are you?
Que não sentiu o suingue de Henri SalvadorWho didn’t feel the swing of Henri Salvador*
Que não seguiu o Olodum balançando o PelôWho didn’t follow Olodum* shaking the Pelô*
E que não riu com a risada de Andy WarholAnd who didn’t laugh with the laughter of Andy Warhol
Que não, que não, e nem disse que nãoWho didn’t, who didn’t, and didn’t even say no.
Eu sou o preto norte-americano forteI am the north-american black, strong
Com um brinco de ouro na orelhaWith a golden earring on his ear
Eu sou a flor da primeira música a mais velhaI am the flower of the first oldest song
Mais nova espada e seu corteNewest sword and its cut
Eu sou o cheiro dos livros desesperados, sou Gitá gogoyaI am the smell of the desperate books, I am Gitá Gogoya*
Seu olho me olha, mas não me pode alcançarIts eye looks at me, but it cannot reach me
Não tenho escolha, careta, vou descartarI have no choice, you square, I’m going to discard
Quem não rezou a novena de Dona CanôWho didn’t pray the novena* of Dona Canô*
Quem não seguiu o mendigo Joãozinho Beija-FlorWho didn’t follow the peasant Joãozinho Beija-Flor*
Quem não amou a elegância sutil de BobôWho didn’t love the subtle elegance of Bobô*
Quem não é recôncavo e nem pode ser reconvexoWho isn’t recôncavo* and cannot be reconvexo*
* Iara = lady of the water, mother of the water in Tupi-Guarani, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Brasil, also known then as “general language”. I have a second cousin called Iara

* Black Rome = Salvador was called the Black Rome around 1920/1930, because it had the most percentage of blacks outside of Africa.

* Henry Salvador = a French composer, singer, guitar player who lived for a long time in Rio. Considered a precursor of Bossa Nova.

* Olodum (playing here at Pelô or Pelorinho) = an afro-band and movement from Salvador, plays during carnival — I went their show in Seattle once.

* Pelô = a neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia, where the slaves were flogged — now a focal point of the black culture (music and dance especially), a historic place.

* Gitá Gogoya = this has many controversies, because it turns out it’s not a person, though everybody thought it was. Caetano has indicated this is a mix of the song Gita, by Raul Seixas (“I’m the light of the stars / I the color of the moonshine / I am the things of life / I am the fear of love”) which is already inspired on the Bhagavad Gita, and the song Fruta Gogóia, sang by Gal Costa (“I am a gogóia fruit / I am a damsel / I am a porcelain doll / I am a jewel”). I think Gita Gogoya is actually the entity who this song is (Reconvexo), representing then all other songs or music. If you re-read the lyrics with that in mind you will get the flavor that everything is a relation or description of the elements of music, like rhythm, sound, harmony, melody, flow, invisibility, etc (what else do you see?). "Gogóia" is also known in Bahia to be a beach watermelon.

* Novena = a series of prayers that are said for nine straight days. Everyday people come back to the house where the novena is being held and sing and pray.

* Dona Canô = Claudionor Viana Teles Velloso, Caetano’s and Maria Bethania’s mother.

* Joãozinho Beija-Flor = or Joãozinho Trinta, the carnaval director of Beija-Flor, who started from nothing and revamped the aesthetics of the samba-schools carnaval in Rio. Originally from Maranhão.

* Bobô = soccer player, one of the heroes of the Bahia team who conquered a national victory in 1988, with 9 goals from Bobô, in a historical final. The best Brazilian soccer players are marked by a strong sense of rhythm and fluidity.

* Recôncavo = or Recôncavo Baiano, the geographic area surrounding the “All Saints Bay” where it is also located the city of Salvador, but also the most contiguous interior lands. In Brasil, the Recôncavo is known automatically as Salvador and its neighboring areas. Following the hint on “Gita Gogoya” (that this song is about itself) Caetano then seems to affirm that music is not a thing that belongs to Bahia only (or the Recôncavo Baiano — “who isn’t recôncavo and cannot be reconvex”). Something that is neither concave or convex, because it cannot be one or the other, maybe because it’s beyond. Reconvexo being a neologism (which again positions music as something beyond description?). I supposed "Recôncavo", though a valid word in Portuguese, would translate to any other language as another neologism: reconcave.

I also think Caetano is talking directly to maybe the authorities, who lead the country at that moment. Perhaps saying: “you can imprison me, but you can’t catch a song.”

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