Apparently I cannot help myself. I've just spent a week in Rio and already a note-worthy pile of new records has grown on my table. It mostly consists of Brazilian hip-hop with a little flavour of baile funk. But before I've had time to properly listen them through and do some background research on the artists, it's time for a tiny pop interlude.
The following songs are from a little jewel of an album, Onde Brilhem os Olhos Seus by Fernanda Takai. The artistic director of the album, Nelson Motta, describes on the linear notes how first seeing Takai perform evoked in him a ghostly impression of the departed legend and renovator of bossa nova and MPB, Nara Leão: "...this girl is Nara Leão of pop rock. The opposite of the exuberance and the vulgarity of pop stars, Fernanda was discreet and original, cool and elegant, had a half oriental look and sung intelligent and ironic songs with sweetness and firmness, a girl as modern, shy and talented as Nara in 1959." Thus, much later, when Motta got to know Takai, he had to suggest her to make an album of songs that defined the career of Leão. Onde Brilhem is the wonderful result of that idea.
The first song is actually a very sad one. If someone is misled to think that Brazilian music is just about partying, let me tell you a little bit about saudade. Especially now, after the carnaval, that strange, sad longing is heavy in the air. It's everywhere, like an obscene scent of some strange flower, bringing back memories of a love that never was there. A lot of the saddest songs in Brazil are about the first day after the carnaval, quarta-feira, the wednesday (the carnaval finishes on tuesday). The dream has ended and the harsh reality takes over. No more are we princes, heroes and harlequins, but beggars, thieves and peasants. I have an impression that the saudade is a lot about longing to a place that in reality does not exist - where as for an example tango is about longing for a happier time or a better place that now is lost and beyond reach. The saudade is the flip-side of the coin, the counter-measure of the carnaval, as creating a temporary realm of fantasy and happiness is the whole essence of this party of parties.
A lot of saddest songs in Brazil sound actually pretty happy. And that makes them all the more tragic. Listen to Odeon (written by Ernesto Nazareth and Hubaldo, with lyrics of Vinicius de Moraes) if you don't believe me.
Fernando Takai: Odeon (zShare)
Well, of course saudade is also about that usual subject of sad songs, love. And of course some of the songs sound properly devastatingly sad. Like the second one, Luz Negra (by Nelson Cavaquinho & Irani Barros) - now even the light in the end of the tunnel is black:
A luz negra de um destino cruel
Illumina um teatro sem cor
Onde estou representando o papel
De palhaço do amor
And forgive me for my crude translation:
The black light of a cruel destiny
Illuminates a theatre without colour
Where I am playing the part
Of the clown of love
Fernando Takai: Luz Negra (zShare)
But clearly we can't end a pop interlude in such a depressing tone. So here's a little more positive tune, by Capinam & Robertinho do Recife.
Fernando Takai: Seja o Meu Céu (zShare)