Nicoleta Nuca, INNA and Antonia – what a combination!

Hello, I just made an exciting discovery, a very different yet surprisingly lovely version of a Romanian/Moldovan pop song I really liked last year, Nu Sunt, by Nicoleta Nuca (it was first mentioned on this post). This one, though, features not only Nicoleta but two other superb contemporary Romanian singers, INNA and Antonia. INNA’s the one on the left, Nicoleta is in the middle and Antonia is on the right. Three beautiful women singing a beautiful song in a beautiful language. Check it out

Just as interesting is this version, recorded by Nicoleta – who hails from Moldova – with the Chisinau Youth Orchestra.

To give you some idea of what the song is about here is a snippet of the lyrics taken from the Versuri.Ro website:

Ultimul moment, ultimul regret / Mi-a ajuns! / Tot ce am avut, oricum s-a pierdut/ 
Tu nu vezi? / Nu sunt doar un trofeu pe patul tău

This is the last time, the last regret. / I’ve had enough! / All I had has been lost anyway / Don’t you see? / I’m not just a trophy on your bed.

For the record, here is the original version of the song.

Nicoleta, who was a contestant on the Romanian X Factor talent show, followed that up with another catchy hit, Linistea, which means “peace” or “silence”.

Her latest is Inima Mea (My Heart).

So, what of the other singers, INNA and Antonia? I’ve featured both on this blog before. INNA is probably Romania’s best known contemporary singer and has managed to conquer the English language market (and she sometimes dabbles in other Romance languages). Here is a recent international hit.

Antonia (her full name is Antonia Clara Iobescu) was born in Bucharest but her family moved to the United States when she was five, and she has had a very successful career as a model as well as a singer. Most of her output has been in English but she has linked up with a number of Romanian singers in the past few years, including veteran Romanian groups Holograf and Vunk. Here is a sample of her work.


I hope you enjoyed this peek into the music of Eastern European Romance language countries.


Catching up with Carla’s Dreams

Carla’s Dreams are a group from Chisinau in Moldova who make some really interesting music (singing in both Romanian and Russian and occasionally English).

I really like their latest single, Te Rog (which is a familiar form of saying “please”; vă rog is the formal form). I like the handclapping and eastern influences (I feel I could do a kind of flamenco belly dance to this).

If you want to sing along, here is a clip with versuri (the lyrics) and you can find translations of all the songs mentioned in this post on this Lyrics Translate web page.

Carla’s Dreams first came to my attention when their duet with Inna (probably Romania’s best known singer) P. O.H.U.I. was a huge hit a couple of years ago. (It’s on my post Join the Inna circle). Rather than replay it, I’ve chosen this clip without Inna, and with the words on show.

Carla’s Dreams have notched up a notable achievement recently. Cum Du Noi (which translates as what/how we feel for each other), their duet with the popular Delia (Delia Matache –  I have written about her often before, just type ‘Delia’ in the search field), was the first song in the Romanian language to get more than 10 million views on YouTube within a month of its release (it’s up to more than 30 million now). It’s a song which annoys me and seduces me at the same time!


I’ve made some other exciting musical discoveries recently – stay tuned! Cheers

Tony Carreira to tour Australia

One advantage of sitting around in the coffee shops and restaurants in Sydney’s “Little Portugal” is that you soon learn which Portuguese singers are coming to perform in Australia.

Due next April is a huge name in contemporary (well, sort of) Portuguese pop, Tony Carreira. He will be performing at the Melbourne Pavilion on Saturday April 23, 2016, and at the Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW in Sydney the following afternoon (April 24).

My first introduction to Portuguese pop music was via a bargain bin of CDs at some hypermarket on my first visit to Portugal as an adult some seven years ago. The were called “Disco do ano” (discs of the year) although sometimes the year was not specified. They seemed to consist of the same stable of artists trotting out the same simple cheap and cheerful cheesy pop songs – tolerable but certainly not cutting-edge stuff. Still, you have got to start somewhere.

One song that I did like on them was Tony Carreira’s Quem Era Eu Sem Ti (Who was I without you), which came out in 2002. Here, though, is a live version recorded in Lisbon in 2010.

About seven years ago my Portuguese was pretty basic but I was pleased to be able to listen to this song and understand some of the lyrics … and it helped me remember two of the four weather seasons…

CHORUS Eu sem ti/Quem era eu sem ti?/Um inverno sem sinais de primavera/Eu era! (I without you/Who was I without you?/A winter without signs of spring/I was!)

The full lyrics  can be found here, and below is the studio version.

I have written about Tony before: not long ago he recorded an album of duets in both Portuguese and French, you can read about it here.

So, would you go to a Tony Carreira concert? Let’s have a look at two other songs which have made it onto his greatest hits compilations, starting with A Vida Que Eu Escolhi (The Life I Chose).

The next one will help you remember a common subjunctive, seja, from the verb ser (to be). Mesmo Que Seja Mentira (Even if it’s a lie).

Where to buy the tickets, which have just gone on sale, is a little bit complicated as it involves the Portuguese community network around the country. Your best bet is to email, but if you are in Sydney they can be bought at Fernandes Patisserie at 420 New Canterbury Road in Dulwich Hill, tel (02) 9668 2114. Adult tickets are from $69 while children up to 18 are $30. If you buy them at Fernandes at least you can sample their delicious pasteis e pudins (see my previous posts) while you are there.

Sydney has had a taste of Portuguese music recently. Just last month acclaimed fado singer Ana Moura was in town. Here’s a short clip of her Sydney performance at the Enmore Theatre.



Sampling Portuguese pudins

How do you follow up a post on Portuguese tarts? Go for the puddings!

“Pudding” in Portuguese is pudim, and I prefer the Portuguese spelling as it has the m at the end, so it has that element of mmmm (as in delcious) built into it. Say, “yum, pudim!” and you will know what I mean. In the plural, though, the m changes to an n and it becomes pudins, as is often the case in the language.

So what does a Portuguese pudding look like? Here are a couple from my favourite pudim palace, Fernandes Patisserie in Dulwich Hill, Sydney. This one is like a crème caramel, only the Portuguese seem to make them much sweeter and more decadent.


I note, though, that the sign above calls it a pudin, which is closer to the Spanish spelling (it’s pudín with an accent). Unless it’s a mix of Portuguese and English!

By the way, the light streak across the pudding is a reflection of the roof light on the glass counter.

On to the next one. There was no description for it but it looks light and fluffy and I reckon I could eat one of these and still have room for dessert afterwards, haha.


If you have a sweet tooth and you are in a Portuguese-speaking country, there are a couple of other words you should know:

  • sobremesa – this means “dessert”
  • doce – this can mean “cake”, “jam” or “sweet” (adjectival).

Next time I am in Fernandes I will go for the savouries and have a quiet word about their spelling prowess.

Até já – see you soon!


Introducing Portuguese tarts

I work for a magazine company in Sydney that, among other things, does a lot of cookbooks. The recipes have to be tested and tested again – the magazine where I do the bulk of my work tests each recipe at least three times. The problem is, when they cook something, again and again and again, someone has to eat it afterwards, again and again and again, otherwise the food goes to waste. It’s an onerous job, but I volunteer for it. My motto: my waist = no waste.

On Friday, for example, the food team was photographing and filming its Christmas day meals for the December edition of the magazine. So I had to tuck into a huge Christmas lunch. The things I do for journalism.

I live near the Portuguese precinct in Sydney, where there are a couple of great Portuguese bakeries/patisseries (Fernandes Patisserie and Sweet Belem). I feel sorry for the bakers who go to such hard work making these delicacies, so whenever I am passing I go in and buy some and consume them just to cheer them up. The things I do for humanity.

One day I was feeling very generous (and a bit peckish) so I bought a big box – or about two dozen – of the various Portuguese tarts to take into the office. My plan was about to eat about a dozen myself and let my 20-odd co-workers have half of one each, but the greedy buggers wanted a complete one, or two! I was lucky to get a nibble. What surprised me was, even though this magazine has a fine cooking and baking tradition, few people in the office had eaten Portuguese tarts before. OMG!!! Where have you been, do you know what you are missing out on!!??

So if you find yourself in the same boat – a boat that has not yet pulled up at the docks in Belém in Lisbon where the famous Portuguese tarts were invented – this Portuguese tart sampler is for you. (The pictures were taken on my phone through the glass counter at Fernandes, so there is glare from the overhead lights reflected in the glass, and I have included the tags for descriptive and language purposes, even though they are not particularly attractive.)

Pastel de nata

tarts nataThis is the king of Portuguese tarts! Bow down in homage, you will never find a tart better than this. Pastel means pastry, nata means custard, buttermilk or cream, but don’t confuse it with the the ordinary commercial custard that you can make from packets or buy ready made. This is a delicious creamy concoction of egg and sugar on a crisp flaky base. The history of this tart is interesting – you can read about it here. Incidentally, I have been to the famous patisserie in Belem that has to churn out 15,000 of these on busy days to cater for the demand from salivating tourists and passers-by, but I prefer the ones in Sydney. Other patisseries may add their own twist to the recipe – down in Lagos in southern Portugal, for example, I came across some with puréed maça (apple) added to the mix. These tarts are best eaten in the plural, which is pastéis.

Bolinhos de leite

bolinhos de leiteA bolinho is a sweet or savoury delicacy that has been rolled into a little ball, leite means milk. Think of these bolinhos de leite on the right as pastéis de nata without the pastry. They are moist and clammy and wobbly – I pop them into my mouth very quickly as I’m afraid they’ll wobble their way onto the floor.  The ones on the left are similar but with some kind of sugary glaze on them. This is not food for diabetics!

Mystery tart

tartsgreen2These caught my eye as I was leaving the cafe. If I had seen them earlier I would have ordered one, or two or three or possibly all four. From memory they are similar to the bolinhos de leite but have coconut in them to give them a bit of substance, plus of course that delicious glaze on top.

 Bolo de Berlim

bola de berlimThis is basically the Portuguese version of the Berliner doughnut. The ones pictured here have a custard filling, but there are many variations, including jam fillings. When I was doing a summer language course at the University of Algarve, the cafeteria there had a delicious jam variation (the filling is often hidden inside). A bolo de Berlim became my customary breakfast or mid-morning snack. It was the best thing I learnt on the course (haha).

Pastel de amêndoa

tarts almondOnce you have scoffed a few pastéis de nata or bolinhos de leite, you will probably want something a little drier and more solid to counter the creamy custard. If you like amêndoa (almond), half a dozen of these should do!

Pastel de feijão

tarts coconutI don’t know why these coconut tarts are labelled as feijão (which normally means bean) but who cares. Maybe there are some beans in there so you can get your vegetable quota at the same time! The word for coconut in Portuguese is coco.

Bernardo’s Sunday breakfast ….

How's this for starters?

A pastel de nata, bolinho de leite and a good old palmier biscuit.

Songs that drive me nebun*

Greetings! Some fairly decent songs have been appearing from CAT Music in Romania on my Facebook feed, so I thought I’d collate them here quickly before I forget them and they disappear down the Facebook Scroll Black Hole (ever tried trying to look up what was that nice song by somebody that you shared on Facebook three years ago? Good luck with that mission). You’ll find a nice mix of upbeat songs, sad songs and smooth sounds here.

1. Alina Eremia – A fost o nebunie (It was madness)

* Related vocabulary

  • nebun, nebună adj foolish, silly, mad, crazy, insane, frantic
  • nebun  madman, fool, nutcase, loony
  • nebunesc, nebunească adj foolish, silly, wanton
  • nebuneşte adv crazily
  • nebunie f insanity, madness
  • a face pe nebunul to be (going) crazy

2. Andra (feat. Cabron) – Niciodată Să Nu Spui Niciodată (Never say never)

3. Sophia – Ziduri (Walls)

4. Betty Blue – Acolo sus (Up there)

The next two are not from CAT Music but I found them on the current music charts. I can’t unlink them so that they’ll appear here, you’ll have to follow the link.

5. Maxim – Noapte fără tine (Night without you)

6. Soundland feat. Alexandra Ungureanu – Atât de uşor (So easy)

So, who’s your favourite Guatemalan singer? Maybe Gaby?

Guatemala has been in the news recently, as an emboldened judiciary and plain old people power (there is a lot to be said for people agitating for reform) tackle corruption (details here). I must admit I know little about the country although I do hoard travel brochures on South and Central American and I have admired its Mayan ruins – which probably get overshadowed by the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru. Still, I came across someone from Guatemala recently, and asked him for some Guatemalan musical recommendations. He nominated two singers Gaby Moreno and Ricard Arjona.*

Suggestion number one

Gaby Moreno. Listening to her now, I can see why. She’s young – her Wikipedia entry is here and her own website is here – but she could well have been from an earlier era. Here’s a very well known song Quizás, Quizás,Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), which has been done by the likes of Nat King Cole in Spanish and also by a number of artists in an English version. I’m sure you will recognise the tune.

You can see a translation of the lyrics here.

So, let’s have a look at her performing on a video … as you can see, she has a Gatsby look about her.

Suggestion number two

Ricardo Arjona. Sou only have to look at his Wikipedia entry and his discography to realise he is a major star on the Latin music scene. On YouTube you can find compilations of his greatest hits (“exitos”) and they are well worth playing in the background when you have an hour or two to spare at home.

One of his more recent hits, though, features Gaby Moreno, and you will see some Mayan ruins in this clip too (try as I might, I can’t get his videoclips to display like hers above).

Here are some of his other more recent chart-toppers.

 * Later my Guatemalan friend admitted he didn’t like these two singers so much,  preferring instead English electronic music. I think it’s sad when people dismiss their own culture and think a foreign culture is much more hip, but I’ve also been through that phase as a youngster in Africa, so can understand. Sometimes people have to get away from their roots as part of the growing up process, and then later go back and rediscover their cultural heritage – often with a lot more appreciation.

Brazilian celebrations are in order

Dieticians say we should eat more fruit

Dieticians say we should eat more fruit

Today, September 7, is Independence Day in Brazil. So I thought I should really do something with a Brazilian theme.

I did.

I wore a caipirinha-flavoured condom haha.

It was a little bit uncomfortable at work, and once or twice when I went to the bathroom I almost forgot I was wearing it, which could have been disastrous, but …. oh,, all right, let’s not get carried away with this theme, let’s lift the tone…

The other day this song popped in my Facebook feed courtesy of singer Marisa Monte. It was used as the theme song from a very popular TV show from a decade ago, Mulheres Apaixonadas (Women in Love). I hadn’t heard it for ages and had forgotten how good it was. Marisa recorded it with some friends using the band name Tribalistas. It was a massive hit. So forget the condom, this is my Brazilian celebration.

The complete Tribalistas album (a one-off) is here…

Brazilian fair in Sydney

Incidentally, if you are in Sydney on Sunday, September 20, the annual Brazilian “Ritmo” Festival will be on in Darlling Harbour. It’s presented by the Brazilian Community Council of Australia. It’s usually a lot of fun, with stage shows and Brazilian foods in good supply. Check out the pics and info on the BRACCA website.

Bracca day

Did the Portuguese Spice Boys discover Australia?

Nagasaki School Scenes of traders at Nagasaki late 18th–early 19th century, Nagasaki, Japan, pair of hand scrolls (e maki): ink, colour and gold on paper; box: wood, paper and ink, scroll (a) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; (b) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; box 12.0 x 19.5 x 39.5 cm, M.J.M. Carter AO Collection through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2014, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 20144P11 (a-c)

Nagasaki School Scenes of traders at Nagasaki late 18th–early 19th century, Nagasaki, Japan, pair of hand scrolls (e maki): ink, colour and gold on paper; box: wood, paper and ink, scroll (a) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; (b) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; box 12.0 x 19.5 x 39.5 cm, M.J.M. Carter AO Collection through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2014, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 20144P11 (a-c)

If anyone is in Adelaide this weekend it’s your last chance to see the Treasure Ships: Art In The Age of Spices exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. More than 300 exhibits are on display, and much of the focus is on Portugal’s “golden age of discoveries”. After Sunday the exhibits will go to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, where they will be on display from October 10 to January 31, 2016. Some of the highlights of the exhibition are covered in a previous post here.

Portugal’s history is fascinating – it’s said to have had the first global empire in history – but because it’s “golden age” was relatively short and its influence waned after the 16th Century, not much is known about it by the population at large today. I’ve got some great books on the topic …

Portugal books

I haven’t actually started reading A.R. Disney’s two-volume A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, but when I have 60-plus free days to spare, I will. I am currently reading Nigel Cliff’s The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages Of Vasco Da Gama, but because of other time pressures it’s been a start-stop-go-back-and-start-again affair. Vasco’s ships never seem to leave the port! However, for an easy yet highly entertaining introduction to Portugal’s greatest historical hits, I would strongly recommend Martin Page’s The First Global Village. Page is a writer and journalist first and foremost rather than a historian, so he knows how to make his history sizzle. Some of the really dry historians should take note!

Why the fascination with spices?

Often when I sprinkle pepper on my food, I think of Vasco Da Gama. We take pepper and other spices for granted so much nowadays. So what was the big deal with spices in the spice age? Much of it, of course, was to do with trying to preserve meat, or to disguise the fact that it was rotting, on long sea journeys, but in the press release to the exhibition, co-curator James Bennett says the pre-refrigeration need for spices “takes little account of the complex reasons the condiments of luxury and status were so avidly sought”.

I asked his fellow curator, Russell Kelty, what were the other complex reasons.

“The most common assumption is that spices were used to preserve food but in fact Europe’s fascination and desire for spices was linked partially to the prestige associated with these luxury condiments which were transported vast distances over land and sea, prior to the establishment of maritime routes by the Portuguese, and as a result were extremely expensive,” Kelty says. “Spices were also connected to notions that illness was caused bodily imbalance in hot and cold humours which could be alleviated by certain spices. As with any commodity the more scarce and difficult to obtain the prestige it accumulates.”

India, Portrait of D. Francisco de Almeida, 16th century, Goa, oil and tempera on wood, 183.0 x 98.0 cm National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), Lisbon MNAA Inv 2145 Pint

India, Portrait of D. Francisco de Almeida, 16th century, Goa, oil and tempera on wood, 183.0 x 98.0 cm. National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), Lisbon
MNAA Inv 2145 Pint. 


(The image above is from the exhibition; it’s a portrait of an explorer I haven’t really heard much about, Francisco de Almeida. Wikipedia has this to say about him: Dom Francisco de Almeida, also known as “the Great Dom Francisco” (ca. 1450 – March 1, 1510), was a Portuguese nobleman, soldier and explorer. He distinguished himself as a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1503 he was appointed as the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia). Almeida is credited with establishing Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean, with his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509. Before Almeida could return to Portugal, he lost his life in 1510.)

The Australian Connection

beyond cap“Treasure Ships also examines the impact of the Age of Spices on the ‘discovery’ of the Australian continent”, says the exhibition’s media release. So what can we glean from the exhibition about Portuguese relations with Australia? There are some historians who believe that the Portuguese secretly knew a lot more about Australia than was officially revealed. (For example, Peter Trickett and his book Beyond Capricorn).

I was curious to know if the Treasure Ships exhibition added anything to that debate. Here’s  Russell Kelty view.

“Treasure ships does not touch on the Portuguese ‘discovery’ of Australia  – which I agree was highly likely –  as the exhibition is about art and cultural exchange. There is no evidence of any kind of aesthetic impact by the Portuguese on Indigenous Australian art, as was the case with Makassan trepang fishermen whose visits had a profound impact on northern Australian coastal Aboriginal cultures. The catalogue does briefly discuss [Malaysian-Portuguese cartographer Emanuel Godinho de Eredia (1563-1623)] Eredia’s belief in the existence of ‘New South India; (p.186).”

To see a summary of all the arguments about whether or not the Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover Australia, go here.

The Treasure Ships exhibition images here have been supplied courtesy of the Media section of the Art Gallery of South Australia and may not to be distributed to any other party. 

Balkan Club meets Brazil as Romanian pop stars Andra and Naguale go to Rio de Janeiro

The Lisbon-Bucharest divide

The Lisbon-Bucharest divide

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is not much connection between the Romanian and Portuguese languages. For one thing, Bucharest and Lisbon are more than 3800 kilometres apart, and if you were to make that road journey (pictured), you would hear many different languages along the route. I have been fortunate enough to have done summer language courses in both countries – in Portugal in 2011 and Romania in 2013. Of the two, the latter language was definitely new to me, so I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Whenever I was asked a question by my Romanian teacher, if I couldn’t say a word in Romanian, I would say it in Portuguese (in my peculiar gringo Porto-Romanian accent), and often the answer would prove to be spot on. So if you are reasonably fluent in one of those languages, you should be comfortable holidaying in places where the other is spoken.

Even so, I was surprised to find that doing very well on the Romanian music charts at the moment is Falava, a song in Portuguese and English by Romanian singer Andra and a band by the name of Naguale. It’s catchy and has got a sort of Turkish/Arabic/Ottoman snake charmer cum bellydance-type feel to it (my belly gyrated while playing it). As a bonus, the video features colourful exotic scenes from Rio de Janeiro, including street life, mouth-watering tropical fruits and the obligatory long-legged beauties in skimpy costumes wiggling their bits (it’s a bit in your face at times).

Andra certainly sounds comfortable in the Portuguese language, and the radio studio version below shows this is so with live performances too.

The lyrics to the song can be found here.

Andra is very popular in Romania. Here’s her big summer hit from 2013, Inevitabil va fi bine (Inevitably everything will be fine) … happy memories for me!


I don’t know much about Naguale, but according to the band/musician’s Facebook page it’s a (one-man?) band led by Bucharest-based Ovidiu Baciu and the music genre is “Balkan Club”. Here he teams up with a couple of other heavy-hitters on the Romanian music scene, Glance and Elena Gheorghe. In this video, the naked flesh on display is of the big and buffed blokey type. There are subtitles in English.