If you have travelled in South America to both the Portuguese-speaking part (Brazil) and the Spanish part (the rest of the continent, apart from Guyana and French Guiana) and listened to local radio then you will have probably heard some popular songs sung in both Portuguese and Spanish. An example that comes to my mind is from my first trip to Brazil in 2003, when Alexandre Pires‘ album Estrela Guia (Guiding Star) was very popular, particularly the song Vem Me Amar (Come Love Me). I first heard that song while walking one day on the beachfront at Maceió (a beautiful city in the north-east, pictured above). It was playing in a nearby bar and I had to ask the barmen who the singer was. They all looked at me as if, D’oh!, what rock have you been hiding under, it’s Alexander Pires (pictured above) of course. Of course. As a visiting gringo I am supposed to know that. In other parts of South America, though, the album was Estrella Guia (two l’s in Spanish) and that song was called Ámame. I have pasted the two versions below so you can compare them, and the words in both languages are on the clips.
I think the song works just as well in both languages. Most probably it is more common for Brazilian artists to record their songs in Spanish as well to crack the rest of the South American market than it is for the Spanish to record in Portuguese to woo the Brazilian market. Generally it is said that it is easier for the Portuguese to understand and speak Spanish than it is for the Spanish to speak and understand Portuguese. I am not sure that there is as much linguistic crossover between singers in the two languages on the European continent. The markets are smaller (particularly Portugal’s) and maybe the European versions of the two languages are further apart than their South American counterparts. In Europe, when it comes to a singer in one Romance language recording the same song in another Romance language, the most common combination seems to be Italian-Spanish. In a previous post (Being Italian … is your ego under control?), for example, I noted how Italian Tiziano Ferro had also recorded his songs in Spanish and, to a lesser extent, French. Another Italian who has done very well with Spanish is Laura Pausini. All bar her first two albums (and her one and only English effort) were also recorded in Spanish. Here are the Italian and Spanish versions of some of her more popular songs, starting off with the luscious Tra Te E Il Mare (Between You and the Sea), which peaked at No. 4 in Italy in 2000.
The Spanish version is, in my opinion, more powerful, perhaps because 999 seas have been added to it – the song title is Entre Tu e Mil Mares (Between You and One Thousand Seas). Or maybe because it was the first song I had heard by her and I thought she was Spanish!
More uptempo is this No. 1 hit from 2006, Io Canto (I sing) …
and its Spanish equivalent Yo Canto. In this video clip she is interviewed on Spanish TV before doing a live version of the song. What do you think of her Spanish? Not bad, eh. She does that lispy thing much better than I do.
Finally, here are the two versions of her last big hit, another No. 1 from 2011 entitled Benvenuto in Italian and Bienvenido in Spanish, both of which,, of course mean “welcome”. I didn’t choose a clip with lyrics in them, I chose the ones shot in Amsterdam because the city looks very exotic.
Which of the two languages do you prefer these songs in? I waver between liking the smoother Italian and preferring the more forceful Spanish. If I was energetic I would paste all the lyrics to these songs here and perhaps give an English translation, but it is late on a wet chilly winter night in Australia, I have had a few slices of spicy chorizo pizza washed down with three glasses of a nice cabernet sauvignon, and that is hardly the recipe for intellectual activity. Some other time, maybe.
- 4 “fantástico” children’s CDs in Spanish (coolmompicks.com)
- Are Italians naughty by nature? (myfiveromances.wordpress.com)
- How do you learn languages? (thepolyglut.wordpress.com)
- Italian famous singers: Laura Pausini (peekingintoitaly.wordpress.com)
- Brazilian Culture (jmena19.wordpress.com)
- Eurovision wash-up 3: sideburns, mohawks and buffed chests (myfiveromances.wordpress.com)
- The Spirits of Brazil, Weaving Through Jazz Sounds (barryakolman.com)
- Why I Wish I Could Speak Portuguese, Or, The Perfect Summer Album (indiemusicmachine.com)
- The New Generation of Sensual Brazilian Voices (podilatokafe.wordpress.com)