Eastern flair

The young pianist Andrei Nastase, whom I discovered recently by chance on YouTube, seems especially talented. What’s more, there isn’t a speck of dust on his piano or any mess in his room! Everything is so impeccable. I am guessing he is Romanian or of Romanian origin since in his surprisingly varied repertoire (he covers the likes of Linkin Park, Psy, Pink, Katie Perry, Rhianna) he also does many popular Romanian songs. And the name Nastase is forever linked to Romania thanks to Ilie Nastase, one of the greatest male tennis players.

For those who lean to classical music and for those who like current pop with Eastern European flavours, here are Andrei’s arrangements of two recent hits by hot Romanian singers, and for comparison, the originals.

jameia by andrei nastase

jameia by antonia

ecou by andrei nastase

ecou by elena feat. Glance

I  hope you enjoyed all four.

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Renaud’s unforgettable ode to idiotic brothers-in-law

Toulon and its military harbour, seen from Mou...

Toulon and its military harbour, seen from Mount Faron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1981 I turned 21 and instead of throwing a big party I asked my parents if I could go to France on a family home stay. I was studying French at the University of Zimbabwe at the time, and my parents agreed. They must have thought it a wiser option than having all my friends over trashing the house and getting drunk, which is what we seemed to do in our youth. It wasn’t such an extravagant request as it might sound – my father worked for an airline so I got a discounted ticket and had to travel on standby. I don’t want you to think that I made outrageous demands on my parents.

It was the northern winter at the time so, fearing the European cold, I picked the most southerly destinations I could find, staying with two lovely families and in Toulon and Montpellier. I don’t know if I learnt that much French in the month that I was there. But trips of these nature force you to speak the language, and in doing so you gain some confidence, and lose your shyness and fear of making embarrassing mistakes.

Cover of "Le Retour De Gerard Lambert"

I first heard one of my favourite French singers, Renaud, on that trip. He had just released an album at the time, Le Retour de Gérard Lambert, and I heard a lot of it on radio. I remember being struck by his voice – he had the sort of deep sexy male French voice that I wanted to acquire myself so I could sound sexier, and perhaps more charming. Renaud is something of a satirical street poet, the voice of the working class, of the everyday strugglers. He uses a lot of slang in his work and it can be difficult for students of French as a second language to follow. I bought the LP and when I showed it to my host family in Montpellier, they immediately asked me if they could listen to it. We sat around the record player in the lounge, they chuckled along and I had no idea what they were laughing at. My favourite track, and one of the funniest, was Mon Beauf, beauf being abbreviation for beau-frère, or brother-in-law. Basically, his sister has married a gauche idiot.

There aren’t many postings of it on YouTube; the one I have chosen below will require your patience as it has a one minute plus preamble (using the Star Wars theme), but once it gets into the song itself the pictures will give you some idea of the satire involved. This is French humour, after all.

The lyrics (“paroles” in French) to this song and many other can be found on the paroles mania website. They are too complicated to discuss in full here. But I will mention some of my favourite lines.

Le jour où les cons s’ront cuisiniers c’est lui qui préparera les sauces
The day when the idiots are chefs he is the one who will prepare the sauces

Y’a dans sa discothèque tout Richard Clayderman, Y trouve ça super chouette c’est l’Mozart du Walkman
In his record collection he has every Richard Clayderman, he finds it super cool, it’s the Mozart of the Walkman.

Quand l’soleil brillera que pour les cons, Il aura les oreilles qui chauffent
When the sun shines for the stupid idiots, he will have hot ears

This is the fun side of Renaud. But much of his music was melancholic, and he had a particular gift for capturing the hardship, hurt and heartbreak of a human existence. We will save that for another post. 

Montpellier

Montpellier (Photo credit: jparise)

Shooting stars of another sort: Xuting ones

Concerto Xutos e Pontapés no Campo Pequeno 09 ...

Concerto Xutos e Pontapés no Campo Pequeno 09 Dezembro 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Xutos e Pontapés are the godfathers of Portuguese rock. They are that nation’s equivalent of the UK’s Rolling Stones, or Australia’s Midnight Oil or AC/DC. The name means Shoots and Kicks (think of football terminology … Xutos is pronounced like “shootoosh” and on Pontapés the last syllable is stressed – so it’s like “ponta-pesh”). Even though the band members are getting a bit long in the tooth now, having started out in 1978, they are still active. Indeed, they are one of those old bands that are popular with the current younger generation of Portuguese, simply because anyone growing up in Portugal or the Lusaphone countries over the past 25 year would have heard their songs frequently. Perhaps mum and dad (or grandma and grandpa) used to play their albums at full blast. They probably still do!

If you have not heard them before I will introduce you to them relatively gently with this song Perfeito vazio and I have done my best to translate the lyrics are below to give you some idea of what the song is about. Well, not just some idea, hopefully the complete picture. The guitar riffs from the guy who looks like he has been to many all-night parties in his lifetime are really good, in my opinion. 

Perfeito vazio: Xutos e Pontapés

Aqui estou eu – Here I am
Sou uma folha de papel vazia – I’m an empty piece of paper
Pequenas coisas – Small things
Pequenos pontos – Small points
Vão me mostrando o caminho – Will show me the way

Às vezes aqui faz frio – Sometimes it is cold here
Às vezes eu fico imóvel – Sometimes I am immobile (stuck in a rut)
Pairando no vazio – Hovering in the void
As vezes aqui faz frio – Sometimes it is cold here

Sei que me esperas – I know that you are waiting for me
Não sei se vou lá chegar – I don’t know if I will get there
Tenho coisas p’ra fazer – I have things to do
Tenho vidas para a acompanhar – I have lives to accompany

Às vezes lá faz mais frio – Sometimes it is colder there
Às vezes eu fico imóvel – Sometimes I am immobile
Pairando no vazio – Hovering in the void
No perfeito vazio – In the perfect emptiness
Às vezes lá faz mais frio – Sometimes it’s colder there

(Lá fora faz tanto frio) – It’s so cold over there

Bem-vindos a minha casa – Welcome to my house
Ao meu lar mais profundo – To my deepest place (abode or home)
De onde saio por vezes – From where I go out sometimes
Para conquistar o mundo – To conquer the world

Às vezes tu tens mais frio – Sometimes you are colder
Às vezes eu fico imóvel – Sometimes I am immobile
Pairando no vazio – Hovering in the void
No perfeito vazio – In the perfect emptiness
Às vezes lá faz mais frio – Sometimes it is empty there
No teu peito vazio – In your empty chest

The lyrics to most of their songs can be found at this website and of course you can do an imperfect translation with the help of your computer. A computer translation, for example, might translate Às vezes eu fico imóvel  (Sometimes I am immobile)  as “sometimes I have property”. You will often see the plural form, imóveis, on billboards or adverts, meaning homes or real estate. I guess property never moves.

On one of my trips to Portugal I bought a two-CD compilation of Xutos e Pontapés’ greatest hits. Some of it is a bit ordinary, but there are anthems that really get me going with my air guitar, such as A Minha Maneira (My Way, or more literally, In My Manner). The air guitar is the only instrument I can play. Bring out yours everybody!

In a similar vein is A Minha Casinha (At My Little House); this videoclip is from a Rock in Rio performance.

Incidentally, one of their most intriguing song titles is A Minha Aventura Homossexual Com O General Custer (My Homosexual Adventure With General Custer). However, I cannot provide the saucy lyrics – it’s an instrumental. 🙂

What do you see when a shooting star goes by?

Shooting Star?

Shooting Star? (Photo credit: deltaMike)

How often do you look up at the stars? Until recently, I used to work night shifts. I would get home sometimes at one or two o’clock in the morning, when it seemed like everyone else in the quiet, semi-rural suburb that I live in was fast asleep. Most lights were off, our street is not very well lit anyway, and as I walked up the side of the house, which is bathed in darkness, I couldn’t help noticing the night sky. I would stop, look up and be dazzled by what I saw. The stars are always so impressive away from the bright lights of a big city. In some big cities, apparently, there are children who have never seen a star.

The reason why I am blabbing on about stars is because recently I have been listening a lot to the song O Stea (A Star) by Deepcentral … if you are not familiar with them, here is an entry from ro.wikipedia.org, which is the Romanian version of Wikipedia:

Deepcentral (uneori scris DeepCentral sau Deep Central este o formație românească de muzică house și pop, înființată în anul 2009. Cel mai de succes single al lor este piesa „In Love”, ce s-a clasat pe locul 1 în Romanian Top 100.

The computer then asks if I want it to translate, and offers two options “Translate” or “Nope”. It’s funny that “nope” is used instead of a simple “no”, but there we go. I suppose the next generation of English speakers will say “nope” a lot. OK, let’s see the translation.

Deepcentral (sometimes spelled Deepcentral or Deep Central) is a band Romanian music house and pop , founded in 2009 . The most successful single of their song “In Love” , which was ranked No. 1 in Romanian Top 100 .

DeepcentralWell, that is not a very good translation, is it? But you get the gist. So, they are a Romanian band, but their first few singles were all in English. They had four Top 10 hits in Romania from 2009 to 2011, including the above-mentioned number one, In Love, which is here if you want to listen to it (I don’t care much for their English stuff because it sounds so much other English house/pop manufactured material). However, last year they changed direction somewhat with the release the lovely, solemn O Stea, sung in Romanian. Although it only made number 35 on the local chart, it got decent enough airplay. Here is a version from YouTube with the Romanian lyrics on it appearing as they are sung (there is also a translation at bottom of the post, plus a very nice piano cover and an acoustic guitar cover).

And here is the official video if you want to see Deepcentral in action…

For anyone who is interested in languages, here are the Romanian lyrics and an (awkward) English  translation from the website http://www.versuri.ro

Strofa 1:
Caut pe cer o stea, una doar a mea,
O cometă ce să-mi umple lipsa ta,
Numele tău să-i pun,
Să-i urez drum bun aşa cum n-am reuşit ţie să-ţi spun.

Verse 1:
Looking in the sky a star, one of my own,
a comet fills me your absence,
your name to ask,
to wish farewell as I failed to tell you.

Refren:
Te caut printre stele, alunec printre ele,
Aşteptând să te revăd până în zori,
De ce nu mi-ai spus oare că eşti stea căzătoare?
Pe al cui cer vei răsări, pe al meu sunt nori?

Chorus:
I’m looking for the stars, slip through them,
Waiting to see you until dawn
Why do not you tell me you’re really shooting star?
On whose heaven will rise, mine are clouds?

Post-refren:
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, o stea,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, a mea,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, o stea,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, a mea,
A mea.

Post-chorus:
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, a star,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, mine,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, a star,
Du ru ru ru ru ru ru, mine, mine.

Strofa 2:
Norii vin rând pe rând,
Rămân aşteptând cu speranţa că te voi zări cândva,
Fără tine am rămas, nu mai am nici glas,
Merg tăcut printre străini, maï fac un pas.

Verse 2:
Clouds come in turn,
Remain waiting in the hope that someday I will behold,
Without you I was, I have no voice,
I go silent among foreigners, a step.

This song has inspired a number of people to do covers of it on YouTube. Some of these people should have known better. But I rather like this one by a cool young pianist called Andrei Nastase.

This chap Marinel E also makes a decent fist of it on acoustic guitar, his vocals are on a par with the original, and he has even gone to the trouble of putting a big star on the screen of his computer.

Damn, I wish I had musical talent! I always come last in karaoke competitions. 🙂

Finally, here is something a bit more upbeat by Deepcentral, also in Romanian. It’s more in keeping with their usual style, I guess, but I like it too.

Anyone fancy a triple Mia Martini?

Here is a little more on the late Italian singer Mia Martini to follow up the post “Hymn, him and her: a bilingual nostalgia trip”. One of her biggest hits was the song Minuetto, from 1973, which she recorded in more than one Romance language. Let’s first check out the original in Italian:

Now let’s savour the Spanish version:

And, voilà, here is the French version…

So, what’s your pick of the above?

There is an excellent documentary titled Storia di una voce (The story of a voice) on Mia and her rather tragic life from Italian broadcaster RAI (via YouTube), which I have posted below.

Even if you don’t know much or any Italian you can understand bits of it. It will also introduce you to more of her songs … and the more I hear of her, the more I like. Her vocal prowess is evident on her 1989 Sanremo Music Festival entry, Almeno Tu Nell’Universo, (You are the universe), for example.

One of the blogs I like and follow is Peeking Into Italy. As the name suggests, it gives some insight into Italian culture, and if you want to discover more Italian music you should read the posts there on great Italian singers. There are also travel tips and language lessons. Its author, alekim25 (aka Michela), is a native speaker of Italian who kindly offered to help with the translation of the lyrics of Inno, which I published in my previous post. So here is the new translation (Grazie, Michela). At the bottom of the lyrics I have pasted a funky, more upbeat live version of the song.

INNO

Cantero se vuoi – ma non credermi – I’ll sing, if you want, but don’t believe me
Stelle nelle tasche piu non ho – I don’t have any more stars in my pockets
E tu – non sai – volare piu – piu – piu in alto – And you can’t fly higher 

Nel viso della sera che nasce – On the face of the night that is born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach with the bonfires

Cantero – per noi – che non siamo piu – I will sing for us, that we are no more
Piu forti – di quel po – di gioventu – stronger of that little youth
Che sta – bruciando dentro e poi – finira – that is burning inside and then will end
Nel viso della sera che nasce –  In the face of the night that is born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach with the bonfires
Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita -Tell me what you want – that you can – give me happiness
E sotto – la mia pelle nascera – And under my skin will be born
Per te un dolce fiume che – cantera – a sweet river for you that will sing
La mia speranza desser donna – of my hopes of being woman,
E la tua bocca poi lo berra – And then your mouth will drink it
Dimmi che il posto mio non sto per perderlo – Tell me that I am not going to lose my place
Dentro la mia fiaccola tu sei – You are inside my torch
Ma se – non sai bruciare piu – resta ancora – but if you can’t burn anymore, stay longer
Insieme canteremo e legna – We will sing together and we will 
Porteremo al nostro falo – bring wood to our bonfire

Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita – Tell me that you want – that you can – give me happiness
Apri le tue braccia e se ne andra – Open your arms and it will go (away)
La mia tristezza finalmente sara un esplosione – My sadness will finally be an explosion
Di stelle cadenti sopra i fuochi gia spenti dei falo – of shooting stars over the already extinguished bonfires
Sole no! Non puoi – piu mandarci via – No sun! You can’t turn us away anymore
Rosso stai salendo sempre piu – You (sun) are rising red more and more
Lui sta dormendo il mare sa – quanto amore – He is sleeping, the sea only knows how much love
Mi ha dato e mi dara rubando il viso di una sera – he gave me and will give me, stealing the face of a evening.

Hymn, him and her: a bilingual nostalgia trip

Mia Martini - Inno

Mia Martini – Inno (Photo credit: Fabio Meoni)

I feel like bursting into song. Not any old song, mind you. There is one I have had on the brain recently – Inno (Hymn or Anthem) by Mia Martini, who twice represented Italy in the Eurovision contest. Her real name was Domenica Bertè (a name that I much prefer to Mia Martini!) and sadly she died quite young in 1995, aged 47.

I came across this song by accident. It was one of those strange journeys that the YouTube ‘suggestions’ sometimes lead you on. While on a nostalgia trip I had gone from Chicory Tip’s Son of My Father to Substitute by South African all-girl band Clout (both songs charted in many countries). I then went listening to songs I heard in my youth in Southern Africa on the likes of Springbok Radio and LM Radio (including some by a great Mozambique-born singer known as Maria but whose fabulous real name was Carmelia Maria Neto Lopez, you can find her most popular songs I’m On Fire and Clap Your Hands And Stamp Your Feet here and here). One of the songs that was suggested too was I Won’t Give Up, by Bruce Millar. It made number one on the South African charts in 1976. I remember really liking it at the time. The person who posted it on YouTube noted that it was an “English-language cover of the 1974 hit ‘Inno’ by the Italian artist Mia Martini”. I had never known it was based on an Italian song, nor had I heard of Mia, so I had to investigate.

View of Lourenço Marques, ca. 1905

View of Lourenço Marques, circa. 1905. LM Radio is named was named after the city, now known as Maputo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here in this posting we have the one great song (it has a lovely, haunting melody) in two languages, and both singers have remarkable voices, in my humble opinion. First off is Mia herself performing the song while she loiters behind futuristic-looking staircases and scaffolding (I’m not sure why). The song dates back to 1974 so the sound quality is not the greatest (there are other versions on YouTube that have slightly better sound but no video footage), but her enunciation is clear, it is a slowish song, so if you are not too familiar with Italian you should be able to hear it word by word and get a feel for the language. If not the lyrics are posted at the bottom.

Next is the English version by Bruce Millar, titled I Won’t Give Up. The words to this are not a translation of the Italian original, at all (he just uses the melody).

Inno lyrics translated into English

I asked people who know Italian better than me to help with the translation, although none of us is a native speaker. We agree the lyrics are sometimes rather strange, and suspect whoever wrote them was smoking something exotic round a bonfire at the time. 🙂

Cantero se vuoi – ma non credermi – Sing if you want, but don`t believe me
Stelle nelle tasche piu non ho – I don`t have any more stars in my pockets
E tu – non sai – volare piu – piu – piu in alto – And you, don’t you know? fly higher, and higher
Nel viso della sera che nasce – On the face of the night that is being born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach by the bonfire
Cantero – per noi – che non siamo piu – I will sing for us, that we we will always be
Piu forti – di quel po – di gioventu – stronger, as strong as we can, and of youth
Che sta – bruciando dentro e poi – finira – That burns inside and then will end
Nel viso della sera che nasce  In the face of the night that is being born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach by the bonfire
Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita -Tell me what you want, and if you can, give me happiness
E sotto – la mia pelle nascera – And below – beneath my skin will be born,
Per te un dolce fiume che – cantera – For you a sweet river that, will sing
La mia speranza desser donna – of my hopes of being woman,
E la tua bocca poi lo berra – And from your mouth i will drink
Dimmi che il posto mio non sto per perderlo – Tell me that I am not going to lose that place
Dentro la mia fiaccola tu sei – You are a torch burning inside of me
Ma se – non sai bruciare piu – resta ancora – But if – you do not know to burn more – remain
Insieme canteremo e legnia – Together we will sing and we will
Porteremo al nostro falo – bring wood to our bonfire

Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita – Tell me what you want – and if you can – give  me happiness
Apri le tue braccia e se ne andra – Open your arms and it will not go
La mia tristezza finalmente sara un esplosione – My sadness will finally explode
Di stelle cadenti sopra i fuochi gia spenti dei falo – in a cascade of stars over the bonfire
Sole no! Non puoi – piu mandarci via – No sun! it cannot, it will not go away
Rosso stai salendo sempre piu – Red is going up more and more
Lui sta dormendo il mare sa – quanto amore – He is sleeping the sea only knows how much love
Mi ha dato e mi dara rubando il viso di una sera – He gave me and will give me stealing the face of the evening.

English: Midsummer festival bonfire closeup (M...

“My sadness will finally explode in a cascade of stars over the bonfire”

The devilish humour of Fernando Pessoa

A famous portrait of Fernando Pessoa by Jose de Almada Negreiros

A famous portrait of Fernando Pessoa by Jose de Almada Negreiros

Anyone who is interested in the Romance languages should at some stage in their lives investigate the works of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Although he is regarded as one of the greatest Portuguese poets – the internationally renowned fado singer Mariza is a great admirer and his poetry has been the base for some of her songs – he received most of his schooling in English in Durban, South Africa, where he lived from the ages of 7 to 17 before returning to Lisbon. He was a prolific writer in both English and Portuguese (and sometimes wrote in French), and apart from his own writing (which he often did using an elaborate form of nom de plume, or heteronym, as he called them) he frequently translated other people’s novels from one language to another. Unfortunately for him, though, not much of his own work was published in his own lifetime, but he left behind a great body of work that is now available in print. For any students of the Portuguese language, this is good news because his English poems have been translated into Portuguese by modern translators, and vice versa, and in Portugal and Brazil at least it is easy to find both language versions of a poem in the one book. For lazy language learners like me, this means you don’t have to constantly turn to the dictionary for help.

Pessoa is regarded as one of the voices of Lisbon, and if you are ever in the Portuguese capital (one of my favourite cities) you must go to the cafe called A Brasileira (The Brazilian) because at one of the tables outside you can sit down alongside Fernando himself – there is a statue of him there (see the picture below). It is a very famous cafe at 120 Rua Garrett in the middle of the old town (near the Largo do Chiado) and you can’t miss it. You can read more about it here.

the cafe

Fernando Pessoa is the chap sitting on the extreme left outside the cafe A Brasileira in Lisbon. He has been waiting a long time for service, haha

On my last trip to Lisbon, I bought Volume II of Fernando Pessoa’s Poesia Inglesa. It must have inspired me more than Volume I. Or more likely it was cheaper, or smaller and lighter to carry on a plane. It is from the series Obras de Fernando Pessoa (The Works of Fernando Pessoa) translated by Luísa Freire, published by Assíro & Alvim. For educational purposes, I shall find a short poem or an extract from one and give the translation.

(Pause while Bernardo skims through Fernando’s poetry.)

I rather like this one: it is a description of one of my favourite regions in Portugal, the arid Alentejo. I like the area for its remoteness and stillness (often you will see just olive trees or cork trees in a field of sunburnt yellow, as per the picture below). Perhaps nowadays the Alentejo is an escape from the hurly-burly of the modern world. But for Pessoa, writing in 1907, it must have seemed far less alluring.

Alentejo field

Alentejo seen from the train

Nothing with nothing around it
And a few trees in between
None of which very clearly green,
Where no river or flower pays a visit.
If there be a hell, I’ve found it,
For if it ain’t here, where the Devil is it?

Alentejo visto do comboio

Nada, tendo nada em seu redor
E, de permeio, algumas árvores somente
Nehuma delas verde claramente,
Onde nada aparece, rio ou flor.
Se acaso há um inferno, ele aqui está,
Pois, se não aqui, onde o Diabo estará?

Some help with the vocabulary:

  • um redor (masculine) is a “circle, circuit, or contour”, but it can also mean environs or surroundings, while ao redor, de redor or em redor mean “round, all around, about or all about”.
  • de permeio means “in the middle of, among or between”. It can also mean “inwardly”.
  • um acaso as a noun means “chance, hazard, fortune, luck or venture”, while acaso by itself as an adverb means “by chance, perhaps or indicentally”; ao acaso means “at random”; por acaso also means “by chance or perchance”.
  • pois is a very useful word to have in your vocabulary. As a conjunction it can mean “because, since, whereas, therefore, as, for, so”; pois bem means “well then”; pois é means “that’s it” either in a factual or exclamatory fashion; pois é isso mesmo! means “that’s just it!” pois não means “of course, certainly”; while pois sim! means an ironical or sarcastic “yeah, sure!”

The Alentejo is not as bad as Pessoa makes it out to be. It is the hottest and driest part of Portugal, to be sure, but it can be quite verdant and it has a splendid coastline (although the waves here are rougher than in the more popular Algarve region), some great historic buildings and castles. Here are some images to give you an idea.

The old frontier fortifications at Marvão, high on a hill looking over into Spain…

Marvao

The castle at Beja, which historically is one of the most important cities in the district…

Beja - the castle