Sweet sounds from Angola, Portugal and all over the place

Just as singers with African-Francophone backgrounds such as Stromae and Maître Gims are dominating the charts in France, Belgium, Switzerland and other countries in Europe, so too are those from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa. Angolan-born singer Anselmo Ralph is doing well once again in Portugal with Não Me Toca (Don’t Touch Me). It’s a pleasant song, and as a bonus on this videoclip, in the intro you get to hear what a little domestic drama sounds like in Portuguese. But it all ends happily for the boy as he storms off and gets to play with some toys.

You will find two attempts at the translation of the lyrics into English, German and Russian here, as well as German and Russian, but let me warn you the first English translation is poor in parts. Look at this …

I told you I loved you and you clueless
I was called to dance your ass song
But I did not mind and devoted heart.

…. so click on translation number 2 instead. But either way you’ll get the gist.

Ampersands in music credits are catching on in Portugal as much as they are in Brazil. Here, a singer with a very Portuguese name, Nelson Freitas, but who was born in the Netherlands (he’s actually of Cape Verdean origin) has linked up with an Angolan singer by the name of C4 Pedro. Their song Bo Tem Mel is an intriguing mix of English, Portuguese and Creole, and who knows, maybe some other languages are thrown in too.

C4Pedro is best known for his song Casamento (Wedding). Its sweet, seductively smooth sounds (note the alliteration) warrant inclusion. If you listen to only one of my selections, make it this one!

Moving on now to a singer who actually hails from Portugal. Paulo Gonzo (not his real name, as you will see here) has teamed up with Ana Carolina, a husky-voiced Brazilian, for a reworking of Quem de nós dois, a song that was a big hit for her in Brazil in 2002. Both of them , in their own way, have great voices. Just listen to Paulo get going in the chorus, round about the two-minute mark (a point where the song needed to get going, methinks).

OK, enough of this schmaltzy stuff, time to listen to some Portuguese rock! Well, soft rock. Pop rock. Actually it’s, ahem, Portuguese boy band soft pop. A Um Passo do Céu (One Step Closer To Heaven),  the debut single by No Stress was the only sort of contemporary pop song I could find on the charts.

I’ve chosen a TV performance of it, partly because I think the Portuguese presenter, Júlia Pinheiro of Querida Júlia (Dear Julia) fame, does a great job of subtly taking the mickey out of the whole boy band thing. Or maybe she is not that subtle, I suspect she is really taking the piss out of them. Judge for yourself. But really it’s not a bad song and after Julia inspects and compliments the boys on their manicured hair, you get what must be their theme song, also called No Stress, as a bonus.


If you want to know more about Cláudio, Tiago, Valter, Daniel e James – “a nova boy band portuguesa por quem todos esperavam” (the new Portuguese boy band that we have all been waiting for- click here. Even better, go here! OMG! This is so exciting! One of them likes basketball. Another is from the Azores. Another says being in a boy band is like gaining four brothers.


Mon cher diary: A year of culture starts badly for Bernardo

That was then... the classy arty cover

That was then… a typical (or stereotypical) example of the arty covers of the past.

In December I bought myself The Living Language French 2014 Daily Phrase & Culture Calendar. I opted for French rather than Spanish and Italian because I don’t really need to learn French, I just need to refresh it after years of neglect, whereas with the other two I need more serious study. For much of December and January, though, I was away from home, so the calendar languished on my desk, alone and unattended, its vital knowledge yet to be imparted. But, maintenant, le moment est venue – now the time has come – for the grand opening. I have almost a whole month of French culture to cram into the next hour or so! And many insights ahead for the rest of the year, hopefully.

I have never bought one of these things before so I am curious to evaluate it. Here goes:

January 26: the cultural indoctrination begins

2pm. Shit! The plastic wrapping is so tough! I am wrestling with the thing and I cannot get it open. It’s harder than grappling with a condom wrapper while your hands are basted in lube! You need fingernails like sabres for this. I am too lazy to get up to go the kitchen so I will use my teeth instead. Maybe that is why the covers of this year’s calendars look like adverts for toothpaste. Is she going to give her friend a love bite?

This is now ... the covers look like toothpaste adverts

This is now … the covers are a reminder to floss daily.

2.04pm. Shit I just lost a tooth! Merde! Never mind, it was kind of old and yellow and rotten anyway, unlike the teeth pictured on the cover of the product. I’ll have to get a knife after all. Damn, now I have got a big hole in my mouth in the place where my most efficient meat masticator used to be. It’s Australia Day and all the dentists are at the beach. I wonder if I can glue it back in myself? Am I doomed to suck soup for the rest of my life?

2.16pm. While in the kitchen I got distracted and made myself a Turkey Spam Lite sandwich with some decaying lettuce and squirts of mayonnaise. The other teeth seemed to be able to masticate it OK. You can see why I take so long to learn languages, I get very easily distracted. It’s time to stab this stubborn calendar wrapper!  I wonder what I should have for pudding.

2.17pm. Success at last! We’re in! The calendar is pierced, and I am stripping it of its plastic protection. It comes with a CD of basic expressions and fits snugly into its casing, which has a prop at the back so that you can stand it up at an angle I suppose; I am afraid of pulling out the prop too far in case I break it. I usually break things.

2.21pm. OK, it’s January 1. Happy new year everybody! I hope you don’t have a hangover. I don’t, my head feels good apart from that missing tooth. The word for the day is aimer, to love. How nice. What a good way to start the new year. There is a quote from George Sand in French and English about love and happiness. I think the sample sentences will be more useful than the words of the day.

2.23pm. I  am uncomfortable typing on the bed. Maybe I should get out of my pyjamas now. I’ll go see if I have got any clean undies anywhere. BRB (that means ‘be right back’)

2.34pm. Found some undies in a cupboard. I forgot I had that cupboard. I wonder if the undies are mine, though. They might have belonged to the previous tenant. They seem reasonably fresh, though. They don’t smell of anything peculiar. I’ll spray them with insecticide, just in case.

2.47pm. I am showered, dressed and refreshed. And I have cut my fingernails. I like to type with the tip of my fingers, not the tip of my nails. My nails were starting to annoy me. I cleaned my teeth too, including the one that fell out. I am keeping it in case a dentist can put it back in. I couldn’t find any glue.

2.50pm. Well, after coming across parler, to speak on January 2 I was beginning to wonder if this calendar would just go for the basic words, but on January 3 we have bâtir, to build, and in the sample sentence creuser, to dig. Very practical, I guess. But sorry, Bernardo doesn’t do manual labour. You’ll never find him “creusing” with a shovel (if you use words in your own context, I think you will remember them better).

2.51pm. I am wondering what I should have for pudding. I am thinking tinned plums (pitted, thankfully, no hazards for my few remaining teeth) and dollops of cream.

2.52pm. January 4 and 5. Aha, the calendar puts samedis and dimanches on the same page. I feel a little bit cheated. We are not going to get 365 words out of this calendar, we are only going to get … oh God, now I am going to have to do some mathematics and count the number of weekends in 2014 (it should be 52) and subtract the number from 365 – so yes, we will get only 313 words. Can something that advertises itself as a ‘daily’ do this? Why are Saturdays and Sundays given lesser treatment than weekdays? The word for the two days is chanter, to sing, so I am making a song and dance about this.

2.57pm. I have gone through a week of words that I knew already but now on le weekend of January 11-12, I have found an expression I hadn’t come across before, I don’t think: J’en suis fort aise – I am very glad.

2.58pm. I am thinking of getting back into my pyjamas and having a nap. All this intellectual activity is tiring me. And the insecticide in my undies is beginning to itch. Gosh, the January 13 word is dormir, to sleep. This calendar can read my mind! Probably there will be raunchy, raucous sex on the next page! Naaahh, there isn’t, the next word of the day is être, to be, and the sample sentence is all about the solemn symbolism of a cathedral. Yawn. Maybe they should bring out X-rated versions of these calendars.

2.59pm. Oh, here is a suprise. It is mercredi, janvier 15, and the calendar is giving us a description in English on Le Mont-Saint-Michel. So there will be fewer words to learn this year than 313. This must be the ‘culture’ part of the calendar.

3.00pm. I am wondering what I should have for the pudding that you have after the pudding. I am a great believer in five-course meals. The plums are all finished, but there is still some cream left.

3.01pm. The pages in this calendar don’t flip over and stay down in their place easily. You have to kind of batter them into submission. I think you are supposed to tear them off each day. That’s fine if you have no need for them, but what if you want to keep them for future reference?

3.04pm. It’s the weekend again! I like part of sentence of janvier 18-19: Ça va me rendre fou! – This is going to drive me crazy! I must make some Gallic protests. Mon missing tooth va me rendre fou!

3.06pm. I am wondering if I should cut my toe nails. Not because I also type with my toes, it’s just I seem to cut my finger nails more often than the toes. Do you think the finger nails grow faster than their pedestrian counterparts? Judging by the holes in my socks, I doubt it. I really must cut my toes more often. Or stop buying cheap socks. Oh, Bernardo, get back to the French stuff!

3.10pm. Right it is January 26, I am up to date in my cultural indoctrination. There was nothing new to me or very remarkable in a linguistic sense about the offerings for the past week.

The semi-intellectual verdict

Any immersion in another language is useful for anyone trying to learn that language. I suppose these calendars have to start off with the more simple stuff. I’ve had a quick peek into the future and I can see that the vocabulary will broaden. How much will I get out of it in the end? I’ll have to wait and see. It will jog my memory and freshen up my French. Maybe it will even teach me to say ‘Shit, I have just lost a tooth’ and ‘It’s about time you cut your toe nails’ in French. But judging what I have seen so far, I would say these calendars are more useful to beginners or those just progressing past the beginner stage, rather than toothless geniuses like me. Ditto with the CD, I should imagine. I have seen the other Living Language calendars on sale at reduced prices in some outlets, so maybe I should snap up the Spanish and Italian ones too. (There don’t seem to be any Portuguese or Romanian options.)

3.26pm. Cher journal. J’ai un headache. J’ai besoin de food. Mon tummy is rumbling. As janvier 7 says, reminding us that venir means to come, L’appétit vient en mangeantAppetite comes when eating, meaning the more you have, the more you want. Maintenant, je vais piller le frigo (I am going to raid the fridge) in search of le pudding you have after le second pudding. There must be quelque chose in le frigo that will go très bien with crème. A Vienna coffee maybe? Et biscuits? Ah oui, bonne idée!

See you in February! Ooops, février.

90 minutes of mellifluence

PaulaFI’ve been studying more of Paula Fernandes (purely for linguistic research purposes, you’ll understand) to see if there are any other songs of hers I like. I came across footage of a live show with good quality sound. In the first song, it looks like she is performing via a video link-up into a Taylor Swift concert. Thereafter it switches to a live Paula Fernandes gig, and later some other well-known Brazilian singer joins in for a couple of duets, but not well known enough to me to be able to identify him. I think Paula and Taylor’s voices complement each other well, but I prefer Paula’s more mellifluous, deeper tones to Taylor’s higher, more screechy ones.

(Incidentally, in checking the spelling of ‘mellifluous‘, which I thought might be related to ‘melody‘,  I have discovered one of its listed dictionary meanings is ‘flowing with sweetness and honey‘; from the Latin word for ‘honey‘; of course, the penny has dropped: the Portuguese word for honey is ‘mel‘.)

Anyway, this concert from Paula makes for pleasant listening; just the sort of soothing thing you need in the background on a Sunday morning when you are studying Portuguese irregular verbs or even the Romanian regular ones. Her Portuguese is relatively easy to understand in that in many instances you can hear the lyrics (‘letras‘, in Portuguese); whereas some performers sing so fast and meld the words together into one soyoureallydon’thavethetimetodigestwhat’sgoingon 🙂

Here’s the concert: some of the songs at the end are really good too.

By the way, ‘melody‘ comes from ancient Greek and ‘meld‘ from German.

Shake your booty to Ivete & Paula & all the ampersands

If long-legged Brazilian women dancing around in, ahem, leopardskin swimming costumes are your thing, then this videoclip is for you. It’s the latest hit single by singer Ivete Sangalo, who is celebrating 20 years in the Brazilian music business, including a stint as the lead singer of a popular group called Banda Eva. Thankfully, Ivete (pronounced Eve-vetchy) has eschewed leopardskin for an outfit that looks like a shiny coral reef. The song is Tempo de Alegria (Time of Happiness). Check it out.

I am very fond of Ivete. She, Daniela Mercury and Marisa Monte are in a way the female pioneers of my exploration of Brazilian music – they all seemed to feature on the compilation CDs I bought on my first trip to that country more than a decade ago, and the locals spoke highly enough of them to persuade me to buy one of their CDs whenever I could find it.

Moving on to another very popular singer, one from the newer generation of songbirds, Paula Fernandes. Her voice has a deeper, solemn tone, and the more I listen to her latest chart-buster Não Fui Eu (It Wasn’t Me), the more I like it. You don’t have to know the words to sense that this is a song about parting in sadness and bitterness. The “Ei, escuta” (that last a is almost silent) that you hear at the very start and often in the verses means “Hey, listen” – she is talking to her ex. In the chorus she says she knows he will put the blame on her, but if anyone asks, she will say “it wasn’t me”. He was the one, we learn, who broke a heart, dashed their hopes and destroyed their dreams. The brute! How could he do this to her?

In this performance she is looking very fetching in, um, a sort of frilly pink cowgirl swimming costume type of thing and some of the dangling frills seem to strum her guitar more than she does. This song has resonance!

Brazilians are great supporters of musical acts from their own country – more often than not, the music charts in that country will be dominated by local artists, although of course international ones get a look-in too.

A perennially popular genre of music in Brazil, for reasons that I confess elude me, is sertanejoor música sertaneja, or, as this website calls it, “countrified Brazilian pop”. (For a historical explanation, go to the Great Brazilian Music website). Michel Teló’s international smash hit Ai Se Eu Te Pego from a couple of years ago is probably the best known example of the genre. A more current offering is this one by Zezé di Camargo & Luciano. Here the long-legged dancing girls have ditched their leopardskins for more sensible stripey Zebra crossing outfits.

It is almost mandatory for sertanejo artists to team up in pairs. So as well Zezé di Camargo & Luciano you will come across Bruno & Marrone, Leandro & Leonardo, Guilherme & Santiago, Jorge & Mateus, & so on & so on. The ampersand is so important in Brazilian music credits! Bruno, give me a call. I think Bruno & Bernardo has a nice ring to it. I got the looks, sort of (a bit of Photoshop and subdued lighting helps). I can sing, sort of. I have a cowboy outfit in the cupboard. And I got an electric guitar for Christmas.

Chart busters from Italy

I’ve been scouring around the various Italian music chart websites looking for something new and inspiring. There are slim pickings at the moment. For example, of the top 20 songs listed for Italy at at top40-charts.com, only one is in Italian. It is the latest by former Sanremo Festival winner Valerio Scanu, a new entry at number 12. I wonder how much higher it will go.

The most recent winner of the X Factor series in Italy, Michele Bravi, soared to the top spot just before Christmas with this song, but it has fallen off the charts as quickly as it rose.

Finally, well-respected singer Giorgia (her full name is Giorgia Todrani and her biography here makes interesting reading; she too is a former Sanremo winner and throughout her career has teamed up on duets with well-known artists such as Andrea Bocelli and Ronan Keating – is back on the scene with Quando una stella muore (When a star dies).


Roll your Rs like J

When I was a kid in school I had difficulty rolling my Rs to the satisfaction of my French teacher. She would hold her handkerchief (unstained, thankfully) or a piece of tissue in front of my mouth, like a flag, and I had to make brrrr, grrrr, trrr and rrrr sounds and make her handkerchief vibrate visibly in the process.

If only Colombian singer J Balvin was around at the time. Just listen to the way he rolls his Rs in his hit song Tranquila. Even though he is singing in Spanish, my French teacher would have apprrrrrrroved. He would have made her flag rrreally vibrrrate and flutterrrr. He looks a bit like Rrrrricky Marrrrtin too.

That song did very well not just in his native Colombia and neighbouring countries, but also the US, and in Eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria in particular). He was the top drawcard at a Latin music festival in Sydney last November, too.

Here is another one of songs.

Today is an exceptional day

eminescuMy Romanian – An Essential Grammar book has this to say somewhere: Un Eminescu nu se naşte în fiecare zi. (An Eminescu is not born every day). It is referring, of course, to the great poet Mihai Eminescu – Mihai being the Romanian version of the name Michael. Well, Mihai Eminescu was born on this day, January 15, way back in 1850, so if another Eminescu is to emerge, today is the day to do it. But unless your newborn babe, or anyone else born on this date in previous years, learns to speak Romanian in rhyming couplets, I don’t fancy his or her chances. This blog has already covered one of Eminescu’s works: an extremely clever poem translated into both English and French in which the last stanza was the first stanza written with the lines in reverse order – here is the link to that post.

In researching today’s item, I discovered that Eminescu has been accredited by a body called The World Records Academy with writing the world’s longest love poem, one called Luceafărul. According to Wikipedia, it is considered his masterpiece.

Now I know what you are thinking: bloody Bernardo is going to make you read the world’s longest love poem! Yes, you are right. But it is not as bad as it sounds. It has 98 verses of four lines each so that is, um (pause while Bernardo does mental arithmetic) 392 lines. So, here is a link to that work, alongside a translation in English by Corneliu M. Popescu, the gifted translator who died aged only 19 in the earthquake in Bucharest in 1977. It seems Popescu had yet to arrive at the translation of four of those 98 verses, so there are only, um, 376 lines for you to read in English. That’s 768 lines to read in two languages. If you start now, you should be finished by Friday evening at the latest. If you think your loved one is worth an ode of 768 lines, read it out aloud to them in bed. Love has no bounds!

Here are 16 lines in English chosen personally by Bernardo to encourage you: they are ruminating on the meaning of life, etc etc. The juicy love bits you will have to dig out for yourself.

You wish to be a man of son,
To be a star you scorn;
But men quick perish every one,
And men each day are born.

Yet stars burn on with even glow,
And it is fate’s intending
That they nor time, nor place shall know,
Unfettered and unending.

Out of eternal yesterday
Into tomorrow’s grave,
Even the sun will pass way
That other suns shall lave;

The sun that every morn does rise
At last its spirit gives,
For each thing lives because it dies,
And dies because it lives.

The bueno in Buenos Aires

Buenos AiresBuenos Aires is a city that appeals to me, one I would like to revisit. I have only been there once, and at the time Spanish was just gibberish to me and my Portuguese was not much better (although it helped), but I have great memories of many lovely bookshops, enticing restaurants offering massive steaks, or roasting meat on giant skewers over a fire, some warming red wines – it was winter at the time – the mounting excitement of a football derby (River Plate were due to play Boca Juniors and their fans were draped in their team colours) and a generally exotic if somewhat ramshackle city environment. Yes, it did feel like a crazy Paris of the Latin Americas. Oh and there was the tango, of course – have you ever read a travel article on Buenos Aires that doesn’t go on and on about the bloody tango?. If I was in Buenos Aires today I would skip the tango sessions and go to a gig by local band Banda de Turistas. Now that’s more like it!

Banda de Turistas could probably be classified as whimsical Beatlesque Latin psychadelics. Check out their latest hit, Quîmica (Chemistry). It makes you wonder what music they listened to and were influenced by as kids. What LPs (that’s long playing records, to those of you who are unfamiliar with vinyl) were their parents playing? What chemical substances were in vogue?

Ever better is this breezy hum-along, tap-along, clap-along song, Dîas de Prosperidad (Days of Prosperity). I could drink to that with a nice Argentinian red. 🙂

The refrains in Spain don’t fall into the plain category

Want to hum along to some catchy tunes in Spanish? Here are a couple of songs which, with their zippy choruses, are perfect for when you are quaffing a cerveza and chucking a chorizo on the barbecue. (I had to mention the choruses to justify the corny ‘refrains in Spain’ headline.) If you live in the northern hemisphere, now might not really be the time and the weather for having outdoor barbecues, but here in the southern hemisphere we are sweltering. Beer songs are exactly what we need, and Bernardo never says no to a sizzling sausage.

First up is a song that has been really popular in Spain for a singer by the name of Dani Martin, Cero (which means zero). I really like his all-girl back-up band: among them a chubby but adorable guitarist, a leggy bass player who looks like Grace Jones, and a keyboard player who wouldn’t look out of place playing a deadly Asiatic agent in a James Bond movie – watch out for the bit where she plays with one hand and smokes with the other, it’s hilarious.

If you click on this link to the Lyrics Translate website you can find a translation of the lyrics in English and there is an Italian option too.

Now here is the latest hit for a much loved artist, Malú, (“the grand queen of Spanish music”, I heard a Spanish radio announcer describe her) whose albums since 1998 have all been certified either gold, platinum, titanium and even aluminium in Spain, according to good old Wikipedia. I didn’t know albums could be certified aluminium, it doesn’t sound very glamorous. Still, better aluminium than asbestos, I suppose. The song is called A Prueba de Ti, which could be translated as “You proof” (that is, no longer affected by you). Once again, the translations of the lyrics from Spanish to English and Italian are here.

I am still on holiday at the moment and away from home, so for the next week or two my posts will just be simple musical items. But soon it will be back to school in earnest for you and your five Romance languages, OK?

French chansons from the fairer sex

Recently Bernardo has highlighted songs in French by men of the moment such as Stromae and Maître Gims, now it is time to give les femmes a go. Here are two of the hottest up-and-coming female singers in France. Bien sûr, Le Bernardo has his fingers on Le pulse Français!

First up is Indila‘s Dernière Danse (Last Dance). Bernardo is sure it is not the last we will hear of her.

Joyce Jonathan‘s debut album in 2010 was a huge success in France. She released a follow-up last year, and the single from it, Ça Ira, is still lingering in the lower regions of the French charts. The title means “it will be fine” or “it will be OK”. The present tense equivalent is Ça va.

One of her songs, L’heure avait sonné, apparently featured in an American TV series called Gossip Girl. The title translated literally means “the hour had sounded” but in English we would probably say something like “the clock struck”. Anyway, let’s see what it’s all about.

You can find a translation of the lyrics to the latter song here.