Meet Claudia Leitte, the queen of Brazil’s axé music

So who is Claudia Leitte, the token Brazilian on the 2014 FIFA World Cup official song We Are One (Ole Ola)? (which you can hear on my previous post). According to the entry on her in Wikipedia, she is one of the most popular singers in Brazil. This video clip might give you some idea why. It was shot in Salvador, one of the World Cup host cities, set on a hill overlooking the Baía de Todos os Santos (Bay of all Saints), which you can see from the air in the opening shot underneath the wing of the plane.

Like another giant of the Brazilian music scene, Ivete Sangalo, who fronted Banda Eva, Claudi made a name for herself first as the lead singer of Babado Novo, a band specialising in what is probably the most popular music genre in Brazil, axé music. Whereas Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is all about samba music, fancy costumes and dramatic floats, Salvador’s carnival features the who’s who of the axé music scene playing full blast on the back of trucks (the percussion is very important). The next video clip also illustrates this. It is one of the singles taken from her first solo studio album, As Máscaras, released in 2010 (uma máscara = a mask)

Babado Novo were very popular and had some chart-topping albums – check out their discography in the Portuguese Wikipedia. One of their most famous hits is Cai Fora, which literally means “fall out” (cair = to fall, fora = outside), but colloquially means Get lost! Beat it! Scram!

And here is a live performance of another of their big hits, Safado, Cachorro, Sem Vergonha (safado = a trickster, or an adjective meaning immoral or naughty, cachorro = a little puppy, or more derogatory, a wretch or scoundrel; sem vergonha = brassy, shameless, without shame)

More mellow, more romantic is this one Doce Paixão (Sweet Passion), the last big hit the band had before Claudia went solo.

I’m not quite sure what a babado novo or “new babado” is. My big Michaelis dictionary gives this information:

  • babado (noun) 1 (Brazilian usage) flounce; 2 frill; 3 lappet
  • babado (adj) 1 slavered, slobbered, full of slime; 2 (colloquial) in love, fond of, keen on; estar babado por alguém, to be in love with/crazy about someone

I love the slime definition!

For more on Brazilian music, see the following


The official World Cup song: too much bull for Brazilians’ liking

The video to the official song of 2014 World Cup is brilliant – it captures all the excitement of football, from both the players’ and spectators’ perspective, and it packs in all the colours and flavours of Brazil and many other countries too. Check it out.

There is one problem with the Brazilian video, though – it’s got Pitbull in it! (Some people I know find him creepy.) I am ambivalent about him, but I do know that whenever he does a duet with someone, the someone always outshines him. The two women in this song do much better here.

There was an outcry in Brazil when this was revealed as the official song. After all, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez have got nothing to do with Brazil (both were born in the US but are of Cuban and Puerto Rican origin respectively). Worse, they sing in English and bits in Spanish too. The Brazilian element seems an afterthought – local singer Claudia Leitte gets to sing a few lines of Portuguese about two minutes and 50-something seconds into the song.

Still, I think Pitbull is a good choice. He has a face shaped like a football (I know some people who wouldn’t mind kicking it) and before he became famous there was a Brazilian footballer called Pitbull – if memory serves me correctly, he played for Gremio (one of the teams from Porto Alegre) before going on to play for clubs in Portugal, Romania and Turkey. It’s a great name for a footballer, but not for a singer, not even one who growls.

Anyway, you can understand why soccer fans worldwide are so looking forward to the tournament in Brazil. Look at the elements in this video, then try to imagine what sort of videos they are likely to produce for the 2018 World Cup in Russia or the 2022 tournament in Qatar. For the Russian one I envisage cossack dancers and lots of vodka on ice. But for the Qatar event all I can see is stern sheikhs, camels and corpses of construction workers. I read somewhere today that Qatar is warning male visitors not to wear shorts or singlets (vests) when they come for their World Cup. The event is eight years away and already the admonishments are coming out! In Brazil if you wear shorts and a singlet you are overdressed.

Soothing songs for a sore head

dentistry-316945_640Having had my cheeks, gums and other bits of the mouth stabbed and jabbed by a dentist today, followed by session with a drill that felt a little bit too close to the bone, or the nerve, or whatever the vulnerable bits are underneath the tooth, the bits that hurt, all I want to do is lie back lazily in bed, listen to calming music, not think too deeply about anything (I’m good at that) and let the painkillers do their work.

So, this is my playlist.

1) First up is Voltaj’s song about the ultimate second of the ultimate day… how would you spend that moment?

2) Next up is Akcent’s latest release, about tears flowing (having lost in love).

3) The next song is really sweet, by a former contestant on a Romanian talent show, Valentin Dinu, accompanied here by someone called Anya. It’s a song about waiting for the day when someone special comes into your life and “repairs” you. Out of the songs here, I think this one most captures the poetic potential of the Romanian language.

4) Next, an old song by some old faces on the Romanian rock scene, Compact. It’s about a symbolic star in the sky, the light of someone precious that lingers even after that someone has gone. This was probably the song that got me intrigued by the Romanian language. Without knowing the words, I could feel the melancholy and understated sadness. But also I love the guitar riffs in this.

This next one from Vama Veche has the most gorgeous piano…

Finally, to complete the all-Romanian theme, some classical music from that country’s most famous composer, George Enescu. This is very dreamy, and in the clip you can see Romania’s most notable attractions, some of which I have been to, including the Town Hall building in Brasov (a lovely place) at 1:04 to 1:20, followed immediately by an aerial shot of the very impressive Bran Castle; Peles Castle (2:48 and again at 7:40), Sibiu (8:51); Timisoara (9:07 to 9:38) plus of course parts of Bucharest, many monasteries and fortified churches, and the mountain and rural scenery that perhaps Romania is most famous for.

I hope you found the music as appealing and soothing as I do. A bit of a change from all the pop pap of Eurovision. And on that last dreamy note from Enescu, good night.


Laugh at the mistakes of the natives

error-102075_640For anyone who is studying Portuguese or is reasonably familiar with the language, here is a terrific article to read from the Brazilian business magazine Exame, one of the many titles owned by leading Brazilian publisher Grupo Abril. The article lists, in alphabetical order, the 100 most common mistakes made in Portuguese by the corporate world. It gives the word, an example of incorrect and and correct usage, and then an explanation. The subject matter is a little different, I guess, to what you would normally find in Portuguese language text books. And for anyone learning Portuguese, it is gratifying to see that native speakers make their fair share of errors. It makes you feel superior, haha. My favourite is that apparently people in the business world don’t know whether champanhe (champagne) should be masculine (o, um) or feminine (a, uma). I mean, come on business people, really! How many bottles do you have to uncork, how many glasses do you have to quaff before you get it correct?


I have “liked” Exame on Facebook and so get its postings on my Facebook reader, along with some other publications from Abril. Although it is quite a serious magazine in print, as is often the case, its posting on social media can be lighter and fluffier. It is quite fond of “list” journalism, the top 10 of this in the world, the top 15 of that, blah blah blah. Although I think list journalism is lazy journalism, or often very superficial, I do sometimes succumb to the temptation of reading the lists. But at least when I do that in Portuguese I feel like I am doing something intellectual. stress-111425_640So if you really want to know what the top 50 most stressful occupations of 2014 are in the United States, go here. (Can you believe, DJs are on the list!). And if you want to know the nine cardinal sins of time-wasting when you are supposed to be studying, then go here. But don’t get stressed out by all the time you waste by doing this, OK?

Advice for horny credit card phishers: mind your language!

grapeGrape condom-carrying hacker lured from Romania by US agents. When he walked off the plane he had a gold necklace for “Sarah”. Little did he know he was meeting Matt.

This fascinating story (from Bloomberg, and published by The Sydney Morning Herald, whose headline and “click bait” summary are reproduced above) reveals how hackers and credit card scam operators work – and how one simple mistake can cause it all to go wrong.

grapes-159820_640It’s also a warning that, if you are having an online flirtation, the woman you think you might be flirting with could turn out to be a man, or vice versa! And you do have to ask whether a man who carries not one box but six – yes, six boxes! – of grape-flavoured condoms around with him is slightly delusional. Talk about walking off a plane and expecting to get really lucky! And why grapes?

You can read the story in full here but what really caught my eye for language purposes was this (O’Neill is the sleuth trying to catch the scammer):


Sure enough, that word can be found easily online


Feldmaikäfer_(Melolontha_melolontha)_w_3My mid-sized English-Romanian dictionary says gândac is a beetle or bug, and cărăbus is a cockchafer. I didn’t think I had heard of the word “cockchafer” before (sounds painful to me!). However, while investigating, I noticed Wikipedia points out they have featured quite strongly in literature, including one of my favourite novels: In The Siege of Krishnapur (1973.) by J.G. Farrell, the character Lucy rips off her clothes and faints upon being covered in a swarm of cockchafers.” 

person-145155_640I do remember the scene in the book – which won Farrell the Booker Prize – because after Lucy faints, the gallant chaps who are with her and who are virgins and have never even seen pubic hair (at least, not on a woman, the only naked female bodies they had seen were pubic hairless classical statues and suchlike) start scraping the cockchafers off her body, with cardboard or something, and mistake her pubic hair for insects! No matter how much they scrape around her nether regions, the black patch won’t go away. The cockchafer pictured is from Wikipedia but maybe the ones in India are more pubic.

Now if that silly Romanian hacker with a fondness for grapes had been following my blog he might have thought to use his code words in another language to disguise his nationality.

If he had used the Portuguese word for beetle, um besouro, the US Secret Service might be on a wild goose chase for for him in Brazil or Portugal or in parts of Africa. Or he could have used the Spanish escarabajo, the French scarabée or coléoptère, or the Italian coleottero, scarabeo or even that great word scarafaggio (cockroach).  (When looking up these words, you have to be careful as beetle has two meanings in English, a type of insect and a kind of mallet or sledgehammer.)

Incidentally, the words for condom, flavour and grape, respectively, in My Five Romance languages are

  • Portuguese:  preservativo/camisinha;   sabor/gosto;       uva
  • Spanish:       preservativo/condón;        sabor/gusto;     uva
  • Italian:          preservativo;                  sapore/gusto;    acino/uva
  • French:        préservatif;                      saveur/goût;        raisin
  • Romanian:   prezervativ;                      aromă/gust;      struguri *

PRESERVATIVO-STUDEX-AROMA-UVA-03-4 (2)I notice, however, that the Portuguese preservativo pictured right uses the words “aroma de uva” on its packaging, the idea being, I guess, that the Portuguese-speaking people of the world are more likely to sniff these things than taste them.




uvas (2)In contrast, the packaging on the Spanish one uses both words sabor and aroma!  😀


Research into the French, Italian and Romanian versions of the products got too hard haha. What started out as a simple look at the words for “beetle” has morphed into something far more complicated. Along the way I have discovered that you can get garlic-flavoured condoms and cheese ones too. So what are you – sweet or savoury?


* It is interesting that the Romanian word for grapes, struguri, is so different from the others, and that the French one is too. Here is an explanation I found on Wiktionary.


Singularized plural of strug (Basarabia), from Greek τρύγος (trýgos), τρυγή (trygí) ‘vine harvest’. Replaced Old Romanian auă, from Latin uva.

The French word raisin is derived from the Latin word racemus, meaning a cluster of grapes, whereas uva comes from the Latin word uva, meaning grape.


Eurovision 2014: the good, the bad and the Wurst

The Eurovision 2014 contest was fascinating for a number of reasons that had nothing to do with the singing. Most official news outlets have given great live and sometimes very witty coverage of the event from a musical and theatrical point of view. Since this is a Romance language blog, I am going to probe a little deeper to examine the voting patterns of the different language blocs to see who has been faithful to whom and who has been treacherous. But first some big issues that have broader implications

The politics of beards

BeardYou have to congratulate Austria for daring to choose Conchita Wurst as its representative, and picking the perfect year to do it. This year, all of a sudden, for some reason, facial hair on men – beards more so than moustaches – made a comeback. Metrosexual was out, the “lumberjack look” (pictured left) was in! In some parts of the Western world, superficial baby-faced young men who could not grow their own bushes on their cheeks were clamouring to get facial hair transplants, and some were prepared to pay thousands of dollars to do it. Now, thanks to Conchita, expect to see more lumberjacks in coming months.

The politics of gay rights and drag queens with beards

Conchita WurstWhen it became known that Conchita Wurst was going to represent Austria, there was a backlash from ultra-conservative groups in Russia, Belarus and Armenia too apparently. According to Reuters, more than 15,000 people in Russia signed a petition asking that the Russian state broadcaster not to cover Eurovision at all, or at least block out Wurst’s performance. Well, talking about cutting your nose off to spite your non-bearded face! All that publicity no doubt helped Wurst, whose song, let’s face it, does sound like the soundtrack of a late 1970s James Bond movie. Russia’s anti-“gay propoganda” laws had already been in the spotlight this year in the build-up to the winter Olympics at Sochi, and no doubt a lot of the votes for Austria at Eurovision came from people who wanted to make a point. Indeed, the Russian representatives in the contests got booed, and in the final voting tally, whenever a country awarded points to Russia in the final, there were boos from the audience (the Russian entry came seventh). But the interesting thing is that in the final, Russia actually gave 5 points to Conchita Wurst. Belarus and Armenia gave her none, while Ukraine gave her 8.

The politics of freedoms, women’s rights and human rights

red-42286_640Expect anti-Russia sentiment to fester; apart from its “land grab” in Ukraine (Moldova fears it might be next in line for similar treatment), the crushing of political dissent (remember the disgraceful treatment of those poor women in the band Pussy Riot?), Russia has since introduced a law banning “foul language” in films, books, theatre and on television. Russia is due to host the 2015 FINA world swimming championships in Kazan and the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, so Sochi-style protests are bound to happen as long as Vladimir Putin’s oppressive remains in charge. In the meantime, news from other parts of the world has been depressing, particularly for women. Anger is growing around the world after the militant Boko Haram group in Nigeria kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls for receiving an education. Did the 15,000 “pro family values” Russians who signed a petition against Boko Haram also start a petition to “Bring back our girls?” In Aceh, Indonesia, a woman is to be flogged for adultery after being gang-raped by vigilantes as punishment. And such punishments could now occur in Brunei too after that country brought in a tough new penal code that includes death by stoning for adulterers. And going back to the beard theme, a Saudi Arabian woman had to go into hiding after being threatened because of a tweet she made about beards.

So, if you have got this far and are wondering why I am going on about all this misery in the world, my point is that maybe Conchita Wurst’s strong support and victory was a sign of people fighting back against petty-mindedness and oppression. And that a lot worse things can happen in live than a bearded tranny doing a song in drag on TV.

Now onto the Romance language angles: Spain came 10th, Romania 12, Italy 21st and France came last of the 26 with just 2 points, one each from Finland and Ukraine. Quelle horreur!

  • France awarded 6 points to Spain and 1 to Italy, none for neighbours Belgium or Switzerland. Its top vote of 12 points went to Armenia.
  • Tit for tat. Belgium gave no points to France, 5 to Romania and 2 to Spain. Top score to Austria.
  • Switzerland gave 8 to Spain and 2 to Italy. Its top vote went to Austria.
  • Italy gave 5 points to Romania and 2 to Switzerland but none to Spain or France. Its 12 points went to Austria.
  • Moldova, where Romanian is the main language although some like to call it Moldovan, gave its 12 points to Romania, and 10 to Ukraine and 8 to Russia.
  • Portugal gave no points to Spain, France or Italy, and 1 to Romania. Portugal’s 12 points went to Austria.
  • Romania, where there is a sizable Hungarian minority, gave 10 points to Hungary (Hungary gave none to Romania), 6 to Switzerland and 5 to Spain. Romania gave Sweden 12 points.
  • Switzerland gave its 12 points to Austria, and dished out 8 to Spain and 2 to Italy.
  • Slovenia, where some Italian is spoken, particularly near its western border with Italy, gave no votes to Italy. It’s top vote went to Austria.
  • San Marino, which is an enclave inside Italy, gave no votes to Italy either. Its top score was awarded to Azerbaijan.
  • Austria‘s top three votes went to Armenia, the Netherlands and Romania.
  • Russia gave 7 points to Ukraine and its top score of 12 points to Belarus. Ukraine gave 6 points to Belarus, 4 to Russia and 12 to Sweden. Belarus gave 8 points to Ukraine and 12 to Russia.

So there you go. Looking forward to doing it all again next year. In Vienna probably, unless the Austrians opt for Salzburg or Linz or someplace else. In the words of the Finnish contestants, who added some Cold Play-style rock muscle to the event, let’s hope it’s Something Better.


Eurovision 2014: what do Italy and Spain have to offer?

eurovision oddsThere has been heartbreak for 11 contestants at the Eurovision Song Contest, and now it is time to be even more brutal and break 25 more hearts. That’s right, come late on Saturday night, one nation will be rejoicing in triumph, the others will feel deflated. By Monday or Tuesday, though, we will have forgotten all about it and will revert to our normal musical habits. It will be back to the 1980s for Bernardo! But at least we can say Eurovision was fun in the week it lasted.

Before the semi-finals began, the website had made Armenia the favourite with odds of 2.75 to one, closely followed by Sweden on 3.50, then Denmark and Norway a little further back on 10 and 11 respectively. Romania’s Paula Steling & Ovi were on 34, Spain and Italy were 41 to 1, as was Austria’s bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, while France’s TWIN TWIN and Portugal’s Suzy (who did not make it to the final) were further down the list on 101 to 1. Macedonia was last at 226 to 1.

Now, however, as the screen grab to the right shows, there has been a shift in sentiment. Sweden has become the favourite, and the Armenian entry has dropped down to fourth favourite. Conchita Wurst’s beard has shot up the rankings to second spot, but the moustache of the French TWIN TWINs has plunged to 251. Denmark and Norway have dipped significantly, but the UK, Hungary, Ukraine and Greece must have impressed in the semi-finals, as they are now in the top eight. Not that I am suggesting you should bet or take up gambling, it is just to give an idea of who is hot at the moment. And money talks, doesn’t it?

The only signs of the Romance languages in the final will come from Italy and, to a lesser extent, Spain. Neither country had to appear in the semi-final, because they along with France, Germany and the UK (the big five euro broadcasters) automatically qualify for the final. But Spain and Italy appear to have lost favour with the bookmakers.

Let’s have a look at the Italian and Spanish contestants.

Emma Marrone, Italy’s representative, is barely 30 years old yet already she has had a string of hits to her credit in Italy, including a number one album and four chart-topping singles. She is popular in Switzerland too. Her thumping rock/pop entry, La Mia Città (My City), will be a pleasant contrast to all the pop ditties and syrupy ballads at the competition.

Spain’s entry is a mix of Spanish and English. Ruth Lorenzo, who was born in Murcia and also started singing from an early age, was a contestant on the UK’s series The X Factor, in 2008, when she finished fifth. The years in between seem to have been pretty lean, but maybe her powerful Eurovision entry Dancing in the Rain will give her musical career some propulsion. But it does seem bizarre to start off in Spanish then switch to English.

May your Eurovision party rock!


Why, do you think, has the eurovisionodds website not been able to include the flags of Hungary and Montenegro? Odd, hey.


Eurovision 2014: who’s not coping in Copenhagen

note-156139_640The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Copenhagen last night. Fifteen nations were involved, only 10 could progress. It was a nail-biting affair and some of the nails were false! Particularly those belonging to the controversial Conchita Wurst (there is a nice profile of the artist on this Mail Online page). But her nails were tiny compared to the claws of the conservative East European politicians who wanted her scratched from the competition. There were even rumours were that some of the participants were on performance-enhancing drugs, but some of the performances were definitely not enhanced!

So, how did it all pan out?

Singers who can linger 

  • Malta, Norway, Poland, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Switzerland, Greece, Slovenia, Romania.

Songsters who are gone-sters

  • Israel, Georgia, Lithuania, Ireland, F.Y.R. Macedonia.

So, Conchita Wurst will get prime time exposure in the final on Sunday night, and the Romanians are still in contention.

I have Irish ancestry, so I was sorry to see Ireland’s entry, Heartbeat, by Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith) go out. I thought it was a catchy song.

In my next post we will look at the artists representing Italy and Spain, who are doing their bit (Italy more so than Spain) to champion the Romance languages and automatically went into the final, to be held on Saturday night (Sunday Australian time).

Eurovision 2014: no motherly love as six semi-finalists booted out

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read this if you are planning to watch the Eurovision Song Contest in full and your broadcaster hasn’t broadcast the first semi-final yet. In Australia, for example, SBS will be screening the first semi-final this coming Friday night, the second semi-final on Saturday and the final on Sunday. But if you are not worried about this then do read on ….

OK, so the first semi-final was staged in Copenhagen overnight and only 10 out of the 16 participants could progress to the final, where they will be joined by the other 10 winners from the second semi-final, plus the “big five” European Broadcasting Union members who automatically qualify (France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK) and the hosts and defending champions, Denmark.

So, what was the outcome of the first semi-final?


  • Montenegro, Hungary, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Ukraine, Sweden, the Netherlands, Iceland.


  • Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Belgium, Moldova, Portugal.

Sadly, this means we won’t be hearing any Portuguese in the final this Sunday, although I am not greatly surprised as I did not think Portugal’s entry (previewed here) was strong. And I was fully expecting Moldava’s entry (previewed here) not to make it through because it was too sombre. Lighten up, Moldova!

Well, I am shocked at the voters. This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day in about 80 countries around the world, including Australia, and the voters had the gall to boot out Belgian Axel Hirsoux’s sweet homage to mothers. How could they!

The maternal theme was also evident in Latvia’s entry, a bizarre country music-style ditty from a guy who knows everything except how to bake a cake. He has to run to mummy for help. Really, he should sign up to follow the blogger Lady of the Cakes!

Estonia’s entry wasn’t too bad, in my opinion. It was the sort of pop-dance song that could chart anywhere nowadays … I could twerk to this, I think.

The Albanian effort was a bit too screechy for me but the video has some interesting scenery of what I presume is Albania, including sand dunes and what looks like a river delta. Oh and fans of the guitar solo should tune into this too.

To those six countries, better luck next time… and now we wait to see who will be eliminated on May 8 in the second semi, which has a field of 15.

Eurovision 2014: Romania goes for a miracle, Moldova goes wild

cezarjpgOne of the more bizarre acts at Eurovision last year was Romanian countertenor Cezar (right) doing an operatic Draculaesque turn with It’s My Life, which came 13th out of the 26 songs. This year Romania has opted for the duo of Paula Seling and Ovi (whose real name is Ovidiu Cernăuţeanu). The two have done well in this competition before, coming third with Playing With Fire in Norway in 2010, behind Turkey and the German winner, Lena. Let’s have a look back at their 2010 final performance.

Well, I don’t know if they can do any better this time round but I think their 2014 entry, Miracle, is a more appealing song. And Paula can certainly hit some high notes!

Of the 12 songs that made the final of the Romanian pre-selection contest, nine were sung in English and three were in Romanian. Of the latter, the one that did the best (coming seventh), was Despre Mine Si Ea (About Me and Her) by a well-established Romanian pop-rock band Bere Gratis (Free Beer). It gets the thumbs-up from me. It’s got some succulent keyboards in it, and the more I play it, the more I like it.

Moving over the border into Moldova, this time Cristina Scarlat, who came second in the pre-selection last year, finally gets her chance to represent her country. But how wild is her song, Wild Soul?

Again, most of Moldova’s hopeful pre-selection contestants sang in English. Here’s my pick of those who didn’t, Aurel Chirtoacă‘s Urme de Iubiri (Traces of love). It was never going to be a show-stealer but it’s a soothing illustration of the tenderness of the Romanian language.

Betting website has Romania at 34 to 1 and Moldova at 67 to 1 to win the 2014 Eurovision final in Copenhagen.