Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Continuing my mini-series of "Circular Songs in Foreign Languages that I Really Love," here's the classic Brazilian song "Aguas de Março," sung by Elis Regina and "Tom" Jobim (who also wrote it).

This is another song where the music seems to circle around and around--the best description of this is in, of all places, the Wikipedia entry... which points out that the music matches the lyrics, because it sounds like water inexorably flowing through gutters and swirling down drains. (Listen to the way the bass line is a steady downward progression--and the high piano notes at the end of the song bounce like little water droplets.)

And, just as hurricanes swirl counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere, this song takes on a different meaning depending on where you live. In the northern hemisphere, you hear the title "Waters of March" and picture the last rains of winter, melting the snow, nourishing the young plants... but the Portuguese lyrics are "São as águas de março fechando o verão"--"It's the waters of March, ending the summer." And the other lyrics describe sticks and stones and bits of refuse, all caught up in the torrent.

So, despite the relaxed bossa nova beat and the laid-back singing, the song has a dark undertow, an awareness of death. And yet, Elis and Tom manage to have fun with it--they swim against the current, even as they know that one day it will sweep them away. As the lyrics go on to say, "É a promessa di vida no teu coração"--"It's the promise of life in your heart."

I swear, you listen to these three songs in a row--Brel, Moreau, Regina & Jobim--and you come away feeling that you have touched some very profound truths about life and love and death... and it took only ten minutes!

No comments: