November 23, 2010 8:49 PM

This is my best shot at singing an a capella Brazilian cowboy song.

This month's challenge nudged me to try a cover of a Chico Cesar tune.

My favorite part about it is that the first line translates as "the sad eyes of the tape turn around and around in the recorder" and the vocals try to match that image.

posted by umbú (9 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Man, this really sounds like some kind of field recording to me. All that's missing is the off-mic sound of a screen door closing, some horses stirring and whinnying, and some happy, drunken shouts of encouragement from cachaça-fueled gaúchos. And I love how your voice breaks in those semi-yodel bits. Great!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:19 AM on November 24, 2010

Listening to this makes me want to yell sonofabitch!!, but it appears to me that's not the kind of praise that is appreciated around here.

You nailed this. It's a fantastic rendition, and a phenomenal choice of song. Beautifully nordestina, with great lyrics and the fact that it's just a voice without instruments gives it the perfect "herding song" feel. Like something someone started improvising on a fence, any afternoon. I don't know the original. Googling a bit I found a bunch of people covering in home videos and a performance by Chico César with berimbaus and other drony instruments. Is the original A Capella as well?

Finally, what lyrics. ...A cigana analfabeta lendo a mao de Paulo Freire (the blind fortune-teller reading the hand of Paulo Freire)... just beautiful. Perfect choice of song to cover, I insist.
posted by micayetoca at 4:35 AM on November 24, 2010

Yes, this is great.
I chuckled a bit at the end when it speeds up, even though I have no idea what you're singing.
posted by chococat at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2010

Hey, this is great man. It's really cool to hear some more music that's notinenglish. I don't know the words either, but that's cool because the cowboy imagery really comes through.

posted by snsranch at 3:57 PM on November 29, 2010

Yeah, I have no idea what's going on here, lyrically, but I think micayetoca's note about a "herding song" feeling is spot-on. This is cool.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:24 AM on November 30, 2010

I made a little mistake with the phrase I translated up there, I just noticed. It isn't a "blind" fortune-teller, it's an "illiterate" fortune teller. An illiterate fortune-teller reading the hand of Paulo Freire, which really changes the meaning of the phrase and makes it less corny and all around better. My mistake.
posted by micayetoca at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2010

Thanks, all. There are lots of plays on words in this song, so it’ll be tricky to translate all of it, but here’s my best attempt:

Beradero [1]

The sad eyes of the tape
Going around in the recorder
A girl sewing clothes
With the line of the equator
And the voice of the Saint saying
What am I doing
Up here on this float [2]

The paint paints the asphalt
Decorates the driver’s soul
It is the color of the heart of the city
Lipstick on the northerner [3]
Whose gaze sees southeastern [4] colors
And the kiss that you ‘northeast’ me [5]
A skyscraper in the mouth of São Paulo

The electric hips [6] of the Bahian
A sentence that the tourist smells
And those without love, those without a roof
Those without passion, without hectares
In the chest of those without a chest an arrow [7]
And the illiterate fortune teller
Reading the hand of Paulo Freire [8]

The contentment/sadness of the sad
The sadness/sweetness of the contented
Voices of a knife cutting
Like the laughter of a snake
They are sounds of bells
Broken foot, mute verse
Scream in the people’s hospital

They are sounds, they are the sounds of bells 3x

[nonsense syllables in aboio cowherding style]

They are sounds, they are sounds of bells 3x
Broken foot, mute verse
Scream in the people’s hospital

Iê iê iê, iê iê iê
Iê iê Iê, iê iê iê 2x

Catolé do Rocha [9]
Place of war
Catolé do Rocha
Where man and goat bellow

Bari bari bari
There is a bullet in my head
Bari bari bari
And it isn’t a coconut candy [10]

They are sounds, they are sounds of bells 3x
Broken foot, mute verse
Scream in the people’s hospital

[1] Cesar described a beradero as someone from the margins who is puzzled and awed by what is happening around him when he visits the big city.

[2] This line is sung, goofily, from the point-of-view of a statue of a catholic saint being paraded through the streets, wondering what she is doing up there.

[3] a northerner here would be someone from the upper amazon region

[4] a southeasterner is someone from the area where the huge cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are located

[5] nordestes means ‘northeasts’ but it also sounds roughly like the word for ‘thou no giveth’

[6] this is a grim pun between ‘electric hips’ and ‘electric chairs’

[7] All of this riffing on ‘those without’ is referring to the MST, or “movement of those without land,” an radical agrarian reform movement that was big news when Cesar wrote this song (early 1990s).

[8] Paulo Freire is a leading activist and theorist of radical, politicized literacy campaigns linked to social justice efforts

[9] Catolé do Rocha is Chico Cesar’s hometown in the desert of NE Brazil. It is known for its history of bandits and blood feuds. This sounds like a children’s rhyme from that town.

[10] this is a double play on words. Bala means both bullet and hard candy and coco literally means coconut, but is also slang for head. So bala de coco depending on context, could either be head bullet or coconut candy (or head candy or coconut bullet, I suppose).
posted by umbú at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Awesome, footnotes and all!
posted by micayetoca at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your voice sounds great on this, has a timeless quality. And thanks for the mini-essay on the song, very cool. Not a simple melody to memorize without cues from music!
posted by Corduroy at 11:12 PM on December 2, 2010

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