Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elis Regina

As salaam alaikum,

Her songs are perhaps made more poignant knowing that she died at the age of 36 after battling years of depression and bouts of substance abuse. Even without that knowledge, listening to her voice, the sheer emotion that she injects into a song, and when so lucky, watching her perform on stage, gesticulating, dancing, doing her squinting-wide smile and laughing as she plays with the chorus and the lyrics...there is just nothing like experiencing songs as performed by Elis Regina.

I sing her "Aguas de Março" now as my default. In RMD, I imagine it as 18-year-old Desirée's theme song (as opposed to 15-year-old Desirée's "Sina" by Djavan). I barely knew of her when I heard her version of "Corcovado" with Tom Jobim and loved how the female singer enunciated each word, but I didn't know who she was. Then, while I was in Brazil, the first novela I saw when I returned from work in São Paulo was (what I discovered later was the remake of) "Ciranda de Pedra."

I watched the opening credits of the show and I was entranced, not only because the choreography was interesting for a period novel, but because of the song. See for yourself:

 Saudades total! I hear this, and I'm back in my little room in my pousada in Sampa in the winter, turning it on unknowingly to the all-powerful Globo and the novela das seis, wondering what I'm doing here in this country whose language I hardly speak. The feelings come back and I tear up a little...what a beautiful experience life is!

It was through discovering this song, "Redescobrir," (Rediscover), that I rediscovered Elis Regina, A Pimintinha (little pepper), A Furacão (The Hurricane).

I then found that she did a version of my favorite song, "Aguas de Março," and I slowly discovered some of her other songs. Slowly, because I have the tendency to find songs that I like and just listen to them for weeks before branching out and finding new songs.

So this weekend, as I was playing around with GrooveShark, I made a playlist of Elis' songs. So far, I am really loyal to ones I've heard before...but then there was this song that I've heard and liked by Lô Borges and I'd never heard the version that she does.

And as 70s as the music accompaniment is, her voice is timeless. I love that version of the has supplanted all other versions for me. Such passion, such energy, it's some of the best of Elis I've heard.

The song? "O Trem Azul," or "The Blue Train."

Here's the translation of the lyrics:

Things that we forget to say
Phrases that the wind comes sometimes to remind me
Things that remained a long time without being said
The song of the wind doesn't tire of soaring

You take the blue train
The sun on your head
The sun hits the blue train
You in my head
The sun in my head

The chorus is a cooler play on words in Portuguese:

Você pega o trem azul
O sol na cabeça
O sol pega o trem azul
Você na cabeça
O sol na cabeça


I read one of the comments. It translates to the following:

"I remember that the first time that I heard this song with Elis' voice I almost went mad. Even though I had heard the original, when I heard her and with that choir at the end, really, I cried."

Yes. Que emoção!

People say her daughter, Maria Rita, may be, in fact, a better singer than her mother. I do like some of Maria Rita's music, and she may be technically a better singer, but nothing will replace the passionate phrasing of her mother, and it's not fair for either of them to make that comparison.

Elis will always be one of my favorites because she sings songs the way that I want to live my passions in this life...full, fleshy, deliberate, meticulous, purposefully haphazard, casually in love with abandon.

Love is like this. It's like rediscovering the wonderful that life is that we learn as a child and are convinced that we're forced to forget as adults. Eu vou redescobrindo...

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