First I thought I'd share a track I absolutely love, called Ilusión; it opens with Brazilian singer Marisa Monte's smooth, throaty voice pouring out like warm honey. When Mexican artist Julieta Venegas joins the duet, it's like someone uncorked a bottle of sunshine. And when these two voices come together to harmonize, it's pure magic. What I find notable about this song is how each singer's voice is so perfectly suited to her native language. Mexican Spanish has bright, lively tones that are a perfect match for Julieta's sweet-spicy voice, while Marisa's sultry purr is the ideal vehicle for that most mysterious of languages, Portuguese.
Despite being fairly proficient at picking up bits and pieces of languages, I find Portuguese to be positively impenetrable. The problem is that the written language bears enough similarity to both Spanish and French to be tantalizingly familiar, and yet the pronunciation doesn't make a lick of sense in either. The minute someone opens their mouth to speak Portuguese, it's like the entire Arabic alphabet has been rearranged into some sort of secret code in which all the letters and their corresponding sounds have been shuffled around at random. Even Stephen Maturin remarked, "No man born of woman has ever understood spoken Portuguese." Seriously, WTF Portugal; why'd you invent a language that no one but natives can understand? It's so you can talk about us behind our backs, isn't it??
Yeah, go right ahead. I dare ya.
Ahem. Since we're on the subject of Portuguese-speaking artists, I should also mention that Laura and I recently went to see Seu Jorge and Almaz in concert, and what an amazing show that was. Seu Jorge is mainly known in the US for his Portuguese covers of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album, which he recorded for the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. But his music covers a broad range of influences, and incorporates a very modern mix of funk, soul, and even a little psychedelia with more traditional Brazilian samba sounds. One of my favorite tracks from his latest record is called Pai Joao, to which tune I've been walking around singing nonsense lyrics ever since seeing the show (because clearly I'm never going to be able to make out what the fuck he's actually saying).
Seu Jorge grew up in the favela of Rio de Janeiro, and his melancholy, gravelly voice conveys all the sadness and hardship of that background (he also appeared in the movie City of God, which is set in the favela). But there's also a lot of sweetness there too, which gives his music a depth you can really sink into. It's so good, I can even forgive him for singing mostly in Portuguese, and for having a name I can't ever hope to pronounce.
Shirt: J. Crew, thrifted
Vest: Forever 21
Handbag: Monserat de Lucca (via Gilt)