Monday, August 30, 2010

WTF, Portugal?

I thought today we should have some music to accompany the outfit post. I'm sure that lately it must seem like I've suddenly got it into my head to post a bunch of music, but the fact is that I've had these ideas rolling around in my head for quite awhile and have only been motivated to actually write them down recently. Sometimes posts need time to percolate before they actually make it into print.

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.

Outfit details:
Shirt: J. Crew, thrifted
Vest: Forever 21
Pants: Marlowe
Boots: Bronx
Handbag: Monserat de Lucca (via Gilt)


LPC said...

Ha! WTF, Portugal:). But I really like your bag...

HollyElise said...

Love the outfit, and the music! :)

Anonymous said...

This post made me chuckle. My husband is a professor of portuguese (and specializes in brazilian music)and I actually lived in Brazil a year, and I cannot understand the language for the life of me (my husband mastered it in about a year, but he learns languages like breathing). Another funny thing is that Brazilian portuguese and Portugal portuguese are very different in pronunication. If you are interested in Brazilian music, may I recommend my two favorites? Milton Nasciemento (the most beautiful voice I have ever heard, my favorites are Volver a los 17 and Calix Bento) and Comadre Fulozinha, a kick ass female band with African influence.

Healthy and Homemade said...

OMG you mentioning The Life Aquatic just made my day. I totally forgot about that movie! ^_^

Gorgeous outfit, and great tunes too!

Healthy and Homemade said...

OH! And in high school I was in a choir group with about 5 other girls, we sang a song in Portuguese. It was pretty bad ass =)

f. said...

hahahaha, as a native Brazilian, this post made me chuckle. I never knew my language was so difficult to understand :) I mean, I know Portuguese relies heavily on nasal sounds, which is kind of complicated for English-speaking people, but "most mysterious of languages"? that made my day :D

Audi, if you're interested in Brazilian music (especially old stuff, which I love), let me know, and I'll introduce you to some of my favorites.

um beijo!

Erica said...

What a pleasant surprise for me, an avid reader of yours, born and raised in Brazil - you wrote about Brazilian Portuguese and music! Delightful! And very funny too! I am sorry but I have to say that we do like the fact that our language and culture puzzles so many people in so many countries. Even our closest Spanish-speaking neighbors can rarely understand what we say and yet, we can perfectly understand them! hehehe
Although I work with hearing and speech-language I don't fully understand why Portuguese, amongst all the Latin languages, is so difficult even for people like you, who are good at learning new tongues.
However, Portuguese's origins and numerous diverse influences explain a lot (
Anyways, similarly to the above commenter, I would like to recommend Ana Carolina, who toured and recorded with Seu Jorge (
and Tribalistas, a trio formed by spectacular Marisa Monte, "baiano"Carlinhos Brown and former rocker Arnaldo Antunes (
Hope you enjoy!

Audi said...

Fer: Haha -- of course it made your day; it's confirmation that the Portuguese-speakers' plot to mystify the rest of the planet is working! ;-) And YES, I would love some music recommendations; I adore Brazilian music.

Anonymous and Erica: Thanks so much for the music recommendations -- I'm familiar with Ana Carolina but the others are new to me. I will give them a listen!

Erica, I think the difficulty with Portuguese stems from the tendency to 'swallow' many of the sounds or blend them together. To me the syllables of Spanish are quite easy to pick out (even though my Spanish is only rudimentary at best) so even if I hear a word I'm not familiar with, I can figure out roughly how it's spelled and look it up later. No such luck in Portuguese -- even if I'm looking at the written word, I still can't make any connection with what the speakers are saying. Obviously I just need to go spend some time in Brazil!

jungleworldcitizen said...

I'll have more sympathy and patience when my husband, who speaks fluent English and Spanish tells me that Portuguese is "the devil's tongue" :p
I'm Brazilian, he grew up in the States and his family is Salvadorean. We're currently living in Germany and have just adopted two Portuguese water dogs that actually came from Italy...LOL
And amazingly, none of this confuses me, but I have got to be more patient!
Lovely post, and lovely to find out you have quite a few Brazilian readers :)

f. said...

well, let's start with my personal favorite, Roberto Carlos, a.k.a. The King: his stuff from the 60s and 70s are THE gospel to me. in America, people go to Graceland; here in Brazil, I passed in front of Roberto's apartament three times in half an hour when I was in Rio :D

for some crazy psychodelic stuff from the 60s: I love his three "crazy albums" from the 60s (A Misteriosa Luta do Reino de Parassempre Contra o Império de Nunca Mais, A Máquina Voadora, and Ronnie Von), they were considered to be commercial failures back them, but nowadays are considered to be "cult".

for some AWSOME black music: Tim Maia (, Jorge Ben (, Wilson Simonal ( and Toni Tornado ( there's a documentary from 2009 about Wilson Simonal called Ninguém Sabe o Duro que Dei that is really amazing, but I don't know if it is available in the US. if it is, please watch; you wouldn't believe what happened to him if I just told you.

for some even older stuff: Nelson Gonçalves, a mix of Gardel and Sinatra to me (, and Adoniran Barbosa (

well, as you can see, I was not joking when I told you I only like old music. these are the ones I remember, but of course there would be many more to recommend to you. if you're interested, I can upload some of my favorite albums to rapidshare for you. just let me know :) my email is teacherfer [at] gmail [dot] com.

um beijo, Audi! I love your blog, have been reading it for quite some time, and would love to be able to pay you back for all the inpiration you've given me during this period :)

Erin said...

I'm going to totally leave the languages out of it! I just wanted to say that I completely love the way you've been wearing these long vests lately.

nurmisur said...

LOL, I thought we had our secret safe ;)
Actually you are talking of Portuguese the way it is talked in Brasil.The Portuguese from Portugal has a diferent sound altogether:I'm from Potugal and have heard people from Brasil saying that we speak too fast and they cannot understand us.
two diferent takes on the portuguese(from Portugal) language in music:

MissGarfield said...

That's true, the portuguese spoken in portugal has a much more roughed and stiff accent that the brazilian one.Much like the british and american versions of english :)

(yes i'm portuguese too, and i love your blog :)

Ana Paias said...


Ana, from PORTUGAL!

First of all, I'm glad to know I'm not the only portuguese reading your blog :D yeeaaayyyy

You know what I use to say to my foreign friends? Portuguese is easy :) You just need to speak spanish, but... close your mouth, close your nose and add a lot of sssshhhhhh... And that's it! :D

kisses from Belgrade
/travelling is gooood :D

shavalena said...

First off, love your new hair style. So sassy! Secondly, I'm happy to see so many Brazilian music recommendations! Thanks to all the above posters and suggestions. I've had a love affair with Brazilian music for years. (My husband and I honeymooned there- and I can't wait to go back again.)
Have you heard of Venessa da Mata? She has more of a world music influence, but her duet with Ben Harper -Boa Sorte is so beautiful and funky at the same time. I'm betting you would dig on it.

Lastly, I have a question for you regarding sweater pilling. I am a sweater fiend, but have noticed over the years, that the amount of polyester or acrylic in a sweater correlates to the amount of pilling. This last year, I decided to spend a little more $ on what I thought was a better quality sweater (ie no poly, no acrylic) to avoid this issue. Lo and behold, I had the same issue. This is driving me bonkers! How do you deal w/pilling, and do you know what is the best blend (or 100%?) fabric to buy sweaters in. I live in Seattle, and don't want to do with out my endless array of fantastic layers....what to do???

alineaimee said...

I'm brazilian too and I'm glad to see your interest in brazilian music. Knowing english and a bit of french and spanish, I can say "yes, portuguese is difficult to learn". but all languages that came from latin are, we have to many variations of verbs. I actually teach portuguese and brazilian literature. As many girls had sad, Portugal and Brazil portuguese are very different. But I tend to have the same impression you have about us in terms of pronounce when it comes to french . It seems to me that french people "eat" a lot of sounds when they spoke and that the vocals sounds a lot different from postuguese and spanish.
Well, this is getting long so just let me suggest you to look for Jorge Benjor, Tom Jobim, Os mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Novos Baianos. Those are amazing brazilian artists!

Kiss from Rio!

Anonymous said...

I am Portuguese too and this was a very funny post ! I also don't understand Brazilian sometimes and Brazilians don't understand me ! But then again, I have trouble with Southern American English.

My husband ( who is American ) says to just take any word and add joozzzz to it and it will probably mean something in Portuguese.

( PS I could NOT get Italian because it was too close to Portuguese, French and Spanish for me to see it independently !

C said...

Ooh, Seu Jorge is one of my favorites.

I have oddly found Portuguese easy to pick up. It sounds crazy, but I seem to have been able to get at least some of it. I spent some time in Brazil as a pre-teenager, so I imagine that I picked up some of it there, when my brain was still young enough to absorb new languages. In any case, it's one of my favorite languages ever. I'm determined to get better at it so I can go to Brazil and not sound like a Spanish-speaking fool.

Unknown said...

Brazilian Portuguese is a language made for music!
Cheers from Brazil.