Monday, October 31, 2011

Olha Maria

This is the next song I'm working on and I hope to have it right and finished and recorded soon.

This a version that Jobim recorded live with Milton Nascimento singing

The original is by Chico Buarque on his fifth album "Construção" which is as close to perfect as an album gets. One of the greatest albums ever recorded. (The album is inexplicably and inexcusably not available in the American Itunes store, though. Many other of the great early albums are)

I worked for quite a while on it last winter or spring sometime but then gave up the project as there is so much compromise involved in a one-guitar arrangement and this is such a masterpiece and it's so meaningful that I don't want to mess it up. But I started work on it again a couple of months ago making a couple of self-teaching videos to help me remember some of the ins and outs. It's inevitable that I need to add a beat or two here and there and I hope it won't be too distracting to those who are most familiar with the song or those who are most rhythmically adept.

I worked on and off on it. Then something amazing happened.

I just saw the film "Mayerling" this weekend. I feel certain that Vinícius and Chico were thinking of the plot of this Anatole Litvak masterwork when they wrote their poetry to Tom's music. (So many of the great Brazilian composers were huge film buffs after all; Caetano wrote film criticism for a while, Milton and Márcio Borges wrote their first songs in a blaze of inspiration after watching "Jules et Jim", Vinícius was actually on the film censors board for a while (!), that my theory is at least plausible. Anyone with a real biographical understanding of the song can feel free to shoot me down.)

It's one of those movies that I wish I hadn't seen yet, so I'd have the pleasure of seeing it for the first time again.

Of course even without knowing a word of Portuguese you can tell it's a sad love song. The movie (without being too much of a spoiler) is a sad love story. You can read about the historical basis here. But don't if you don't want to spoil it, blah blah.

Anyhow, in the film Baroness Mary Vetsera (mostly called the French "Marie" or Maria) is played by (once again, my dream of perfect beauty come true) Danielle Darrieux.

Now, I've known the song for over 15 years probably, but like many things I never listened much to the words and my Portuguese listening comprehension isn't so hot. Yesterday, I decided to pull up the lyrics off Chico's website and here is a rough English version:

See, Maria
I had so wished
To make you a present
Of my poetry
But today, Maria
To my surprise
To my sadness
You must part.

Go now, Maria
You that are so beautiful
You that are so afflicted
Having to abandon me so
Just feel, Maria
That you go but on a visit
That your body trembles
Wishing to dance.

Go now, Maria
Just as you are, fully nude
For it is the Moon that calls you
You that are such a woman
Burn, Maria
In the flame of the moon.
Maria, the gypsy
Maria, the tide

Go your way singing
Maria fleeing
Against the wind
Playfully, sleeping
In the Lap of the Mountains
In an empty field
In the bed of a river
In the arms of the sea

Happiness, be gone
For Life, Maria
Lasts only a day
I won't keep you
Run, Maria
Life won't wait
It is a springtime
And you mustn't miss it

Go, Maria
For I would have only
My agony
To offer you

Go, Maria
For I would have only
My agony
To offer you

Full Portuguese lyric (no copyright infringement intended)

Olha, Maria
Eu bem te queria
Fazer uma presa
Da minha poesia
Mas hoje, Maria
Pra minha surpresa
Pra minha tristeza
Precisas partir

Parte, Maria
Que estás tão bonita
Que estás tão aflita
Pra me abandonar
Sinto, Maria
Que estás de visita
Teu corpo se agita
Querendo dançar

Parte, Maria
Que estás toda nua
Que a lua te chama
Que estás tão mulher
Arde, Maria
Na chama da lua
Maria cigana
Maria maré

Parte cantando
Maria fugindo
Contra a ventania
Brincando, dormindo
Num colo de serra
Num campo vazio
Num leito de rio
Nos braços do mar

Vai, alegria
Que a vida, Maria
Não passa de um dia
Não vou te prender
Corre, Maria
Que a vida não espera
É uma primavera
Não podes perder

Anda, Maria
Pois eu só teria
A minha agonia
Pra te oferecer

When those words and those film images came together at the same time, I wept like the afflicted. Clearly this is not an ordinary romantic farewell song. The grim one who carries the sickle is hovering near as he will for us all one day. See the movie and hear the song and I hope my version does it justice.


Vince Van Sant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince Van Sant said...


I'm a huge fan of your work and an avid follower of your videos, that always make me amazed with your creativity to put all the parts of of these songs in an arrangement of a single guitar.

As a brazilian and a music lover, I am curious about your relationship with our culture and would love to know more about it. From what I see on YouTube, many other brazilians accompany you there and I'm sure everyone would like to know a little about this story, about how you had first made contact with our music, or your knowledge of our language.

Congratulations on your brilliant work.



Carol said...

Hello Tony,

Have you listened to the Piano solo of "olha maria" done by Claudio Dauelsberg on his album "Alem das Imagens"? It is quite beautiful; very classical; it could be a prelude. Other than the original recording done on chico's album "construcao", I have never heard the arpeggiated chords so clearly in the background. You can listen to it on YouTube.

I enjoy and admire your guitar playing enormously; and you have great taste!

Thanks for sharing your music with the world!
Carol Evans

Ricardo Schieber said...

Hi, Tony.

This is the 1st time I write to you, even watching your videos every new upload.
For this song, I believe you got the perfect perception of the original Brazilian version, that stir emotion and hurts.
Reading this post I could remember the song called "Apelo" - you certainly knows - from Vinicius. I guess it is also an unforgettable farewell song. Would you record it?

Thanks for your shared and outstanding work.