Águas de Março

Being American, I thought for most of my life that “The Girl from Ipanema” was an English song. It wasn’t until I was an adult exploring what we like to call “world music” — i.e., anything not sung in English — that I realized the version I’d always known was in fact a translation. And it wasn’t until I began to learn Portuguese that I realized it wasn’t even a very good translation. The existential longing of the Portuguese version does not come through, and of course neither does the rhythm or beauty of the Portuguese word choices.

Tom (António) Jobim wrote the music for “Garota de Ipanema.” He also wrote both the music and the words for one of the best-known Brazilian songs of all time, “Águas de Março,” an impossibly catchy bossa nova tune that celebrates the sudden rainstorms of March and the way they flood Brazilian streets, the water carrying leaves and stones and all manner of things as it swirls ever downward.

There was an English version of this, too, written by Jobim himself. You’d think it would be just as good, but there are some things that can’t be done in both languages.

You can judge this for yourself, even if you don’t speak Portuguese. First, we have a video of Tom Jobim and the fabulous Elis Regina recording “Águas de Março” in the studio. Their mutual delight in the song is infectious, and you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the lovely rhythms of the rhyming words.

(You can read the Portuguese lyrics here, and the English version here.)

And now, the English version, sung by Art Garfunkel. Setting aside the very different tempo, does this sound anywhere near as…fun?


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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3 Responses to Águas de Março

  1. Perfect timing. The first waters of Autumn are arriving to Portugal. 🙂
    And, yes, this is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest (I think a song can be that too) songs in Portuguese. Jobim’s and Elis’ voices blend perfectly. She still is one of my favorite Brazilian singers (together with Simone) and Jobim was a writing genius.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    A perfect song to put me in a better mood on a holiday (5 de Outubro) that will be gone next year. No more official commemorations of the implementation of the Portuguese Republic from now on. So…for all it’s worth, I’ll end this comment with a small political statement: Vivá República!

  2. Ana_ñ says:

    Poor, poor Garfunkel. He just can’t compare. Poor guy, so bland. 😉

  3. Jorge says:

    Not by a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong shot.

    You get the same sense of fun and delight in a common language in this videoclip, which I consider to be one of the most magnificent hymns to the Portuguese language in musical form I’ve ever heard. The singers are Manuela Azevedo, lead of the Portuguese band Clã, and Fernanda Takai, lead of the Brazilian band Pato Fu.

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