Friday, March 9, 2018

MAR* SONGS: Águas de Março

Or Waters of March, the english translation of what has been called the all-time best Brazilian song, in a 2001 poll. Written by arguably the best and certainly the best-known of Brazilian composers, the king of Bossa Nova, Antonio Carlos ('Tom') Jobim, in 1972, it has sustained myriad versions over the years since. Unusually, both the portuguese  of the original and it's translation were both written by Jobim. Bossa Nova seemed, in my youth, inescapably naff and forever attached to cheesy black and white travelogues. More recently it has seemed to attain a revisioned renaissance and  sits well alongside other latin dance and music forms, thanks in part to the dance music attuned stylings of bands such as Bossacucanova, the translation of which even I can work out.

It was Jobim's stepfather who encouraged his playing, after the he and his mother moved to Ipanema, yes that one, starting his nascent career playing in clubs and bars. Although now deemed to side most closely with jazz, in fact early influences and passions were derived from the classical field. Already big in Brazil, courtesy his writing partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, a celebrated poet, his wider breakthrough came with, in 1963, his collaborations with Stan Getz and the husband and wife team of Joao and Astrid Gilberto, including that song from Ipanema. Writing most of the music over the two volumes of Getz/Gilberto ensured worldwide recognition and many awards. The bossanova craze was in full swaying swing.

Aguas de Marco, as a song, has had a fascinating history, starting life as the 70s brazilian equivalent of a cover disc: a free and probably flimsy vinyl distributed with O Pasquim, a magazine of the day. Thereafter it was picked up by Elis Regina, later to work closely and to collaborate with Jobim, appearing on her 1972 debut. Jobim himself didn't officially release his own version until a year later, with the additional english lyric now attached to the verses in portuguese. This was then reprised, by both of them, another year later, on the seminal 1974 album Elis and Tom. (See top clip above.) Since then there have been a flood of versions from artists as varied as Frank Sinatra, Art Garfunkel and David Byrne. Unarguably now a standard, it was also purloined by advertisers, no doubt for a fat fee, but never, for me, the real thing.

So what are the waters of march? March is the rainiest month in Rio, and the words, more a tone poem of images than any narrative, are said to represent the torrents of water flowing down the steep hillsides of the city, flooding the gutters with all manner of debris. I encourage you to sift through the floodwater of what can so often be so much supper club and hotel lobby flotsam and jetsam, looking for the class of what this much maligned music style has to offer. Tom Jobim will always rise to the top.

                                                  Antonio Carlos Jobim 1927 - 1994

Still thirsty?

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