Bossa Nova Daydreams

New English version of “Samba da Pergunta”

Photo by CC: Some rights reserved.

This translation has been brewing for quite a while. It’s been a joy to work on because not only is the music lovely, but the lyrics are truly poetic–a kind of quiet explosion of colors. The poem is full of vivid images assembled in such a way to create a fantastic, metaphysical and emotionally charged atmosphere. The way I read it, there is no one absolute sense or meaning–it is intentionally abstract. That’s part of what gives it its magic.

Elis Regina’s perfect rendition on the album “Como & Porque” was my first chance to fall in love with the song. João Gilberto has his own haunting version on the album “João Gilberto en México” (1970). I highly recommend both.

Keeping to the sense and spirit of the original version was a special challenge with this one. As a result, how the words and syllables line up with the music may be a little confusing at first. To make it more useful, here is a pdf file that shows the music with the English lyrics underneath. (Sorry it looks so rough, I don’t have Finale right now.)Question_Samba_ENG

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time this song is being made available in an English version. I’m not aware of any other.

A final note: In the original Portuguese, the song is also sometimes entitled “Astronauta” (not to be confused with the samba “O Astronauta” by Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell).

The Question Samba
(Samba da Pergunta)

Now she’s living
all alone in contemplation,
or perhaps up in the heavens,
in everything that flies through the sky.
She could be an astronaut, or
she could be a little songbird,
or become a gust of wind, or
a kite made of silken paper,
a little balloon, or maybe
she is on an asteroid, or
she could be the morning star that you can see from down here.
She could be somewhere on Mars now,
never to be heard from again.
She’s just disappeared…

— English version by Matthew Marth,
based on the original Portuguese version,
entitled “Samba da Pergunta” by
Pingarilho and Marcos Vasconcelos



New English version of “O Nosso Amor”

Today I offer a new translation of the Jobim/Vinicius classic “O Nosso Amor”, which translates as “Our Love”. My favorite version of this song is on the classic Elenco release “MPB-4”–which is both the name of the group and the album. There is also a lovely rendition by Joao Gilberto. I’m not aware of any other English version of this song, so I hope my version will suffice. It’s nice and short, unlike some of the others I’m currently taking on–“Samba da Pergunta” and “Tem Do”–which I’ll try to offer one fine day.

Our Love
(O Nosso Amor)

Here’s how our love is going to be:
just me for you, just you for me.
This sadness is not welcome anymore.
I will bring you happiness.
I will want to live in peace
It’s what destiny tells me.

(Da Capo)
Here’s how our love…

— English version by Matthew Marth,
based on the original Portuguese version,
entitled “O Nosso Amor” by
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes


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