Bossa Nova Daydreams


New English version of “Samba da Pergunta”

Photo by mike.in.ny. 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

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5 Comments so far
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[…] Eric sings and plays through the song twice, first in the original Portuguese version, then in my English version. Thanks, Eric, for taking the time to work this up and for sharing it with us! I hope it inspires others to do the same. You can see my English lyrics for this song in my previous post from May 2010: New English version of “Samba da Pergunta” […]

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Hi Eric, I’m really glad to hear you have enjoyed my version of Samba da Pergunta. If you ever feel ready to make it public, please post a video or sound file. I’m also flattered to be asked to do a version of Outra Vez. There are a few English versions of that floating around, like the “Once Again” by the Hi Lo’s from their 1963 album “The Hi Lo’s Happen to Bossa Nova” (http://www.thehi-los.com/recordings/detail.php?item=19). Those versions do a good job of capturing the basic idea of the text, though the ideas have been modified quite a bit in order to find a workable rhyme scheme. I prefer to do new English versions of songs that haven’t already been translated (unless I feel like the existing English versions are unsatisfactory), so I probably won’t take on Outra Vez, even though I really like the song. But don’t let that deter you from requesting English versions of other bossas and sambas. I have a list of songs I plan to translate eventually. Maybe one of them is one you want.

Comment by Matthew

Hi Matthew
This wonderful song has eluded me for many years now. I’ve just got the melody right singing it in Brazilian. I like your English lyrics, i’ll try to make a vid with it. You’ll tell me what you think. Great work, bravo. This song´s right, you and me and the girl of our dreams we are all astronauts flying thru the big universe. Best.

Comment by mafemmeestunzombie

Thanks. I hope you do make the video–would love to see it. This one is so full of colors–it’s irresistible!

Comment by Matthew

Hi Matthew, sorry to take so much time. I really like your version, and have sung it hundreds of times with my guitar, made a few vids but was not 100% happy, so I procrastinated. BTW, do you like the song Outra Vez, would you consider making an English version of it? Best,

Comment by eric




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