Bossa Nova Daydreams


New English version of “Luz Negra”

I suppose by now it should be fairly obvious that I have a penchant for sad songs with descending melodies. The subject of my latest effort at samba song translation, Luz Negra (“Black Light”), may be the saddest, most descending song there is. It was composed by Nelson Cavaquinho and Irani Barros and has been covered by many great artists, including Leny Andrade, Richard Galliano and Baden Powell.

Nelson Cavaquinho (center)

Nelson Cavaquinho (center)

There seems to be a certain type of “natural” musician, who, regardless of circumstances, is intrinsically compelled to make music with whatever is at hand. How else can you explain someone like Nelson Cavaquinho: He grew up poor, building his first makeshift guitar all on his own out of a cigar box and some wire. He then taught himself how to play cavaquinho (a kind of Brazilian ukelele) and consequently developed his own unique two-finger playing style. Perhaps most impressive of all, he composed over 600 compositions over the course of his lifetime. You don’t crank out that much music unless you just can’t help it.

Here is my new English version of the lyrics for Luz Negra. One of the most beautiful arrangements of this song can be heard on Lea Freire’s excellent album, Vento em Madeira.

Black Light
(Luz Negra)

All alone
Forever searching for someone
Who suffers just as I have done
But there is no one to be found

Still alone
And life just keeps on passing by
I’ve got no one to care for me
The end is all I see

The black light of a fate so cruel
Shines upon a pallid stage from above
On that stage you’ll find me playing the role
Of the silly fool for love

— English version by Matthew Marth,
based on the original Portuguese version,
entitled “Luz Negra” by Nelson Cavaquinho and Irani Barros

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