Bossa Nova Daydreams

“The Question Samba” brought to life

Today is an exciting milestone for Bossa Nova Daydreams and for my project to create English versions of classic bossa nova and samba songs. That’s because one of our bossa companheiros, Eric, has just shared a video he made of himself performing my English version of Samba da Pergunta (a.k.a. Astronauta) by Pingarilho and Marcos Vasconcelos, which I’ve entitled The Question Samba in English. This is the first time that somebody other than me has brought one of my song translations to life–at least it’s the first time I’m aware of. Eric does a beautiful job creating the hushed yet colorful atmosphere the song needs–very true to the bossa nova aesthetic.

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”

Here’s Eric performing The Question Samba (Samba da Pergunta or Astronauta in Portuguese):



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


%d bloggers like this: