Monday, August 15, 2011

Music Monday ~ The Song Not the Singer ~ Manhã de Carnaval ~ Barack Obama ~ Luiz Bonfá

Some days, while out trawling the internets for tid-bits, I'm expecting to find references to Barack Obama all over the place, but at other times his name never enters my mind as being relevant to the topic under scrutiny. Surprising to find his name, then, while searching for information on Manhã de Carnaval, (Morning of the Carnival) the piece I'd decided would be a good candidate for The Song Not the Singer slot. Various versions have emerged since the late 50s when it was written by Luiz Bonfá.


It was composed for the movie Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) a Brazilian/French/ Portuguese production which won Grand Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, an Oscar for Best Foreign film and a Golden Globe. The film is a transposition of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to 1950s Rio, Brazil at Carnival time.

Obama?

Well, I learned that in his autobiography "Dreams From My Father", Barack Obama recounts how while he was studying in New York his mother and sister visited the city, sometime in the early 1980s. During their visit his mother noticed that Black Orpheus was showing at a local cinema and wanted them all to go see it. It had been the first foriegn film she'd seen, as a teenager. She had thought it "the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."



Barack wasn't impressed. He wrote:

"We took a cab to the revival theatre where the movie was playing. The film, a groundbreaker of sorts due to its mostly black, Brazilian cast, had been made in the fifties. The storyline was simple: the myth of the ill-fated lovers Orpheus and Eurydice set in the favelas of Rio during carnival, in Technicolor splendour, set against scenic green hills, the black and brown Brazilians sang and danced and strummed guitars like carefree birds in colourful plumage. About halfway through the movie I decided I'd seen enough, and turned to my mother to see if she might be ready to go. But her face, lit by the blue glow of the screen, was set in a wistful gaze. At that moment I felt as if I were being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth. I suddenly realised that the depiction of the childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad's dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white, middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different."

Well now. I must strive not to be judgemental. But damn - it was a film - a piece of art! It was never meant to be social commentary! From the clips I've seen (see below) there was no stereotyping of the unfortunate kind African Americans were used to seeing about their race in some early American movies. This movie seems to portray life exactly as it was for some Brazilians at that time, and showed their joie de vivre in spite of poverty and challenges.
(Note: I'd stored this completed post in my drafts some days before we went to the flicks to see The Help.Odd, then, that a similar sentiment arose there. See Sunday's post.)
I'd have felt like giving young Barack a slap up the side of the head when he decided he wanted to leave halfway through the show, had I been his Mum...."don't be such a self-absorbed prig our Barry, get with the dang music why don't ya?!"

Sun, Mercury, Uranus and North Node of Moon all in Leo. Yep! A dope slap might have sorted out that egotistical narcissitic streak of his !

Okay - that's out of the way.

Back to Luiz Bonfá's gorgeous melody, Manhã de Carnaval. Portuguese lyrics are by Antonio Maria, various lyrics in other languages have emerged year by year. One of the best known English language versions is A Day in the Life of a Fool. Personally I think the melody is best left without lyrics and played to perfection in any number of variations of instrumental combinations.
The timeless music is considered to have helped establish the Bossa Nova movement in the late 1950s. It's now considered a jazz standard, still performed regularly, around the world, by musicians of several genres, sometimes with vocal, sometimes as an instrumental or solo piece.

Bonfá was born in Rio de Janiero on 17 October 1922. Four personal planets in Libra, ruled by Venus, planet of the arts is his defining astro-signature. I'm not a bit surprised that his music is so beautifully melodic.





Here's a video containing some brief clips from Black Orpheus, including the song in its original setting:

Background:
As in the Greek legend, Orpheus is a legendary minstrel among his neighbors in the slums above Rio. He also works as a streetcar driver, where he first meets a naive county girl, named Eurydice. She has run to the city to escape from a jealous suitor that means to kill her. Orpheus protects her, and they fall in love. Death finally catches her but unlike the snake in the Greek myth, in the film she's bitten by the electrical sting of a hot cable-car wire. Inconsolable over his loss, Orpheus searches for her in the land of the dead. The underworld in Rio is the Bureau of Missing Persons and a Macumba ceremony, where Orpheus attempts to contact her spirit. With the help of Hermes, Orpheus is finally guided to the city morgue where he finds his deceased love. Despite it's tragic ending, the film ends on a happy note with the children singing "Samba de Orfeu." The legend of Orpheus and Eurydice lives on.




Three different renditions of Manha de Carnaval

Toots Thieleman harmonica/guitar - I like this one a lot.



Paul Desmond Quartet - featuring Desmond on clarinet - the husband's favourite.



Susannah McCorkle - a lovely vocal version - part English, Part.. erm Portuguese(?)
Her voice was gorgeous.


8 comments:

buddababy said...

I too have adored this Orfeu Negro since I first saw it 30 years ago. It was the grand prize winner of the Cannes Film Festival, 1959, and Obama must have been an idiot not to appreciate it's power and beauty.
I have the LP, CD, and video and I never fail to bawl my eyes out in sympathy- as I just did to the clip you have presented.
It is probably my favorite film, then Harold and Maude, then The King of Hearts. Good call.

Twilight said...

buddababy ~~ I'm so glad someone remembered this - I was thinking perhaps it was a tad too obscure, but them, having read of the Obama link, I couldn't resist carrying on with it.
:-)

I can listen to "Carnaval" over and over (and often do so) and never tire of it.

Anon and Ever said...

Dealing with Obama we cannot hide that teh whole system is going into a phase of crisis and, this is the most wonderful and exilarating thing ever to me... - they have **no** anser, no response, no idea but to make the people pay, and pay, and pay...

When I say this, I crearly add that I am absolutely against the Tea Party, a sort of American Lega “en attendant” their Donald Trump... These forces are precisely the forces that will lead to the difiding of The United States and its explosion...

What I mean is that an entire ruling class declared failure, they have no means to solve anuy problema at all!

A total, complete mental void...

This is the bill for the end of communism, it was not at all a good deal, not in the way they did it, United States have been proved to be absolutely unfit to rule the world, too childish...

Twilight said...

Anon and Ever ~~ I agree that we're in something of a tailspin now, and the "pilot" seems helpless - from our point of view anyway. No doubt he has a plan, but it's nothing that will help ordinary people, passengers of this spiralling craft/nation.

It's getting too depressing to try to work out what'll happen next.
There are a few ways it could go, none of them good.

Best to remember the advice someone offered once: "Life is short. Eat dessert first!"
:-)

Anon and Ever said...

“Life is short. Eat dessert first!”, ah ah ah, right... I won’t miss your wise advice... In fact I’m eating tons of desserts... ah ah ah...

Humour apart, We cannot escape the basic consideration.

America is a paper Tiger... And litterally, a whole economy based on... paper!

If you sum the whole economy production of the world and confront it with the paper economy - not merely money only, on teh contrary especially the so-called “financial products” (a contradiction in terms!) - you as we as anyone on Earth will discover that the paper money would exceed the sum of the whole productive ecomomy many and many and many times...

What is happening right now is that this distance betwen the two sides is collapsing, this system is collapsing, the distance between the reality and the paper, virtual economy is reducing...

This phase of “correction” - you know the **euphemistic** language of the economists, under this word of “correction” there is the life of many many many people! - will continue...

There is no escape to this fate. No Tea Party, no Coffee Party, no Wine Party, no Coca-Cola Party, no Orange Juice Party, no Rum Party, no Brandy Party, no Vodka Party and, more important, no **Whisky** Party would help you, United States...

You time is over. And it is over for the whole world now knows you all, you are a paper Tiger.

You appear strong, United States, a real Tiger, with fangs and teeth with blood that comes down in little drops and the bad smell of the tons of animals slowly or rapidly eaten up and down, but your teeth are not that boodthirsty they may appear...

No! Your teeth are of paper!

And you’re a paper Tiger...

Remember the times of regime change? Few time ago but how distant!

That was the time that led you here...

And when you, The Great Whore - in Italian language America is a female word -, would fall **not** under any conquest - no “Red Dawn”, I simply laugh at the many affirmations of stupidity of those Eighties’ movies - but under the wight of debts...

**Under the weight of debts** that won’t wait to you to fall...

You won’t be waited, believe me, and no one in this world would conquer you, no one even wants or desires it...

You will be left to your debts and to your problems. No one in this world would move a finger to help you, like Assyria in the history of the ancient world...

Anon and Ever said...

But the case you would repent, like in the “Book of Jonah”, but **real** repentance, not that of “Christian reborn” or of the many too many Tv religious chiefs that speak and speak and speak and make... money and money and maney, and situation doesn’t move in any way...

Repentance means a very precise thing: One understands what went wrong in him or herself, and changes!

That is the only meaning of repentance that has a sense in this world...

Twilight said...

Anon and Ever ~~~ Wow!! You wnr to town there!!! LOL!

It's no laughing matter though.

I'm a relative newcomer - been here since late 2004, so am still trying to work out what's what.
Not that even those born here really know the truth.

History happens very very slowly, too slowly for us to see it happening. Only historians of, maybe 2200 or 2150 will be able to see with any accuracy what really went on in the USA in the 20th and 21st centuries.
:-(

Twilight said...

I meant to type "Wow - you went to town there!" :-)