#15 – Gilberto Gil – O canto da ema

from Expresso 2222 (Universal, 1972)

Original Portuguese lyrics:

A ema gemeu no tronco do juremá
Foi um sinal bem triste, morena
Fiquei a imaginar
Será que é o nosso amor, morena
Que vai se acabar?
Você bem sabe, que a ema quando canta
Traz no meio do seu canto um bocado de azar
Eu tenho medo, morena, eu tenho medo
Pois acho que é muito cedo
Pra essa amor acabar
Vem morena, vem, vem, vem
Me beijar, me beijar
Dá um beijo, dá um beijo
Pra esse mesmo, se acabar

In English:

The ostrich has moaned at the Jurema trunk
It was a sad, sad sign, girl
It made me wonder
Will our love ever end, girl?
You know that when the ostrich sings
It bring inside its song a whole lot of bad luck
I’m afraid, girl, I’m afraid
Because I think it’s too soon
For this love to end.
Come girl, come, come, come
Kiss me, kiss me,
Give me a kiss, give me a kiss,
So this kiss, this kiss itself can end

Sorry for the inactivity, readers. I won’t make promises, but I’ll try to reup this blog, after all is a great fun to keep it.

This one’s another from Gilberto Gil’s Expresso 2222 and another one from the Soul Jazz compilation. I didn’t know it before, but I liked a lot of it. Gil’ songs from this period are all great, period.

There are some cool stuff about the translation.

First one, the ema isn’t the ostrich, but another animal, very similar to it. People usually give one for another, but the ema is endemic to South America (ostriches inhabit Africa), it is slightly smaller than the ostrich and it has long wings, although it also doesn’t fly. I don’t know how emas are called in other countries, but I’ve found a Wikipedia link in English to it. I’ve translated ema as ostrich because of the similarities and also to avoid using too many Portuguese words in the translation.

As of the ema‘s singing, I don’t know anything about it. Perhaps it’s an Northeastern Brazilian tradition, probably of Native American origin. The same about the Jurema. Jurema is a large tree from the caatinga (Northeastern Brazil largest ecosystem)  and it is the source of a ritual drink used in some indigenous religious practices but which enjoys some popularity in Nordeste today. I know it is in Portuguese, but I’ve found this reference (again from Wikipedia) about it. (Jurema is a name given to a wide variety of trees derived from the Acácia which inhabit Northeastern Brazil, actually).

As anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro said, American natives’ greatest technological achievements were made in the field of biochemistry, as they know almost everything about every plant, tree, leaves or herbs from where they live. Usually the ceremonial drink from Brazil’s tupi-guarani groups, the largest Native American group in Brazil’s territory, is cauim, made from fermented cassava, but there is also santo daime (the same as ayahuasca), so the jurema must relate to it.

All this, of course, doesn’t say anything about the song, which is a beautiful, simple and earnest love song.

See ya.


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