Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Classic for Our Time: Viola Enluarada

A dear friend gave me an extraordinary album of Brazilian musicians, Bossa Entre Amigos, that features Bossa Nova artists Roberto Menescal, Wanda Sa, Marcos Valle, and other guests in a live concert in 2002, which tells us that 2002 was a very good year. What I didn't expect was to encounter a life-changing idea and become deeply engrossed in the beauty and depth of the text and music of a song "Viola enluarada" composed by Marcos Valle and his brother Paulo Sérgio Valle.

My friend tells me that in Brazil viola refers to the acoustic guitar. Violas are used for serenades, to accompany songs at parties, and other musical occasions. It is part of the soul of Brazil and contributes in unique ways to the musical culture. Viola enluarada was composed in the 60s in the context of Bossa Nova but transcends the genre to become a classic statement of the human spirit. Enluarada has no real English equivalent but means "moonlightened."

Bathed in moonlight we can see the world differently, intuiting that the challenges of life are not as sharply etched as we might think. Love, music, liberty, life and death embrace us in the breath of a single moment. Listening to this recording brings a rebirth and renaissance as we realize that no matter what we face, the freedom of the human spirit triumphs over all the claims of power and destruction. This has been the experience of the Brazilians, and the rise of Capoeira (martial art, dance, and music) as a response to slavery and brutality, attests to the resiliency of a people who have suffered much adversity and yet remain full of hope, as well as being among the most innately musical beings of our species.

My friend very kindly provided a literal translation of the Portuguese. The texture and resonance of the words are inseparable from the music, and Marcos Valle's phrasing will astonish you with its subtlety and sensitive stretching of time that lives in counterpoint to a simple but eloquent harmonic commentary.

Na mão que toca o violão
In the hand that plays the guitar
Se for preciso faz a guerra
if needed [(it) notes the war
Mata o mundo, fere a terra
kills the world, hurts the earth
Na voz que canta uma canção
In the voice that sings a song,
Se for preciso canta o hino
if needed, (it) sings the anthem,
Louva à morte
praises death
No sertão é como espada
in the countryside, it's like a sword,
Viola e noite enluarada
moonlight viola, moonlight night
Esperança de vingança
hope of revenge.
No mesmo pé que dança o samba
In the same foot that dances the samba
Se preciso vai à luta
if needed, (it) goes to fight
Quem tem de noite a companheira
(the one) who lies, at night, his companion (fem.)
Sabe que a paz é passageira
knows that peace is transitory
Prá defendê-la se levanta
To defend her (peace/companion)
E grita: Eu vou!
(it) stands up and shouts: I go (I will)
Mão, violão, canção, espada
Hand, Guitar, Song, Sword
E viola enluarada
and Moonlight Viola
Pelo campo, e cidade
through the country-side and the city
Porta bandeira, capoeira
Porta bandeira, capoeira
Desfilando vão cantando
in the parade (refers to carnival) they sing
Liberdade, liberdade...
Freedom, Freedom

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