Friday 18 May 2018

Papa Joachim Paris - Cabo Verde song, English language version

We are in another country.  And we hear a song.  Or we are driving through the night, and the radio picks up something unexpected.  Or we browse through the record collection of a friend...

We hear a song.  There is something about the melody and the performance that grips us.  And the words?  The words are in a language not our own.

But something of interest is going on, in those words.

What steps are needed to take that experience and turn it into a song that works in our own language, the English language?  As the steps turn into a journey where does the journey end?

That is the starting point for my series of song translations.  The aim is to produce an English language lyric that sits comfortably on the original melody, and is faithful to the twists and turns of the original text.

And on my Soundcloud, an example - my English language version of the much loved Cabo Verde song Papa Joachim Paris, from the original Cabo Verde creole/Portuguese.

And here it is on YouTube...


and everywhere...

Sung by Stephanie Hladowski, piano Stephanie Hladwoski, concertina Michael Hebbert, guitar Gene Dunford.

English language text by Patrick O'Sullivan.

Papa Joachim Paris, Papa Joquim Paris (you will find various spellings of the name...) is almost a second national anthem, on the Cabo Verde islands and throughtout the Cabo Verde diaspora...

Cabo Verde is the island nation, an archipelago in the Eastern Atlantic, off the coast of West Africa.  Its history was shaped by slavery, and by shipping patterns.  An important Cabo Verde settlement is in New Jersey, USA - follow the trade winds north and west.  Music is an essential part of the national identity, and the diasporic identity - and the music is an intriguing amalgam of African, Portuguese and other influences.  I swear that in some Cabo Verde songs
we can hear the remnant of an English sea shanty.  Most Cabo Verde lyrics are fairly straightforward - our beautiful island, the beautiful women of our island, the sadness of exile.

Papa Joachim Paris has all that, but suddenly goes into a stranger place - with the fear of a witch's curse.  That curse is there in the music - at the begioning of the second quatrain, with the word 'futecera', Portuguese 'feiticeira', on the BbM, a word that is usually translated by the English word 'witch'.  Or hag, sorceress - it really means fetish-maker, of course.  I tried and I tried to get my witch word at the beginning of the line, on the BbM - but decided on another route.  Once you are given the English word 'witch' you do not lightly abandon it - it brings a package.

Not a sensible choice of text for this project - the lyric lives very much in the oral world, passed on from voice to ear.  And, of course, a mix of personal names, place names and local idioms.  It took us ages to establish the text - which was finally found for us by Edmundo Murray, words AND music in...

Tavares, M. de J. (2005). Aspectos evolutivos da música cabo-verdiana. Praia, Cape Verde: Centro Cultural Portugu√™s.  (There is also a Lisboa printing.)

Manuel de Jesus Tavares, p84, says that Eugenio Tavares considered this morna one of the oldest from the Ilha Brava, author unknown.  And there is certainly a feeling of an old song, and an old story, compacted by time,

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