The lyricism of revolution: José Afonso

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Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.

Theodor Adorno

 

If creation is the constitution of new spaces and times, as Gilles Deleuze once said, then the creativity of music and that of politics, if not the same, may meet, share and sustain each other.  The portuguese revolution that began in the wake of the 25th of April of 1974 coup d’état expressed such a moment.  Poets and musicians of the resistance to the fascist regime, many of whom were in exile, had given lyrical voice to suffering, as well as to courage and struggle.  And with the revolution, that music would speak to the many that endeavoured to create new worlds.

The voices of the poets and the musicians were many.  But it is no dishonor to those many to share above all of the work of José Afonso …     

I always said that music is politically engaged when the musician, as citizen, is a man politically engaged.  It is not the product that comes from the singer that defines his political commitment, but the conjunction of circumstances which involve him in a historical and political moment that is lived and the people with whom he shares and with he sings. 

If protest song aims directly and concretely at a given socio-political structure, then I am not a protest singer.  In fact, my songs are predominately lyrical.  But they pretend to oppose … ways of life, preferences and predilections that reign among us. … Let us call them songs of response.  They reproduce a context, but they collaborate (or seek to collaborate) in its reconstitution. 

What is necessary is to create disquiet. … I believe that above all else, that it is necessary to shake things up, to not remain inactive, to have courage, whether in music or politics.

(Selections from interviews with José Afonso, available at the site Associação José Afonso)

 

Os Vampiros

No céu cinzento
Sob o astro mudo
Batendo as asas
Pela noite calada
Vem em bandos
Com pés veludo
Chupar o sangue
Fresco da manada
Se alguém se engana
Com seu ar sisudo
E lhes franqueia
As portas à chegada

Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
E não deixam nada

A toda a parte
Chegam os vampiros
Poisam nos prédios
Poisam nas calçadas
Trazem no ventre
Despojos antigos
Mas nada os prende
Às vidas acabadas

São os mordomos
Do universo todo
Senhores à força
Mandadores sem lei
Enchem as tulhas
Bebem vinho novo
Dançam a ronda
No pinhal do rei

Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
E não deixam nada
No chão do medo

Tombam os vencidos
Ouvem-se os gritos
Na noite abafada
Jazem nos fossos
Vítimas dum credo
E não se esgota
O sangue da manada

Se alguém se engana
Com seu ar sisudo
E lhes franqueia
As portas à chegada

Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
Eles comem tudo
E não deixam nada

 

The Vampires

In the grey sky
Below the silent star
In the still night
They come in bands
With velvet feet
Sucking fresh blood
From the herd.
If anyone is fooled
By their serious manner
And open their doors
To them on their arrival.

They’ll eat everything
They’ll eat everything
They’ll eat everything
And leave nothing.

From everywhere
The vampires arrive
They perch in buildings
They perch in the streets
They bring in their pouches
Old spoils
But nothing binds them
To their spent lives.

They are the stewards
Of the whole universe
Masters by force
Commanders without laws.
They fill their barns
And drink the new wine
They dance the round dance
In the king’s pine forest.

They eat everything
They eat everything
They eat everything
And leave nothing.

On the ground of fear
The vanquished tumble
We hear the screams
In the sweltry night.
They lie in the cesspools
Victims of their beliefs
And nothing drains away
The blood of the herd.

If anyone is fooled
By their serious manner
And open their doors
To them on their arrival.

They’ll eat everything
They’ll eat everything
They’ll eat everything
And leave nothing.

____________________

Filhos da madrugada

Somos filhos da madrugada
Pelas praias do mar nos vamos
À procura de quem nos traga
Verde oliva de flor no ramo
Navegamos de vaga em vaga
Não sabemos de dor nem mágoa
Pelas praias do mar nos vamos
À procura da manhã clara
Lá no cimo de uma montanha
Acendemos uma fogueira
Para não se apagar a chama
Que dá vida na noite inteira
Mensageira pomba chamada
Companheira da madrugada
Quando a noite vier que venha
Lá no cimo de uma montanha

Onde o vento cortou amarras
Largaremos p´la noite fora
Onde há sempre uma boa estrela
Noite e dia ao romper da aurora
Vira a proa minha galera
Que a vitória já não espera
Fresca brisa moira encantada
Vira a proa da minha barca

 

Sons of the dawn

We are the sons of the dawn
And along the beaches we move
Looking for someone to give us
Green olive flowers from the branch.
We sail from wave to wave
We know nothing of pain nor hurt
Along the sea-beaches we move
Looking for a clear morning.
There, on the top of a mountain
We light a bonfire
And so not to relinquish the flame
Which gives life to the whole night
The messenger pigeon called
Friend of the dawn
Whenever night decides to come,
There, on the top of the mountain.

And when the wind cuts through you
We’ll head off into the night,
Where there’s always a good star
Night and day at the break of dawn
Bring my galley to the prow
Because victory awaits no longer
A fresh breeze feels lovely
And turns the prow of my boat.

____________________

A morte saiu a Rua

A morte saiu à rua num dia assim
Naquele lugar sem nome pra qualquer fim
Uma gota rubra sobre a calçada cai
E um rio de sangue dum peito aberto sai

O vento que dá nas canas do canavial
E a foice duma ceifeira de Portugal
E o som da bigorna como um clarim do céu
Vão dizendo em toda a parte o pintor morreu

Teu sangue, Pintor, reclama outra morte igual
Só olho por olho e dente por dente vale
À lei assassina à morte que te matou
Teu corpo pertence à terra que te abraçou

Aqui te afirmamos dente por dente assim
Que um dia rirá melhor quem rirá por fim
Na curva da estrada há covas feitas no chão
E em todas florirão rosas duma nação.

 

Death Stepped out on the Street One Day

Death stepped out on the street one day
In that place that was named for nothing
A ruby-red drop, on the pavement, falls
And a river of blood flows from an open breast.

The wind that blows through the reeds
And the scythe of a reaper woman of Portugal
And the sound of the anvil, like a clarinet from the sky
Are spreading the news that the painter is dead.

Your blood, Painter, calls equally for a death
Only an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth matter
That murderous law, the death that killed you
Your body belongs to the land that is you.

Here, therefore, we swear tooth for tooth
That one-day those who laugh last will laugh best
At the turn in the road there are holes in the ground
And from them all of them will grow the roses of a nation.

____________________

Epígrafe para a Arte de Furtar

Roubam-me Deus
Outros o Diabo
Quem cantarei
Roubam-me a pátria
E a humanidade
Outros ma roubam
Quem cantarei
Sempre há quem roube
Quem eu deseje
E de mim mesmo
Todos me roubam
Quem cantarei
Quem cantarei
Roubam-me Deus
Outros o Diabo
Quem cantarei
Roubam-me a patria
E a humanidade
Outros ma roubam
Quem cantarei
Roubam-me a voz
Quando me calo
Ou o silêncio
Mesmo se falo
Aqui d’el rei
Aqui d’el rei

 

Epigraph for the Art of Stealing

They stole God from me
Others stole the Devil
So to whom shall I sing?

They stole from me my country
And my humanity
Others stole from me
So to whom shall I sing?

Always there are those who steal
What I want
And from me myself
Everyone steals
So to whom shall I sing?
So to whom shall I sing?

They stole from me my God
Others stole from me the Devil
To whom shall I sing?

They stole from me my country
And my humanity
Others stole from me
So to whom shall I sing?

They steal my voice
When they silence me
And my silence
When they speak.

God help us
God help us.

____________________

Os Eunucos (No Reino da Etiópia)

Os eunucos devoram-se a si mesmos
Não mudam de uniforme, são venais
E quando os mais são feitos em torresmos
Defendem os tiranos contra os país

Em tudo são verdugos mais ou menos
No jardim dos harens os principais
E quando os pais são feitos em torresmos
Não matam os tiranos pedem mais

Suportam toda a dor na calmaria
Da olímpica visão dos samurais
Havia um dono a mais na satrapia
Mas foi lançado à cova dos chacais

Em vénias malabares à luz do dia
Lambuzam de saliva os maiorais
E quando os mais são feitos em fatias
Não matam os tiranos pedem mais

 

The Eunuchs. (In the Kingdom of Etiopia)

The eunuchs devour each other
They never change their clothes, they’re poison
And even still they’re made in honeycomb
Defending the tyrants against the country.

They are more or less executioners in everything
And especially in the garden of the harem
And when the parents are made of honeycombs
They don’t kill the tyrants but just want more.

They put up with pain with the serenity
Of the Olympic vision of the Samurai
There was an owner too many in the province of the Satrap
But he was thrown into the hole of the jackals.

Juggling in the light of day
They drivel spit on the majority
And the more they are sliced up
The more they don’t kill the tyrants but just want more.

____________________

Traz Outro Amigo Também

Amigo
Maior que o pensamento
Por essa estrada amigo vem
Não percas tempo que o vento
É meu amigo também
Em terras
Em todas as fronteiras
Seja benvindo quem vier por bem
Se alguém houver que não queira
Trá-lo contigo também

Aqueles
Aqueles que ficaram
(Em toda a parte todo o mundo tem)
Em sonhos me visitaram
Traz outro amigo também

 

Bring Another Friend as Well

Friend
Larger than thought
Come along this road friend
Don’t dillydally, for the wind
Is also my friend.
On land
On all frontiers
They are welcome those who come for good
If there’s someone who doesn’t want to
Bring him with you as well.

Those
Those who remain
(All over the world there are people like that)
In dreams they will visit me
Bring along another friend as well.

____________________

Grândola, Vila Morena

Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Dentro de ti, ó cidade

Dentro de ti, ó cidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena

Em cada esquina um amigo
Em cada rosto igualdade
Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade

Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada rosto igualdade
O povo é quem mais ordena

À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia sua idade
Jurei ter por companheira
Grândola a tua vontade

Grândola a tua vontade
Jurei ter por companheira
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia sua idade

 

Grândola, swarthy town

Grândola, swarthy town
Land of fraternity
It's the people who lead
Inside you, oh city

Inside you, oh city
It's the people who lead
Land of fraternity
Grândola, swarthy town

On each corner there's a friend
In each face there's equality
Grândola, swarthy town
Land of fraternity

Land of fraternity
Grândola, brown town
In each face there's equality
It is the people who lead

In the shadow of a holm oak
Which no longer knew its age
I swore as my companion,
Grândola, your will

Grândola, your will
I swore as my companion
In the shadow of a holm oak
Which no longer knew its age
 

José Afonso’s live, in Lisbon’s Coliseu, 1983 …


 

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