Jul 07

Carlos do Carmo (Lisboa, Menina e Moça)

by in What to listen to

Fado singer Carlos do Carmo is the first Portuguese performer to win a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. The song Lisboa, Menina e Moça is one of his best-known.

Carlos do Carmo, Lisboa Menina e Moça

Carlos do Carmo, by José Goulão, via Wikimedia Commons.

Carlos do Carmo was born in 1939, in the Mouraria–Lisbon’s most emblematic fado neighbourhood. His mother owned a fado house and was herself a singer, so that music always played a part in his life.

It was not until the mid-1960’s, however, that Carmo began to perform and record fado. He became famous not only for his voice but also for the way he mixed traditional fado with international influences, including bossa-nova, jazz and French ballads.

In his 50-year career, Carmo has recorded hundreds of songs and mentored several other famous fado singers. He also played a significant role in the campaign that made fado part of  UNESCO‘s World Heritage Cultural Patrimony.

Lisboa, menina e moça, was originally recorded in the 1970’s, and remains one of Carlos do Carmo’s most famous songs. An English translation of the lyrics is provided, below. Enjoy!

I won’t even try to translate the title, since the subtleties of the Portuguese terms are completely lost in their English counterparts. “Menina” is an unmarried girl–often a child–while “moça” implies a young woman who has come of age. The charmingly risqué lyrics play upon the way the whole city hovers between seductive grace and bewitching innocence.

Lisboa, Menina e Moça
by Paulo de Carvalho

No Castelo[i]                                                      On the Castle[i]
Ponho um cotovelo,                                       I place my elbow
Em Alfama[ii]                                                    On Alfama[ii]
Descanso o olhar.                                            I rest my gaze
E assim desfaz-se o novelo                          Always unrolling the skein
De azul e mar.                                                    Of blue, of the sea.
À Ribeira[iii] encosto a cabeça                  I pillow my head on the Riverside[iii]
Almofada                                                            The cushion
Da cama do Tejo[iv]                                       Of the Tejo’s[iv] bed,
Com lençóis bordados à pressa                 With sheets hastily embroidered
Na cambraia de um beijo.                            On the cambric of a kiss.

Lisboa menina moça, menina:                   Lisboa menina e moça, menina:
Da luz que meus olhos vêem tão pura,   In this light my eyes see you, so pure,
Teus seios são colinas, varina,                   Your breasts are hills, oh fishwife
Pregão que me traz a porta, ternura.      Who carries tenderness, to my door.
Cidade a ponto-luz bordada,                      A city embroidered in light,
Toalha a beira-mar estendida.                   Tapestry stretched out by the sea.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

No Terreiro eu Passo[v] por ti                   In the Courtyard[v] I pass you by,
Mas da Graça[vi] eu vejo-te nua.              But from Graça[vi] I see you unclothed.
Quando um pombo te olha, sorri,            When the pigeons see you, they smile,
És mulher da rua.                                            You are a woman of the streets.
E no Bairro mais Alto[vii] do sonho        And in the Bairro[vii] of highest dreams
Ponho fado que soube inventar:               I place what fado I could invent:
Aguardente de vida e medronho              Firewater of life and liquour
Que me faz cantar.                                           That makes me sing.

Lisboa menina moça, menina:                   Lisboa menina e moça, menina:
Da luz que meus olhos vêem tão pura,   In this light my eyes see you, so pure,
Teus seios são colinas, varina,                   Your breasts are hills, oh fishwife
Pregão que me traz a porta, ternura.      Who carries tenderness, to my door.
Cidade a ponto-luz bordada,                      A city embroidered in light,
Toalha a beira-mar estendida.                   Tapestry stretched out by the sea.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

Lisboa, no meu amor deitada,                   Lisbon, lying upon my love,
Cidade por minhas mãos despida,           City undressed by my hands.
Lisboa menina e moça, amada,                 Lisboa menina e moça, beloved,
Cidade mulher da minha vida.                   City-woman, love of my life.

———-
[i] Refers to the Castelo São Jorge, above the city;

[ii] Alfama: a neighborhood just below the Castle;

[iii]The Avenida Ribeira das Naus (lit. “riverbank of the ships”) is a street that runs along the river Tejo;

[iv] Lisbon is nestled in a curve of the Tejo river;

[v] The Terreiro do Paço (lit. “courtyard of the palace”, also “paço” and “passo” are homonyms) is a plaza next to the Tejo;

[vi] Graça: a quiet neighborhood near the center of the city;

[vii] The Bairro Alto (lit. “high neighborhood”) is an area near the center of Lisbon, known for its bars.

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