Guest DJs

Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word

Gilberto Gil, pictured here on the cover of Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver o Luar), is one of the many artists we listen to this week to understand the concept of "saudade." i i

Gilberto Gil, pictured here on the cover of Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver o Luar), is one of the many artists we listen to this week to understand the concept of "saudade." Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Gilberto Gil, pictured here on the cover of Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver o Luar), is one of the many artists we listen to this week to understand the concept of "saudade."

Gilberto Gil, pictured here on the cover of Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver o Luar), is one of the many artists we listen to this week to understand the concept of "saudade."

Courtesy of the artist

I've always been fascinated that there are certain words with no direct equivalents in other languages. It goes to the idea that life is so varied and complex, it will spawn words as distinctive as snowflakes.

The natives of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina have the word mamihlapinatapai for a look shared between two people when both are wishing the other would do something neither wants to. In Thai there is greng-jai — when you don't want someone to do something for you because it would be a bother for him or her.

Perhaps my favorite of these elusive words is saudade, a Portuguese and Galician term that is a common fixture in the literature and music of Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde and beyond. The concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened. It often carries an assurance that this thing you feel nostalgic for will never happen again. My favorite definition of saudade is by Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo: "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy."

Since it comes up so frequently in the music we listen to on our show, we decided to dig deeper. Joining us to explain the concept are two musical masterminds: jazz singer Luciana Souza and producer Beco Dranoff. Both do a great job of explaining what saudade means playing some of their favorite tracks. Since we are wrapping up our Black History Month coverage, it's also a window into the African influence on Brazilian songs.

Even if you can't quite wrap your mind around the word saudade, you can certainly understand it through this music. And please, if you want to add to their explanation of what saudade is, tell us about your own saudade and your favorite songs on the topic in the comments section below.

Saudade: The Untranslatable Word Everyone Sings About

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Cartola

  • Album: Cartola [O Mundo e um Moinho]
  • Song: As Rosas Não Falam

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Song
As Rosas Não Falam
Album
Cartola [O Mundo e um Moinho]
Artist
Cartola
Label
Melopea Records
Released
1976

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Gilberto Gil

  • Album: Arte de Gilberto Gil
  • Song: Lamento Sertanejo (Forró Do Dominguinhos) [Ao Viva]

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Song
Lamento Sertanejo (Forró Do Dominguinhos) [Ao Viva]
Album
Arte de Gilberto Gil
Artist
Gilberto Gil
Label
Universal International
Released
2005

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Cover for 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim

  • Album: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Song: Aguas de Março (Waters of March)

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Song
Aguas de Março (Waters of March)
Album
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Antonio Carlos Jobim
Artist
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Label
Hip-O Records
Released
2005

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Joao Gilberto

  • Album: U Samba da Minha Terra
  • Song: Chega de Saudade

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Song
Chega de Saudade
Album
U Samba da Minha Terra
Artist
Joao Gilberto
Label
Excalibur
Released
2013

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Amalia Rodrigues

  • Album: Amalia/Vinicius
  • Song: Saudades Do Brasil em Portugal

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Song
Saudades Do Brasil em Portugal
Album
Amalia/Vinicius
Artist
Amalia Rodrigues
Label
EMI Music Distribution
Released
2001

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Luciana Souza

  • Album: Tide
  • Song: Adeus America & Eu Quero Um Samba

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Song
Adeus America & Eu Quero Um Samba
Album
Tide
Artist
Luciana Souza
Label
Verve
Released
2009

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Dorival Caymmi

  • Album: Minha Historia
  • Song: Saudade Da Bahia

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Song
Saudade Da Bahia
Album
Minha Historia
Artist
Dorival Caymmi
Label
Polygram
Released
1997

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Luciana Souza

  • Album: Book of Chet
  • Song: He Was Too Good to Me

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Song
He Was Too Good to Me
Album
Book of Chet
Artist
Luciana Souza
Label
Sunnyside Communications
Released
2012

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