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Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word

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Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word

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Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word

Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/282552613/283477942" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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

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

toggle 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

(Editor's note: This is an encore presentation of a show we presented during Black History Month in February 2014 in which we discussed the African heritage of Brazilian music)

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.

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

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

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

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Gilberto Gil

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

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

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

  • Song: Chega de Saudade
  • from U Samba da Minha Terra
YouTube

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U Samba da Minha Terra
Album
U Samba da Minha Terra
Artist
Joao Gilberto
Label
Excalibur
Released
2013

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Amalia Rodrigues

  • Song: Saudades Do Brasil em Portugal
  • from Amalia/Vinicius
YouTube

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Amalia/Vinicius
Album
Amalia/Vinicius
Artist
Amalia Rodrigues
Label
EMI Music Distribution
Released
2001

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Luciana Souza

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

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Dorival Caymmi

  • Song: Saudade Da Bahia
  • from Minha Historia
YouTube

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Minha Historia
Album
Minha Historia
Artist
Dorival Caymmi
Label
Polygram
Released
1997

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03He 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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Luciana Souza

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

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Book of Chet
Album
Book of Chet
Artist
Luciana Souza
Label
Sunnyside Communications
Released
2012

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