(Soundbite of song)

Mr. CAETANO VELOSO (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing in Portuguese)


Caetano Veloso has lately been on tour in the United States. The Brazilian singer and songwriter is consistently one of the most literate and beguiling forces in music. To see him in person, as I had a chance to do recently at New York's Terminal 5, is to see a sinuous, warm, joyous show in which Veloso's vocals and sambas are backed up by a young, edgy band.

Veloso has a new CD out called "Zii E Zie," trans sambas(ph) and he arranged to talk to us on his very last day in the U.S. after finishing his tour in Miami. Caetano Veloso, it's a real pleasure to speak with you.


LYDEN: A friend of mine told me that you wrote on your blog - and you'll forgive me, I don't have any Portuguese so I have to trust my friend here - that at age 67, you feel that you're in the infancy of old age. And I'd have to say after seeing you weave around the stage and dance for two hours, that I believe that. But what did you mean by that phrase?

Mr. VELOSO: Well, what I meant was that I'm beginning to be an old man, just beginning.

LYDEN: And does that excite you? What are the possibilities of that?

Mr. VELOSO: Well, it's something that can excite you because you get curious to see how changes go and everything. You lose a lot, but you can gain a lot, too. And in any case, you might be excited because you are curious.

LYDEN: And curiosity is certainly one of your trademarks. Let's turn to this new album you have, "Zii E Zie." It's an Italian name. What does it mean?

Mr. VELOSO: Zii e zie, in Italian, means uncles and aunts. I had read a book in Italian, a Turkish book translated into Italian. In there, I found these words. And the fact that it means uncles and aunts also rang a bell inside me, you know, because it's a way people in Brazil refer to adults, mostly poor, young people who are beggars in the streets. They called everybody uncle or aunt. So I thought it made sense.

LYDEN: You know, your lyrics - and you've written a book - your writing is always fresh and original and very unfettered. Could we talk about the first song on this album, which you call "Perdeu"?

Mr. VELOSO: I wrote that song mostly for the guitar beat, you know, (sings beat). That was my inspiration. So from there, I started thinking of some words to put on top of it. Perdeu is a word that means, you lost. It's mostly a slang used by people from the (Portuguese spoken).

LYDEN: The poor areas of the cities of Brazil.

Mr. VELOSO: Rio de Janeiro, mostly. They say perdeu when they're about to kill somebody, you know?

(Soundbite of song, "Perdeu")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

And the song, I more or less tell the story of a young guy who was born in (unintelligible), grew up, like some people I knew really personally. And as often happened to many of them, it seems that he died early, in one of those confrontations.

(Soundbite of song, "Perdeu")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

LYDEN: Well, you certainly don't shy away from politics. You have a song on this album that talks about Guantanamo, "A Base de Guantanamo." What does it say about your feelings about U.S. policies today?

Mr. VELOSO: Well, the song is very simple. The situation is very complicated. The song is very straightforward. It's just one sentence, and then the refrain repeats Guantanamo Base, the base of Guantanamo, the base of the Bay of Guantanamo.

(Soundbite of song, "Base de Guantanamo")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

Knowing about things that were going on in Guantanamo prison, I felt uneasy, you know? 'Cause the United States, you know, is a revolutionary country. And as revolutionary countries go, the United States is the best accomplished. So, to have the United States doing the things they were doing in Cuba, in little Cuba, you know, is symbolically too heavy.

(Soundbite of song, "Base de Guantanamo")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

LYDEN: I saw on YouTube, you were singing a song with your sister, Maria Bethania, and your mother, who I think is about 100. Do you ever sing together?

Mr. VELOSO: Yes, yes. We have always sung together, or we would listen to her singing when we were children. And still, we sing together sometimes.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. VELOSO and Mother: (Singing in Portuguese)

Mr. VELOSO: And she's 102.

LYDEN: 102, wow.

Mr. VELOSO: Yeah, 102. And she's a happy woman. And she loves singing. I think my love of singing came from her.

Mr. VELOSO's Mother: (Portuguese spoken)

(Soundbite of song, "Por Quem?")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

LYDEN: It's beautiful to hear you sing, it's beautiful to see you sing, and I particularly loved this song that you do include on the CD, "Por Quem?" which means for whom. It's beautiful.

Mr. VELOSO: Well, thank you, because I like it, too. I think it's beautiful. It is the one that is most like my mother singing.

(Soundbite of song, "Por Quem?")

Mr. VELOSO: (Singing in Portuguese)

LYDEN: Well, it's beautiful to talk to you and to see you, and I hope you'll come back to the U.S. and do another tour.

Mr. VELOSO: OK. So do I. Thank you for your interest.

LYDEN: Thank you very much.

Mr. VELOSO: Bye-bye.

LYDEN: Caetano Veloso. His new CD is called "Zii E Zie." And he just finished a U.S. tour. He spoke to us from Miami.

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