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Brazilian Girls: A Multilingual Musical Affair

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Brazilian Girls: A Multilingual Musical Affair

Brazilian Girls: A Multilingual Musical Affair

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(Soundbite of "Long")

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Earlier this year, the band Brazilian Girls released their first full-length album. Critics and fans are still finding new ways to describe their music: jazz cocktail, pop-techno, world-tinged bossa nova, trip-hop dance with reggae grooves. While all these phrases can describe the Brazilian Girls in theory, we've got the luxury of letting you decide for yourself.

(Soundbite of "Long")

BRAZILIAN GIRLS: (Singing) How long can you be walking on eggshells and breathing thin air? Get yourself ready for departure when you're already there? Longer than the wall of China, longer than longing for love, longer than your pantomime when the audience is bored.

SIMON: This is "Long," from the Brazilian Girls' self-titled debut.

We're joined now by all four of the Brazilian Girls from the studios of the CBC's Radio Canada in Montreal. Sabina Sciubba, Didi Gutman, Jesse Murphy and Aaron Johnston join us. Thank you very much for being with us.

Ms. SABINA SCIUBBA (Brazilian Girls): Thank you.

SIMON: And look, I've gotta point out the obvious. None of you--wait, yeah, none of you are Brazilian and only one of you are a girl. Right?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Shh! Don't tell anyone!

SIMON: (Laughs) So what's going on? How do you get a name like Brazilian Girls? Sabina Sciubba, maybe I'll ask you that question.

Ms. SCIUBBA: Well, I mean, obviously, if you hadn't told the audience, they would still think we are four Brazilian Girls and they would all come running to the shows.

SIMON: Oh, gosh, I'm sorry. I've really...

Mr. JESSE MURPHY (Brazilian Girls): But now that you've given it away...

SIMON: ...blown it now, haven't I? I'm really sorry. Didi Gutman, you are from Buenos Aires...

Mr. MURPHY: That's right.

SIMON: ...so I'm going to let you handle the question next, 'cause you, in a sense, might be closest to being a Brazilian, if not a Brazilian girl. One does have something to do with the other...

Mr. DIDI GUTMAN (Brazilian Girls): Well, you know what? Like, for example, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland were not policemen.

SIMON: (Laughs) Yeah. All right.

Mr. GUTMAN: Neither the Rolling Stones are actual rocks. They're human beings.

SIMON: Yeah, yeah. No, the Beatles were not insects.

Ms. SCIUBBA: That's right.

SIMON: I don't know. Yeah, OK. We could go on...

Brazilian Girls Member: You figured it out.

SIMON: ...in that vein. I'm sure that probably music executives have asked you to describe your music, and I'm wondering how you folks do it.

Ms. SCIUBBA: I think we came up with a really nice one, which is the music is melting pop.

SIMON: Well, let's listen to another one of your tracks called "Me Gustos Cuando Callas."

(Soundbite of "Me Gustos Cuando Callas")

BRAZILIAN GIRLS: (Singing in Spanish)

SIMON: Didi Gutman, as I understand it, the lyrics to this song are taken from the Pablo Neruda poem of the same name.

Mr. GUTMAN: Yeah, that's right. That was Sabina actually--she was reading the book and we were jamming and--why don't you say it, Sabina?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Well, that's all it was. Pablo Neruda has been used as song lyrics many times, and this very poem has been used by--I think in two or three different versions with different melodies--which I didn't know at the time. Had I known, maybe I hadn't chosen it. But it came very natural. It lends itself.

(Soundbite of "Me Gustos Cuando Callas")

BRAZILIAN GIRLS: (Singing in Spanish)

SIMON: Of the dozen songs in this album, five are not in English?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: They're in German, French--what are the other languages?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Spanish and one has a spoken-word thing in Italian.

SIMON: Ital--yeah. What made you decide to record an album in so many different languages?

Ms. SCIUBBA: It wasn't a decision, per se; it was really rather a process, which started the day I was born because I was born to Italian and German parents in Italy, and so I grew up bilingual and so it's not--it's, you know, pretty much what feels most natural to me. It feels really unnatural to sing only in one language, let alone only in English.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. Jesse Murphy?

Mr. JESSE MURPHY (Brazilian Girls): Yes.

SIMON: Being from California, do you understand her when she sings?

Mr. MURPHY: Well, you know...

SIMON: Not that people in California don't speak a lot of different languages. I just...

Mr. MURPHY: You know, I don't even understand people when they sing in English. I don't know about anybody else out there. Yeah, you know, I think all the different languages, and we see it when we go to different countries and play in different places--you could tell that there's really kind of a nice portal that gets created for people when they don't understand the language. It kind of becomes one of those more transcending moments, and then, fortunately, there are so many languages going on with Sabina that then there's an inclusive point in the show, where there's a couple songs in Spanish, let's say, if we're in Spain, and then everybody's included, and then all of a sudden a German song comes along and, of course, no one in the audience understands a word, but are completely captivated and just kind of taken away...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. MURPHY: ...with the sound of Sabina's voice and with the music itself.

SIMON: Let me ask about a German song and, Ms. Sciubba, I apologize in advance for my I'm sure errant pronunciation. But here goes.

Ms. SCIUBBA: All right.

SIMON: "Deig...

Ms. SCIUBBA: Oh.

SIMON: ..."Die Gedanken Sind Frei."

Ms. SCIUBBA: "Die Gedanken Sind Frei."

SIMON: As I was saying.

Mr. MURPHY: Or `The Donkey is Fried,' is the...

SIMON: (Laughs) I thought that's what it meant. Let's listen to a bit of it, if we could.

(Soundbite of "Die Gedanken Sind Frei")

BRAZILIAN GIRLS: (Singing in German)

SIMON: This is a German farmers' song?

Ms. SCIUBBA: It's a popular song, in fact, written by an anonymous author that came up in the farmers' revolution of the farmers against aristocrats that were enslaving them.

Mr. MURPHY: In the 13th century.

Ms. SCIUBBA: In the 13th century. So it's--you know, it's not...

SIMON: They weren't using quite some of the technopop accompaniment, I'm guessing, right?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Yeah, and actually the melody is completely different. It's more like (sings German farmers' song). That's how it is. (Sings German farmers' song).

Brazilian Girls Member: What does that mean? Potatoes are free, right.

Brazilian Girls Member: Potato chips are free.

Mr. GUTMAN: No. It means thoughts are free.

SIMON: And how'd you come across this song?

Ms. SCIUBBA: The guys had come up with that song and it was an instrumental, and I didn't have any ideas of what to do over it, so they went into the studio and I was just in the studio and all of a sudden it struck me that I liked this melody, which was kind of this fast-paced thing, and once the melody was there, I wanted to write some lyrics to it, which, in fact, I wanted to entitle "Die Gedanken Sind Frei," which is a saying in German, which means `Thoughts are free,' which obviously you can use in many different circumstances. And once I had started writing the lyrics, a friend of mine pointed out that there is already a song with the same title, and I looked it up on the Internet and, in fact, some of the lines were even the same that I had written. So it was quite a mystical moment in my life. And so I just used the original lyrics to the song.

SIMON: When you're on stage performing, and let's say particularly if you're performing, let's say, a German song in Tokyo or something like that, is it mood or meaning you're going for?

Ms. SCIUBBA: Both, because in fact, I really believe that even if you don't understand a language, you understand what the speaker or the singer is intending, you know, by, you know, just an energy or expression or a tone of the voice, and for example, the German song, "Die Gedanken Sind Frei"--I feel strongly about that song, especially in the political climate that we are experiencing right now in this country and in the rest of the world, so I think everyone usually gets that. It's a revolutionary song. So...

SIMON: But something like reggae, for example, you can have a kind of a dulcet, almost party-happy-time beat with some lyrics that are almost incendiary.

Ms. SCIUBBA: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I guess...

Mr. MURPHY: Well, the--there is--I mean, as we all know, first you have rhythm, right? And then you can move up the ladder from there. So a lot of what people are experiencing, no matter what language they speak, is something in their body first. Right? They're feeling the rhythm and then they're hearing the sound and then you get to the lyrical part of it.

SIMON: Is that Jesse Murphy?

Mr. MURPHY: Yes.

SIMON: That's one of the best explanations I've ever heard, Mr. Murphy, I must tell you.

Mr. MURPHY: Excellent.

SIMON: For how music affects people. Thank you.

Mr. MURPHY: You got it.

SIMON: Well, it's been a delight talking to all of you. Thank you so much. Good luck to you.

Ms. SCIUBBA: Thank you so much.

Mr. MURPHY: Thank you.

Ms. SCIUBBA: Our pleasure.

SIMON: Joining us from the CBC's Radio Canada in Montreal, we have Sabina Sciubba, Didi Gutman, Jesse Murphy and Aaron Johnston. Together they are--take our word for it--the Brazilian Girls.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAZILIAN GIRLS: (Singing) Don't stop. Don't stop now. Just keep on going.

SIMON: And you can hear songs from the Brazilian Girls' album and read translated lyrics for the Neruda-inspired song that we discussed on our Web site at npr.org.

And this is WEEKEND EDITION.

(Credits)

SIMON: I'm Scott Simon.

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