Monday, February 11, 2013

“Que Pena”

Happy Monday! Carnival is in full swing, & so let’s take a trip to Brazil this morning! Musically speaking of course.

The featured artist on Mondays all through February is Gal Costa, an amazing singer who’s had a long & storied career, stretching from the 1960s to the present. During that time, she interpreted songs in a number of styles, from Tropicalismo psychedalia to jazz, from Bossa Nova to funky dance music—& more. Gal Costa truly is a major talent, & it’s a shame that she is not better known in North America.

Today’s selection comes from around 1980, & with all the videos this month, it presents her in live performance, this time around joining Jorge Ben’s band for a rendition of his song, “Que Pena,” which she had also recorded prior to this with Caetano Veloso.  Jorge Ben, or Jorge Ben Jor, is himself a major figure in Brazilian music, & was also associated with the Tropicália movement, though he has also branched out to incorporate African styles & funk in his music, & frequently uses electric guitar, as in this song. Jorge Ben is probably best known in North America for his song, “Mas Que Nada,” which has been covered by artists as diverse as Sergio Mendes & Ella Fitzgerald. Jorge Ben also wrote a song titled “Taj Mahal,” which was plagerized by Rod Stewart as “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”—this was settled in court, with the ruling coming in Ben Jor’s favor. He has released over 30 albums.

The pairing of Gal Costa & Jorge Ben Jor is electric—they are both highly charismatic performers, & “Que Pena” has a festive mood about it. The song’s title translates to “What a Pity,” & is a lighthearted lament for lost love that always returns to the idea of simply enjoying life despite this disappointment. Gal Costa’s version was one of the hits from her self-titled 1969 solo debut album; other hits from that album included “Baby,” "Divino Maravilhoso" & Caetano Veloso’s "Não identificado."

I mentioned in last week’s post that I’ll give those interested a link to yet another song each week that seems to complement the one I’ve selected—as a token of trying to show Costa’s great range. The link this time is to a duet of Costa & Gilberto Gil performing his song “Lavagem do Bonfim.” This was recorded later in Costa’s career, but it has the same festive & playful air, & she & Gil—who are friends of longstanding—are just great together. "Lavagem do Bonfim" refers to a festival surrounding the washing of the church steps at Bonfim in Bahia; it occurs around Epiphany. The link is here.

But for now: Gal Costa & Jorge Ben!

Image from Gal Costa’s 1979 album Gal Tropical links to its source on Tumblr


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