Saturday, May 25, 2013

“O Cantador”

“O Cantador”—the singer, the poet who gives voice to the essential & elemental: life & death, grief & love in song. Archetypal, mythic, always familiar, always a stranger. The poet whose love & loss is intensely personal, but also existential & universal.

This is so beautifully presented in one of my favorite songs, “O Cantador” by Dorii Caymmi  & Nelson Motta, a song I first heard sung by Flora Purim on her album recorded live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1974, Five Hundred Miles High. "O Cantador" is a standard in Brazil, & it has been covered by such great singers as Elis Regina & Gal Costa, but I always liked Purim’s version best. The song also exists in an English version titled “Like a Lover,” with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman, but the English lyrics bear only a tangential relationship at best to the Portuguese original—the Portuguese is existential, the English, a mostly conventional love lyric. It also misses the central pun of “O Cantador” ("the singer”)
& “eu canto a dor”: “I sing of grief.” From a musical perspective, versions I’ve heard of the English version even by top notch jazz singers seem always to “square the song up,” & miss the lilt & flow of the Brazilian versions.

So Purim’s version was my favorite—until I heard this version done by Anna Setton  accompanied on piano by Evaldo Soares. This is transcendent music, & if a singer as young as Setton can be said to have rendered a definitive version of such a deep song, then she has certainly done so here.

A beautiful performance—enjoy!

Image links to its source


  1. Gorgeous! I finally got my computer back from the repair shop and get treated to this first thing this morning. Thanks, John!

  2. Pretty nice, John. Thanks for posting.

  3. Yes, that's special. Her smoky voice, her looks (let's be honest), the song itself, but also the pianist, who seems to me to play perfectly. Thanks!


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