Rodrigo Amarante has been part of the Brazilian bands Los Hermanos and Orquestra Imperial, and the indie rock act Little Joy (featuring American pop notables Binki Shapiro and Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes). His first solo record, “Cavalo,” has just been released in the US, and this summer and fall he’s touring the world to support it. For this outdoor edition of the show, he provides a spacey soundtrack of tunes to stargaze by, then tops it off with one of his own.
Hear Rodrigo performing a solo acoustic version of “The Ribbon” in our studios, right here.
Rodrigo Amarante: I thought of a few songs that would match this occasion of being outside. And they somehow made me think of a feeling that I have when I’m in a place like this: You tend to stretch your thoughts, and question things that are otherwise not questioned so often in the city, or in the street, or in the elevator. And so I picked songs that I would like to hear in this environment. Here they are.
Bonga, “Angola 72”
This first song is from an Angolan artist called Bonga, and the record is called “Angola 72.” It was recorded in 1972.
That song feels so inviting. It feels like it gathers people; it elevates the mood. It also changes tempo in the middle — the story changes its course.
It’s written by a guy who became a voice for things that were happening in Angola at the time that were not being said — bad things. And his voice is raspy and somehow tired. It makes you think that he has lived something… but he did it in such a sentimental way. It’s so sweet, you hear tolerance, somehow, in his voice.
Jorge Ben, “Errare Humanum Est”
My second song is by Jorge Ben, called “Errare Humanum Est.” And what I would like to do with this song is something that I used to hear on the radio when I was a kid in Brazil. There was one program that I really liked — they played songs in other languages, and they would translate the lyrics as you would hear them. It was wonderful, and I loved that, and so I’d like to do the same:
There are days when I wake up wondering, wanting to know where it comes from, our impulse to explore outer space.
To begin with the shadows above the stars, and to think that gods were astronauts, and that one can fly along to the stars, or to go before the known times.
Did gods come from other galaxies?
To err, to err is human.
“Err,” it translates into “making a mistake,” right? But that root is also present in other words that mean “to wander.” For example, when you “run errands,” you don’t “run mistakes.” In Portuguese, errante is “the vagabond.” And so there’s something interesting there: The impulse to go beyond, to go towards the unknown, is human. We want to know what is on the other side.
Gal Costa, “Lua, Lua, Lua”
The third song I wanna play to you is written by one of my favorite artists, a man called Caetano Veloso. But this is sung by another Brazilian artist called Gal Costa. The song is called “Lua, Lua, Lua,” which is “Moon, Moon, Moon.”
It talks about the moon, and the relationship between [Caetano’s] singing and the moon. He’s trying to tell the moon that his singing does not have anything to do with the moon, but each time he says ‘moon’ — even though he’s saying, “I’m not singing for you” — it’s almost giving in to the moon.
It’s very sparse. The space in between his notes, his thoughts, and the space between him and the moon… that space is where they meet. Their song is the same song.
Rodrigo Amarante, “The Ribbon”
To end this conversation, I was invited to bring my guitar along, which is right here. This song is called “The Ribbon,” and it’s on this record I just put out, called “Cavalo.” So, I hope you like it. Thank you for listening, for being here. Have a good night.
Hear Rodrigo’s entire solo performance of “The Ribbon” in our studios here.