Monday, May 3, 2010

Tico-tico no Fubá - A Musical Interlude

One of the most famous Brazilian melodies of all times features the ingredient that I've been discussing the past few posts - plain, ordinary cornmeal, or fubá as it's known in Brazil. You may not recognize the title of this song, but I would be willing to bet a nice piece of "bolo de fubá" that you know the tune.

When I was first learning Portuguese, I ran across this song title and it made little sense to me, as I didn't know what a Tico-tico or a Fubá was, and my English-Portuguese dictionary gave me no help at all. Of course, eventually I discovered that fubá was the Brazilian word for cornmeal. Which only deepened the mystery - Why would someone write a song about cornmeal?. Then I searched around the internet for the definition of Tico-tico. That turned out to be the name of a small Brazilian songbird, something like a wren or sparrow. There's a picture of a tico-tico on the right.

I finally looked up the lyrics, on the internet as well, and discovered that the song is a lament - the singer is bemoaning the fact that a tico-tico is eating all her cornmeal, and although she's tried everything to prevent the bird from stealing her precious corn, she's been unsuccessful. The tico-tico is gorging itself on the family's supper!

So know that you know what the song's about, watching the video below to see "Tico-tico no fubá" performed at supersonic speed by the great Carmen Miranda, sometime in the 1940s. I'm sure you'll recognize it.  After watching her do the number, all I could think of was, "How can anyone possibly sing that fast?"

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