Rouille Veux l’Eauzou

24–25 February 2012

It doesn’t fit

It is probably no surprise to read that I am fond of lots of Portuguese musicians. Rui Veloso is one of them. (I like Brazilian music too, but Rui Veloso (not to be confused with Caetano Veloso) happens to be Portuguese.)

There is one thing I like less about his music, though: the lyrics often don’t fit to it. In technical terms: there is a mismatch between the metre of the music and the prosody of the language.

Wikipedia tells me most of Rui Veloso’s lyrics are written by Carlos Tê, so maybe the problem is a less than optimal cooperation between the two? Or conscious choice, for effect?

I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t like it. It degrades the otherwise nice songs and lyrics.


Sometimes in two versions of the same song, Rui Veloso violates the stress rules of the Portuguese language in different ways. So he sings the lyrics the wrong way, but inconsistently. Very strange.



Now after making such harsh claims, of course I must corroborate them with verifiable facts.

In some cases, I can indicate the wrong stresses by spelling devices. For example, a normally unstressed ‘a’ that Rui Veloso incorrectly stresses, I can write as ‘â’ to show that it is stressed but doesn’t become a different vowel.

Likewise, I can write an incorrectly stressed em as ‘êm’ and am as ‘âm’, or ‘ão’ if final.

However, when Rui Veloso stresses a normally unstressed vowel written as ‘e’, orthography cannot visualise that. That’s because in the Portuguese language, such a vowel is never stressed, so there isn’t a spelling convention for it that would use an accent mark.

In Portugal, they use a high central vowel for that, which is unknown in Brazil. Brazilians pronounce ‘sabe’ as ‘sábi’.

Colours and typeface

Therefore, in order to be able to show exactly what I mean, I decided to use background colours, boldface and italics to be unambiguous, and add accent marks only where possible.

The syllables normally stressed in Portuguese I will display in boldface on a green background. Those that Rui Veloso incorrectly stresses are shown in italics on a red background.

A paixão (ao vivo)

The lyrics of the song are here. The song is also sometimes referred to as ‘Anel de Rubi’ (Ruby Ring). This is a video of a live performance of the song:

From 0m59s:
Mas esse teu mundo era mais forte do que eu
E nem com â forçâ da música ele se moveu

From 1m28s:
Para te levar ao concerto
Que haviâ no Rivoli

Note: the transcriber of the lyrics on the Brazilian site writes that last name as “rivóli”, but I think what is meant is the Rivoli Theatre in Oporto. (Both Rui Veloso and his letrista (lyricist) Carlos Tê are from that city.)

If the name is correctly spelled in the Portuguese Wikipedia entry, it doesn’t have a written accent, so the last syllable bears the stress. But judging from Rui Veloso’s pronunciation, the last-but-one syllable doesn’t get the normal [u] which can be expected from an unstressed written ‘o’, but it gets the open vowel that we also hear in the first syllable of ‘procuro’, meaning ‘I search’.

The Brazilian transcriber probably didn’t understand that, being unfamiliar with the local situation, and wrote ‘rivóli’. In older spelling variants of Portuguese, you could indicate this special quality of an unstressed vowel, but with a grave accent instead of an acute accent: Rivòli. In the modern spelling, the only remnant of that is found in à, às, àquela etc.

If I am right about this, Rui Veloso makes no mistake here and sings it as he should.

A paixão (2)

A different version of the same song ‘A paixão’, which is also used next to the lyrics on the Brazilian site, is in this video:

As said, not all metre mistakes are the same here as in the other performance of the same song. At 0m14s:
Tu eras âquela

At 2m07s:
Não se ama alguém que não ouve a mesma canção

Não há estrelas no céu

This songs has so many examples of incorrect metre, and they are so conspicuous and horrible, that you’d almost think it was done on purpose.

Right from the beginning:
Não há estrelas no céu a dourar a meu caminho
Por mais âmigos que tenha sinto-me sempre sozinho
De que vale ter a chave de para entrar
Ter u nota no bolso para cigarros e bilhar

A primâvera da vida é bonita de viver
Tão depressa o sol brilha como a seguir está a chover

From 0m40s:
Parece que o mundo inteiro se uniu para me tramar

I skip a few examples, because there are too many to mention them all.

From 2m48s the song’s title is repeated many times, consistently in a metre that violates the Portuguese language that I love so much:
Não há estrelas no céu


It really hurts my ears to listen to that.

Two Dutch songwriters who would certainly support my view on the metre-prosody conflicts in Rui Veloso’s songs: Ivo de Wijs and Drs. P.

Não me mintas

Here’s a song, however, in which everything is OK most of the time. I found only a few mistakes. It is called ‘Não me mintas’ (Don’t lie to me) and I like it a lot. Lyrics are here.

From 0m47s:
E queria vencer todos os vendavais
que se erguem quando o diabo se assoa

From 1m15s and 2m46s:
Mas isso já eram sonhos a mais

From 2m00s:
Com a força bruta das trepadeiras

From 2m25s:
Juro ganhar o jogo sem espinhas

Porto sentido

To end with, a song that I like even more than the previous one, and in which I found only one (1!) stress error: Porto sentido.

From 2m11s:
E é sempre a primeira vez
em cada regresso a casa

The song is about Oporto (or ‘o Porto’ in Portuguese). How long is it since I was there last? Saudades!

Addition 16 March 2012: explanation of the title of the article.

Addition 1 April 2012: (but not April Fools at all!):
I knew I must have noticed at least “Não há estrelas no céu” long before I wrote my article. Today by mere coincidence, when checking something unrelated, I ran into some proof, dated 28 November 2005. To quote myself:

Heard a song on the radio, look up the lyrics using keywords 'uniu' and 'tramar', found:
and was amazed about the many unstressed syllables that become stressed in the song. "ParecE" etc., a badly written text, or badly written music that doesn't go with it. Nice sounding song, though.

Colours: Neutral Weird No preference Reload screen