For this week, let me start with a bird! The bird is ‘Black Swallow’, and in Portuguese, it is called Andorinha Preta.

“Andorinha Preta” also happens to the name of one of the most famous ’embolada’ songs. Embolada is a form of traditional music active in the northeastern region of Brazil. Embolada has a fast rhythm and complex tone that deftly incorporate varied lyrics and onomatopoeia. It is characterized by a poetic-musical form with stanza-and-refrain structure, declamatory melody and fast tempo.

“Andorinha Preta”, the embolada song was first written in Portuguese by Brazilian singer-songwriter Breno Ferreira in 1932. Breno based the song on his own tune that he wrote a decade before, and recorded the song for Columbia Records.

The lyrics may seem like tongue-twisters, repeating the phrase,

“Eu tinha uma andorinha que me fugiu da gaiola
u tinha uma andorinha que me fugiu da gaiola”

eight times, before starting the main tune,
“Voa andorinha preta
De asa arrepiada”

Here’s the original version, by Breno:

The song has numerous cover versions. Some of the popular ones include…

Hebe Camargo (the Brazilian singer):

As part of the 1956 Brazilian film, Rio Fantasia, with vocals by the film’s lead actress Eliana Macedo, and music by the Brazilian vocal and instrumental ensemble, Trio Irakitan:

The song catapulted to international fame after Nat King Cole released an English language version, written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, in 1962. The English version of the song is called “Brazilian Love Song”.

The English lyrics go,

“I see a little bird that is sitting in the treetop
A pretty little bird that is sitting in the treetop”
followed by
“Fly my Brazilian love bird
Fly to the one I love”

The Indian connection of the song first arrived in 1966, in the film Phool Aur Patthar that catapulted Dharmendra to stardom. The film’s music was composed by Ravi. In a ‘club’ song featuring Shashikala, “Zindagi Mein Pyar Karna”. Ravi employs the tune of opening 8 lines of Andorinha Preta as his Hindi song’s prelude and opener. The same tune later appears with what seems like nonsense verse. The actual tune of the song, that goes, “Zindagi Mein Pyar Karna Seekh Le” has a different tune not present in “Andorinha Preta”!

The film was remade in Tamil, as Oli Vilakku, starring MG Ramachandran – his 100th film, in fact! The Tamil equivalent of “Zindagi Mein Pyar Karna” was “Naan Kanda Kanavil”, with music by M.S.Viswanathan. In place of Shashikala was none other than J. Jayalalithaa! The song’s tune employed the technique similar to Ravi’s Hindi song – uses snatches of “Andorinha Preta” in the form of the nonsense verse that goes, ‘Jinjana jinjana’, even as the main tune was completely different.

Long after these inspirations, Sandeep Chowta used the original “Andorinha Preta” almost as-is, in 1999, in Ram Gopal Varma‘s Mast! The song, “Main Tere Dil Ki Malika” uses the original’s tune exactly, complete with the opening verse (with Hindi equivalents added to the nonsense lyrics) and the main tune!

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