(In 1987, when I went to Wales for the first time, to visit the land of my fathers, as the train crossed the border – depicted in the photo above, taken from the train window – I felt an incredible surge of emotion. I can only explain it as an ancestral gravity in my soul. All while I was there, it was as if I had finally come home, yet I knew I had to leave again. It was the hiraeth I was feeling.)
According to Wikipedia, Saudade (European Portuguese: [sɐwˈðaðɨ], Brazilian Portuguese: [sawˈdadi] or [sawˈdadʒi], Galician: [sawˈðaðe]; plural saudades) is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.
The only other word at all that is akin to saudade is the Welsh word hiraeth. [HEER-eyeth] [ How to pronounce hiraeth].
Despite being hard to translate, saudade has equivalent words in other cultures, and is often related to music styles expressing this feeling such as the blues for African-Americans, dor in Romania, tizita in Ethiopia, or assouf for the Tuareg people. In Slovak, the word is clivota or cnenie, in Czech, the word is stesk and sehnsucht in German.
I would add to Wikipedia’s list the Portuguese musical style of fado. And, to their section of literature that is written in the tone of saudade, I would add Marcel Proust’s seven-volume-long novel “The Remembrance Of Things Past”, James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”. There are, I’m sure, other examples.
But let’s stick to music. I have made a list. And, yes, I myself did write a song (mostly instrumental) called Saudade. Perhaps it stemmed from my love of Brazilian music and the berimbau my good friend percussionist Joey Cardello made for me.
1) Chega de Saudade – Written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and performed by João Gilberto. The song was first recorded by Brazilian singer Elizete Cardoso. The music was composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the lyrics were written by Vinícius de Moraes. João Gilberto’s recording is the most famous. Chega means no more, enough.
To hear “Chega de Saudade” sung by João Gilberto click HERE.
2) Sodade – Written in the 1950s by by Armando Zeferino Soares, a Capeverdean composer. Recorded in 1992 by Cesaria Evora on her album Miss Perfumado. Sodade is a song in the Coladeira style, a Capeverdean genre. Musically it uses the cycle of fifths and The common small band Coladeira instrumentation is a vocalist, violão (guitar), a cavaquinho (four stringed guitar that plays rhythm) and some percussion. Bigger bands adds acoustic bass, a rabeca (violin), clarinet, trumpet and percussion such as a shaker, güiro, cowbell, congas.
To hear “Sodade” by Cesaria Evora click HERE.
3) Saudade by Cristina Branco, Portuguese fado singer. Fado (Portuguese for fate) is a genre of Portuguese song, similar to American blues but always melancholy, not up tempo. The instrumentation is usually a singer accompanied by traditional 12 string Portuguese guitars or mandolins. She often records with one of the world’s leading fado guitarists Custódio Castelo.
To hear”Saudade” by Cristina Branco and 12 string traditional Portuguese guitarist Custódio Castelo click HERE.
4) Longing To Hold You Again – Performed by Tammy Wynette. Written by Don Robertson. Country music has more than one song about longing and yearning. This one is one of my favorites, mainly because of the sheer soul-scorching tone of Tammy Wynette’s amazing voice.
To hear Tammy Wynette singing “Longing To Hold You Again” click HERE.
5) Distant Lover – Performed by Marvin Gaye. Written by Marvin Gaye, Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Sandra Greene. When I first got the album this song is on, “Let’s Get It On”, in 1973, I would listen to it over and over, getting happily lost in the tangled vines of all his background harmony parts, that he loved to do himself. His missing and wanting became mine, for my own distant lover. She had recently moved away to the other coast of the country. During those long weeks inbetween our airborne visits, Marvin consoled me with his own saudade.
To hear “Distant Lover” by Marvin Gaye click HERE.
6) The Thrill Is Gone – Written and Performed by B.B. King. What superlatives can be added to this great man? He wrote it, he lived it, he done it the best. And when the thrill is gone, that’s when you miss it the most.
To hear this Master of The Blues perform “The Thrill Is Gone” click HERE.
7) Suo Gân – Traditional Welsh lullaby. Sung by Bryn Terfel with The Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland. Conducted by Edo De Waart, 2002. Welsh men used to sing to escape the bleak hardship of their lives spent mostly down in the darkness of coal mines. The women sang hymns and went to Chapel. The tradition of singing, writing poetry and just being really emotional continues in Wales. I always say we Welsh are the Italians of the U.K. And what other county holds an annual week long festival of poetry and music? The Welsh, of course! It is called the Eisteddfod (pronounced eye-steth-vod. The double “dd” in Welsh in pronounced like a “th” sound and a single “f” is like a “v”. Two “ff”s are like an “f” in English. There are no “v”s in the Welsh alphabet.) The Eisteddfod is held the second week of July in Llangollen in North Wales. Even though I am a first generation Welsh American, I have always been proud of my heritage.
To hear my home boy Bryn Terfel sing “Suo Gân” click HERE.
(Neli Andreeva, in center, and The Philip Kutev Choir.)
8) Malka Moma – Traditional Bulgarian Woman’s Choral Music Performed by Neli Andreeva & Philip Kutev Choir. Once heard, you are haunted by these voices.
To hear “Malka Moma” click HERE.
8) Saudade – Written by yours truly, Grayson Hugh. In the Fall of 2012 my old friend and very talented guitarist Norman Johnson asked me to make a guest appearance on his upcoming album “Get It While You Can” (Pacific Coast Jazz 2013). I played him my song “Saudade”, that I had written while living in Manhattan in 1996. He loved it and asked if he could put it on his record. So I sent him the chart for it and he arranged it for me, him on guitar, drums, percussion and acoustic bass. When I wrote, I was missing the country (living in New York City), missing love (I had recently left a relationship that I wasn’t happy in) and missing being happy, busy and fulfilled (having left a dead end record deal, I was still looking for a label that “got” me and my music). So I wrote this song about what the Brazilians call saudade and we Welsh call hiraeth. Hard to pronounce and hard to explain and hard to explain how to pronounce,, but you know it when you hear it and when you feel it.
To hear “Saudade” click HERE.