Oarsome song by José Afonso and Os Golpes

by Bernard O'Shea

In a music shop in Porto one day I came across a catchy, quirky song Tenho Barcos, Tenho Remos (I have boats, I have oars) by a rock band called Os Golpes (um golpe a can mean a blow, whack, hit, misfortune, etc). I thought it was an original by the band, but while researching it I came across this, an older version that heaves with sadness and longing.

Although it says on the video that it’s José Afonso, I couldn’t believe it was a man singing. It must be one of the great dames of fado from the 1950s or 1960s, a Portuguese equivalent of the likes of Vera Lynn or Edith Piaf. I spent hours on the internet “googling” in Portuguese and English trying to find out who was this awesome female singer is. I wanted her greatest hits! 

But no, it is a recording made by José Afonso in 1962, sung in the fado tradition of Coimbra,  which is different to the Lisbon fado style in that it is usually sung by men or male choirs. What a voice he has!

The song will give you some insight into what constitutes “saudade“, that particularly Portuguese “nostalgic or  profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves“. The lyrics are explained below.  

Letras (lyrics)

Tenho barcos, tenho remos – (I have boats, I have oars)
Tenho navios no mar            – (I have ships at sea)
Tenho o amor ali defronte    – (I have a lover there up ahead)
E não lhe posso chegar        – (And I can’t get to her) 

Tenho navios no mar
Tenho navios no mar
Tenho o amor ali defronte
Não me posso consolar        – (I can’t console myself)

Tenho o amor ali defronte
Não me posso consolar

Já fui mar, já fui navio             – (I’ve been the sea, I’ve been a ship)
Já fui chalupa escaler             –  (I’ve been a sloop)
Já fui moço,  já sou homem   – (I’ve been a boy, I’m already a man)
Só me falta ser mulher           –  (All that’s left is to be a woman)

José Afonso (popularly referred to as Zeca or Zeca Afonso) was one of the poets/minstrels of his generation, and his most famous song is one associated with Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.

Live and studio versions by Os Golpes

It seems there is no official video to the song by Os Golpes, and the most interesting part of their version is the very tuneful guitar solo in the second half.

A rare live recording follows from someone in an audience somewhere in Porto … the sound is okay but there’s a tall guy in front spoiling the view somewhat. Thankfully he doesn’t have big ears like I do:)

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Ralph March 23, 2014 - 6:07 pm

Olá.
Eu estava a procurar a letra da música Tenho Barcos, Tenho Remos e tropeçei no seu blog. Comprei recentemente o CD “O Melhor do Novo Pop Rock Português” e gostei da canção. Depois de encontrar o seu blog, li a sua história e identifiquei-me com ela. Sou também um Austráliano que está a aprender português mas moro em Adelaide. No meu caso há apenas dois anos mas isso tem ficado um passatempo obsessivo. Admiro a sua persistência e espero que ainda esteja a estudar português em 10 anos.

I hope this makes sense. Interesting blog.

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Bernard O'Shea March 23, 2014 - 7:02 pm

Olá, como está? Parabéns, você escreve muito bem, eu entendo tudo. Na minha opinião, o Português é bonito e assim é a música de Portugal e Brasil e dos outros países luso-africanos. Gosto de Adelaide, e uma cidade linda, sem muito barulho.

I hope you enjoy the music on the CD, it’s funny that you should have the same one. And thanks for perusing my blog and commenting, all the best, cheers, Bernardo

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