spring in rio

We’re now in the middle of March with Spring–at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere–right around the corner.  The Vernal Equinox is tomorrow, 3/20.

Here are two songs about that, but each with a twist. The first is Antonio Carlos Jobim’s song Águas do Março, Waters of March. Jobim was learning English at the time of the writing in the early 1960s; he was becoming popular in the US and the UK and wanted to speak better English. So he wrote this song in both English and Portuguese. The Portuguese version is typical Jobim: witty, lyrical, poetic. But his genius in the English version is that he used non-latinate words, i.e. words not derived from Latin or Romance languages but rather using Anglo-Saxon words (a stick, a stone, a bend in the road, etc.)


The album Jobim was released in 1973 with the song, “Águas do Março”

But it goes further. In Brazil, being a Southern Hemisphere country, March is the end of summer, the beginning of Fall, the rainiest time of the year there, a time for reflection. A Tom Jobim website, Clube do Tomalso tells us that when he wrote the song, there were heavy rains in Rio and his house, undergoing construction, was one big muddy mess, plus the roads were impassable. These personal events are more evident in the Portuguese lyrics.

Then we have modern day Iran who observes the Persian calendar, where the new year–usually called Nowruz but spelled in several different ways–is celebrated on March 21, the beginning of Spring. This goes way back in Persian history to the Zoroastrian calendar.  While we observe the New Year on January 1st, probably because it’s closer to the Winter Solstice, it seems more logical to celebrate it with the coming of Spring, doesn’t it?

Here is Jobim performing the song in English at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1986. I was there for this show–it was good! Click here to read the lyrics.

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Here is an Iranian singer, Sima Bina, from South Khorassan, a province of Iran, singing a song for Nowruz.

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  • michaelbdeane

    Love this! Thanks Tom!

  • James Marcotte

    Thanks Tom. My admiration for Jobim deepens with every year. I was at the festival that year, traveling as a 24 year old student in no hurry to graduate. Ironically, I would have felt a little embarrassed to find myself at the Jobim show at the time, where it would now be the first I’d line up to see. (I keep the Keith Haring t-shirt always in a closet drawer along with one each of ’82, ’85 and ’89. I’ll bring’em out to the next upcoming salon.)