During Olympics, Song Sparks Longing And Joy For Brazilian Singer In Kansas City

Aug 14, 2016

Brazilian singer Bruno Bessa has lived in the Kansas City area for 15 years and loves it, but he also misses home.
Credit Courtesy of Bruno Bessa

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard in which local musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing.

The Song: "Sabiá"

The Songwriters: Chico Buarque and Antônio Carlos Jobim

Interpreted by: Vocalist Bruno Bessa and guitarist Beau Bledsoe with Ensemble Ibérica

The Story: Bruno Bessa became familiar with this Brazilian classic as a young child, but only as an adult did he start to understand the politics behind a seemingly simple story of unrequited love and longing.

On the surface, the lyrics (here they are in English) are about a person who longs to go back to a lover, but the love isn't there anymore. Beneath, the song is an allegory for unrequited love of country by the legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque, who would soon go into exile during the military dictatorship.

"He had many songs censored," explains Bessa, "But he was able to play with the words and have his intention."

The song reminds Bruno Bessa intensely of his home country of Brazil and a melancholy style of music often heard in Fortaleza, his city in the country's Northeast.  The current political unrest in Brazil reminds him of the era in which the song was written, although Bessa says the situations are quite different. And these days, he can't help but be excited about the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"I think deep inside, Brazilians are very, very proud, despite the turmoil," Bessa says. "In the end, we get together. We always have a good time; we have tons of love to share."

For Bessa, the song "Sabiá," despite its sorrow and pessimism, reminds him of what he loves about Brazil. 

"It's a little melancholic," Bessa says, "but I think there's beauty in that -- the mix between joy and sadness."

Vocalist Bruno Bessa will perform the song Sabiá with Ensemble Ibérica on Monday, August 15, and Tuesday, August 16, at 7:30 p.m. at Crown Center's Musical Theater Heritage.

Sylvia Maria Gross is a reporter and editor at KCUR, and senior producer of the show Central Standard. You can reach her at sylvia@kcur.org and @pubradiosly.