Thursday, 31 May 2012

Bévinda in Taipei III

Last day with Bévinda. Our task today was to finish recording her vocals of two songs: Meu Goloso and Brother (anh/em), formerly called Ru Em (Lullaby to a little brother). Those two songs dated from 1998, at which time I only knew Bévinda as an artist. It would take a few years before she would become a friend and 14 years before the songs find their 'home'. I played them to her during my last visit in Paris, as possible songs for our Fukaeri album. She liked them and immediately penned lyrics for Meu Goloso, in French. She had met  that crazy woman and wanted to write about her. That was then. As we worked on her singing, we/I realised that they were a bit too negative (and a bit vulgar) and didn't quite match the music. I suggested she wrote new words, this time in Portuguese. She had recently met someone and felt like dedicating the song for him.  
"It can be a duet! You have to sing too and write verses in English!" she exclaimed.
I pointed out that the song was a love song from her to her boyfriend. I had no part in that, except musical.
"But that is called interpretation!!! When you sing someone else's song!" she replied
"Except I'm the one writing the song and the lyrics...So where's the interpretation? I have to step into your world and talk about it with your eyes... And I HATE writing about love!!! I never write love songs!!!" I cried out in mock disdain.
"Not necessarily... You can tell it from YOUR point of view."
"That's true."
And I did. The result is a very light-hearted song (the first in a long time, as far as I'm concerned), with a very tribal part in the middle. Our voices blend well together. The style could be call 'urban-world'...
Brother (anh/em) was written as a vocalise. No word. I had written that song for my first album, but it was left to take the dust until now. It was inspired by Bévinda, whose music I had recently discovered and liked. I had never thought she would come to sing it eventually. Another source of inspiration for the song was my mother who told me about how, as a young child, she would hear at night from her room women rowing boats and singing, their voice echoing in the distance. And lastly the song was written out of joy of having met Allex. I was more or less trying to recover from a painful break up with Emmanuel after an ultimate attempt to mend our relationship with a trip to Beijing, which turned into a fiasco.
I was on my way to Karen's for dinner. It was August. A sunny Sunday. The whole city was deserted, as usually during that time of the year. I had passed a poster advertising a concert. "I wish to meet someone with a  sunny smile as this singer" I had thought to myself. 
As I climbed down the stairs to the subway platform, I passed a young man in a tight dark green t-shirt. He raised his head and smiled at me. That sunny smile I had wish to see! Another look at him and I was conquered. Green eyes, broad and engaging smile, and a body to drool about. A girl was sitting next to him.
"Must be his girlfriend..." I thought, then walk further. 
But I glanced back and saw that he was still staring at me. The train arrived. I didn't know what to do.  He stood up and started walking toward me. I felt excitement rising in me.
"But his girlfriend?" I realise there was no girlfriend in the picture.
The train arrived too fast so we stepped from two different doors. But I signalled him to come to me. He did and sat next to me. the first exchanged were the silliest.
But... I realise I have already told that story!
To go back to the song, the combined image of Allex's, the voice of Bévinda's and my mother's memory shaped up the song. It was originally meant for guitar, contrabass and percussion (tablas and bongos). Since I had not guitar player, I decided to do the arrangement for cello playing pizzicati.
The melodic line was an indulgence. I wanted something which would be written in a very classical manner, yet with a Latin flavour.
"It sounds a bit Slavic", Jay said, when he heard the song.
"That's true! I tend to do it unawaringly."

Recording the vocals was a challenge. Bévinda is used to practise and rehearse for a long period of time before singing a song in concert, even more when she has to record it.  
Working with me, without not much means, she had to approach it differently and use her ability to bounce on any element I would give her. It was painful for her. I nearly lost my nerves at some point. 
"But I feel you're judging me!!!!" she cried out. "I feel completely paralysed, unable to sing anything".
I kept my steely focus. "Don't bring emotional drama into the picture". You are professional, you have 20 years of career. You can do it. Concentrate on what I tell you."
She managed it, albeit after multiple takes and felt down the weather.  
"I will have to re-record the vocals when you come to Paris" she said, in a way to reassure herself.
"I think I have what I need" I answered. "It's like making a film. One has to keep in mind the good takes. It's difficult to see when you're in the heat of it."

Listen to:

In the evening, Jay and Duncan came for dinner. Bévinda had prepared 3 delicious salads for the occasion. A merry time it was. Chubby was in his room, apparently too indisposed to eat or drink anything.
After everybody left, I realised I had no picture of Bévinda in Taipei.
"Let's do some pictures!" I told her.
It was nearly midnight, we were exhausted from the day but still managed to catch a few shots. Not serious ones...

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