Yoghurt medley

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An amateur Brazilian competitor for Adriano Celentano:

Another video here:

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34 Comments »

  1. James said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    Utterly enchanting.
    The second one is Portuguese, I guess — is it double-talk too?

    [(myl) A commenter on YouTube identifies it as Raul Seixas - Metamorfose Ambulante. Whether this performance is real Portuguese or not is a question beyond my knowledge of the language. I'm not even clear what "vendedor de ballas" means. "Bullet seller"? Surely not.

  2. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 8:27 am

    Puts me in mind of Seu Jorge's wonderful Lusophone covers of David Bowie songs for the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (e.g., "Life on Mars," "Queen Bitch," "Changes").

  3. Marcus said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    While "vendedor de balas" could mean bullet seller, it's more likely to mean "candy seller". (both bullet and candy are "bala" in Portuguese).

  4. James said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 8:53 am

    @myl: I believe 'balas' are bullets in Portugal, but candy in Brazil.

  5. stormboy said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 9:15 am

    @James: I believe 'balas' are bullets in Portugal, but candy in Brazil.

    In Brazil, amongst other things they're bullets, candy/sweets and also pills (e.g. ecstasy pills).

    To me these clips sound typical of Brazilians with no knowledge of English attempting to sing in English.

    [(myl) Yes, exactly.]

  6. Amy Stoller said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    I think Stormboy is right – it isn't double-talk, it's utter lack of knowledge. I wish I could be dispassionate enough to find these merely interesting, but I can't. I think they're awful.

    The first singer's "She Came to Rock" is either a rip off of "Jailhouse Rock" or the most thoroughly misunderstood rendering ever. His mangled lyrics of "Help" and "Come Together" are painful to the ear.

    The second video misidentifies Blue Suede shoes as Elvis Presley's – it is, of course, by Carl Perkins, who also had the original hit. And like the first singer, this one destroys the song completely.

    [(myl) I guess that "lack of knowledge" (whether partial or complete) is the whole point -- given the worldwide dominance of anglophone popular music, there are lots of people around the world who like to sing songs that they (partially or completely) don't understand. In French this is called yaourter ("yoghurting"), and even people with a decent knowledge of English may do a certain amount of it, since song lyrics are hard to hear at best, and often obscure in any case.

    We don't really have a corresponding English word, in part because singing songs in other people's languages is not such a common pastime. The closest thing is probably the double-talk imitation of the general sound of a language that the Muppet's Swedish Chef does.

    At the level of cultural replication involved in these videos, I'd respectfully suggest that it doesn't matter much who wrote and first recorded Blue Suede Shoes, since the singer is surely imitating Elvis.

    It's interesting that you find this sort of thing "painful to the ear" -- most people seem to agree with James in finding it charming, especially when the performer has some talent. Do you feel the same way about Adriano Celentano? Or is it just the fact that a real song is being yoghurted that bothers you? ]

  7. Cara said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 10:01 am

    He can't be Celentano – he's actually saying some english words! Celentano had all the intonation and NONE of the sense – this guy has sense here and there ;)

  8. Leonardo Boiko said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 10:28 am

    “Balas” can mean both bullets or candies in Brazil (specifically, small sweets like these: http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:Bonbons2.jpg ). I hear in European Portuguese they would be caled “rebuçados” or “bonbons”—the second word exists in Brazil but is used exclusively for chocolate. In some regions people still employ the older term “confeito”, which has passed to Japanese as konpētō (you might have seen these konpeitō in pop media; this Portuguese treat is also used in the tea ceremony).

    “Candy seller”, as an expression, can be used pejoratively as a mark of low class; the typical candy seller will try to earn his money by performing for cars during a red light. In this case, however, they are being supportive – the video links to an Orkut fan-community, and its blurb lament how famous pop “musicians” are less talented than this simple, unknown candy seller. The overall tone of the youtube comments is the same.

    His Raul is perfectly good Brazilian Portuguese.

  9. annieone said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 10:48 am

    This is very common in Brazil and probably in other places too. Here in Brazil, we call it "embromation", from "embromar" which means to fool someone, in the case, to fool someone into thinnking you know English. The suffix "tion", of course, is fake English.
    The second song is Raul Seixas, indeed, in good normal Portuguese;

  10. David said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    Some wonderful yoghurting by South African township 'musos' (as SA English speakers call musicians) was featured on an album titled "Flying Rock: South African Rock 'n' Roll 1950-1962". Wish I could find links to Benoni Rocket's version of "Hound Dog" and The Bogard Brothers' "She Keep On Knocking". Some very uplifting stuff. The wife & I played our cassette tape copy of the album to death, singing along and mimicking the broken/fake English.

  11. Morten Jonsson said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    I find it charming too. This kind of playful nonsense is very much in the spirit of early rock and roll. I'd much rather hear this than someone reverently copying the originals to the letter.

    An American version of embrocation or yoghurting might be the numerous recordings of the Cajun standard "Jole Blon," by singers who didn't understand a word of French, Cajun or otherwise, and just sang what it sounded like to them.

    Geoff Nunberg: A nice point. Here's an effervescently incomprehensible rendering of the song done in 1958 by Waylon Nelson, Buddy Holly and King Curtis:

  12. James said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    Ah, thank you Annieone. I was just guessing it was also Portuguese double-talk.

  13. Marion Crane said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    And there's also the Bulgarian Idol version of Mariah Carey's 'Without you', but that's definitely a less talented singer than the ones you posted (I really like the first guy's enthusiasm). Also, since it's a ballad, the correct lyrics seem to matter more than with rock & roll, but that may be just my personal opinion.

  14. Sili said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

    Can't help but think the first one needs more sequins and flares.

  15. Amy Stoller said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    Mark, as a child from a family filled with professional musicians and songwriters, it cannot but matter to me when a singer is credited with writing a song they didn't write. Real people labored over crafting those songs, and they should be properly credited.

    And yes, the pain is because the songs are real songs that are being butchered. I cannot not know the originals, and the pain (perhaps "massive irritation" would be a better way to put it) is on the order of what anyone with good pitch endures on hearing music sung or played out of tune. (And I must say the musicianship of these guys leaves rather a lot to be desired as well.)

    Celentano, on the other hand, is an artist, and I think "Prisencolinensinainciusol" is brilliant. I'm a huge fan of anyone who can do genuine double-talk – Sid Caesar springs to mind, but there are others. And I'm very fond of the Muppet's Swedish chef.

    Inept amateurism holds no charms for me. Chacun à son goût.

  16. Amy Stoller said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    @Morten Jonsson: "This kind of playful nonsense is very much in the spirit of early rock and roll. I'd much rather hear this than someone reverently copying the originals to the letter."

    I must disagree. There is a middle-ground between butchering a song and reverently copying the original; one that involves reinterpreting something in an original but genuinely artistic manner. Maria Muldaur's cover of "I'm Woman" is a case in point. (Pat Boone's covers of anything, on the other hand … )

    The spirit of early rock and roll involved rather more genuine craft and artistry than you give its creators credit for.

  17. Amy Stoller said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

    I left out a bit: "one that involves [creating something original yet true to its roots, or that advances the art], or one that involves (etc.)"

  18. mgh said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    this is how folk music gets made. I love it.

    re: American yogurting, ask any crowd to sing Louie Louie and you'll get it

  19. Rembrandt Q. Einstein said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    "Inept amateurism holds no charms for me."

    Ugh.

    "this is how folk music gets made. I love it."

    Seconded. Even if you don't find it aesthetically worthwhile, it's both interesting and amusing.

  20. D Sky Onosson said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

    I play music with a guy who can do a pretty convincing faux cajun french over a zydeco beat.

  21. Terry Collmann said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

    I recall reading that when Paul Simon recorded the Gracelands album, on the tunes he "borrowed" from South African originals he "yogurted" English words over the original choruses, singing English that sounded a bit like the original words: you can hear it going on in the choruses of I Know What I Know here, where the Gaza Sisters, the women singing the backing vocals, are singing the original Tsonga (I believe) words from Nkata Mina, the tune I Know What I Know is based upon, and Paul Simon is singing vaguely similar-sounding English.

  22. Bryan said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    Yes, Amy Stoller, the American culture machine should have the right, nay the responsibility, to jam songs and movies down the rest of the world's throat, and bloody hell, they had better just take it all, as-is. People who don't speak English having playful fun at the expense of our number one export is just so darned disrespectful.

  23. Ray Girvan said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 10:01 am

    mgh: this is how folk music gets made

    Just so. There's a nice example – I think Albert Lancaster Lloyd's Folk Song in England, though I can't find my copy at this instant – of an obscure collected song with the refrain along the lines of "And we are O, we are O, when to heaven in a cloud" that tracked to a hymn "And He arose, He arose …".

  24. Chris said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    @myl, "We don't really have a corresponding English word, in part because singing songs in other people's languages is not such a common pastime. The closest thing is probably the double-talk imitation of the general sound of a language that the Muppet's Swedish Chef does."

    This was a bit before my time, but Sid Caesar was the master of the Swedish Chef double talk back on Your Show of Shows. One example here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0iMF6DWpo8 . (on a tech note, I haven't been able to get htmnl embedded links to work on LL for a week, but I see that others have. Strange).

    Somewhere in the 80s America lost it's taste for this. The result of PC culture? Perhaps it was seen as offensive, I dunno. I don't feel the slightest bit of offense at non-English speakers yoghurting English.

  25. Kenneth said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 11:40 am

    Sweden actually has a minor celebrity called Eilert Pilarm, an apparently sincere Elvis impersonator who gained a camp following after television appearances a few years ago. Some may find Eilert's singing a bit too intelligible to be called pure yoghurt, but there's a lot of active culture there:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiDC9t-RF1k

  26. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    The little yogurt I can think of in English is imitation Latin, like hocus-pocus. Is the English word for this mumpsimus?

    But I'm sure there are examples in English-language folk songs of phrases yogurted from other languages. I just can't think of any.

    @Kenneth: You milked that one effectively.

    @annieone: Do you pronounce embromation as if it were a Portuguese word with that spelling, or with the English pronunciation of -ation, or what?

  27. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: Maybe dog Latin?

  28. Tom Saylor said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    To Amy Stoller, who said:

    “as a child from a family filled with professional musicians and songwriters, it cannot but matter to me when a singer is credited with writing a song they didn't write. Real people labored over crafting those songs, and they should be properly credited.”

    Would you by chance be the daughter of the great Mike Stoller, who, along with Jerry Leiber, wrote “Jailhouse Rock”? That might explain your sensitivity here. I don’t think, though, that the singer in the clip is claiming credit for (or in any way disrespecting) your father’s work.

    It’s interesting that later in the clip, the singer does a yoghurt version of “Come Together,” which John Lennon wrote as a sort of yoghurt version of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” transforming “Here come a flat-top, he was movin' up with me" into “Here come ole flat-top, he come groovin’ up slowly” and then plunging off the deep end from there. Lennon viewed the parody as a tribute to one of his great musical heroes. Berry was offended and sued Lennon for plagiarism.

  29. Leonardo Boiko said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

    @Jerry: Pronounced with Portuguese embroma- and English -ation. Roughly [ˌem.bɾo.'meɪ.ʃən].

    This joke comes from the fact that Portuguese shares a lot of cognates with English that simply change -ation for -ação or something close (indignação → indignation,separação → separation, recreação → recreation, observação → observation and so on). From that it’s easy to generalize and assume every -ação–word must have a corresponding English -ation–word, which is not true (viação → *viation, torrefação → *torrefation, defumação → *defumation, anunciação → *anunciation &c.). So “embromação” (which perhaps could be described as “the act of bullshitting”, as in pretending to know something you don’t) becomes embromation.

    Heavy metal parody band Massacration took this idea even further by just adding -ation to any word to make embromation -English – even in the band’s title, and even though “Massacre” as-is would already be a perfectly fine English word! This is all done quite consciously for humor. Massacration lyrics would make fine linguistic material, methinks. Metal Milkshake, for example, is basically a compendium of English words any Brazilian would know, making it a very easy nonsense song you sing just for the sake of sounding English.

  30. John Cowan said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    "Kumbaya" is a nice example of English-based yogurting in English. The original lyrics were "Come by here", but after the song made it to West Africa and back, it was unintelligible to most Americans.

  31. J. Goard said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    @Amy:

    the pain is because the songs are real songs that are being butchered. I cannot not know the originals, and the pain (perhaps "massive irritation" would be a better way to put it) is on the order of what anyone with good pitch endures on hearing music sung or played out of tune.

    As a fan who especially loves and respects songwriters, I couldn't agree more with the last part. I would add only that "popular music" genres are littered with famous songs whose lyrics are so thoroughly inept that I cringe at the originals. Fellow music snobs generally bristle at this claim, but my subjective experience really does accord with your analogy: bad, lazy, first-draft diner-napkin lyrics are just like off-key singing. When I am able to improve something famous with only a few minutes of thought, it drives me crazy. I often wonder why, although cover versions play fast and loose with instrumentation, tempo, and even basic riffs, it's very rare to improve bad lyrics to better complement a melody.

  32. MoSF said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

    @Leonardo: Thanks for introducing me to Massacration, I haven't laughed like that in a very long time, best band since Spin̈al Tap. :)

    @Amy: This is a poor person's cover of American hits, and it's probably a side job so he can try to make a living. To read your words "butchering" and "pitch perfect" after watching the video would be funny if it wasn't so sad. His untrained voice is good enough for an unsophisticated, local audience, while his "not-so-poor" friends are trying to make an youtube sensation out of him, like an even poorer fellow before him. I'm not even going to say that with luck he'll be discovered and be famous: Brazil is not England and he's no Susan Boyle. C'est la vie…

    The video says the song is "by Presley," but I'm sure they meant "performed by", just like when we say "that Sinatra song"– this is an amateur fan video. Nevertheless, had they tried "googling" it, their first hit would have been "Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley".

    And now, "excuse me, while I kiss this guy:" @Bryan, thank you :)

  33. Amy Stoller said,

    July 26, 2010 @ 8:09 am

    @Tom: Yes.

    @J. Goard: Thank heaven, someone understands what I mean! And I agree with you about lyrics.

    @Bryan: I was describing my personal response to a recording. I don't recall jamming that, or anything else, down anyone's throat; I don't require anyone here to agree with me. Still less am I an apologist for American cultural imperialism. I merely expressed my opinion about a couple of videos. I am entitled to find ineptitude irritating, just as you are entitled to find it charming.

    @MosF: There are any number of street musicians all over the world with talent, who manage to perform songs well. I have nothing personal against the guys in the videos under discussion – everyone has to eat – but they don't perform those songs well. They perform them very, very badly.

    I disagree with you about that "performed by." You and I know that the songs were "performed by" and not "written by." But most people don't. On its own, "by" means "written by." And so creators are deprived of credit for their work. One of the things I loved about listening to English radio was that the deejays always gave the writers credit, as well as the performers. American deejays don't. It bugs the hell out of me.

    Thanks for the Mondegreen. I always used to wonder who Leslie was in "Groovin'."

  34. Janice Huth Byer said,

    July 27, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    Shockingly, in elementary school, our music teacher not only stood by and did nothing to stop us from yoghurting "Freres Jacques", she said we did rather well. She sounded as if she felt she had to be nice, suggesting our butchery really scared her.

    Having tasted blood, I was soon yoghurting at home. I'd turn up the family stereo when no one was around or hide in my bedroom with my accomplice, a portable transistor radio, and loudly torture not just foreign songs like Inagaddadavida and Da Doo Ron Ron but more than a few indecipherable English lyrics.

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