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Breathe Me Open

All Here!

Calling My Wisdom Home

A Talk While Dancing

 

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A Talk While Dancing

A collection of my translations of songs by Evert Taube
Available on CD and cassette

Due to copyright restrictions, I am unable to post lyrics or sound bytes. Complete lyrics to my translations are available in the CD booklet only.

 

Background:

Evert Taube (1890 - 1976) is arguably Sweden's most beloved troubadour. He wrote approximately 200 songs, ranging from sailor songs to ballads to unparalleled depictions of Sweden to lyrical love poetry.

I have studied, performed and translated Evert Taube's songs for over 25 years. I first learned to know and love Taube's songs when I was an exchange student in Sweden. I was 16 years old, young and romantic, and Taube's cheerful, romantic songs, with their dance melodies, flirtations, and beautiful depictions of Swedish life and the Swedish countryside spoke to me. I still find myself connecting to that young, romantic girl inside of me when I sing them. I am delighted to present my translations and interpretations of several of my favorite Taube songs in this collection.

 

About Evert Taube's Songs:

The vast majority of Evert Taube's songs are ballads, or songs that tell stories. While not directly autobiographical, many of them are informed by Taube's own experiences as a sailor, an Argentinean "gaucho," (cowboy), a European and also quintessentially Swedish artist, poet, musician and troubadour, a flirt and a family man. Taube traveled extensively, and spent a good deal of time away from Sweden, and the whole world was his palette. More than any other Swedish troubadour, Taube brought the world to Sweden. Still, it is for his unparalleled and idyllic depictions of everyday Swedish life and the Swedish countryside that Evert Taube is most dearly loved.

There are two central characters in Taube's songs, characters who have the same types of life experiences that Taube had. Very generally speaking, they can be seen as Taube's alter-egos. The earlier character, Fritiof Andersson, is a sailor, cowboy, musician and artist, a ladies' man who loves a dance and flirtation. The later character, Rönnerdahl, who first appears in the 1940's, is a more mature character who still relishes a dance and a flirtation, but who also enjoys the pleasures of home and family life. You'll encounter both in the songs in this collection.

 

About the Songs on This Recording:

"Samborombom" is a conversation between the cocky Fritiof Andersson and a young woman named Carmencita, carried out mostly as they dance a tango. In this playful and light-hearted flirtation, Carmencita rebuffs Fritiof's request for her hand in marriage, contrasting Fritiof's musicality with the riches of another suitor who is soon to appear at her door, and opting in favor of the wealthy man.

"Pepita Dances a Tamborito in Panama" (Pepita dansar) is the story of an indigenous South American woman who has had an affair with a white man, and therefore been forced to leave her village. She ends up in a brothel in Panama, where she sings and dances her native "tamborito." This song is unusual in Taube's production and of particular interest to me because it is written from a woman's point of view: It is Pepita's song to Fernando, the lover who has betrayed her.

"The Serenade in San Remo" (Serenaden i San Remo) is one of Taube's earliest lyrical love songs, written in 1927. Taube had met Astri Bergman, daughter of the sculptor to the crown of Sweden, when they were both part of an colony of Scandinavian artists living in France in the mid-20's. They fell in love and became engaged. When Astri's father learned of the engagement, he ordered her to break it off and return home at once. Astri did as she was told, but remained a part of Evert Taube. He expressed that sense of belonging and the power of music to hold them together in this song: "Still, you are here, in my dream, in my song," (dock, du är här, i min dröm, i min sång). Eventually, Astri's father relented, and she and Evert were married.

"The Joyful Baker in San Remo" (Den glade bagar'n) is a comical song about a baker who sings while he works. Singing and kneading the bread dough build up his upper body, and ladies come to the bakery to watch him work, listen to him sing, and buy his bread. His lovely wife stands at the counter, selling the bread. When the baker sneaks out to visit with the ladies who have flocked to the bakery, his wife has her own way of cooling things down again.

"Fritiof in Arcadia" (Fritiof i Arkadien) is a playful and light-hearted song in which Fritiof Andersson is enjoying a picnic in the warmth of the Italian sun. He is naked, save a garland round his hips. Three young naked women approach him and invite him to dance. They run off laughing gaily when the garland falls from his hips. Later he meets them in town, and walks and talks with one of them, who turns out to be an American from San Francisco.

"Heav'n Blessed Soil" (Himlajord) tells of a Swedish emigrant to Australia, who has settled on a very fertile piece of property where he raises citrus fruit and animals. There is a discussion between this romantic farmer, who believes that the fertile soil of his property has sprinkled down with blessings from heaven, and his more pragmatic guest, who offers the scientific explanation that the soil is actually loess, or desert soil, borne on breezes to an area where there is sufficient precipitation to make it extremely fertile. The farmer's romanticism continues unabated until his fertile soil embraces his dead body, and the limits of his wealth and extent of his debt are revealed. Still, the pragmatic visitor has gained an appreciation for the strength that the farmer's romantic faith brought him.

"The Joyful Nudist" or "A Happy Little Polka" (Den lycklige nudisten) is a polka, an old man's romp in the buff. It playfully pokes fun at stuffy society dances while singing the praises of "a polka in the nude" (en polka naturell).

"Rose at the Ball" (Rosa på bal) is a favorite of Swedes, who generally love a sing-along. This song consists entirely of a flirtatious conversation between Rose and Fritiof Andersson, and so it makes a wonderful sing-along, with the men singing Fritiof Andersson's part, and the women singing Rose's.

In "The Boarding-House Dance" (Dansen på Sunnanö), you'll encounter Taube's 2nd alter-ego, Rönnerdahl, as he dances with young Eva Liljebeck. They flirt as they dance, but when things begin to get too heated up, Rönnerdahl calls for his fiddle, and he plays the night away, while Eva dances with someone else. (A typical feature of Taube's songs is that the flirtation leads to artistic inspiration rather than to romance). This song is ultimately about the transcendent power of art; Taube depicts Rönnerdahl as he plays the fiddle: "But Rönnerdahl plays like a god, transcendent, starry-eyed" (Men Rönnerdahl är blek och skön, och spelar som en gud).

"Sjösala Waltz" (Sjösalavals) shows Rönnerdahl waltzing outdoors one spring morning as the meadow is in bloom. Now an older but still joyful and vital man, he greets the spring, the squirrels, the cuckoo, and then waltzes back into the house, waking his wife and children, who share his joy and delight at the coming of spring. "Sjösala Waltz" is an idyllic portrayal of country life and the pleasures of nature and family.

"Calle Schewens Waltz" (Calle Schewens vals) was, at the time of Evert Taube's death in 1976, the most played song ever on Swedish radio. There were many reasons for this, but the most compelling is that this song resonated deeply with the Swedes in several ways: It is an absolutely exquisite depiction of a Swedish summer night; it contains elements from folk tradition; and it musically embodies the shift from dusk to night to dawn in a way that is unique in Taube's production. The action and the character of Calle Schewen are also quintessentially Swedish. The story takes place on an island in the archipelago off of Sweden's east coast, where summer nights are only about 3 hours long. In the song, Calle Schewen describes the approach of dusk as he sits, peacefully drinking a cup of laced coffee. He hears the strains of dance music, and is compelled to dance. Although a grandfather, he is filled with the vim and vigor of the island, and he dances through the night with a young woman, the "rose of the isle" (roslagens ros). As darkness falls, the song shifts into a minor key and Calle likens his dance partner to an elf and himself to a troll. When dawn approaches, the song shifts back into a major key, and ends with Calle's joyful proclamation: "Here dances Calle Schewen with the rose of the isle! He dances on into the day!" (Här dansar Calles Schewen med roslagens ros. Han dansar när solen går opp!)

"Sleep in My Arms" (Sov på min arm) is Taube's most exquisite lyrical love poem. This erotic lullaby has been a favorite of mine for 25 years, and I frequently close my concerts with it. This recording contains both my translation and Taube's original Swedish.