Tag Archives: translation

Translating Tensione Evolutiva by Jovanotti into English

As usual, I’m hearing Italian music on Rampower, a radio station that doesn’t tell you what the songs are or who they’re by, or on the supermarket tannoy. And as I’m so resounding ignorant* of Italian music, I have to Google to get any info.

Anyway, this is one I genuinely like (until I get sick of it it being played to death). It’s a catchy combo of gutsy ballad and rave tune that shouldn’t work, but does. Some googling tells me it’s  ‘Tensione Evolutiva’ by Jovanotti  (aka Lorenzo Costantino Cherubini), a massive star here. It’s a far more sophisticated bit of song-writing than the last bit of Italian pop I had a go at translating.

Even if I didn’t know his name before, checking up on him now, I already knew some of his tunes. My chum Michele says it was Jovanotti who introduced hip-hop to Italy, as both a DJ and performer, but he has innumerable other influences beside. This familiar track from 1995, ‘L’ombelico del mondo’, exhibits a similar set of influences to Manu Chao. While his 1988 Italo house tune ‘Welcome’, released under the name ‘Gino Latino’, apparently reached number 17 in the UK charts.

I can’t say I like much of his older stuff listening to it now on YouTube (he started out doing iffy reggae), but I like ‘Tensione Evolutiva’ more after watching the great video, which is directed by Gabriele Muccino, who’s made a few Hollywood films. Though his most recent one looks terrible.

Anyway, I also like the song more after having a stab at this translation, as it seems to actually have something interesting to say, something that can still be rare in pop songs.

Here’s the video:

And here are the original lyrics (by Jovanotti and Michele Canova Iorfida):

Abbiamo camminato sulle pietre incandescendi
Abbiamo risalito le cascate e le correnti
Abbiamo attraversato gli oceani e i continenti
Ci siamo abituati a i più grandi mutamenti
Siamo stati pesci, e poi rettili e mammiferi
Abbiamo scoperto il fuoco, inventato i frigoriferi
Abbiamo imparato a nuotare, poi a correre, e poi a stare immobili.

Eppure ho questo vuoto
Tra lo stomaco e la gola
Voragine incolmabile
Tensione evolutiva
Nessuno si disseta
Ingoiando la saliva.

Ci vuole pioggia, vento, e sangue nelle vene
Pioggia, vento, e sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene.

E una ragione per vivere
Per sollevare le palpebre
E non restare a compiangermi
E innamorarmi ogni giorno, ogni ora
Ogni giorno, ogni ora, di più
Oh-oh, di più
Oh-oh, di più.

Abbiamo confidenza con i demoni interiori
Sappiamo che al momento giusto poi saltano fuori
Ci sono delle macchine che sembrano un miracolo
Sappiamo come muoverci nel mondo dello spettacolo.

Eppure ho questo vuoto
Tra lo stomaco e la gola
Voragine incolmabile
Tensione evolutiva
Nessuno si disseta
Ingoiando la saliva.

Ci vuole pioggia, vento, e sangue nelle vene
Pioggia, vento, e sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene
E sangue nelle vene.

E una ragione per vivere
Per sollevare le palpebre
E non restare a compiangermi
E innamorarmi ogni giorno, ogni ora
Ogni giorno, ogni ora, di più
Oh-oh, di più
Oh-oh, di più
Oh-oh, di più
E innamorarmi ogni giorno, ogni ora
Ogni giorno, ogni ora di più.

Pioggia, vento, sangue nelle vene.

E innamorarmi ogni giorno ogni ora
Ogni giorno, ogni ora, di più
Ogni giorno, ogni ora
Ogni giorno, ogni ora di più.

And here’s my (not entirely literal) stab at translation:

We’ve walked on burning stones
We’ve pushed our way up cascades and currents
We’ve crossed the oceans and the continents
We’ve got used to massive changes
We were fish, and then reptiles and mammals
We discovered fire, invented fridges
We learned to swim, then run, and then stand still.

Yet still I have this emptiness
Between the stomach and the throat
Unbridgeable chasm
Evolutionary anxiety
No one can slake the thirst
By swallowing saliva.

We need rain, wind, and blood in the veins [see below]
Rain, wind, and blood in the veins
And blood in the veins
And blood in the veins
And blood in the veins.

And a  reason for living
To raise the eyelids
And not going on feeling sorry for ourselves
And fall in love every day, every hour
Every day, every our, and more
Oh-oh, more
Oh-oh, more
Oh-oh, more
And fall in love every day, every hour
Every day, every hour, and more.

We have assurance with our inner demons
We know that at the right moment they’re jump out
There are miraculous machines
We know how to hurry ourselves in the world of showbiz. [see below again]

[Then repeated bits. ]

So yes. Anyway. It seems to be saying we need more than just what modernity has to offer us – and what we’ve evolved into – to get the most out of life.

Ci vuole pioggia, vento, e sangue nelle vene = We need rain, and wind, and blood in the veins
“ci vuole” literally means “he/she/it needs”, but I think he’s saying more that we – humanity – need these things, to live fully. We’ve evolved from lizards to people with fridges and more static lives, but we – our animal or atavistic selves – need stimulation.
We need these things – and falling in love. (E innamorarmi ogni giorno, ogni ora – “And fall in love every day, every hour”.) It is a pop song after (and an Italian pop song to boot). What’s a pop song without mentioning love and/or falling in love?

Ci sono delle macchine che sembrano un miracolo = There are machines that resemble a miracle, or There are miraculous machines
Sappiamo come muoverci nel mondo dello spettacolo = We know how to rush in the world of showbiz. Or something. I’m a bit lost here. Shame really, as it’s the last lines (before the repeats), so I’m sure it’s significant.

 

* As for this ignorance of Italian music – my theory is that if you’re an Anglophone, and have grown up with the great music produced in such cities as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, New York, Detroit, Memphis, Seattle etc, you have an attitude that’s not unlike the attitude Italians have about foreigners’ knowledge and understanding of food.

Italians disdain the very idea that foreigners know anything about food, and that they could even begin to produce food worth eating. (It’s a board stereotyping generalisation, but I’ve encountered it enough to believe it.)

So similarly, if you’re an Anglophone, you don’t grow up consuming Europop. Why would you? You don’t even think it’s possible for France or Italy or wherever to produce decent pop music.

Of course there are exceptions. It’s just a working theory. But I think the Italians-food/ Anglophones-music analogy is reasonable and viable.

 

 

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Translating cheesy Italian pop songs, pt 2

So I’ve already had a few attempts at translating Italian pop songs into English. These are generally songs that I’ve found catchy, but have been largely unable to translate in my head while I’m listening. I never know what they are or who they’re by, as the station our radio is mostly tuned to doesn’t give such info.

Anyway, a song struck me lately, so I looked it up online, and lo it’s by the same band that I translated before, here. The song’s called ‘Come un pittore’ – Like a painter – and the band’s Modà, and I guess they’re quite big here. I said before, they’re perhaps the Italian Coldplay. Though they sing in Italian, so haven’t quite been exported so successfully. Oh, and this one seems to be a song “feat. Jarabedepalo”, a Spanish group. I believe that’s their singer Pau Donés in the video, below.

I’d say this song sounds like a nursery rhyme (filastrocca), but that’d be unfair to nursery rhymes. When you think about it, a babyish love song is a disturbing thing.

And having said all that, I must admit I quite like it – it’s idiotically sentimental and cheesy but has singalong value, the bottom line of any good pop song. Plus, the fact that I can just about sing along with an Italian pop song, and understand some of it, gives me a good feeling, a sense of progress on my pathetically slow journey on the road to acquiring Italian.

Here’s the official video:

(Why is he making the – very rude – sign of the cuckold at the end of the vid?! I’m really confused now. Is it only rude the other way round?)

Here are the original lyrics:

Ciao, semplicemente ciao.
Difficile trovar parole molto serie,
tenterò di disegnare…
come un pittore,
farò in modo di arrivare dritto al cuore
con la forza del colore.

Guarda… Senza parlare.

Azzurro come te,
come il cielo e il mare
E giallo come luce del sole,
Rosso come le
cose che mi fai… provare.

Ciao, semplicemente ciao.
Disegno l’erba verde come la speranza
e come frutta ancora acerba.
E adesso un po’ di blu
Come la notte
E bianco come le sue stelle
con le sfumature gialle

E l’aria… Puoi solo respirarla!

Azzurro come te,
come il cielo e il mare
E giallo come luce del sole,
Rosso come le
cose che mi fai… provare.

Per le tempeste non ho il colore
Con quel che resta, disegno un fiore
Ora che è estate, ora che è amore…

Azzurro come te,
come il cielo e il mare
E giallo come luce del sole,
Rosso come le
cose che mi fai… provare.

And here’s my stab at a translation:

Hi, just hi.*
It’s hard to find the right words,
so I’ll try to sketch it…
like a painter,
that way, I’ll try to get straight to the heart
with the strength of colour.

Look*… without words*

Blue like you,
like the sky and the sea
And yellow like sunlight
Red like the
things you do to me… Trying.*

Hi, just hi.
I paint the grass green like hope*
and like fruit that’s not ripe.
And now, a bit of blue
Like the night
And white like the stars*
with hints of yellow

And the air…. You just want to breath it!

Blue like you,
like the sky and the sea
And yellow like sunlight
Red like the
things you do to me… Trying.

For storms, I just don’t have the colours
All that remains, I paint a flowerer
Now it’s the summer, now there’s love.

Blue like you,
like the sky and the sea
And yellow like sunlight
Red like the
things you do to me… Trying.

*
“Look” in the sense of “Behold!” perhaps.
“Without words” – or maybe “Without talking”
“Trying” – provare is the verb to try, but also to demonstrate, to feel, to experience. Not really sure what it means here.
Is hope green? Maybe in Italy.
“Like the stars” – or “like her stars”?

I’m probably doing these bards a terrible disservice with my crude translation.

Oh, and if anyone things I’m being rude about Italy here, I don’t agree. I’m being rude about cheesy pop. And I’m enjoying the challenge of translating it, as part of the process of learning Italian.
English language songs can, of course, be equally cheesy. Especially if they’re by Coldplay.

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Translating cheesy Italian pop songs

Today, for some semblance of Italian self-education or compiti (homework), I’m going to try and translate the lyrics of this song they keep playing on the radio.

Thank you Ram Power 102.7FM for getting this one stuck in my head.

I can almost feel my music taste getting shifting, uncomfortably.

The inner me dismisses this one as deeply naff, like a kind of Italian Coldplay – a band that, well, no male should be listening to or enjoying, especially not if they’re beyond adolescence.

The song in question is ‘Tappeto di fragole’ by Modà. Check out the official video:

See, a girl, singing along. It’s for girls. And they leap around in their stadium like rockers, when they’re playing pop that by no stretch can be called rock. Other than by Wikipedia, which may well be down today to protest SOPA, but isn’t as comprehensively down in Italy. So the Italian page, translated by Google for me, says “The fashion are a band pop rock Italian .” [very much sic.]

And yet, my inner me isn’t entirely prevailing here. I kinda like it, as an exercise in cheesily emotive power pop pap, with lyrics I really can’t follow. All I could get initially was that he’s singing about strawberries, fragole. A carpet (tappeto) of them, in fact.

Here are the full lyrics:

Resto fermo tra le onde
mentre penso a te,
fuoco rosso luce e rondine..
tra le foglie soffia
un vento molto debole,
nel frattempo un fiore
sta per nascere..

eccoci qua,
a guardare le nuvole
su un tappeto di fragole..
come si fa,
a spiegarti se mi agito
e mi rendo ridicolo..

tu parlami e stringimi
oppure fingi di amarmi,

in una foto un po’ ingiallita
è tutto quello che ho,
e non capisco se ridevi o no..
qui trafitto sulla terra
steso me ne sto,
aspettando di volare un po’..

eccoci qua.
a guadare le nuvole
su un tappeto di fragole..
come si fa,
a spiegarti se mi agito
e mi rendo ridicolo,

tu parlami, stringimi
oppure fingi di amarmi
x2

And here is my terrible attempt to render them into English:
I remain still in the waves
While I think of you,
Firelight and swallows
Among the soft leaves
A gentle breeze
While a flower
is opening.

(Ooh boy, I could sense it was cheesy, but that is truly cheese-tastic. Even in bad English translation.)

And here we are
Watching the clouds
On a carpet on strawberries
How it is
I tell you how you make me feel.
And I make a fool of myself.

(? Hm. Dunno. Those reflexives and pronouns really mess me up. Sorry. Plus come si fa is an idiomatic expression so probably needs an English idiomatic expression, but I’m not sure which.)

You talk to me and hug me
Or you pretend to love me.

(I think. How sad. Boo hoo.)

In a yellowing photo
Is everything that I have
And I don’t understand why you were laughing o no
Who I pierce on the ground [??]
I lie down [???]
I am waiting to fly a bit.

(Sorry that lost me completely. With only basic Italian, it’s hard to a] understand the idiomatic usage and b] render that into viable, idiomatic English. Anyway, avanti!)

Oh, that’s it. Now it’s just the chorus again –

And here we are
Watching the clouds
On a carpet on strawberries
How it is
I tell you how you make me feel.
And I make a fool of myself.

– and the funny little extra chorus element, no idea what the technical term is –

You talk to me and hug me
Or you pretend to love me.
x2

Now I can sing along, in English! Maybe.

And apologies to anyone who’s offended by my jovial cynicism, good-humoured sarcasm, possible sexism, or general benign maligning of Modà.

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Filed under Learning Italian, Main thread, Rome