Isabel Silvestre "A gente não lê"
Isabel Silvestre "A gente não lê" (The people can't read)
Released in 1998 in a folk fusion style, this cover version brings extra force and meaning to a wonderful song - which was originally recorded 16 years earlier in a rock/blues guitar style.
What it's about: The title "A gente não lê" uses an ambiguous construction in Portuguese. It can mean "The people don't read", "We don't read" or even "I can't read". The song is about rural illiteracy, but also the loneliness of old people in the rapidly depopulating villages of Portugal. It is the older generation now who can't read, and the young people who are leaving.
Both the music composer Rui Velosi and the singer Isabel Silvestre were brought up in the sort of place the song deals with - in the mountains between Coimbra and Porto in North-Central Portugal. The writer of the words, poet and lyricist Carlos Tê, comes from Porto itself.
Here's the Portuguese text if you want to follow along. Both singers are clear, but Rui Velosi in the version further down the page drops fewer syllables (the famous Portuguese "vowel reduction") than Isabel.
Ai Senhor das Furnas
Que escuro vai dentro de nós,
Rezar o terço ao fim da tarde,
Só pr'a espantar a solidão,
E rogar a Deus que nos guarde,
Confiar-lhe o destino na mão.
Oh Lord of the Caves,
How dark it is inside us,
Praying with the rosary at the end of the day,
Just to chase away the loneliness,