Jorge Ben – Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal might not be considered a traditional love song, but it is still about love. The lyrics are very simple, an explanation rather than a narrative. To paraphrase: I’ll now tell this pretty story of love I was told, the love of the prince Shah-Jahan toward the princess Mumtaz Mahal. But where is the story, if this is more or less what’s said?

Instead, it’s all told by means of music. The simple lyrics contribute to a sense of lightness and humor. The version posted here is the second recording Jorge Ben did, and compared to the first one this is faster, with more complex rhythms that make you want to dance, much like the whole album, África Brasil, which successfully combined samba with rhythms from African music and funk.

The song itself is hard to explain because it’s an experience of rhythm and a couple of melodic hooks that repeat several times, much like thoughts of the loved one may enter your consciousness repeatedly, no matter what you are concentrating on: Tê Tê Tê, Têtêretê! It’s simple, uplifting, and it sounds like love, the joy of just thinking that such feelings exist and we are capable of feeling them, even if there’s nothing like that currently happening. It’s the thought that love can break us apart and rebuild into better versions of ourselves, even if the flip side is that when unrequited it can also break us without any glue of affection to make us stronger.

As lovely as ballads may be when trying to capture that feeling of tenderness, maybe this music captures better the excitement, the jubilation when discovering how wonderful the world can be. It could be all projection, even when mutual, but it is about the realization that you don’t have to see the world like you normally do, with relative indifference. It’s like suddenly discovering new sounds and colours never heard or seen before. It makes you want to dance and sing even if you can do no such things in a controlled manner, to jump around the flat, climb the trees and feel the wind as if you are a part of the forest, a part of everything, one with the world.

Loving just one person feels like loving the whole world more. Even if the lovers concentrate on each other, it feels greater than focusing on one body, simple sensations. The whole world is contained in this one touch, one moment. Everything disappears, yet everything is present. There are no words that could express the complexity of these feelings, the elation when nothing bad could happen, though vaguely you might be aware of such things happening. Trying to explain love, it seems that you end up in an endless cycle of reiterating everything, infinite variations that never capture the true feeling. Yet it’s all here: Têtêretê. What more could we say? I love you, maybe it’s all that’s said, but much more is present, the darkness and the light both part of the same joyous delirium, the delusion that may be the only reality that matters.