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The theme can be heard here at youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T6tWC-SnC2U

The music and "lere-lere" in the beginning come from Retirantes song, but the words starting from 0:08 ARE NOT. What language is this? It's not Portugal. Someone transcribed the passage like this

Ungazun garunge ungazun garunge, 
ungazun garunge ungazun garunge. 
Zambele garunge ungazun garunge, 
zambele garunge ungazun garunge

It's obviously very rough and not correct/misheard. The soap opera in question is about sugar cane plantation and black slaves in Brazil, so it's possible that the words have something to do with that.

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"Propessor"? What language is that? –  Mechanical snail Jan 10 '13 at 1:02
It's intentionally mispronounced Russian for childhood bullying purposes. –  nponeccop Jan 10 '13 at 1:24
Sounds more like [zampele]. –  Mechanical snail Jan 10 '13 at 2:34
I have raised a question on Meta about whether this is on-topic: meta.linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/465/… –  bytebuster Jan 10 '13 at 8:53

1 Answer 1

The song appears in 2 versions, one in Portuguese, and the other in the unknown language. The Portuguese lyrics are (omitting repeated lines):

Lerê, lerê, lerê, lerê, lerê

Vida de negro é difícil, é difícil como o quê Eu quero morrer de noite, na tocaia me matar Eu quero morrer de açoite se tu, negra, me deixar

Vida de negro é difícil, é difícil como o quê Meu amor, eu vou-me embora, nessa terra vou morrer Um dia não vou mais ver, nunca mais eu vou te ver

It's a reasonable assumption that the unknown-language lyrics are a translation.

This guy claims it's Yoruba:

Lere Lere, Lere-Lere-Lere
Lere Lere, Lere-Lere-Lere
Unga zunga unguê
Unga zunga unguê (bis)

Tanguelê za unguê
Unga zunga unguê
Tanguelê za unguê
Unga zunga unguê

Nagô nation, of people? from Benin to southwest of Nigeria, who spoke Yoruba. Brazilian traficants trade offering tobacco, powder, rifles in change of … people … prisioners of african tribal wars.

In one old Yoruba dictionary, I do find some near-matches:

  • tangala - a bird
  • tankalẹ: to spread about, communicate, publish
  • lera (v., adj.) (be) strong, healthy

Another guy gives a purported translation, without identifying the language:

Lere Lere, Lere-Lere-Lere        (Режем, режем, резь-резь-резь),
Lere Lere, Lere-Lere-Lere        (Режем, режем, резь-резь-резь),
Unga zunga ungue                 (Высокий сладкий тростник)
Unga zunga unga e                (Ой, высокий сладкий тростник)
Tanguele za ungue                     (Гля, какой высокий)
Unga zunga                           (Высокий и сладкий)
          Zunga e                                  (Ой, сладкий!)

The Russian text is a song about cutting reeds. It seems to have nothing to do with the Yoruba words or the Portuguese lyrics.

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I know these versions. The Portuguese lyrics is from "Retirantes" song I mentioned. If you listen to it you will find that theme is not "Retirantes" or its translation. Parts of "Retirantes" were cut and pasted and mixed with "ungazunga" song. "Lere Lere" is from "Retirantes" back vocals and "ungazunga" is different thing so texts mentioning them together don't look trustworthy to me. Moreover "Tanguelê za unguê" is just short of syllables, it misses the second "ungazun garunge" part. I can try to rule out few languages spoken in Nigeria - Yoruba, Igala, Igbo and Hausa should need arise. –  nponeccop Jan 10 '13 at 9:02

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