Music for the Weekend #008 — Oi Jair cai na real que esse Brasil aí é de todos “nóis”
I had to start with this classic greeting. I don’t know if it was like that with anyone else, but my relationship with Brazilian culture was something that grew like a feverish temperature, coming from an almost complete rejection, with the mercury in total immobility to a much closer and warmer relationship, to a degree you no longer know if the measurement is in Celsius or Fahrenheits. Since this ain’t a Tarantino film I’ll start at the beginning… when I was a little boy, the comic books that I liked to read were published by Editora Brasil-América Limitada, better known as EBAL, founded in 1945 by Adolfo Aizen, the father of comics in Brazil, while the animated films I saw at the cinema were all “dubbed” in Brazilian Portuguese.
I grew up and a couple of years after April’s revolution of 74 there was a radio program by José Nuno Martins named Os Cantores da Rádio and I, a teen that only cared about listening to new stuff, did not understand this format that transmitted exclusively MPB. I was fascinated with London, where I had first gone in 1978, then came my love for New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo would come. As for Brazil, where so many people went, it was a place that didn’t interest me at all. Until one day I went there. I started small, along the coast that had served as port of arrival for our navigators, but as it was by then I wasn’t really into beaches and that sort of thing so it didn’t work as the required prophylaxis. It was only when I got to know Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, two large metropolises, that my level of urban satisfaction was widely irradiated. But by that time I had already started to choose the differences between the healthy, the sickening and the toxic in what was musically produced on that side of the Atlantic.
As I had never been too much for Carnival my empathy for Brazilian music came eventualy from the discovery of all (pre and post) Tropicália wich had left a audible trail throughout the world. The realization that Sinatra and other crooners had been inoculated by the virus, that the disco “flirted” with “Brazilianism”, blinking it’s long eyelashes at the sound of the beat, that after all even punk had done damage on that side of the world as well. What I realized was that contagion was possible as long as you went there, it did not travel well outside its geographical confinement. Maybe it’s like that with everything else, but in this case it was an eye opening revelation.
Talking to William Ribeiro, a São Paulo chef who’s a great host and friend, I realized that there is a spark alive in these people, a new culture rooted in old world ideals sifted and polished after submission to the great shredder that spits either a Niemeyer or a Villa Lobos, who gave the world both Santos Dumont and Luis Fernando Verissimo. Eating a pastel filled with tropeiro beans at an award-winning boteco somewhere between Leme and Chapéu Mangueira, I spoke to the owner who lives to work and who would welcome Paula Toller as royalty even without knowing that she had been Kid Abelha’s lead singer. Because it is this mixture of hospitality, misfortune, almost unchristian joy and youthful idealism that makes these people a human colossus who could only have been born to sing, dance and play soccer.
This week I start with a slightly higher imposition, the 40 themes are a serpentine, sometimes Brazilian, sometimes foreign, a tu-cá-tu-lá always connected to this great Brazil. It starts with a kiss from Marcos Valle to Flamengo (oh Jesus) and ends with Caetano saying that he is the Superbacana in Copacabana. In between there’s a little bit of everything, a tribute to Carmen Miranda, the Star Wars theme in Shrove Tuesday mode and even an excerpt from Caio Stanccione’s latest production with the poem O Tempo that samples the words of its author Paulo Quintana.
I wish I had space to inject you with a little Erlon Chaves or Dom Salvador, both with rarities reissued by Mad About Records, but even so what was inevitable ended up spreading well. Listen to Lúcio Alves singing Dorival Caymmi or Cesária Évora accompanied by Sakamoto playing João Gilberto and it is clear that this is not stuff broadcast usually on the radio or a soundtrack in a telenovela.
I look back to some London nights I attended regularly and review the cast: there they were, some of this week’s “infected”, Tracy Thorn, the Japanese UFO, Chris Frank and Jez Kerr or Patrick Forge. Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, week nights in a totally different Soho but where above all there was a venerable respect for a unique way of being, in life and in the world.
A parada este fim de semana tá sussa. Let’s meet at Ipanema’s Posto 8…