Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Musica Brasileira

When I told the Cariocas I was going to São Paulo, they said, “why the fuck are you going to that hell hole?”

When I told the Paulistas that I was going to Rio de Janeiro, they said, “That boring place is full of lazy asses”.

All this foul bad-mouthing comforts me. Cities filled with people who are fanatic about their own cities are cities that I want to be in.

In any event there was a stronger calling to begin with, which helped me stubbornly defy various obstacles that almost thwarted me from coming to Brazil. I had grown up listening to Tom Jobim and João Gilberto. I’d already memorized the Portuguese lyrics to “The Girl from Ipanema” even before I knew its meaning. Nearing my departure I’d become obsessed with Vinicius de Moraes, Elis Regina, and Chico Buarque.

Leaving the US with a sad pain in my chest, I played João Gilberto’s “Adeus America” to a repeat:

Adeus America,

essa terra e muito boa,

mas não posso ficar porque,

o samba mandou me chamar

Chega de lights, good nights, e de fights, e alrights,

o samba mandou me chamar.

(Goodbye America,

that land is wonderful,

but I cannot stay because,

the samba is calling me

enough of lights, good nights, and the fights, and alrights,

the samba is calling me.)

And because I’m a generally lucky girl, my host in São Paulo is a wonderful friend who understood my musical tastes inside and out. And would patiently tolerate my enthusiastic rants, as well as my singing in phonetically ambitious but otherwise grammatically doubtful Portuguese.

Solid proof of this solid understanding was when he took me to O Do Borogodó. The name doesn’t mean anything, I’ve been told, and besides, the name was nowhere to be found. This was a 10 sqm hole in the wall in the middle of a dark nowhere with no sign board, a cement floor, bare whitewashed walls and a tiny red bar. The band was a modest assembly of a guitar, flute and tambourine. A woman with magnificent curly auburn hair sang traditional songs.

Some sat enjoying their ice-cold beers, and others danced even when there was no space to dance. An elderly couple held each other in a corner, swaying to the music comfortably. The lone waiter was also ready to dance with anyone who needed a partner. It was just, perfect.

Really, I could dance every night. On the streets if I must. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

So while you Cariocas and Paulistas sort out which city you hate best, I’ve found a unifying theme to São Paulo and Rio that I can love with equal measure.

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