It snows in Brazil sometimes

Music, Travel

I don’t go chasing waterfalls only, I deliberately look for paradox in life too. I got sunburnt in the Northernmost places of our planet, but I also managed to see a monkey covered in snow in Brazil. So while I am enjoying a balmy 20 degrees Celcius evening in Berlin, I do sympathise with the other hemisphere where it gets rather gloomy and cold these days.

So the photos above don’t come from Spreepark in Berlin, they come from MARGS – Museu de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre where I stayed for a couple of wintery days in September 2013.  This post is about breaking some stereotypes or attributions, and not the weather forecast though. Much as I love listening to MPB, drinking coconut water, or wearing Brazilian bikini, there’s more than that in the discourse about the complex, multicultural and huge country like Brazil. I am a sucker for its literature, architecture, art and fashion, and recently: techno music.

My daily Upload feature on SoundCloud suggest me more and more Brazilian artists who are producing really deep, industrial and groovy sounds. Last summer was definitely heavily influenced by the produced CoastDream whose dreamy house kick was constantly on my rewind.

On that note, the Brazilian community of producers and DJs is also abundant. I am very lucky to have met a very ambitious, open-minded and talented producer Pedro Passoni. Although he came back to São Paulo early this year, he continues to amaze me with his new productions, currently experimenting the darker side of the EDM.

Fortunately, I believe that the darker side of techno and house in Brazil is not as rare as the view of the aforementioned monkey in the snow. Electronic music represents the progressive, diverse, free space and rhythm – something that not only Brazil, but the whole world needs now more than ever. I stay connected and sending only the most positive vibes to all my Brazilian friends who make a positive change in their country. Against all odds, I plan my next trip to their amazing country within the next couple of months, when the snow will be back in Berlin. Stay tuned and vibe!

São Paulo: abstraction and society

Music

One of my highlights last month was a business trip to London where I had a chance to learn a lot and meet a lot of new inspirational people. Apart from that, there is no visit in London for me without checking the Art Cathedral: Tate Modern, so during the weekend I spent endless hours binge-eating modern art.

Among various exhibitions, I was particularly happy to see the corner dedicated to Tropicália movement and abstract art coming from São Paulo Biennale. It was founded in 1951, during a moment of very rapid economic growth and urban development in Brazil.

A decade later, Tropicália movement emerged in theatre, poetry, cinema, music and art as a critical response to the political crisis, Brazilian stereotypes and disparate influences. In the music world, Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are the most famous artists to name. Here’s one of my fave songs by Elis Regina:

A tua falta somada
A minha vida tão diminuída
Com esta dor multiplicada
Pelo fator despedida

Deixou minh’alma muito dividida
Em frações tão desiguais
E desde a hora em que você foi embora
Eu sou um zero e nada mais

In poetry, Roberta Camila Salgado published her works during the times of political repression and censorship:

céu escuro por que não limpas e iluminas o meu mundo?

So thanks to this exhibition I travelled back in time to Brazil where not only I’ve spent some time living in Brasilia, but also have been travelling around the country between 2011-2013. Nowadays I am no longer up to date following up on social and political crises, but prefer to focus on discovering progressive and bold artists which emerge a new movement 50 years later.

Having said that, I’d like to acknowledge my São Paulo-based friends producing quality techno and house which is already influencing dancefloors beyond Brazil, as well as fighting for the parity for women in the electronic music scene.

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz’aqui – o jazz português em Berlim

Music

I’ve previously written about the Brazilian influences on Berlin jazz scene, I’ve recently written about März Musik, but I’ve never mentioned about the Portuguese jazz presence in the beautiful city I currently live in.

As March is one of these weird, in between months, bridging the everlasting winter sleep with the springtime euphoria, a Friday evening with free jazz sounds was in line with my moods. That’s why I decided to get to know the Portuguese Jazz Festival: Jazz’aqui.

Jazz’aqui was also a good occasion to visit one of the most emblematic jazz clubs in Berlin – Kunstfabrik Schlot, situated in not-so-obvious location of Mitte.  I chose the night of a ‘minimal jazz’ bateria performance and Slow Is Possible playing mostly cinematic jazz.

I was enchanted by its playful and enigmatic dynamics – once very sleepy, then painfully intense, like lucid dreaming. Since I learned that the band consists of musicians coming from various parts of Portugal, I realized how their regional inspirations may come into play. I travelled in my mind to remote parts of Northern and Central Portugal, like the mountainous Bragança or Guarda region, where I spent two weeks during my first trip in 2007.

Then, the music took me on the way to the dramatic coastline of South-West in the winter, where I had a chance to travel in 2011 while studying in Faro.

Finally, carried by rather scary sounds, I landed somewhere in the tiny towns of Alentejo, maybe sneaking in to one of their traditional churches made of human bones.

And the concert ended up, leaving me wondering how little it takes to travel without moving, when the sound and imagination kicks in. As well as, that the music discovery is endless, without the borders of space and time.

 

Lissabon Wuppertal Lisboa

Music

When I travel, I look at things with the naivety of a child‘ – this is one of the most inspirational quotes I’ve lately read when visiting the exhibition dedicated to Pina Bausch at Berlin’s Martin Gropius Bau museum. I would love to share my thoughts about my relationship with dancing and travelling, and how I think they walk hand in hand as a self-reflective experience.

I came back to exploring my passion of the contemporary dance since I’ve moved to Berlin, given my early background in ballet, and Pina Bausch has been always a great choreographer and dancer I’ve been looking up to. Creative, fierce and explorative – these are the characteristics of my perception of her pieces, which I could by now only look up on Youtube. However, I am more than thrilled that tomorrow I will see the legendary ‘Palermo, Palermo’ by the Tanztheater Wupperthal Pina Bausch which continues the work of this artist after her death in 2007.

What brings me to the Portuguese influences, is the piece that has been prepared specifically for the Expo 1998, which took place in Lisbon. Pina Bausch often referred the discovery of the world and own body as a similar experience and that’s why her theatre benefited a lot from the international cooperation (to name Sicily, Hong-Kong, Japan and Portugal as a few).

To me the plethora of the local and universal symbols combined with her excellent choreography bridges dance almost as a travel experience. That’s why in the darkest, coldest seasons I resort to the passion and strength that I can force through dancing. This kind of escape through travelling without moving has obviously not much to do with the dance theatre, but originates in the same need of discovery, rejecting the boundaries and limitations. This is why I can’t probably stop watching various versions of ‘The Rite of Spring’ while waiting for the sun to come up and change the season, as these are my usual thoughts around second half of December.

 

Brazilian Jazz Carnival in Berlin

Music

Two years have passed in an Augenblick (like Germans like to define “the time that flies”) since I have moved to Berlin. I would lie, if I said I don’t miss Barcelona, Brazil, Portugal and my hometown Poznan from time to time. Travelling is relatively cheap and easy these days, at least to some of these locations though, so I don’t happen to be homesick too often to be honest.

Especially that I feel very happy where I am now, both personally, and professionally, and Berlin keeps surprising me every day with its amazing cultural offer. I even realised how I can cope best with the dark and cold days throughout roughly half of the year. Concerts and dancing are among my most powerful weapons!

It is also fair to say, that during these two years, I have met amazing people from all over the world sharing my passions and at the same time showing new perspectives, opening my mind and enriching my life.

More importantly, I keep speaking Portuguese. Be it at work with my Portuguese-speaking colleagues (or those wanting to simply learn and practice!), be it with my good old or newly acquired friends. Berlin has an incredible offer of Latin American movie festivals as well as concerts of all the music genres,  out of which I happened to see two of my Brazilian jazz gurus this year already.

I am very honoured to have seen Ed Motta earlier this year, and Azymuth trio only yesterday. There are very few artists which inspired so many DJs and producers much as they did. Actually, I can’t think of any dancefloor which wouldn’t go crazy if a DJ dropped ‘Jazz Carnival’, regardless of the location. As a consequence, their tracks have been often remixed and incorporated into legendary mixes. I was hoping to see them live for a very long time, especially when I noticed that they were featured at the Boiler Room session and announced their European tour.

A thought that occurred to me yesterday, was about the universal and timeless aspect of music. Even though Azymuth members could be my grandparents, and most of their tracks are much more older than I am, their sound is moving the crowds to a state of frantic trance.

Muito obrigada, Maestros and long live Brazilian jazz!

Nascer do sol – Portuguese encounters in Japan

Music, Travel

I am happy to say that I spent the majority of this month in amazing Japan. I have dreamt about this trip for a long time and it has finally come true. Great part of it was dedicated to some musical research, as I knew that Japan is great source of digging the vinyl shelves and a lot of the DJs and producers I respect researched quite a lot on the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.

I was always very intrigued by the fact that there is so much Portuguese speakers living in Japan. Partly, this may be due to massive immigration of Brazilian nationals to industrial cities like Nagoya, and the other way round a lot of Japanese migrating to Brazil. Actually, my first encounter with the Japanese culture was in 2013 in Liberdade, São Paulo’s district, home of thousands of Japanese descendants. Yes, I got to use the famous Japanese toilet ToTo there! But speaking seriously, I discovered Portuguese influences in Japanese music early when I discovered new jazz producers in the early 2000s, to name a few: Hajime Yoshizawa, or Kyoto Jazz Massive which I would like to list as sources of my inspiration.

There are influences reaching fur beyond music. While visiting the city of Nagasaki, I learned that for years, it has been an important port for various sailors from the European countries, to name the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese on the far East. After the Portuguese, a sweet memory was left: a sponge cake called Castella

Finally, during my trip I got to know pretty amazing Japanese people interested in music: from Detroit techno, through soulful hip-hop up to exotic influences of music of Cabo Verde. It is hard to summarise the variety of all these encounters in one blog post, but I wanted to encourage everyone to discover the country through the sound and multicultural influences. And even if the country of the Rising Sun is one of the most remote and isolated places, it’s full of contrasts, inspirations and definitely is a great place to discover new music styles.

 

Stay True – Boiler Room in Portugal

Music

In my last post I mentioned a lot about how Afrolusobrasilian culture is present in Lisbon. You may also have noticed that I am getting regularly inspired by the Portuguese capital when it comes to sound searching.

I am very happy to confirm that in September I’ll be visiting LISB:ON festival, where I will have a chance to see Brazilian artists like Marcos Valle or Azymuth, not so easy to spot at the concerts these days. This festival, being a part of a summer project called Jardim Sonoro (pt. Sound Garden), will also attract other ambitious electronic music producers such as Matthew Herbert or Dixon, and here is why I would like to dedicate a short paragraph to electronic music in Portugal.

Since currently I’ve been living in Berlin where electronic music can be heard even in grocery shop, no other place on Earth can compete with DJ line ups and a density of EDM producers per square km. However, world can definitely be grateful to Lisboa – Luanda connection for bringing in some truly crazy rhythms to the dancefloors.

Lately, I have taken part in the music production showcase with Dengue Dengue Dengue who were also hosted by the local Boiler Room edition Stay True. More of the inspirational sounds can be seen from its archive:

Stay True: Portugal edition took place a month ago and besides the Dengue Dengue Dengue duo hosted Buraka Som Sistema as well as DJ Marky  whose Boiler Room back in Brazil is already unforgettable classic of its kind.

I am definitely looking forward to re-discovering Lisbon (I can do it anytime anyway at anytime) at my own bpm pace, simply enjoying the musical and cultural diversity.

I hope that thanks to the initiatives like Stay True this city will get even more visibility for the music aficionados.

 

 

Badu is always comin’ for real

Music, Travel

This is not a post about Erykah Badu’s new mix. Badu is a creole name for the people of the biggest island of the Cape Verde archipelago: Santiago, and to them I would like to dedicate this post.

Crowd, chaos, waiting: in three words that could summarize pre-Christmas time at the arrivals lounge of the Nelson Mandela Airport in the capital of Cape Verde, Praia. The guards, customs and military at the airport mingle so much that it is not that easy to distinguish who is working there and who is ‘just chillin’. I still have a lot to learn: but beyond words and gestures I catch the first meanings of morabeza, famous hospitality and relaxed attitude of Cape Verdeans. On the top of that, my luggage is lost, but oh well, after 2 hours of waiting for visa stamp that does not even surprises me.

What surprises me though is that the owner of the apartment I briefly spoke over e-mail, waits patiently in the arrival lounge though and shows no trace of being nervous, or upset after over 3 hours of waiting. He took this time to chat with some other people waiting over a midnight coffee. On the way we take some other people, just for the sake that they’ve been heading the same direction, no matter that it’s long after midnight. Even though I am tired like never before, I am so happy it’s 3 am and the temperature is over 25 degrees. And I slowly see some logic in the what I defined as chaos.
After I wake up and have a breakfast with my beloved mangoes and papaias, I head to the biggest market of Praia: Sucupira to get some ‘essentials’ that were left behind in my registered luggage. Sucupira is a labirynth where you can get anything from chinelos (aka ‘Havaianas’) to running piglets. Not surprisingly, clothes are rather expensive: as there is close to nothing produced in Cabo Verde, most of them come from Paris where, according to the estimations, there is the biggest diaspora of caboverdianos. Next to bikinis, there are figures of black Jesus and black Maria, someone fries chicken wings in piri-piri and the sounds of funana are all over the place.
I leave Sucupira to find some quiet shelter in the uptown district Plateau, historically second settlement in West Africa after Cidade Velha which I will describe in the forthcoming posts. There, in a bar 5al da Musica I take a musical tour through the history of Cabo Verde: from B’Leza to Sara Tavares. And in the meantime, visiting musician from Angola and Lisbon practice their evening jam… I get goosebumps while hearing the fresh sounds and inspirations I would never hear about in Berlin. And so my first 24h in Praia are gone, I order my last coffee, chat with the musicians feeling very balanced, inspired and happy, almost like Bad’u. 
Si ka badu ka ta biradu!

Téra Lonji – a distant land

Music, Travel

Tired of the 2015: corporate year end’s closure, and pointless rush around Christmas festivities in Berlin, I am counting days to teleport myself to a very distant and different place: Cape Verde’s (port. Cabo Verde) island of Santiago.

Why Cape Verde? First of all, because of its creole music: morna, representing very melancholic sounds of the islands lost somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Once very strategic location given the geographical discoveries, sad history of colonialism, and slave trade. Now left remotely westbound of Africa, the art and music is depicting this lone feeling. I am very much looking forward to hunt for some rare records of yet undiscovered, powerful voices of the afrobeat.

Secondly, because of the ocean, the wind and the scorching sun. Climate of Cabo Verde might get very rough, given the strong winds blowing in this area, but I can’t imagine a better weather, especially if the waves make it perfect for the surfers.

Last but not least: for the language – the most outspoken language on Cabo Verde is crioulo (creole), and given its French and Portuguese roots, is especially interesting for me to encrypt. And so within one week I will be boarding my flight to Praia, the capital of Cabo Verde, full of the sodade e bondade (longing and goodness) feeling. Stay tuned for the stories from the Ilha de Santiago upon my arrival in January!

Grandola jazz

Music

Thanks to the XJazz Festival in Berlin I discovered a very interesting musician: Studnitzky and his composition ‘Grandola’. I fell in love with these sounds from the very beginning:

Grandola, a Portuguese town located in the Setubal municipality, has got its place in the history of music for some other reasons though. I was visiting these wonderful region in September, on my way to the controversial settlement on the Troia Peninsula. Grandola became a symbol after the non-violent 25th Aprtil of the ‘Carnation revolution’ thanks to the song performed by Zeca Afonso. ‘Grandola Vila Morena’ tells a story about the fraternity among the people of this town and was broadcasted at the outbreak of the peaceful revolution in Portugal.

This song, associated with one of the brightest moments of the Portuguese history has some uplifting lyrics about the brotherhood.

Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada esquina um amigo
Em cada rosto igualdade
Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
Terra da fraternidade
Grândola, vila morena
Em cada rosto igualdade
O povo é quem mais ordena
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade
Jurei ter por companheira
Grândola a tua vontade
Grândola a tua vontade
Jurei ter por companheira
À sombra duma azinheira
Que já não sabia a idade