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!

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Warm sands of the Nordeste

Travel

On a grey day like today I like to time travel and re-discover the place where the warm sun, sand and water give shelter. The winter has not even started in Europe, but it’s been incredibly cold for over a month or so. Patience is key, and so are the winter time escapes. In one month I will be travelling to Hong-Kong, but before I need to find a way to deal with the dark and freezing reality.

To cheer myself up, I refrain to the memories of February 2013 when I travelled to Rio Grande do Norte, precisely Natal, Tibau do Sul and Praia da Pipa, the capital of the region and emblematic seaside towns in the North-Eastern part of Brazil.

Not only the warmth of the sun, sand and water, but also the cheerful and relaxed nature of the inhabitants made this location a perfect winter getaway destination.

I was lucky to live in a small condominio of the Atlantic forest between Praia da Pipa and Tibau de Sul where I was woken up by the birds chanting, and oh well, some insects.

The location is perfect for the surfers and wanderers. Wide beaches are perfect to walk around in between the high tides, and when it comes, it is amazing to simply jump on the prancha (surf board) and try your best fighting the powerful water element.

Years have passed and I remember the smell of the salty water, the taste of the local cuisine, the view of the bonfires burning at night at the beach and the songs of the local vendors. I definitely plan to come back, possibly visiting the beautiful archipelago of Fernando da Noronha islands. Stay tuned!

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!

Relaxa – how to get through the cold and dark days

Music, Personal

This very laid-back and relaxing post should help to wipe out all the Brazilian-homesickness feelings. Especially in the winter months in Europe.

I personally first escaped the Central European winter a few years ago with relocating to the South of the continent (with a short but life-changing period of living in Brazil), and last year came back to the same four-season pattern in Berlin. I find it physically challenging to get through until end of March or so, but have found my ways. German way of saying “it’s not cold, you’re only dressed inappropriately” helps to shift the focus too. I have to say that having survived summer in Arctic, helped me too.

So, having gathered warm clothes, bought 20 types of tea and mate, I can say I’m prepared. But the crucial thing to survive the dark and cold days is to… listen to Brazilian music!

So let me share you my top 3 tracks that have magically spelled out flu, sore throat, but also depression, loneliness and other side effects of the European winter:

“Relaxa” – the message is clear either if you want to chill out after a tough week, if you’re feeling weak, or contrary – in a party mood. Painel de controle will get you in this upbeat and alegre mood.

“Na Boca do Sol” – reminds me of my Cidade Interior, Brasilia, I used to live for a while. This place, apart from being an architectural and social phenomenon, has shown me the most beautiful and unforgettable sunrises and sunsets.

“Chegou de Bahia” – of course, who wouldn’t be happier if visiting Bahia

Here I’d like to mention that next month I’ll be travelling to Africa to relax, unwind on the Cape Verde, while listening to mornas. The featured picture comes from Azores though, where, enchanted by its remoteness and beauty, I decided to discover more of the Atlantic archipelagos.

Morna – “Ocean blues”, Cape Verdian emblematic dance and music genre, recognised worldwide mostly by Cesaria Evora’s and Maria Andrade’s works

Chasing waterfalls

Travel

The first time I heard about Iguazu was neither in my geography class or by reading a travel magazine. My first memory of seeing enchanting scene shot on the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls, was in Wong Kar Wai’s legendary movie “Happy Together”. So my dream started, like it happens sometimes, because of the powerful art:

I finally visited Iguazu Falls in September 2013, as a part of my trip around Southern Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.

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This magic land, striped between three countries separated by the natural border of the Parana river, is indeed a must-see for the nature-loving souls.

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While hiking, or swimming down the river one can notice a plenty of wild animals such as aligators, tucanos, araras and – last but not least: coatis. These cute-looking four-legged coons can be seen almost everywhere, and they are not scared of people at all (contrary to beautiful tucanos which have learnt not the best side of the humanity…). But watch out, they will not only beg you for food, they will simply steal it from you!

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I chose to stay on the Argentinean side simply because it offered more hotel opportunities, but visiting the neighbouring countries is not an issue. However, it is considered quite a dangerous border due to high volume of smugglers. They say that Ciudad del Este in Paraguay has a fame for being quite dodgy, but I would just say that it was the least interesting part of the journey. When on the Brazilian side though, I would say that visiting the Birds Park is a must: there are some wonderful species living under protection and yet not afraid of people. All of the above-listed pictures of araras and tucanos were taken there!

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Both sides offer spectacular views and wet experiences, but I would say that the Argentinian is better-suited for the hike, and Brazilian one: for photo-taking. It is also about broadening your perspective while chasing the waterfalls: either looking over the Garganta del Diablo from the highest highs in Argenting, or experiencing it’s powerful stream in Brazil. Or sticking to the river, following the ‘Waterfalls’ song’s logic: while in Paraguay.

BRIC in the wall, in a sharp lense

Personal, Travel

Call it food for thought for a Monday evening. I got recently inspired by the political science research collective to share an impactful photo taken in one of the BRIC countries. They are starting a campaign called Rising and Declining Global Powers and they took the urbanization, relative poverty and mass transformation of the BRIC regions as a good start of the dialogue about the major issues in 2015.

So Brazil in my lense is, sadly, not only beaches, stunning landscapes and happy people. There is rage, poverty, and unpredictable growth of the mutant cities (aka politically correct cidade satelita).

This image was taken one morning when I was doing the daily 5 km run, on a very popular trail surrounding one of the neighbouring cidade satelita of Brasilia, Aguas Claras. With my European mentality I could not tell where the borders between the safe and totally uncontrolable neighbourhoods (aka favelas) begin. There are often none, and different groups live next to each other. I decided not to care too much about it, regardless of noticing the 5m high electric fences in front of the households.

And there he was, on a 8-lane-drive, surrounded by different kind of cars, a man riding a horse-drawn vehicle. He looked so surreal with among these skyscrapers and 4x4s, as if he was one of the few underprivileged remaining. Especially that I’m talking about the Brazilian capital, the richest place in the country, if not the whole South American continent. Also, as I later learnt, the capital of inequalities.

Looking at this crazy Brazilian dynamics during my travels in 2011 and 2013, be it Brasilia, Recife, Natal or SP, I thought about the possible crisis and what it may entail in the future. Having previously seen the dramatic real estate bubble in the Southern Europe I was somewhat cautious. Not that I am a nature-born pessimist, I just know that leaving the capital in hands of 1% of the richest won’t lead to nowhere. Well, possibly to world’s widest roads ridden by men on horse-driven vehicles.

Blue Trains and Yellow Trams

Music, Personal, Travel

There is a song which stays on my mind during these busy times of change, entitled ‘O trem azul’. It tells a story about taking a metaphoric blue train whereas forgetting to tell something important and remembering things on the way. Incredibly melancholic, probably reflects my state of mind quite well. However happy and excited I feel about my relocation to Berlin, I simply cannot forget how much I love and will miss my friends from Barcelona which were so supportive during my difficult times and shared some of the best moments of my life.

This reminds me of the decision I took about coming back to Europe for good after extremely exciting and beautiful months in Brazil and Chile in 2011. Before, of leaving Poznan just after my graduation. Somewhere in between, coming and going to Spain and Portugal. But I have to say, the feeling of uncertainty of moving out and meeting new people is simply awesome and gives me such a boost of energy like anything else (OK, except from surfing maybe). The people will always stay with me and will determine of who I am.

When I was a kid, I loved talking to strangers while travelling on train. Some of them shared very interesting stories and during those couple of hours I could feel some sort of connection which was not always perceived during some other social gatherings occasions. I never understood why until I studied interpersonal relations at the university, but the feeling of connecting or not with a co-passenger stayed with me till today. Decision to continue the life journey only with those who contribute a real connection has not failed me. Due to the temporarily nature of my life and relations, I may not call all of them ‘close friends’ but I will never forget and label them rather as ‘significant’.

Be it Blue Trains, or Yellow Trams – the most well-known no. 28 in Lisbon or less-recognized one in Rio de Janeiro which passes over Arcos de Lapa (emblematic bridge in the Lapa neighbourhood, pictured above), remember it is all about the passengers.

Garota de Ipanema

Travel

Visiting Rio de Janeiro was one of my greatest dreams since I remember. Obviously, as an emblematic city of Brazil, linked with the history and culture so much, it made me expect certain clichés. Such as: healthy and good-looking people, samba, Cristo Redentor, favelas, Maracanã stadium, and amazing beaches, even close to the centre of the city.

It was more than I expected. I was lucky enough to be hosted by amazing Cariocas out of which I will name Thiago, and Jacqueline. Thiago showed me around Lapa, the most exciting part of the city in the night, and drove me in his motorbike basically from Sugarloaf mountain till Leblon, putting up with me screaming as we drove. I got to know his family and friends, his favourite acai and burger place (which makes a perfect mix of healthy and junk!). Meanwhile Jackie took me to a very famous bossanova bar in Copacabana where some political movements emerged during the military dictatorship times. The owner of the bar was hilarious, he had a typical mania of shouting on everybody after the improvisation part was over, and then inviting them back again to his cozy bar.

Nowadays, 3 years after all these happenings, I can still clearly remember the impressions, sounds, tastes and the amazingly intensive vibe of the city. Sure I will come back, it is still on my ‘livable cities’ list to pursue… Now the most interesting being I have met on the Ipanema beach was not the legendary round-shaped girl from the song, but… a wadding bird, walking gloriously between the surfers! And this is what amazed me the most: a city of over 10 million people, still being so wildly cohabited by fauna and flora. To put it straight: a Cidade Maravilhosa.

Wiki:

Garota – girl (Brazilian Portuguese)

Cristo Redentor – Christ the Redemptor, a famous monument overlooking Rio de Janeiro

Maracanã stadium – emblematic football stadium of Rio de Janeiro

Carioca – a nickname of Rio’s resident, used also to describe a specific lifestyle of Rio de Janeiro

Cidade Maravilhosa – Wonderful City, a nickname of Rio de Janeiro, which is 100% according to the truth!

Dia de Brasil em Barcelona

Music

New week (and weekend soon to come!), new plans… Sticking up to the Brazilian highlights in Barcelona, I have to mention the annual celebration of Dia de Brasil. Since 2009, each year it takes place sometime around the 2nd weekend of September at the Moll de la Marina (the one near Vila Olimpica). During this one-day free festival one can have a taste of the popular Brazilian contemporary culture: from capoeira, through gastronomy to different musical styles. A detailed programme of the event can be found on www.diadebrasil.es

This year there will be a parallel contemporary movies festival at the Cinemes Girona: http://www.diadebrasil.es/muestra-de-cine/

The tropical weather these days in Barcelona makes me think only about Jorge Ben’s classic and hope it will prevail until the next Sunday!

Be there or be square!

Alegria, alegria!

Music, Travel

Coming back from short holidays, I am quite puzzled if I really had to return to my usual urban life. Well, life is life – as one particularly insightful song told us in the 80s.

Thinking of some best moments of my life, I am normally reminiscing special people or places and this being especially helpful upon arrival to somewhat regular and down-to-earth reality. Undoubtedly, one of the moments of perfection I lived was in the North-Eastern tip of Brazil, on the outskirts of the city Natal, the capital of the Rio Grande do Norte region. Famous for its enormous dunes and never-ending, unspoiled beaches. Despite from becoming increasingly touristic destination, it has preserved most of its natural highlights.

I was lucky enough to rent an apartment on the Ponta Negra beach just at the tip of the Morro do Careca, the emblematic dune of the city. It used to be a lively spot for the locals in the past where they used hang out to sandsurf, but due to the risk of destroying the dune, the access has been lately cut off and the neighbourhood become surprisingly quiet.

These days, overlooking the sun or the moon in the Old Town port from my Barcelona loft, I often remember the magic nights of bathing in the Ocean, spotted by the moonlight, and burning torches from local beach bars where fresh caipirinha was completing the state of alegria. There are countless songs about this state of mind, but no one described it better than Gal Costa, in Pontos de Luz. Sun, the moon, the sky…

alegria – happiness

caipirinha – a popular Brazilian-origin cocktail, made of cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lime

pontos de luz – points of light