This month I’d like to feature an exceptional event which I had a chance to participate in Berlin’s emblematic concert hall, Funkhaus. Since last weekend marked the first spring days (at least in theory) after a long and dark winter, celebrating this fact with Brazilian music, and authentic caipirinhas, felt like the most adequate thing to do!
Berlin’s Funkhaus curates some of the most amazing concert sessions since good couple of years, and I am a regular guest returning for the wide variety of top-notch music makers they showcase, from techno to bossanova.
I was delighted to sit in a front row in front of the artists who made such an impact and influenced the years of MPB, as Funkhaus offers a very intimate stage experience if only you wish to come as close. The event was connected to a broader charity campaign for the cause of saving the Amazon forest, and contained of Daniel’s and Paulo Jobim’s band together with Vanessa da Mata who rarely have a chance to play together. It gave the show a very spontaneous friends & family jam feeling.
Once again I am thankful to be in Berlin, thousands of miles away from one of my favourite places I once lived in, and be able to experience Brazilian culture at its finest. With Águas de Março in this part of the world, I am very happy to welcome the brighter, sunnier and hopefully warmer days to come when Berlin changes its face and becomes more of an open air carnival festival.
Thirsty for sunlight, happiness and positive vibes I announce the springtime has arrived with the sounds of MPB! Even if we’re still to experience snow, and crazy climate changes throughout the year. Which makes us only reflect more about our place on Earth, how we treat it and how we can make the most of our local place we live in. Which is a different topic, so I’ll let the music speak.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
After giving this idea some time, some shape – there it is, a project of describing my personal journey through the soundscapes : sounds and landscapes from the Portuguese-speaking countries. A project derived from years of collecting memories and experiences of living and travelling in Portugal and Brazil, mixed with saudade – impossible to translate state of longing to distant places and faces. Inspired by the people met on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean who helped me to realise that Portuguese is not only another language I speak, but also a state of mind closest to my heart/soul, balancing somewhere between euphoria and melancholia.
When did it all start? I cannot trace back my first memories, but probably back in the day, it was Walter Salles movies, followed by Wim Wender’s ‘Lisbon Story’ when I became only curious about Portuguese language – both its version from Portugal, as from Brazil. First one having very Eastern European-like pronounciation, and the second one sounding like its lazy and soft family member.
Then, when I was 15, I tried free capoeira workshops in a modern dance summer school and fell in love with these sounds for good. I gave up the physical aspect of it after some months not being able to defend myself properly in roda against more flexible members but the curiosity to understand the Afrobrasilian culture was stronger than my muscles. I learned by heart our fighting chants and tried to find translations and learn my DIY Portuguese.
At the same time my musical gurus: Jazzanova, Gilles Peterson, Rainer Truby and 4 Hero, to name a few, presented various compilations with Brazilian 60s and 70s music and their creative remixes. At that time travelling, even to Portugal, was still quite a snobbish idea in Poland with no cheap airlines and no-Schengen. My curiosity even lead me to a crazy idea to pass the Baccalaureate from Portuguese as a foreign language, but no high school offered such classes at that time (!).
I had to wait until 2007 when I was admitted for the Erasmus exchange programme and when I passed my first summer in Portugal in the rural part of Beira Alta as a volunteer in the archaeological Roman village. Since then I decided to learn Portuguese for real and thanks to my first teacher, Dr Sylwia, who gratefully agreed to my participation in the classes for Spanish Philology students during the following 2 years. I have to acknowledge that it gave me a possibility to learn all the grammatical bases and meet, still in Poznan, equally interesting, future linguists and travelers! (Yes, I do hope you will read it).
Since 2009 I have been travelling and living abroad, in Portugal and Brazil included. Although nowadays I am based in Barcelona, I have to admit that my pursuit for the Portuguese sound has broadened my horizons towards the Westbound world and marked visibly my Southern personality. I truly believe in the future of the South-West direction not only in terms of the economic potential, but also cultural and social heritage, still unknown in the EU and the US.
The idea of this blog is very personal and subjective, as is for the most of the blogs (not?). I am not a linguistic specialist, nor a musical guru, even if there are a few who claim so, but I am passionate about those two topics and I would like to invite you for a journey through sounds and stories from the Lusofonia. I would like to say thanks to my inspirational and supportive friends, always eager to ask about my Lusoexperience, to listen to Lusomusic at and eventually, strongly encouraging me to create Lusofonetica where I could create my notebook to share.
I will try to translate the Portuguese meanings at the bottom of the posts, but if some meanings will remain unclear, I strongly invite you to ask. As well as to participate, comment, and criticize in this Lusospace!
To illustrate my concept, I attach you the recording from Elis Regina’s ‘Meio de campo’, where she describes humbly the creative process, without pretending to be the master of masters:
Prezado amigo Afonsinho
Eu continuo aqui mesmo
Aperfeiçoando o imperfeito
Dando tempo, dando um jeito
Desprezando a perfeição
Que a perfeição é uma meta
Defendida pelo goleiro
Que joga na seleção
E eu não sou Pelé, nem nada
Se muito for eu sou um Tostão
Fazer um gol nesta partida não é fácil, meu irmão
Entrou de bola, e tudo!
Lusofonetica, a soundscape from the joyful to the melancholic, or as we would rather say in Portuguese, entre alegria e saudade.
Lusofonia – a Portuguese noun to describe the Portuguese-speaking countries and territories
fonetica – phonetics
jeito – manner, way
saudade – longing, yearning
meio de campo – in the middle of the field
roda – ring, circle of people
capoeira – is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game