Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things I miss about England #36: second-hand bookshops. I came across a box of random literary, historical and political books in English at the language school this morning. I instinctively started rummaging through them to see what was there and how much they were worth (I didn't work at York's Barbican Bookshop for nothing!). When I was done I suddenly realised I missed secondhand bookshops. Books simply don't occupy as prominant a position in society here as they do back home. Bookshops of any kind are thin on the ground, let alone ones that sell second-hand books.

Things I love about Brazil #10: music. I've grown to be quite a fan of Brazilian music with bands or singers like Lenine, Kid Abelha, Maria Rita, Marisa Monte, Pato Fu, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Legião Urbana getting frequent airing on my musical equipment. Bebel Gilberto is also great but strangely she isn't famous in her own country and not many of my students know who she is.

Anyway, it's not just the musicians are great its the way they do music. Brazilians are a lot less coy about what's cool or not and they are a lot more relaxed about plagiarism and using each other's songs. It's not uncommon for artists to cover several recent hits of their contemporaries during a show. All this makes for a healthy culture of collaboration and idea swopping as long as everyone gets their due in the end (which is doubtful). Not surprisingly, British or American hits are often reworked into Brazilian musical norms and sometimes songs are translated into Portuguese or are written with English and Portuguese words mixed up.To illustrate this here are 5 (I would hesitate to call it a "top" 5) Brazilian pop innovations - you can watch all the clips on YouTube.

1. Kid Abelha and Donovan Frankenreiter - King of the free ride. American bluesman teams up with Brazilian acoustic outfit. Results extremely pleasing.
2. Vanessa de Mata and Ben Harper - Boa Sorte / Good luck. A beautiful duet with Lenny Kravitz wannabe and Brazilian soul singer. The song was released before they had even met each other.
3. Caetano Veloso - Come as You Are. Elder statesman of Brazilian pop music decides to make album of English covers including this odd version of a Nirvana song.
4. KLB - Angels. A fairly accurate and schmaltzy Portuguese cover of the Robbie Williams hit by a Brazilian rock band.
5. Rhianna - Umbrella (the forró version). The American diva's huge 2006 hit gets worked-over by an accordian in this surreal Portuguese version in the tradtional north-eastern forró style. (The video superimposes the Brazilian version on top of the official video. As far as I can tell the Brazilian lyrics have nothing to do with umbrellas).

Hope you enjoyed that. But, still, as much as Brazilians love music, the music industry is seen as the opportunity for the poor to advance themselves and it is uncommon for middle class families to allow their children to pursue music careers. Parents would rather their kids developed language and academic skills so as to become lawyers, doctors or diplomats. In short, whereas middle class kids in the UK might take music lessons and try joining bands at uni their Brazilian counterpoints sign up/get signed up for 2 and a half hours of English lessons per week with teachers like me.

One final note about music. Do you remember I mentioned a few weeks ago the musical exploits of Cultura's driver Sr Ricardo? Well, he leant me a CD of his music and I was astonished to see it had a "proper" inlay cover (above). If you know this man and you see him every day dressed in his work clothes you will probably, like me, find that front cover and fold-out deeply hilarious. But, I won't say a bad word against this guy - this man is a legend. Watch this space. When he's headlining his unique brand of worship music at Spring Harvest, remember I called it first.

Life. The CDC (Cultura Directors' Conference) starts today with Rach in chief co-ordinating role. This means all the Directors from all the Cultura's in Brazil will descend on our little town and have "a whiskey club" as Rach's Dad calls it. We've been bracing ourselves for this for several months and it's not been helped by an increasingly pregnant Rachel just two weeks away from her due date. So far, so good - nobody seems too stressed. By Monday it will all be over and maybe Rach can relax a little.

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