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The Brazilian Music and Me: Personal Musings!
by Ehud M. Garcia
Being born in a foreign country, one will soon realize that there are so many different aspects of life that we cannot have control of. One of them, of course, is the issue of worldview. In the cultural make-up that we all bear inside, the way we see the world is set during our formation years; and this, I might say, takes place in our enculturation process.(Raul Seixas, left).
Music is an important element of one's worldview make-up. In most cases, anthropologists tend to permit the idea that worldview is primarily a religious thing. In some cases this is very true. In fact, early anthropological theories somewhat have the two mixed up; one won't know for sure when religion is different from worldview, and when worldview is not really a religious trait. Perhaps, music is also deeply rooted in religious beliefs. It is an artistic expression of the sentiments of the people and plays a present rôle in the religious expressions as well.
If we dig deeper in this issue, we will certainly find out that art and religion walk together. Not only music, but other artistic expressions such as painting, architecture, literature, dance, and so forth. So when I am talking about music and worldview, I am also allowing room for my religious feelings to kick in as an obstruction that is mostly welcome, of course!
But, back to being born in a foreign country. I was born in Brazil and never realized how much I was influenced by the Brazilian music until recently. Growing up in a place where international music was also present, I never thought that the music of my people was so strongly taken into my brain cells and also in my soul's heart. It took me the cost of being out of my homeland to understand that fact.
Perhaps the most influential artist in my formation years was Caetano Veloso (left), one of the parents of the Tropicália Movement in Brazil. Until now, one of my favored songs is his "Caminhando Contra o Vento," which probably was the his first hit. Not only his lyrics, but his music is beautiful. He continues to make a great impression in my heart and mind. Along with him, Chico Buarque de Hollanda also has played a major influence in my life. Chico has an intellectual clout that I love exploring. The same I say about Caetano, of course. Both have a poetic voice that is unmatchable. There are a few others from this period of Brazilian musicality that are worth mentioning, but for me Caetano and Chico are the greatest influences in my intellectual and emotional reflection on Brazilian music.
I cannot hide the fact that another musical movement had an impact on me as well. It was the Jovem Guarda Movement, led mainly by Roberto Carlos (below, right), Erasmo Carlos and Vanderléia. Along with them, I remember other artists like Eduardo Araújo, Vanderley Cardoso, Jerry Adriani, Martinha, Silvinha, and the list is really big. This genre was closely related to the Beatles phenomenon, and all the pop music that followed them, with their soft rock 'n' roll background. Some groups, like the Vips and Renato e Seus Blue Caps, for instance, were strong in singing Portuguese versions of those great English (and Italian) hits. It is interesting to note today that back in my mind, some songs seem to have been initially Brazilian and then American or English. This is because I heard them in the Portuguese version first. It is like the guy who came to Los Angeles and saw a McDonalds and said, "Look at that, they have McDonalds here too!!!"
After spending about four years in Recife, in Northeast Brazil, I learned to appreciate their regional music. The Baião, Xaxado, Forró, became part of my daily perceptions, mainly because I did a lot of field work in the interior of the states of Alagoas, Ceará, Paraíba, and Pernambuco. For more than a year, I worked around São Bento do Una, PE, Alceu Valença's home town. It was fun to be in a place where a famous artist grew up. I had the opportunity to meet several of his relatives, including his parents. The music of the Sertão is really a beautiful expression of the soul of the people; and there is nothing more moving than waking up in the morning listening to "Seu Luís" (Luís Gonzaga) singing a Baião.
After my move to the United States, almost twenty years ago, I started to really miss that music which so kindly formed part of my own ethos. I was always looking for that sound. My brother-in-law, who is an accomplished musician in Goiânia, was instrumental in helping me discover my way back to my musical roots. Reny Helder plays a "mean guitar," and he writes some beautiful regional music from our Triângulo Mineiro and Southern Goiás. He educated me on the Central Brazil regionalism and today I am hooked in his music. He is a gospel song writer with an excellent group, Expresso Luz. He also formed another excellent group that continues to impress many with their non-religious stuff, Essência. Both groups play good Brazilian music, I think it its best. Their lyrics are clean and talk about meaningful things in daily life, which express their Christian worldview as well. They borrow a lot from the regional flavor in which they live and where I come from; and I love that. One of Reny's songs was written in my home, when he lived in Pasadena, California, with us for a few months back in 1992. That was a great honor for me, of course.
I remember once driving from Portland, Oregon, to San Francisco, and listening to Milton Nascimento's "Eu Caçador de Mim." (left) That was a great feeling: to be able to listen to a song that deeply shaped my search for the beauty of the Brazilian poetry. Of course, my favored song from Milton is still "Travessia." That is a classic!
Now, since I left Brazil in 1984, I lost my contact with the ongoing growth of Brazilian music in all aspects. I don't know much about what came up big time after I left. However, I was introduced to a very group from Brasília, not long ago. Actually those guys were big hit in the late eighties and early nighties, I guess. But their sound is very nice; they even sing some good stuff in English as well. I am talking about Legião Urbana. At this point I really don't have a lot on them, but what I have is enough for me to really appreciate their music.
Since I am kind of an "intellectual," I like intelligent music. I appreciate music that speaks to me both musically and through their lyrics. There are so many good lyrics in Portuguese that, should I had the time, I would like to spend it trying to translate into English. I would like to invite you, my friend to get acquainted with the wealth of the Brazilian music. It is more than just Bossa Nova and Samba, which I love so dearly; but the many different kinds of music in that continental country make me feel particularly happy of having this wonderful heritage in my heart and mind. I will take time later to talk about how the American and English music have also impacted my life, but this is not the place now.
© Copyright 2003-2006, Ehud M. Garcia, Ph.D.