Archive for the ‘Rio’ Category
I wake up early and take a walk on one of the farm trails, and then play bandolim on my own front porch, enjoying the solitude. Paulo arrives to take me to his new house for a visit with his family. They are in the middle of renovations, but seem happy to be relocated. M., the oldest daughter, is taking her college entrance exams today, so I’ll miss her, but it’s great to see Patricia and the 3 younger children, including the newest, C., an adorable 1 1/2, who I meet for the first time. Wary at first, she soon is won over by peek-a-boo, and has fun pulling things out of my backpack. All too soon I am back on the bus to Rio, as I am playing in the Forte Copacabana roda, and it is an important one, for the “Rio +20,” the international sustainable development congress, so titled because it’s 20 years since the first congress, also held in Rio in 1992. Hilary will be attending, along with the new French president and the head of the UN. I take a taxi right from the bus station to the Forte, and as we approach there is a huge line to get in, and police barricades to keep traffic out. My ebullient taxista rolls down the window and shouts that he has a musician who is playing at the Forte, and so he gets to let me off close to the gate. We’re performing outdoors to a big crowd, and it is fun night of music. I’m in the empty seat 3rd from the right between Romulo and Charles, a new Canadian flutist friend. Afterwards we all go for pizza and beer and there ensues a 3-hour animated discussion about what is wrong with the roda (sound system, lack of organization) how to fix it, whether to move elsewhere. I’d forgotten how intense Brazilian conversation is– when I was first here I thought everyone was fighting, but I jump in every so often to make a comment, because I think this roda is culturally important and I don’t want it to disband. Somewhere after midnight we hug and head off in various directions, and Charles offers me a ride home. He’s doing his Master’s thesis on the politics of the roda, so this was a night of field research for him. He is interested in my experiences here and the articles on my webpage and will interview me at some point for my perspective. It’s late as I climb the 3 flights of stairs, back in Urca again.
All goes smoothly with my trip to Petropolis. [Sorry to be so long to continue my tale, but I had a deadline to meet today that took all my creative time and energy. So to return to the present tense... ] The bus trip takes an extra half hour because of traffic, but soon we break free of Rio and are winding up into the mountains. Paulo meets me at the bus station, and it turns out the guitarist for the roda is on the same bus. We drive to Itaipaiva, where Mario is beginning a weekly Choro roda in his store, the Culture Emporium. Mario was one of the organizers of “Momento Rio Bandolim,” the festival I played in back in November. The roda is small, but fun, and we are all treated to a feijoada before we begin. This is a typical Brazilian week-end meal, a stew of sausage, beans, and vegetables served over rice, with greens and orange slices on the side. It’s fun to play with Paulo, and also for the first time with Yuri, the pandeiro player on the CD session for Paulo-and-my Choro book. Afterwards we talk, have a drink and then Paulo drops me at the hotel Mario is putting me up in, so I don’t have to run right back to Rio. It’s a “farm hotel,” which turns out to be more of a dude ranch. My bed is huge and luxurious, and the shower stall would literally hold a dozen people. I have a drink, eat a sandwich and watch soccer in the main house, having a good conversation, in Portuguese (!) with a man waiting for his family. And perhaps the best treat, back in my room when I turn out the light it is totally dark and completely quiet. I do not miss Saturday night in Rio one bit.
Another sunny day– I could get used to this. I work not particularly successfully on my 2nd piece of music all morning and part of the afternoon. It is resisting graceful transitions between sections, and so hours fly by typing, erasing, and retyping notes. But despite the frustration I do get satisfaction from the process of honing the shape of the tune. I pull myself out of my studious endeavor in the afternoon and head off to get some music printed and simply walk somewhere I haven’t been before, getting a bit lost in an industrial section of Botafogo before I come right again. I spend the evening just playing through my choro session book, in preparation for the new roda in Petropolis tomorrow. It’s important to remember how all sections of the tunes go, or to remember that you don’t remember before you start in in public. I’m writing this post in the evening instead of the next morning, as I usually do, because I’ll be packing and traveling tomorrow. I won’t take my computer with me, so I won’t be back here with a post for a couple of days, so don’t be concerned by my absence. I’ll transfer my ink-&-paper musings here when I return. Happy week-end all!
Yes– blue skies! And from my window I can hear the happy sounds of children splashing in the water, shrieking with delight to be back on the beach. It’s still cold for Cariocas at night (mid-50s) but gets up into the 70s this afternoon. I am stuck in the piece of music I am now writing and pace through the streets humming and discarding melodic possibilities in rhythm with my footsteps, sometimes conducting unconsciously. Well, Rio is a city of music, and they certainly won’t think I’m a tourist (: just a beleza maluca musico. I am still tied to the US through my computer– arrangements that have to be made for events that continue to be planned for. It’s impossible to truly get away these days if one takes technology along. On the other hand I wouldn’t be going to Sao Paulo without a happy congruence of internet correspondences, so I have to put the bad in perspective with the good. At night I talk to my daughter on skype, who seems overwhelmed by the swirl of events in her world. I wish I could help with more than words, but even when I am at home we are so far apart. The ease of travel and relocation in our modern world, yet again, a bad-yet-good side of modernity that I am keenly aware of. Rio+20 events begin tomorrow and my landlady, an environmental activist, is all in a tizzy getting ready for it. “The UN Conference on Sustainable Development” will host leaders from all over the world– but nobody seems to know if Barak or Hilary will be here. Pictured right are the bikes by Praia Vermelha that my apartment-mate Ana has told me can be borrowed from the Itau bank, if one just signs up for the service. Although I’m tempted, I think I’ll try bike-riding with my new knee at home first, where the traffic isn’t so intense and unpredictable– yes, even including Boston drivers. At night I watch the tele-novela ‘Avenida Brasil” w/ Miriam’s son Sergio, paper and pencil in hand to list the names of the man characters (20 so far) who in the 3 episodes I have missed have managed 2 divorces and several reconciliations, real and fake. Well, it is good for my portugues.
I do love how the camera– at least my small inexpensive unobtrusive camera– goes into a hyper-Disney sort of technicolor when deprived of light. Behold the bus whizzing by my neighborhood beach, taken over the wall as I walk up the hill to my house. It’s only 5:30, but it’s winter here so the days are fleeting. I am returning from centro where I have had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with my friend Paulo, he of plans and missions and concerts and festivals and books accomplished together over the years. How many amazing things we have done and still we come up with more “good ideas” whenever we find ourselves in the same room. “We are lucky together” is how he puts it. But despite our luck, I can’t give a class for his students at UFRJ, the federal university, as we had planned because they are on strike. On Saturday I will go to Petropolis to play in his new roda, finally meet his new baby and visit his wife and family in their new place. But as I walk up the hill my mind is already onto other things. I try and fail to skype myself into the rehearsal happening at my house back home, but they don’t answer so that is an idea for another time. So I grab a sweater and head back out the door to meet Romulo to go to our favorite bar, Trapiche, to hear a band of our friends play Choro and samba. Trapiche is in the port district, a dangerous area when I first came to Rio, but now being transformed into an arts mecca. Well, sometime in the future, for right now it’s dug up and the taxi drops us a couple of blocks away as there are no roads only board bridges– the temporary kind we used to build over streams as kids– and pathways to get us across the construction and into the bar. But such is the power of the venue and the music that the place is still packed. The capirinha da lima (a pale and delicately sweet version of an orange) is still fantastic, the pastel de camarao are, as always, delicious, and the music is eternally amazing. We have been here together so often, Romulo and I, in this bar listening to music though our lives have changed around us. It’s a welcome constant and a reminder that the word “always” can, in some contexts, continue to have meaning.
Ah, color– welcome back! I ferret out every flower possible on my walk today, and hoard the photos against darker days as talismans of light and sun. Today is Dia de Namorado– Valentine’s Day– in Brasil. I may not have a boyfriend, but gifts flow in in abundance for me, just the sort I love. First, there is sunshine. Then, I am invited to Sao Paulo for the last week-end of my stay. I have wanted to go for so long, as it’s the 2nd city for Choro and Isias plays there, but didn’t trust my imperfect portugues to get me to the heart of the music in this, the largest city in South America. I have been trying to find performance opportunities for a trio of sisters from SP who will be in New England in September, when they turn the tables and invite me to be their guest and promise to pick me up at the airport and take me to all the best rodas, held in private homes and studios, so I probably would not have discovered them on my own. They even send a link to a site to buy my plane ticket, which I do immediately. Then my friend Paulo emails an invitation to visit Petropolis for this week-end, for a roda and to stay over with his family. So my music world here in Brasil is expanding dramatically. I am psyched. And my writing goes well too as I turn to the 2nd of 3 tunes I want to get out of my head and down on paper before next week. This evening I return to a roda at a little bar on Rua Gago Coutinho, with some wonderful older guitarists who play the bass runs together in thirds, traditional but as it requires partnership over the years, rare in the rodas I frequent. And my friend Mariana comes too, so I take a break from playing and we catch up over shots of cachaca. A happy day all around.
And when I woke, by some miracle the sun was shining. But the operant word here is “was”. Before I can breakfast and get out to enjoy it, but after I have optimistically done my handwash and hung it out the window on the line, the skies open to a deluge. Ah, well. I have a happy morning harmonizing the melody of my first composition of this trip and finally, shivering, brave the elements to hike to the shopping center nearby to buy a warm sweater that zips up to my chin, leggings, and socks. In Rio. Really. But I’ve been here a week already so hopes for a heatwave are dimming. And I’m standing in line behind German tourists in flipflops doing the same thing. Thank goodness weather is secondary to my purposes for being here. I also eat a hot meal in a self-serve restaurant, wintery things like stew and rice & beans. Yes, I am giving in to reality. No matter how many trips I have had no use for the warm clothes I brought “just in case,” this one is the exception to the rule. Tomorrow I will find something colorful to photograph I promise, hopefully some flowers although they all seem to be hunkering down to keep out of the rain. But if I take any more shots of clouds and fog I’m going to have to forsake Choro for some most-un-Rio-like philosophical haiku, in honor of Han-Shan, the Japanese bard of Cold Mountain.
A possible 2-roda day, and there is a bit of sun in the sky as I wake up so it looks like the outdoor roda @ Praca Sao Salvador will happen. I pack up my bandolim, amp, music, stand, etc. and grab a taxi over. Sure enough everyone is just setting up, and they’re really glad to welcome me back. It’s been a long while since I played here, and realizing that I am struck by how much better my fixed knee is working. Readers of my blog longterm will remember it’s just a year since I got my knee replaced– damaged in a car accident in my youth. At the time they said that recovery would be 3-months to crutch/cane-free, 6-months to normal walking, and then a year until I didn’t think about it any more. The surgery plus the statewide shape-up program I participated in from mid-February through mid-May has me back in Rio leaner and fitter than ever before. And that adds to my stmina for fun. We play music, trying to ignore the light rain as it begins, as we are sheltered by a tree. A friend plops his Flamengo baseball hat on my head (question– is it still a baseball hat if it’s for a futebol team?) to protect me. But soon we have to run for cover. But not to despair– the husband of the event organizer, Ana, arrives with a tent and soon, fortified by a caipirinha break, we begin again. Afterwards I stop at home to drop off my amp and take the metro to Ipanema for the Forte Copacabana roda, a set group of musicians that I am always welcome to join. I get to hear Romulo playing his new baritone sax for the first time, and trade melodies with the marvelous Bia on her clarinet. Afterwards we go out for pizza and a beer in an oceanside cafe. I am hopeful that the “red skies at night sailors’ delight” motto is true, and holds out hope for a rain-free day tomorrow.
Another rainy day, but I walk over to the Saturday Choro school anyway, though there will certainly be no Bandao performance outdoors today, to see friends, and chat with Marcia, Bia, Marcilio. It’s been a long while since I’ve visited this side of my Rio life– there was no time in November, and in January the school isn’t in session as it’s summer. I listen to the students play in a teaching roda, soaking in the sounds, inputting the rhythms into my creative brain that’s figuring out what I will write even as I listen. Marcilio’s new 2-book set of Jacob do Bandolim’s music is out and I can buy the first one at the little store on campus, and place an order for the 2nd. I wander home, stopping for lunch, and set to work on the composition that is calling me, one based on George Gershwin’s “Summertime,’ and the melody slowly begins to take shape. It’s exciting to be within this process– writing, changing, playing, changing again. I need to create a whole new section to go with my inspiration material, as there is not enough melody to break in two. By evening I’ve got the piece roughed out– hooray! It feels good to be working on my project. Outside it simply pours– will I ever see the sun again? Will the Sao Salvador outdoor roda happen tomorrow? We shall see…