By Shirley and Renata.

Every month, each member of the Newsletter team submits her article to be read by the other members. We then exchange emails with opinions about the articles. This month, we had an exchange that I thought was very interesting and stirred memories of my past and made me spend several hours searching and listening to music.

Here is how it all started:

Marcy submitted her article “The Joy of Listening”.

Several people had responded and commented on Marcy’s article when Renata commented: “Lovely article. My parents used to sing (my mother accompanied, my father sang, with his beautiful baritone). My grandparents on both sides made music; my cousins sing and play various instruments, and I always liked to imagine the musical gatherings in Schubert’s house, or at the Mozarts, or the Mendelssohn siblings noodling about on the piano. And I always thought that this–music in people’s living rooms, even, or especially, if they are not Schubert or Mendelssohn–was the right way of making music.”

I, Shirley, replied to Renata’s response: “I laughed when I read Renata’s email because I had written my article yesterday (see “La-ri-ra”, which I hadn’t submitted at that point because it needed some editing), and it is very similar to Renata’s experience, even to the fact that my father is a baritone. As I said in my article: Brazilians love music!”

So then, Renata replied: “Nice! And yup! Sometimes, at the end of a party, when everybody was tired of dancing, a guitar would appear from somewhere and people would sing. When I visited at lunch, the School of Architecture where my sister and also a good friend of mine got their degrees, students would sit around the lunch tables and use matchboxes and whatever else could be shaken or drummed for singing and rhythm (percussion) sessions. And one of the participants was Chico Buarque de Hollanda, who gave up on architecture and became one of the top singers and songwriters of his time. I hadn’t thought about that in a while…”

That really intrigued Shirley, who had to message: “Oh my God! Can we publish this exchange? It’s too funny! I love Chico Buarque’s songs. I wanted to bring one of his songs to the IN Singing Group, but I realized it would be too difficult (his forte is in the lyrics). I ended up bringing a Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes song that will probably be ready for the March general meeting.”

Renata replied again: “I know–Chico Buarque’s lyrics are so clever and right-on! My  husband actually learned some new Portuguese to keep up. He really liked “Vai trabalhar!” Very much like what some politicians tell people who fall (or are born into) hard times.”

And : “I was inspired to look up Chico Buarque–the bio actually mentions his short passage through the School of Architecture (FAU). And I listened to “A Banda”, which is actually really touching. He’s good! No wonder the generals were after him.”

Of course, Renata was not the only one listening to Chico Buarque’s songs. I was spending several hours listening and was caught by my husband while doing the dishes and singing along. As I said earlier, it brought back memories and I would like to share some of this music with you.

Chico Buarque de Hollanda, as Renata mentioned, is a very famous Brazilian musician. He is very smart and uses his music to comment on Brazilian society, culture and even politics. That is why during Brazil’s military regime, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, several artists had to leave Brazil. And that is why Renata mentioned generals going after Chico.

“A Banda”, one of the songs Renata mentioned, is about a band that comes to a town and changes several people’s outlook on life while they play their instruments. Unfortunately, the band eventually leaves and the town’s citizens go back to their humdrum lives.

You can hear it here:

Since Brazilian Carnaval will be between February 21st and 26th, 2020, I chose to add a link to a samba from Chico Buarque. This would be for a street Carnaval, not the competition between clubs (Escolas de Samba) that is televised, with scenes of it shown around the world. I chose this video from 1985 because it shows him, Chico, and because, if you stick with it, past his inexcusable dancing, towards the end, you can see the musicians sitting around making music, the same way Renata had seen in her youth and very similar to the kind my father and his friends would have done. At some point you will realize that the song “never ends”. This is very often done because, as the band goes through the streets playing the song, the public (the people in the streets) are able to learn the music and lyrics,  and, therefore, sing and dance to it, without any breaks in the dancing – you never want to stop dancing!

“ Vai Passar”:

And finally, I am adding a link to a video that shows the rehearsal and warm-up for the percussion of one of the Escolas de Samba (this one is called Beija-Flor). This is just the percussion! In the actual Carnaval parade, there are going to be more musical instruments, singing, the dancers, of course, and floats. These people will be wearing costumes, playing their instruments, dancing, singing and moving towards the end of the sambodromo (the parade route avenue). You can see the “master” telling them what to do by gesture. There are several masters/maestros working in tandem to guide their groups. There are several videos of this kind. I chose this video because it is short, but gives a good idea of their work.