maandag 16 november 2015

Obrigado Brazil

In the past week I was in Brazil for an international conference. Mostly being in meetings, chairing some workshops, attending a few, while mostly working in the background writing, reporting, preparing. About two full days of the 10 being underway were spent traveling to this remote town near the most Eastern point of the Americas.

Despite the extremely late hour, considering the time difference, of arriving in the north-eastern town of Joao Pessoa and despite my brain slowly closing down on me, one song crept into my mind straight away, a song that I haven't got a clue by whom it is, but a song I associate with the country totally: "Brazil, la la la la la la". It just went on and on in my head, while I walked off the tarmac of the small, domestic airport towards the terminal. It was so much warmer than home. Everything told me I had arrived for sure.

What I want to share with you is the musical experience I had in Joao Pessoa. Why? Because it was so different from what I am used to. Perhaps Greece comes closest with all the exotic eastern sounding music there in public transport. In the whole week I was there I have perhaps heard three songs I had heard before.

Music on the radio of the van that transported us to the congress center and back? All were in the Portuguese language. At night we ate mostly on the beach in one of the many small restaurants there. Live music is played for most of the day. Usually one guitarist who sings, a guitarist with a drummer or even one more musician could be found also. Every song they played was Brazilian. With one exception that I can remember: 'Hotel California' by the Eagles. Sung with an incredible fat accent, and most likely phonetically. So little people speak even one word of English that it is not surprising that English songs are an exception.

Another fact that was obvious, was how deep some of the songs spoke to the people. Some were sung along to with a deeply felt emotion. There I was sitting in a Brazilian beach restaurant having dinner with a soft, extremely pleasant wind coming of the Atlantic and everyone around you starts to sing along. At the same time the emotion just speaks out loud on the people's faces and from their voices. Something that never happens in this western European country I live in, unless it's someone's birthday or something.

This was just one of the things that happened, looked at or felt, that made me realise that I was a long way from home. Not recognising any music, along with the heat, the coconuts, the capirinhas, the mix of wealth and poverty and everything that comes with that, certainly is one very noticeable element.

Did I like the music? Good question, but the answer is somewhat indifferent. Let me just say that it was fun while it lasted in the background.


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