Me + Katy Perry

25 09 2011

I lied yesterday in this blog; there were only 100,000 people at Rock In Rio yesterday.  That aside, the real mystery is how all of them, and nearly every one of them under 20, knew the words to Queen’s “Love of My Life”?  They threw a 1985 clip up on the big screen, and everyone just sang right along – proof that the Queen’s English still rules.

Entertainment hegemony aside, Rock in Rio was a delight.  The last big festival I attended was Woodstock, so this is not exactly my cup of tea (bowl of mate).  As the queue to the buses was more than four miles long we opted for a three mile hike to the site.  Sound was good, and the outdoor venue a-way out in Barra, was a manicured, astroturfed (they learned lessons from that muddy Woodstock) teenage playland.  The one day ticket price (R190, about $120.00, 600,000 sold-out in four days) meant that everyone was white and affluent.  One nice thing was that the sell-out meant the entire event was broadcast live, for free on TV.  One bad thing was when we spoke with a food concession person she said she earned $11.00 for a full day’s work.

Once de-sambaized, the kid Cariocas could be just another bunch of dorky suburban Americans, without an ounce of rhythm.  They did the pogo jump and swaying hands-above-the-head thing religiously, joyously, from 6 pm to 3 am, until we left after some beers and an ounce of Rihanna.  Clearly the big star was Katy Perry who was perky, sassy, polished – a quick change artist ably assisted by the on-stage aerobic class of characters now essential to amping up the excitement gap that mere singing and playing creates.  Everyone knew every word and cheered every new outfit.  If I was leery of the lasting value, I was taken by the effect, that the music did exactly what pop music has always done, made people happy.

                    Spunky samba schooler VS funky chicken @ Rock in Rio

I was happier the following evening at a samba school.  “Escola de samba” is a phrase meant to add a bit of academic legitimacy to communities, primarily made up of poor people in the poor neighborhoods (favelas), who march in a group at Carnival. Practically every city has schools and parades, but Rio is the mother load.  A theme is developed, a song chosen with costumes and floats created to reflect the themes – some frivolous, but mostly a lot more thought provoking than say, well, a Katy Perry song.   Historical overviews and serious social issues are often explored, complete with nudity and feathers, like all good lectures should be.

To see some nice pics of last years carnival go to:

Carnival 2012 begins Feb 17th (145 days, 3 hours from now) and so all the schools are involved in contests to choose the best song to represent their chosen theme.  To raise money and spur interest the schools open up their cavernous rehearsal studios to allow gawkers, gringos and locals to mix, dance and party.  You pay to get in, to get a table to sit and for swag, food and drinks; VIPs in the balconies, you and me on the ground floor.

So, another long trek took me to the rehearsal hall of Salgueiro  (G.R.E.S. Acadêmicos da Salgueiro) in Tijuca.  Formed in the 1950s, Salgueiro is nine times carnival champions in Rio, last winning in 2009.  Their motto is honest, “Not better, nor worse, just a different school” and their logo a snapshot of Brazilian essentials; TV, music and soccer.

Little shows by young dancers and some veterans provide breaks between competing songs.  All this and the fees earn income for the schools to pay for the elaborate and costly floats and costumes necessary to successfully compete at Carnival.  Every item in the place, from napkins to chairs, are sponsored and covered in logos.  The tables are littered with lyric sheets from the various composers hoping for a vote that matters by members of the school, and that their samba will propel the school to victory.  Propel is the right word, as dancers defy physical laws of motion, speed and energy.

“Cordel Branco e Encarnado” (“Peacock White and Red” is Salgueiro’s theme this year and will reinterpret a poetic chapbook from the Northeast of the country, play off a popular telenovela with the same source, combine it with their booming batteria (drum corps), and flood the street with variations on “The Romance of the Mysterious Peacock”.  Lets see a real university try and do that!

                                    film of the batteria of Salgueiro – furioso

Remember ARC will host Brazilian World Music Day – Sept 7 – 2012

Allo Allo Brasil…

23 09 2011

B. George here in Rio, typing near-but-not-on a beach, in the peculiar upmarket suburb that everyone insists in IN the city, Barra.  Just a quick note  before a visit to MIS, Rio’s (there is also one in Sao Paulo) Museum of Image and Sound.

While info on this institution that began in 1965 is almost non-existant, and it is difficult to find at its present location, the hub-bub surrounding the new building is monumental and well deserved.  They’ve adopted the NYU method of destroying a wonderful/dreadful/authentic music performance space (in this case the ditry, druggy, whorey, Discoteca Help) to preserve culture.

Our goal is to enlist their help in creating Brazilian World Music Day.  More later on our meetings and record collecting adventures soon.

Our hosts have gotten us Rock in Rio tickets, so me and 500,000 of my closest friends are off to see folks I would never see in any form, for any reason, under any circumstance.  But will enjoy the scene and the people.  Here’s a shot of Katy Perry arriving in Rio with a Carmen Miranda mask, obviously a big influence on her oeuvre…

I started the car + the clock said 9;11…

13 09 2011

Driving into the city on 9/11, I had to wait until after 8pm, when my street in ‘Ground Zero’ would reopen.  I started the car and the clock read 9:11.  Spooky?  Contrived?  Well, it was no surprise.  It matched the mood.  It made sense somehow.  Earlier in the day I had found one of the most peculiar (or appropriate) LPs I have ever run across, ‘Play It Safe!

This bit of genius in not JUST a recording, but a masterful safety device, as reliable as a scrambled jet ten years ago, designed to befuddle the cleverest burglar and save your life and the lives of your entire family.  How?  Simple…

Yes, just follow the detailed instructions and rig your turntable to endless repeats to foil the cleverest of bad guys, says this action hero of a record.  Lookin’ for homeland security? “Now…have somebody “home” all the time!” Anticipating virtual reality, we’re told this ‘special stereo record” is, ” an accurate reproduction of a real family at home.  Household sounds, voices, laughter, movement – even arguments!”

The really scary thing is that this is just Volume 1!

Walking back from the carpark the twin beams of light looked lovely in the haze.  I passed four police checkpoints, three of the officers on their cellphones, oblivious to passers by.  You’d be safer playing this record.

windy + naked tape

6 09 2011

We’re back at work here @ the ARC, but it was a wild windy week, as the neighborhood braced for the hurricane (look caution is one thing, but you don’t tell people to evacuate by 5, and close the subways at noon!).  Here’s a local Tribeca restaurant that made bondage seem, well, safe.

Later, out of nowhere, there came a holy grail of collecting, as at a flea market upstate, south of the flooding and north of a religious experience, I found….

Can you imagine this for sale at a truck stop?  “Hey, gimme one of those Hank Williams 8 tracks, and uh, maybe a Skeeter Davis, and, yea, that there Two Virgins will rock the BeJusus outa the big rig.”  Miraculously, the same dealer was selling some religious snow domes, so I sez, “Make that three Virgins…”

What’s that smell: monkey?  burning hair?  bacterial toxin botulin?   In my world the trucker hangs a handful of these on the rear view, blissfully humming “Two Virgins No. 3”  into Tucson.   All I know is I only bought two things this weekend, and well, I could shop forever and a day and not do better.

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