The newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo published some amazing photos of Sao Paulo a few weeks ago to celebrate 457 years of the city (why they are celebrating 457 years is anyone’s guess!) You should check out the article to view all of them, but I thought I would just share those of Vila Mariana, where I am currently staying. Somehow the photographer has managed to make the city look a replica of itself, with the people simply little Lego men that have been placed in position, and the lighting seemingly coming from a strategically placed light bulb, illuminating each still.
I’m based just around the corner from this main street. It’s funny how Vila Mariana doesn’t really look anything like this on a daily basis. Somehow the smell, noise and heat completely changes its appearance.
Today was the cheapest days since I got here. The standard price of lunch or dinner in Sao Paulo is around R$12 (5 pounds) which might not seem too much but even the sandwiches cost this much. In fact everything costs this much. I don’t know how they do it but everytime I go to the supermarket to buy some bread, cheese and a bit of cake or to the restaurant for some rice and beans it costs this much. The only thing that doesn’t are the salgados (i.e. a breaded or battered savoury delight containing some combination of cheese, ham or chicken) which can be a pretty sensational choice, but not if you don’t want to eat greasy, stodgy food all the time.
Today I found an alternative in the shape of Yakissoba, a japanese dish (adopted by the Brazilian Chinese) which is made on the street, uniting the simple pleasures of chicken, cabbage, noodles and soya sauce. For R$4.50 I got a box full of the stuff. It’s all I’ve eaten today. Well that, and a bit of salad to make the second serving seem like a bit of a different meal. Here’s a picture of one of the guys making the stuff:
We have a guy just across the street from the hostel, so it couldn’t be more perfect.
Also today I went to see Yusuf Lateef, a 90-year old saxophonist who had played with people like Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley. He was playing with a couple of people based in Sao Paulo, and a few other odd-looking chaps. Everytime he tried to get up or to pick up his saxophone he would somehow wrap the mic lead around his legs, at which point a roadie would run onto the stage to unravel him. The music, however, was first-class. I’m very much hoping to meet Mauricio Takara, who was playing drums here, at some point during my trip. The guy has some chops.
So, after two failed attempts at arriving at film premiere-style arrangements it seems that music really is my thing. The last three nights have heralded three concerts, all of which I actually managed to find and found before they had finished. First up was the double bill of Lulina and Dudu Tsuda.
Dudu was a bit of a strange cat. He had one of those wispy beards, like he’d taken an uppercut from an angry candy floss, that only Asian people seem to get away with. His music was an interesting melange of general avant-gardeness that never really went anywhere. I got the impression that he was some kind of conceptual mastermind, and I was most definitely not in on it. Here he is performing “Le Jour que Erik Satie a Rencontré Stereo Lab,” which in name alone speaks volumes:
I’m not really sure why I started off with my least favourite video, that didn’t make much sense. Anyway, we shall persevere. Lulina was great! Most definitely in a Jeffrey Lewis vein. I’d been listening to her last two albums and they are good without being great, however live she is spot-on. Track after track of pure pop gold, coupled I’m sure with ascerbic wit which I struggled to really get to grips with. This is “Balada de Paulista,” i.e. ballad of a Sao Paulo-dweller.
Friday night was all about Karina Buhr, whose “Eu Mentí Pra Voce” has been one of my favourite records over the last six months. Dressed in a gold-sequinned catsuit she danced around the stage, grinding whenever an opportunity arose, writhed on the floor in an attempt to disrupt the guitarrist, turned her mic stage into a weapon and set loose on the audience. She was ridiculously good, especially considering she was being backed up by some of the best musicians in Brazil (including Edgar Scandurra and Fernando Catatau) and those great songs off her debut album. This is her performing “Telkphonen,” a strange percussive kraut-rock piece that never gives up on the intrigue.
Tonight I went to see Cerebro Eletronico, an interesting band who have been getting a lot of hype in Sao Paulo, featuring highly in many of the Best of 2010 polls. Without being particularly innovative they are a band that seems at ease producing track after track of 80s New Wave full of funky synths and rousing choruses. This is “Pareco Moderno” which is probably one of my favourites.
My initial plans to update this blog each day have obviously gone by the wayside. 34 degree heat and trying and failing to get to concerts and film premieres in far away neighbourhoods have put to that. In these circumstances, when I look at my notes over the last few days and realise that I could probably write an essay I will simply cut to the chase, through the power of bullet-points!
Once you start on the Jimmy trail there is no way back, as delicately displayed by Herbster at every opportunity. Following the premiere of O Samba Que Mora Em Mim (that was so cruelly denied) I was all set for another premiere. This time it was for Timeless Brasil, a live recording of three concerts by Mulatu Astuke, Suite for Ma Dukes and Arthur Verocai filmed in the US a couple of years ago. As I had spoken to Coleman (one of the guys behind the film) and also kept in close contact with their PR guy it wasn’t too difficult acquiring a free pass for the show. The great news was that it was at Espaco Unibanco, the same place where I had failed to see O Samba Que Mora Em Mim. Perfect, except that it wasn’t. I arrived at Espaco Unibanco and suddenly fear struck my heart. I looked around at all the film posters but couldn’t see anything for Timeless Brasil. It turns out there are a tonne of Espaco Unibancos in Sao Paulo and I was at the wrong one. Of course none of this would have been too bad had this cinema not been a 1h15 minute journey from where I’m staying. That’s 2 and a half hours there and back. You could say my lack of blog entries could be perfectly explained by this. The whole episode reminded me of something I said at work before I left. Claire had said how she was surprised at how I could remember everything without writing anything done. I told her that normally I remember 70% of what people tell me and then just rely on the fact that they’re gonna forget that extra 30% too. Unfortunately when you don’t even look to see where a place is it doesn’t matter what you remember so I don’t know quite where I was going with that one. Anyway…
I shaved my beard off. The hostel then got a complaint by an elderly Brazilian woman. She said she couldn’t use the bathroom, there was hair everywhere. She wasn’t wrong! It was a mess!
Talking of the hostel, I’m staying at Oca Hostel, and will be improving their website over the next couple of weeks. You can check out the current site HERE. It’s a nice place other than the fact that two of the owners have just decided that they want to seperate. It appears that the end of a marriage ain’t too pretty.
I’ve somehow managed to get my chance with Time Out Sao Paulo. They want me to write previews of upcoming underground gigs in Sao Paulo for the next few months. I have til Monday to find one for March. Where are all the bleeding interesting concerts when you want them! [As a side note, I just saw that LCD Soundsystem are playing here soon. A ticket for that will set you back R$280, that’s around £130/140, which seems a little steep. I then found out that the Paul McCartney gig last year cost between R$400 for the cheap seats and R$5,000 for the most expensive. I’m not even gonna go into the maths of that one, but it is clear to see why Macca is still topping that Rich List!]
And one last note. Today I spent most of the day with Alfredo Bello, a producer/bassist who performs as DJ Tudo. The guy has over 18,000 records and we had a go at listening to most of them. I now know what Emboladas and Cocas are all about, as well as what music from Suriname and Cape Verde sounds like, not to mention the sheer frill of Brazilian Hard Grooves! Very nice. You can check out a little of this guy’s style right here:
It seems it only takes a day to Jimmy. After getting a message on my StumbleUpon account (I didn’t even know I had one) from a Brazilian fellow who was a big fan of Sounds and Colours I followed up his interest to discover that he was an Assistant Director of a film soon to be released in Brazil, that being O Samba que Morra em Mim (The Samba Within Me) and which would be having its release party on 8th February, tying in nicely with my first full day in Sao Paulo. After many emails discussing the film as well as finding out when and where the film would be, as well as discussing the possibility of interviewing the director, I set off to watch the film at 10pm, arriving at Espaco Unibanco at the Bourbon Shopping Centre at 11pm where a big party was being had. A quick question in the security man’s ear revealed that the film was over. Too ashamed to track down Heitor to tell him that I had missed the film, would have no questions for the director as I hadn’t seen the film, and the general sensation that I hadn’t quite recovered from No Sleep Airlines, I decided to head back.
Looking back at my emails with Heitor there are at least three times that he said the film starts at 9pm as well as a flyer that quite clearly says 9pm. Sometimes you can be too Brazilian.
However, the day was not without fail. Especially as I had managed to pack in a few museum visits in the day, essentially discovering a few artists that actually made me feel quite warm inside, a response that I very rarely have to art. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that both Classicism and Modern Art turn me off in many different ways. Which is what makes the discovery of Adailton Fernandes Lopes and Aurelino dos Santos so thrilling, both indigenous artists from Brazil. Adailto Fernandes Lopes built a circus from paper, papier-mache, nylon and wire that was connected to a car stereo for power that made all the performers come to life. Aurelino do Santos on the other hand, painted a number of canvases that existed somewhere between an overhead view of a city and an absurdist fantasy, a place where a fish can be as big as the hospital is it resting next to. Unfortunately, I’ve had to use completely insufficient words to describe these amazing things as I can’t find any pictures of paintings from either of these two artists anywhere on the where. However, for a glimpse of what they are all about this is the picture being used by the museum on their flyer:
This is all part of the “A Arte do Povo Brasileiro” exhibition at Museu Afro Brasil, which you can find out more about HERE
A trip to MASP (Museum of Sao Paulo) was not quite as revelatory despite a great photography exhibit by Wim Wenders and the discovery of Hieronymous Bosch lurking in the Romanticism section. This guy really is special, as The Temptation of St Anthony pretty much single-handedly proves:
Over 9,000km, 11 hours in the air, a series of yellow, brown and grey things disguised as food, one rubbish rom com, an equally rubbish horse racing adventure starring John Malkovich, an hour on the bus, two trips on the Metro, and I’m in the Oca Hostel in Sao Paulo, i.e. I’m back in Brazil. One shower, sleep and breakfast later, and I’m human again.
On my previous trip I flew to Rio. This time I’m starting with Sao Paulo. I figure that if you’re gonna do something, i.e. write about South American music, you might as well do it properly. And seeing how many of the artists I’ve been listening to recently, e.g. Karina Buhr, Tulipa Ruiz, Tom Zé, Mauricio Takara, are all based in Sao Paulo, it is the perfect place to be.
On The Road to Find Out is a blog all about South America which I started in March 2009 upon landing in Rio de Janeiro, and which includes stories from my travels in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay.
As well as these travel stories, you will hopefully also get to understand my obsessions with food, football and music, all of which go hand-in-hand with travelling around South America, on a journey which has no end in sight yet.