Archive | February, 2011

Discovering Sao Paulo’s music scene on the web

27 Feb

I recently found a few social media sites on the web which reflected parts of the Sao Paulo music scene that I had not really encountered, mainly because they revolve around electronic music, but I thought I would share them here, as they do also show how people are trying to design different kinds of websites in order to connect people and ultimately connect a few bucks with their bank accounts.

SoundCloud, which is a pretty cool service for uploading a few tracks for people to listen to. It allows for folk to download the tracks, comment on them and also allows for people to upload music simply by the old drag and drop. It seems like they’ve begun trying to communicate with people via a blog service looking at music from different places. This week they chose Sao Paulo of all places. All of the acts chosen are new to me and they seem okay, but they’re in no way as creative as some of the other artists currently working in Sao Paulo at the moment. You can check out this article HERE. There is also a group page where people from Sao Paulo upload music, much in the way that on flickr you can throw your new photos into a Sao Paulo group.

There is also a page at City Sounds (or which features plenty of music from Sao Paulo. This is a service similar to but works geographically. I.e. I can check out London or Paris or Sao Paulo and find out what the people in those cities are listening to. It seems like everyone is listening to house and techno at the moment. Although this may be affected by the fact that mainly dance aficionados are signed up to the site, it may also be fact that dance and techno is more popular than the incredible, inventive pop music happening in Brazil right now. Why do people always take the safe option? Why are Coldplay so popular? I will never understand these things. For an update on what people are listenining to Sao Paulo right now just click HERE.

In way of respite, I would recommend checking out this article at Museyon, an interview with Flavia Durante, which reflects my kind of thing a little more, and also reveals a few more of the interesting things about Sao Paulo’s nightlife. She really does know her stuff.

And for an even greater respite just check out this video from Bodes e Elefantes:

Tom Ze at SESC Vila Mariana, Sao Paulo (25/02/11)

26 Feb

Like an excited schoolgirl awaiting new gossip on Justin Bieber the prospect of seeing Tom Zé in the flesh almost brought me out in hives. If I ever had any doubt this man is a genius this has now been put to bed.

The concert in Sao Paulo was to celebrate the release of Studies of Tom Ze: Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You, a compilation by Luaka Bop that combines three of his albums; Estudando o Samba, Estudando o Pagode and Estudando a Bossa. It’s songs from these albums that he would be playing, although he did stray into other albums quite a few times. One of the highlights was “To”, which is the video above, and also contains the line “Eu To Te Explicando Pra Te Confundir,” which is where the new collection gets the second part of its title. For some reason “Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You” just doesn’t quite have the same rhythm to it.

Here’s “Jimi Renda-Se,” one of those songs that isn’t actually on the Estudando albums, but is simply too good to miss out:

And here’s “Brigette Bardot.” It is said the cover of this album is actually a photo of a marble stuck up someone’s arse, something Zé did to amuse himself while the military dictatorship was at its most dominant.

For me, the concert at times was quite tiring. Mainly due to the fact that every song had an introduction, that would involve Zé pulling out a letter that he had written to Ronald Reagan, or explaining the contents of his new release, or putting a new jacket he had just made that he wanted everyone to know about. I’m pretty certain Ze’s brain works at 10 times the rate of mine, so even if he had been speaking English I would have struggled to keep up. As it was, in a rapid-fire of Portuguese my brain started to fizz and crackle trying to understand every nuance. It was these intros, which would often segue into the songs, that made the performance half theatre/half song, especially as he was playing with just a small quintet of performers, as opposed to some of the larger groups he’s been helming lately.

And for a bit more background information, this is the little promotional nugget Luaka Bop put together for the release.

Hostels and recommendations in Sao Paulo

24 Feb

My opinion of Sao Paulo has changed dramatically. The first time I came here I stayed for two days, felt my lungs, head and life clog up and quickly got the hell out. I wasn’t ready for the city. When my passion for Brazilian music started to take full hold I knew this was the place to come and buy cheap vinyl and discover music. Now that I’ve been here for a few weeks I can honestly say that I quite like the place (which is a lot easier to write after three days of sunshine (with 5 minutes of rain each day) than a full three hour rain storm where you have to hide under a 10-foot concrete awning which doesn’t even really help as the rain is hitting at you from everyone one of the 360 possible degrees).

A small village like Trindade is easier to fit into straight away. The people you meet on your first night are there on the second. The bars that you go to soon become favourite spots, partly due to the fact that they are only two bars ever open and so one simply has to become a favourite. It’s taken a couple of weeks of being in Sao Paulo but I’ve now got to the point where I can go to shows and know two or three people there, and on the occasional fortuitous amble to the shops meet someone familiar.

Yet for most tourists, myself included on my first visit, Sao Paulo is just here to be explored for a day or two before heading somewhere with a generally more appealing demeanour. The only guest who has stayed here at Oca Hostel for more than three nights was a Dutch guy who had already met a lovely Paulista girl, and was dead set on partying, which is pretty much what this place is all about anyway. This did leave the guy with a final weekly hostel bill of R$800 (£300) on top of whatever crazy prices he paid for drinks, club entrance fees, meals, and all the other high-priced fare he got upto.

Which always leaves me puzzled when new guests arrive and ask me what I would recommend. Get down the fruit market, go to a few museums, have a walk in the park – these are the main suggestions. Yet none of them will really endear Sao Paulo to someone anymore than any other city which has parks, museums and markets (which is in fact all other cities). Maybe the Paulistanos who say that “Sao Paulo works so that the rest of the country can play” has some logic, as even if you want to come here and party you need a pretty flexible bank balance and this rules it out for many travellers as well as people from Rio and other states, as well as many of the people from Sao Paulo itself.

Lucas Santtana at the Sonoridades Festival in Rio de Janeiro

23 Feb

Hey, I just saw my review of a Lucas Santtana gig is up at the Rio Times website. You can read it HERE. This one will be in the print edition in March also. Somehow it went a bit corporate that review, but it’s a hard publication to write for. They are very serious generally, maybe because they’re always looking for advertising and don’t want to upset anyone.

Anyway, I actually had a point about this concert. There is a very common practice in Brazilian concerts which is to have “convidados” or special invites whenever possible. What this basically means is that the main act will play a few songs, then a special guest will come on for a couple of songs, then they will do a couple more just with their normal band, then another special guest will come on, and so on, and so on, depending how famous the main person is or how many records they are hoping to sell (if the concert is going to be made into a DVD they will probably have at least 5 or 6 “special” guests (but how special can they be when there are so many of them is questionable!).

Ultimately this results in annoyingly disjointed shows where the main act spends half the time telling the audience how good their special guests are, and where the band never really get the chance to get juiced up as they have to spend half the concert just standing there. On the flip side, the promoter knows that all the internet people will send loads of excited tweets saying how excited they are that ? and ? and ? and ? and ? are all going to be playing, that they will get loads of photos of musicians together looking very happy. Somehow the quality of music at the show seems less important than these two things.

I watched Karina Buhr perform last week. It was an unbelievable show; amazing band, great performance, really good songs. At the Lucas Santtana show she played one of her songs, sang back-up on one of Lucas’ songs and then danced around at the back during one of the others. What a waste!

As if to prove I also can’t resist a cheap promo shot, here’s Karina with Lucas at the show (photo by P Eduardo):

Relaxing in Sao Paulo

23 Feb

These guys have worked it out. On top of the Coban building is the place to take a break from the mayhem. Just look at ’em:

Don’t they look content? Apparently they do this once a month, it enables them to get a bit closer to the streets of Sao Paulo. Presumably they tried sitting on the main road but struggled to get the peace they were after. Ya know I was sitting in traffic the other day. Got hit by three cars. And on that note, I’m out!

This image was stolen from HERE.

Sao Paulo = Hell de Janeiro x 10

22 Feb

My friend Fabiola often refers to Rio as Hell De Janeiro, which seems a little unfair because it is pretty much the best place ever. And, aside from that, there are places where hell seems a lot more apt, and Sao Paulo is one of them. Or at least it is between the hours of 4pm and 6pm everyday when the heavens open and each gloriously sunny summer’s day seems like just a myth. I was in Rio on Saturday and that was the first day of my trip without rain. The six-hour bus journey was a joyous trip through sun-kissed mountains, and then we got to Sao Paulo. You could in fact see it in the distance; a dark, angry cloud hovering above our destination. As soon as we entered the bus terminal, which is on the city’s outskirts the rain started pouring down, huge rocks of water with odd bout of thunder and lightning in case you weren’t quite feeling the hellishness enough yet. It all reminded me why at 4 ‘o’ clock every afternoon, when I see the darkness circling, I run back to the hostel to hide for a few hours. It’s very possible that the huge amount of pizzas consumed every day could be related to this stormy predicament, but I don’t want to draw any conclusions just yet. It’s either that, or the unbelievable amounts of concrete, cars and heat that just cause some kind of unbearable tension to break in the atmosphere each day.

Sao Paulo in Numbers

22 Feb

Numbers are great. Well for certain things anyway. Try telling someone that 3 is a better number than 2 and you’ll get in a whole heap of trouble though. But that’s another story really. These are a few numbers about Sao Paulo, taken from a Brazilian blog. I figured they may help paint a picture.

  • 11,244,365 inhabitants
  • 12,500 restaurants
  • 15,000 bars
  • 1 million pizzas a day
  • 17,000 items of sushi per hour
  • 1,950 banks
  • 148 universities
  • 3 million passengers per day in the Subway
  • 169 thousand public phones (public phones)
  • 4,500 public squares
  • 5,954 intersections with traffic lights
  • R$320 billion is the GDP (15% of Gross Domestic Product of South America)
  • R$5.3 billion is the average volume of the stock exchange / day
  • 3rd largest budget in the country (second only to the Union and State of São Paulo)
  • 300 thousand motoboys (but who are the motoboys?)
  • 6.5 million cars
  • 15 thousand buses
  • 32,766 taxis
  • 600 thousand companies
  • 51 malls
  • 410 hotels, with 42 one thousand quarters
  • 205 hospitals
  • 3885 private schools
  • 3153 public schools
  • 110 museums
  • 160 theaters
  • 600 new buildings per year
  • 4 thousand properties sold per hour in town

I’m not sure about the 1 million pizzas. That seems a bit much!


22 Feb

I felt just like George in Seinfled eating his Kung-Po Chicken while being asked if he had anything to do with the Yankee’s stolen equipment. I really am a journalist honest. At least these words were started to seem more truthful, but only because Brazilian Music Obsessive isn’t actually a job title. I was on the 9th floor of an apartment block in Vila Madalena, a neighbourhood that reveals it’s hippy roots in the names of the roads (Sunflower, Harmony and Wizard are some of my favourites) yet due to the inflation this is hippy as it gets. I was meeting Lulina for an interview. This was EXACTLY what I was doing. Normally I try and walk some fine line where it feels just like a conversation while secretly I am getting all the answers I want. Not this time. We sat down. I tried to make some small talk then realised I had no idea how to speak Portuguese. It was at that point I realised she was sitting there silently staring at me and that there was a flood of sweat pouring from my forehead. It was quite mild on the street that night. Not in her apartment. The heat was incredible! I smiled at her but this only made things more awkward. So, I got my dictaphone out. I figured I could buy some time, twiddling the nobs. It worked. We talked for over half an hour. The sweating stopped at the 10-minute mark. Twice I tried to ask her questions, where despite the words feeling good in my mouth before I spoke them, once they returned to my ears I realised they had no similarity to any known language. It felt like I was giving her questions in the form of those picture puzzles that are broken into eight pieces, and she had to slide them back into place, before she could answer them. It turns out she’s quite good at doing those puzzles, and a lovely lady besides. It seems such a shame she has to work as a publicist’s agent when I’m sure she would be producing unbelievable music like this on a much more regular basis if that were not the case.

Free things to do in Sao Paulo

21 Feb

Cultura Grátis em São Paulo is my kind of site; a regularly-updated selection of free things to do in Sao Paulo. It may be in Portuguese but it is still extremely useful, with plenty of free music, film showing and art exhibitions to choose from. If you’re in Sao Paulo this is definitely worth checking out:

Cultura Grátis em São Paulo

Skipping straight through to Monday morning

14 Feb

Something had to give. I’d been on my best behaviour since arriving in Brazil, regularly in bed by midnight and getting up at 7.30 in the morning. My excitement in Brazil has been made up almost entirely of my current obsessions with Brazilian music, namely bands like M. Takara 3, Tulipa Ruiz, Lulina and Karina Buhr, all of whom are based in Sao Paulo. So I’ve been spending the majority of my time going to gigs, writing about those gigs, meeting Brazilian musicians and pitching ideas to hugely-underwhelmed editors. In some ways this culminated in some article ideas which I sent to Time Out SP last night for possible inclusion in the March edition.

After I sent the articles off with hopeful spirit, Isadora (who works at the hostel) asked if I wanted to join her for some drinks when she finishes work. Not having broken loose in a while I could only but agree, and so off we went at 2am to see what Sao Paulo has to offer on a Sunday night. We didn’t get too far. This is a city that has to sleep sometime, and Sunday night/Monday morning seems to be that time. After asking countless people getting chucked out of bars up and down Vila Madalena where was open and getting only negative answers we decided the best option was to go to the petrol station and get some beers there.

With a few extra people in tow, including a ridiculously-upbeat Dutch guy who kept asking us if we wanted to get some drugs, and a Brazilian girl who kept asking me to retort lines from the Harry Potter books and then shouting “Harry Potter! You’re Harry Potter!,” each time I followed her orders, we went to the petrol station. Which might seem a little depressing but was actually the best place you could ever go for beers. First off, the beers are a third of the price of beers in the bars, secondly we had our own table and chairs that were parked on the foyer, thirdly this meant we could get into a bit of banter with all the visitors to the station, fourthly we had a decent, clean toilet right next to us (which was always vacant) and lastly, when I told a taxi driver nearby that I was a big fan of Tim Maia (which he was playing in his car) he became our own little soundsystem, parking himself nearby. It was almost as if we had inadvertently started our own little bar on the street.

Heading home at 7.30am after countless beers, when the city is coming to life, was the strangest aspect of all. God knows what the people on the Metro thought of us as we camped out in the corner of the underground train. It’s fair to say we were past caring.