Tag Archives: Brazil

A David Byrne style update on Brazil

10 Sep

When you’re hoping for an update on Brazil with a slightly oft-kilter but ultimately prescient nature you can’t really do much worse than David Byrne. Luckily, he has been writing about Brazil on his blog, which I can handily paste in here. He basically highlights the film “Saudade do Futuro” as one to look out for as well as mentions for Caetano Veloso and CéU. The first of these doesn’t really need any introduction, other than to say he still has it, but CéU maybe does. She is still getting bigger and bigger but yet to really break the US or England yet. She played in London for the second time this summer, and has been popping on all kinds of different albums, including new releases by Herbie Hancock and 3namassa. As Mr Byrne says, it really is only a matter of time before she makes it. Here’s what he had to say in full:

Brasil Update

The other day I watched a Brazilian film called Saudade do Futuro, a documentary about Northeastern musicians in São Paulo. This means the poor Northeast in Brasil, not Northeast as in Connecticut. The film is very poetic — there is almost no voice over, and almost no didactic explanations of what we’re seeing — but those techniques are made unnecessary because the style of music — forró, and especially repentismo — tell the stories of the singers’ harsh lives in the lyrics. The latter style consists of rap/rhyming duels, with the singers also playing pandeiros (tambourines with heads, to us northerners). They describe how they had to leave the Northeast — as Luiz Gonzaga did decades ago — and their struggles to survive in the big city. There’s a lot of humor and innuendo in the lyrics as well. Years ago I went to a forró club in SP and it was lovely — great dancing and live music blasting over a horrific PA system.

The filmmakers intersperse the musical scenes with poetic footage of São Paulo — the stock exchange, the street bustle, the commuter trains — that also have a kind of musicality to them. It all fits together in a way that is lovely but inexplicable.

I saw Caetano Veloso’s show here recently at Terminal 5. He’s touring with a band led by guitarist Pedro Sá. The music from his last two records is minimal and raw — rock with a subtext of samba. Lyrics about relationships gone bad, the US base at Guantanamo and drug addicts. Not exactly feel good stuff — but he manages inevitably to make it enjoyable and even beautiful. His pleasure in performing was infectious. It was the best sound mix I’ve ever heard at Terminal 5.

Sunday night I saw Céu, a singer who is one of the exponents of the kind of electronic-roots hybrids now coming out of Brasil. She does a very contemporary kind of music that’s informed by a myriad of historical (mostly Brazilian) styles. The band was, like Caetano’s, minimal — bass, drums, keyboards, and a guy who played samples by using discs as a DJ might… but in this case he played the discs manually, triggering sounds off his laptop. In the last few years she’s gotten hugely popular — well, everywhere except the USA. I expect that might change soon.

Rare fire hurricane hits Brazil

7 Sep

There are just somethings that are too good not to publish. So when I read about a fire hurricane I really had no choice but to publish it here on the blog. Have a look at this little beastie:

This happened in Araçatuba in Sao Paulo.

I have no idea how one of these gets going, though a few highly-unreliable sources on the web seem to think that it could be when oil gets trapped in a tornado/hurricane and somehow gets ignited. Although quite how any flame could get anywhere near a hurricane without being blown out is beyond me!

Brazil and Uruguay step closer to integration

31 Jul

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica on Friday (30th July) signed cooperation agreements on defence, science, technology, energy, river transportation and fishing with the hope of accelerating political and economic integration between these two neighbouring countries.

The underlying sentiment of the agreement was the call for South America to become a peaceful zone on the whole. This is echoed by this statement by Lula:

“Within the framework of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) we hope to deepen our mutual understanding in order to create a common vision of defense and security for the region, consolidating South America as a zone of peace and democracy.”

They failed to mention any crises that could be causing the lack of peace in the area, although the recent disputes between Colombia and Venezuela were surely on people’s minds. It is felt that the ease of relations between these two countries, especially in border towns such as Rivera and Santana, where people can come and go between the two countries effortlessly, will become a model for other countries in South America to follow.

More info:
Brazil, Uruguay see South America as Peace Zone (Latin American Herald Tribune)

Sounds and Colours – a magazine about South American music and culture

24 Jul

Sounds and Colours, as mentioned in a previous post, is a website I have been working on for the last couple of months. It seems like now is the time to get the word out on this thing! The site features interviews, mixtapes, news and reviews of all aspects of South American music and culture. At the moment the focus is Brazil, with a strong bias towards everything musical. In August we will be looking at Argentina.

The basic idea is to create a site about South America in a way that’s not been done for. The majority of sites that are about South American music in particular tend to categorise it as ‘world music’ or ‘latin american music’. These tags are just too broad to ever really embrace all the amazing styles of music from this region. The same also applies to culture with Brazil largely described as ‘carnival’ country, Argentina as the home of ‘tango’ and Peru as the place to visit ‘macchu picchu.’ There is just so much more going on and we are hoping to get the word out as much as possible! Keep on eye on this blog as well obviously as the Sounds and Colours site for the latest on this new project.

Sounds and Colours

Shooting envious glances across the Atlantic

6 May

I can’t help but find myself completely underwhelmed by election fever gripping Britain right now. It’s not that I don’t care or don’t believe that my vote makes a difference, it’s just that I can’t stop concentrating all my attention on foreign shores. Short-term plans to head to Europe are materialising but the real long-term goal is to return to Brazil. Although there are already signs that Brazil may be starting to change. The clean-up has started, as mentioned in the article ‘Brazil’s ‘Big Prostitute’ Banning Grilled Shrimp on Rio Beaches‘. No more grilled shrimp on the beach – too much risk. No more football either before 5pm (although they have already got around this by making up a new game called Foot Volley which is essentially kicky-uppy’s around a volleyball net). But no more caipirinhas on Copacabana beach, now that is a bit much! It’s a clean-up campaign to rival Giuliani’s. One of the main policy’s: to tell people that it is not alright to just piss wherever they want. Considering the various places where I’ve seen people unleash their hosepipe’s in Brazil this could be particularly tricky. The thing is I just can’t help but be jealous of all these going on’s.

However, I am not in Brazil, I am in Uttoxeter, and as some sort of tribute to this little place where I’ve spent a pretty huge portion of my life here is a little photo tribute.


The real picture I should be taking of course is the public toilet next to the bus station. Single-handedly the greatest public toilet I have ever been to. I just need to find a quiet moment. Coming soon…

Christ off the menu

14 Apr

More of an update on these mudslides I’m afraid since they are the main thing on my mind, Brazil-wise, at the moment.

Christ the Redeemer is currently unreachable by tourists as mudslides have affected the area all around it’s perch on Corcovado. The city are saying it could take up to six months to remove the debris and get access to Mr Redeemer going again. This seems like a ridiculously long time, especially considering every poster for Rio I see has a massive picture of Christ on it and a promise of the monumental Christ tour, meaning there will not be many dry gringo eyes in Rio for quite a while.

These are the some of the workers trying to clear the rail line which takes the people up to the top:

Brazil Flooding

I’m presuming the fact they are sitting around doing absolutely nothing has very little to do with the fact it will take six months.

The amount of deaths from the floods and mudslides is also now estimated at 230 people.

Update on Floods and Mudslides in Rio

11 Apr

It is still raining in Rio, though fortunately not as much as previously in the week, and thankfully forecasts are that it will stop completely tomorrow. The floods carried on til Friday (bringing the death toll upto 205 people) with the worst mudslide happening on Wednesday in Niteroi. Over 100 to 150 bodies have been pulled from that mudslide alone.

This is a video from ITN News focusing on the floods:

For me it’s the carioca at the end who says the most interesting thing. Why isn’t Rio prepared for tropical levels of rainfall? It’s obviously a big problem, and one which is explained by the poorly-built homes that adorn many of the hills. As I previously suggested it seems that the Government will therefore use these incidents as a reason to move its poorer residents. This has already begun to happen, with resident groups getting in their complaints early.

Raining in Rio (More mudslides!)

7 Apr

It does seem I may have picked the perfect moment to traverse oceans. England has been dry and calm over Easter weekend, only a cold wind to grumble about, but the bouts of sunshine have at least given the illusion that the tides are turning and that the snow which has been covering this place for the past three months and finally gone back to where it came from.

There’s certainly no possibility of using the words ‘dry’ and ‘calm’ in Rio de Janeiro right now. For the past few days there has been continual rainfall, of the tropical variety. I have just been reading some of the reports which are putting the death toll at a minimum of 72 people but most likely rising to over 100.

The majority of casualties have come from mudslides occurring all over the city (Rio’s hills are full of favelas and improvised housing), particularly in the Niteroi and Sao Goncalo areas. It’s the second time this year that such fateful mudslides have occurred. In January, at least 85 people died after a series of torrential rain.

Rainfall was 11 inches over two days starting on Monday afternoon. I have no idea how much rain this actually is, but it is some kind of record so must be a hell of a lot. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday.

It will be interesting to see how Rio deals with this event. They are one of the main cities for the 2014 World Cup and are also the hosts for the 2016 Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if it saw the Government step up the need to shift its poor citizens from their hill-based favelas to alternative housing. I almost feel certain this will happen in some way, though I would have major doubts over how they would find alternative housing for so many people. As well as causing so much disruption to the city (residents have been told to stay in their homes, children are not able to go to school), the rain has also caused some power shortages, especially in Barra da Tijuca where much of the Olympic activity will be taking place. As the first Olympics in South America there will be so much weight on Rio to excel as hosts and so I have no doubts they will take many proactive actions.

More links on the flooding:

Big Floods in Brazil (Euronet / 7th April 2010)
Flooding in Rio de Janeiro (BBC News / 7th April 2010)
April 2010 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides (Wikipedia)

What to bring back from Brazil – The Essentials

6 Apr

You see, what I’ve gone and done already is I’ve lied. I’ve gone and called this article ‘The Essentials.’ There really is no essentials and even if there was I don’t think I’d be the person to be telling folk about them. This really is just my idea of some interesting things to bring back from Brazil, or even just interesting things to buy while in Brazil. A few ideas that shy away from the normal Christ statue and Brazil football shirt.

1. Cachaca

This is quite an obvious choice for me but it’s got to be done. For between 5 and 6 Reais you can pick up a bottle of Velho Barreiro, by far my favourite of the cachacas, or at least of the dirt-cheap cachacas. Plus, as an added bonus it comes in this fancy bottle which makes it seem like a fine rum, or at least something that would cost you up to 20 pounds, not the 2 pounds that it will actually cost you. It’s the perfect gift. The only other alternative for this price is 51, which is pretty good in Caipirinhas but pretty bob for all else.

2. Aviação Butter

Aviacao - Manteiga de Primer Qualidade

This may seem like an odd choice. It is butter after all. But Aviacao butter is like no other. It has one unparalleled asset. On the front of the tin is a picture of a cow with a plane flying above it. You don’t get this with just any butter ya know!

Plus, this butter has a lot of history, it’s a tin that has lasted for many generations of Brazilians, and is something they use a lot. As butters go it’s very distinctive, probably due to the fact that they have added about a kilo of salt into each tin. The best way to enjoy it is with some boiled root vegetables (add it just before eating), i.e. potatoes, parsnips or batatas barao (if you’re in Brazil) and enjoy!

3. Rapadura

Rapadara - unrefined sugarcane

Rapadura is unrefined sugar straight from the sugarcane factories. It’s pretty darn common in Brazil and is also the healthiest way to sweeten anything (or maybe I should say joint-healthiest as jaggery is also pretty good). Even brown sugar and demerera are refined in some way, making rapadura one of the purest you can find. Buying it in Europe and North America is possible but costs a fortune compared to its price in Brazil. Buy a block I say and then whenever you are making something with sugar, simply use a bit of rapadura instead of the usual stuff.

Interestingly, the Germans at some point decided that they’d come up with the name ‘rapadura’ and managed to trademark it, meaning that whenever this stuff was exported from Brazil they would have to cover up the name or design new packaging. A ridiculous situation which I believe has now been resolved, but only after one of the Brazilian sugarcane companies spent years trying to copyright ‘sauerkraut’ to show those Germans what it felt like to have something copyrighted which you love so much!

4. Havaianas


Wait a second, this one doesn’t involve food. I think I’ve made a mistake! Okay, so maybe there is room for one entry here that doesn’t involve shoving things into my gob. Everyone who goes to Brazil should buy some Havaianas. There are stores on just about every corner selling them, plus there is the beautifully-designed new store on Rua Oscar Freire in Sao Paulo. I bought several pairs; they do make good presents. Anyone venturing to Brazil should wait until they arrive before buying any flip-flops, there is so much choice and they are unbelievably cheap, between 7 and 25 Reais, which equates to between 2 and 8 pounds.

I think that’s about it for now. Maybe I’ll make this a part one if I can think of anything else that I’ve missed. Otherwise, there you have it, a very brief idea of some things that are definitely uniquely Brazilian that you should buy.

from the beach to the city

29 Mar

The time had finally arrived, time to leave Trindade. Goodbye to days spent meandering between the beach and a bean bag. There really is no comparison between going to the park in the morning or for a swim in the ocean, which is why I am now sitting in this Sao Paulo hostel feeling a little confused by life. I just wish everything was simpler. Need to buy some cake? Go to the corner shop. Need to buy some cachaca? Go to the corner shop. Ice? Corner shop. How about a drink? The beach. A swim? Beach. You get the idea, for the last four weeks I’ve only ever had about four options for all my day-to-day goings-ons (although this is slightly a lie seeing as beach in Trindade means about seven different beaches and going for a swim could be the sea or the river). Now I have a multitude of options, Sao Paolo is the third biggest city in the world, and truth is I think it’s swallowing me up!

It’s a good job then that I had some kind of clear objective for when I arrived here. Last time I came I just wanted to discover a little of Sao Paulo. Without any particular aim this is kind of tricky. I meandered between museums and fruit markets, which dazzled my eyes for short interludes, but then when I got back on the street, took my map out and got metro’d away to another stop, I was none the wiser for where I had been or even if I knew what the hell this place is. I am still struggling to find out its identity, and am increasingly thinking it has none. Whereas Rio seems to act as the first point as Brazil starts to become more Northern (despite being geographically in the South), where the african influence begins to have a greater say over colonial memories, Sao Paulo is outweighed by the feeling of being very Southern. With my newly-Trindade-assisted-tan I look more Brazilian than many of these chalky-white Brazilians walking the streets (although strangely I’ve been asked if I am Italian three times in the last two days).

Truth is that maybe everyone living in this city are here to party and/or work, neither of which are things that I feel inclined to do. Work is definitely out of favour at the moment, and money is too low to think about spending it on club entrance fees or over-priced caipirinhas. My job here is to find vinyl records and go to a football game. Both of which have been achieved quite successfully. I now have a rucksack weighed down by old MPB (Brazilian pop music), thanks to record fayres, various flea markets and a gallery (Galeria Nova Barao) that is filled with vinyl record shops – Sao Paulo is definitely a great place to buy records! Out of three records that I dreamed of owning I managed to get two. Tropicalia – Ou Panis et Circensis and Os Novos Baianos’ Acabou Chorare are now officially mine, Jorge Ben’s Africa Brasil unfortunately the one that got away.

On the football side I got lucky that the Sao Paulo classic was taking place, Corinthians v Sao Paulo, which meant the chance to see Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos playing live for the first time in my life. There seemed to be something else on Ronaldo’s mind but Roberto Carlos didn’t look too far off his former glories, speeding down the left at every opportunity and setting up one goal with a free kick that was too hot for the keeper to handle. Corinthians took a 2-1 lead into half-time, along with a one-man advantage as one of the Sao Paulo managed to get sent off for some ridiculous foul which I never got the chance to see because I was still celebrating Corinthians last goal. Corinthians then made it 3-1 before inexplicably Sao Paulo lofted over two free kicks in 5 minutes to bring it level. As the atmosphere in the Corinthians end started to turn sour and I was starting to feel like I really didn’t want to be there they got the winner in the last minute. An absolute classic!

And that’s about it. Today I head off to Rio for a final few days before the big plane heads into the sky and takes me away from this place.