Tag Archives: Saõ Paulo

Photos of Vila Mariana in Sao Paulo

14 Feb

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.

See the rest of the photos here.

Cheap food in Sao Paulo? Look no further than Yakissoba

14 Feb

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.

A taste of the music scene in Sao Paulo

12 Feb

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.

Early days and early Jimmys in Sao Paulo

9 Feb

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:

Back in Brazil

8 Feb

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.

Gambiarra – Sao Paulo’s trend of fashioning art out of waste

28 Oct

Very interesting new article on SFMOMA by Darrin Alfred, looking at the Campana brothers, two artists practicising the Brazilian art of transforming waste items into something useful, practical or simply aesthetic, as Darrin explains:

In Brazil, the Portuguese expression gambiarra is applied to the peculiarly inventive approach to problem solving that is ubiquitous throughout São Paulo.

This style of making art is something Vik Muniz, another Brazilian artist, has become famous for. He was the recent subject of Waste Land, a film that was showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival and which I wrote about HERE.

To read the whole article about the Campana brothers by Darrin Alfred go HERE.

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.

Brazilians eh?

10 Oct

After having been in Brazil for over three months I feel I have begun to understand its people a fair bit. Being able to speak fluent Portuguese would have been extremely helpful in getting to know them better though.

It has to be said that they are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, especially in the cities where they constantly seem to be making up for the violence and crime that is so prevalent (here’s looking at you Rio and Sao Paulo).

Their attitude to the weather is a case in point. When it rains people just stay at home, even if they’re supposed to be at work (unless they are part of that horrible breed of office workers, in which case this might be out of their bounds). In Trindade it rained for around four days each week but never did I hear a Brazilian complain about it. The visitors complained a hell of a lot, but the Brazilians not. They just stayed in, did whatever needed doing round the house, or just sat around watching tv and getting quietly sloshed (this second one is the most common).

One thing I do miss though (and I think this is quite a personal thing) is the lack of a broad sense of humour. All jokes seem to revolve around taking the piss out of each other or making over-the-top innuendos. All good fun, but I do like something a bit more succinct; a play on words or some slight sarcasm. It is quite possible that the language barrier means I do miss out on much of this because either when it’s in Portuguese I am unaware of the craic or because translation from Portuguese to English does not do it justice.

Saying that there has been two moments of inspired genius from my time here. First being Juan’s comments when Sarah showed her a shirt she had bought; “is that one of those shirts you get free when you buy a bag of sweets.” A cheap shot, but the laughter that poured out of him, at his own words, made for any shortcomings in the actual joke. Plus, it was quite an unexpected hit. The second has to be Eli’s words of comfort to Felix after pulling something of a fatty bumbatty; “Well, you have to slay a few dragons to get to the princess.”

It makes me glad to be English when I think of all the ways I can mangle words, make strange similes and generally utter absolute nonsense, and yet have people still understand me. I would love to find out that this can happen in Portuguese, but I just can’t see how it could do it. Whenever it takes on foreign words it always makes them completely Portuguese. There really isn’t the flexibility to build in new sounds, or new clusters of sounds, which makes English such a fun language to speak. Imagine if Stanley Unwin had been Brazilian, it would have been a nightmare; he would have been extricated to the streets as some kind of clown.

Just to finish off, and seeing as I’m making so many comparisons I should say Brazil quite obviously wins. There is no way England can ever compete with the girls and beaches here, which is why I can quite honestly see myself in twenty years spouting gibberish on Ipanema beach, as I desperately try and get the best of these two very different countries.

Sao Paulo – possibly not a city to explore

9 Oct

I am still waiting for Sao Paulo to reveal itself to me.

After spending a further three days there I am none the wiser. This is supposedly the biggest city in South America, so you’d expect there to be a few things to excite a weary traveller, but I`m still waiting to find them.

On my last trip there I was trying to sort a few things out and decided to go for a bit of an amble near the centre. I didn’t realise this at the time, but Sao Paulo is not a city in which you can amble, that should be saved for the Yorkshire Dales it seems.

I was only three or four blocks from the centre when I noticed a restaurant offering meals for one Real. This is without doubt the cheapest meal deal I have ever seen. To get anything under seven Reais in Brazil is a miracle in itself, so to have a whole dish for just one is some kind of phenomenon (this equates to about 33p at the moment, normally it would be around 25p but the Pound is not my friend at the moment).

I took a closer look and realised that I had missed lunchtime.

There were around 5 or 6 ladies in pure white overalls cleaning down the room, itself pure white and rather large, with full pressure hoses. Whoever had been eating there wasn`t too bothered about the food going in their mouth it would seem.

I carried on walking and noticed two policemen pass me. Then a police car pulled up on the right, and a further couple of coppers passed me on the pavement. I suddenly realised that maybe this wasn’t a good area, but there was no way I was going back on myself.

I walked past a series of bars, heaving with drunk, one-toothed, silver-haired Brazilian men. It was only 1.30 in the afternoon. Then I came to my main challenge.

I could see the Estadio do Luz at the end of the street, a known bastion of safety. But first I would have to walk past a 200m stretch of road with delinquent, 100% toasted vagrants on one side and some of the most unlovable looking prostitutes on the other. I took a deep breath and went for it.

As I walked I couldn’t help but make a mental note of everything I had on me (100 Reais, 2 bank cards, camera, blue pants) and just hoped that I would get out of there with all of these still on my person.

I got through it, but not without feeling as perilous as I’ve only ever felt in one other place – the centre of Salvador. There is something about a strong Police presence in these situations that seems to encourage some of the edgiest environments possible, a real pressure cooker. Speaking to people later it became quite clear that – yes – this was the worst neighbourhood in Sao Paulo and – no – you should never walk through there on your own. I won’t make that mistake again.

On the other side of the spectrum, I stayed in Vila Madalena for two of my days in Sao Paulo, which has to be described as one of the loveliest parts of the cities.

Every street is dedicated to a different product, including a whole row of 60s antique furniture, ethical goods, unbelievably expensive bars and too many clothes shops by half. Plus, the area used to be frequented by a whole bunch of hippies in the fifties with the main reminder of their presence in the street signs. Harmony, Sunflower and Wizard are all roads in this area.

Which means you can say that bar you really like is on the corner of Harmony and Wizard which really can’t be a bad thing!

Dead End Dreamer

16 Jul

One week ago I had arrived in Piriapolis on the Southern coast of Uruguay. It had been raining all day, the sun had set and mist had begun to creep in. The only hostel in town was closed and so I walked around asking people for a cheap place to stay. Eventually I found a room above a little restaurant, with an unbelievably friendly waiter, Santo, who recommended highly the milanesa; one huge piece of meat in 2 bread rolls with salad and chips. The room was small with one wall completely dedicated to damp. The puddles that lined the staircase were some indication that this place was not being maintained to the highest standards. But it was cheap. I put down my bags, turned on the oil heater (maybe that will get rid of the damp) and ordered the milanesa downstairs. Santo brought over 2 plates, one featuring a huge piece of meat covered with chips, the other smaller plate with 3 of the tiniest bread rolls I had ever seen. I looked at Santo with confusion, his previous enthusiasm regarding this dish had well and truly disappeared. I picked up the newspaper and went straight to the sports. It was the third time Nacional were going to play Defensor in the space of the week. The first 2 had been draws and they had to keep going until someone wins. Then once one of the teams win they do exactly the same at the other teams ground. If that other team wins, they then do this whole thing again at a neutral ground until there is a champion. I considered going to Montevideo to watch one of the games, but figured that I could be there for weeks just waiting for the Champion to be announced (in the end it took 2 weeks for Nacional to win 2 out of 5 games and seal the title). The other game happening that night was Estudiantes vs Cruzeiro in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final. I had considered going to one of the games but decided that La Plata in Argentina and Belo Horizonte in Brazil were just too far away. I thought about Piriapolis, about the damp room, the shoddy milanesa, the mist that meant it was impossible to see the sea even when your toes were in the water, and then I thought about North Brazil.

The next day I packed my bags, it was time to watch some football. I still had 6 days which meant I got to go see my friend Fernando in Treinta y Tres (my arrival was timed with that of the bakeries which meant I left with a bag full of dulce de leche-filled delights, always a bonus) and also stop in Curitiba for a couple of days (this place is know as the green capital of Brazil, so I wanted to see what the fuss was about). I had sent out a few messages regarding the Libertadores final and had found 2 people willing to buy me a ticket and give it to me when I got there. I chose the most enthusiastic of the 2 and felt quietly confident it would work out. It was not to be though. All of the tickets had been sold in 3 hours, people had queued for 24 hours just to get one and had still failed. On getting to Belo Horizonte (BH) I asked almost every person I met if they had a spare ticket. They didn´t. The touts were charging around 300 Reais for a 80 Real ticket and I really didn´t want to pay it. Through my whole process of trying to buy a ticket though I had realised one thing, that the real football fans were the supporters of Atletico Mineiro (Cruzeiro´s arch rivals). They were the ones who knew the most about football, they had the team with all the heritage but didn´t have the money to produce good teams as regularly as Cruzeiro, who seem to have one corrupt businessman as their President. So in the end I watched it in a pub surrounded by Atletico Mineiro fans and we cheered for Estudiantes, who eventually won. This was a bit of a shame as the party atmosphere that had been pulsing through BH all day had now dissipated completely, but I was also glad that they didn´t have to make my way through the stadium and back into the city with a load of angry Cruzeiro fans.

The game was last night. Tonight, Atletico play Sao Paulo. The price is 5 Reais, in the same 70,000 seater stadium and I get to watch it with real football fans. I think it was worth making the 2,000km trip just for this.