Monday, 18 January 2010

Excuses, excuses...

It´s only my third blog and I´m a day late already. However I have good reason: I arrived in Salvador de Bahia yesterday having taken the overnight bus from Maceio. I defy anyone to sit down and write on their first day in Salvador. Just to give you an idea of what I mean by that, the street percussion began this morning at 9am - it´s Monday by the way and it´s not even carnival yet. This town has music running through it at all times, that´s what´s keeping it alive. It is a place of stark contrast, undoubtedly the most physically beautiful people I´ve ever encountered anywhere, shoulder to shoulder with homeless crack-cocaine addicts. It also has an extraordinary quality : during the day, the streets are full of tourists and armed guards on the street corners (presumably the one creates the other), then at night, guards and tourists go away and the streets become really dangerous.
I had lunch today in a Bahian seafood restaurant and there were a couple of cats hanging out looking hungry and hopeful. Normally I would feed them due to the Lewis family total weakness for felines. The difficulty that became tangible to me was the fact that, people here beg for food. How could I feed a cat when in the same street where there´s a homeless, pregnant woman asking for lunch? I´ve noticed something else about food here too - waste is a really western culture thing. I don´t feel comfortable leaving food on my plate here.
Like I said, stark contrast. I went to hear Carlihnos Brown yesterday night and Seu Jorge got up to sing with him. I really love the way Brazilian tradition is about sharing the stage. I also love that the audience sings along all the time while dancing. Singing and dancing should never have been seperated - they were the perfect couple - still are in some places in our world.
Right, I´m off to bed because it´s late and the drums are going to start even earlier tomorrow morning. Apparently Tuesday is the really BIG day of the week in Salvador - there´s a party each week on this day - and as far as I can tell, Brazilians could teach us all a thing or two about partying. I´m going to get my zzz´s so I can be a good student. Boas noiches.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Rio is not breathing today...

I must have noticed it last night at about 4am - not a breath of air is passing through Rio de Janeiro today. It's all pre-carnival happiness here. People eat a lot of meat. I went to buy a bikini and disovered that they come in 2 sizes - carioca and gringo. One means you belong and so you show your bottom, and the other means you will take your bikini back wherever it is you came from and after all is said and done, your bottom will remain a lighter shade than the rest of you. I'm finding it pretty curious that for all the wild sensuality for which Brazil is famous, it is frowned upon here to go topless... I still haven't quite figured out how to reconcile these things... perhaps I'm missing a Catholic background?
Meanwhile I'm co-writing some songs here with lovely musicians and eating fruit that has no name in translation... like saudade, which also has no direct translation. I'm sorry if this entry is a bit short and scattered... I myself am a bit short and scattered today. I'm traveling without a computer, because they are hot item for thieves here in Brazil, and so keeping my blog promise is challenging. But I made it to the internet point here in Copacabana - Barry Manilow doesn´t know what he's talking about by the way. However it´s interesting what a song can do for a place. "The girl from Ipanema" means the beach is very crowded with tourists, kind of like Notting Hill. I reflected that in the english version of the song, its the girl "from" Ipanema... which technically means she could have been walking on the beach in Brighton when dear Tom Jobim spotted her, or am I totally off here? Either way, I'm off to Recife tomorrow for some voodoo and forro... I wonder if they're topless up there?...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Somewhere Over The Rainbow Day...

Days come and go and so few of them are truly memorable. How many days from last year do you actually remember clearly? The fingers of my memory reach backwards seeking... here's one:
My friend Anna and I decided to spend a day listening to and watching as many different versions of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as we could find on line. It started as a joke, but some kindly god of humility was laughing at us by the end of it. The quantity of cover versions alone tells you something about the quality of the song... then there are the artists: Eva Cassidy, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton... the list goes on. For me, as much beauty as this song manages pull out of everyone who performs it, Judy Garland's version is something beyond words. Not only because it is so closely linked to my childhood memories but also because you can hear the fragility in her voice... as if her voice knows that she's going to have a hard life and it's trying to say as much as it can before it is silenced.
Then I found Keith Jarret's version. In the video he's young young young, sitting at the piano all in profile. If you can find it on youtube, it's worth a look. And for anyone out there who can't find it or see it, I wrote this for you and for Keith, it's called "Jarret's Prayer":

Sideway on, I watch you spelling out the letters with your body, how young you were then, E, C, L, like a holy man, prostrating before the piano, kiss the keys with your fingertips - L, E, C . And I wonder; how could making love to you after this, not be a disappointment? You shine and sway and I cannot seperate you from what it is you are doing.
I think I love you.
I don't think, I love you.
I've heard you are cruel and difficult or, said more kindly, that you are exacting and hard on yourself - I would like to set you to music Mr Jarret - but you've already done that quite perfectly - so, I'll have to set myself to music and talk about you instead:
your invisible genius goes floating through the air... I breathe it in, and it goes straight to my heart...