There are songs that are a like a magnifying glass to a period in time, Mal Secreto is one of them. It was written in the height of the censorship/dictatorship of the seventies by Jards Macale. It talks about the anguish of being bogged down by the regime and mal secreto (secret evil – not a perfect translation because mal could also mean an illness here) in this case represents his political conscience that is having to be concealed and is making him sick at the same time. This song is one of the many that scraped through the censors by using allegories to talk about what was happening.
The fact that this is hard core rock and roll for the standards of 1971/2 is also revealing; the genre would become an avenue for confronting the establishment and for youth rebellion in Brazil from that time onwards.
The parallels with Janis Joplin are undeniable, which also shines a light on the music business implications. Gal Costa, the singer, was together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil an Maria Betania part of the Tropicalia movement, a very complex mix of pop culture, left wing, national discovery and commercial interests which I will talk about in more depth in another article.
Caetano and Gil were in exile but Gal Costa had stayed back in Brazil and had moved from Bossa Nova to Rock (well… not entirely) which shocked the left but helped her sell well and fill up show houses with the newer generation of wealthy upper middle class kids. This unveils a complicity between protest and commerce. From those days onwards it would become clear that artist were much closer to products than to “voices”.
It is worth while mentioning Lanny the legendary guitarist who conducted the musical part of this song. He was Israeli and would end up loosing it completely because of drug abuse.
On the 25th of April, Darwin began to move his equipment from the Beagle to his temporary house on Botafogo Bay (which he spelled Botofogo). On his very first day in Rio (before the Macaé expedition) Darwin had already arranged temporary lodging noting:
“At Botofogo Earl & myself found a most delightful house which will afford us most excellent lodgings” (Apr 5)
It would be in this home, that Darwin (along with Augustus Earl, Fuegia Basket, Philip Gidley King and the sergeant of the ship’s marines (named Beareley?)) would spend most if not all of the next two months, while the Beagle continued it’s survey work.
Botafogo Bay is a small (and beautiful) bay near the entrance of the much larger Guanabara Bay. Botafogo Bay is surrounded by Rio to the northwest, Botafogo beach and Corcovado Mountain (where the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue is located) to the west…
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Much has been said about Tim Maia, (there is actually a great book about him written by Nelson Mota telling all the story). There is a reason for this: he is possibly the most colorful character in Brazilian pop music.
First of all he lived in the US for some time in the sixties and got very much absorbed in the funk scene and in what was going on in the streets at the time, to a degree that he was arrested and deported back to Brazil. Perhaps because of this he was the Brazilian artist who best understood what went on outside his country and kept no myths about the gringos. His music had a quality that owed nothing to what came from abroad and broke barriers of class and of race in a rhythm and style that were not Brazilian.
Of his generation he was also the one who lead a rock and roll life style the closest to those of his American and British counterparts. The stories of his craziness are legendary: like refusing to play with Caetano Veloso because he was wearing a sarong, telling his dog to attack a the owner of the land he had built his beach house on when he came to complain, firing musicians during gigs, confusions with managers and venue owners and serious drug and booze abuse; the could go on for days. Despite this awful reputation he was and still is respected for his great legacy of hits and his grandiose style.
His talent was as huge as both his body and his ego and anyone in Rio will remember his songs and will have a funny story to tell about him.
Below is a video that may be a sample of his talent for you:
Gafieiras have been a strange constant in Rio’s life. Strange is a strong word but in this case it is true, because they have been in a constant re-discovery process since the late seventies, the time when Lost Samba, this blog’s book, took place.
What are Gafieiras?
They are samba dance halls with live music playing a style of samba that takes the same name. Nothing has changed much since the 1930’s or 20’s in terms of venues, the kind of musicians, and the songs. The dance is the closest samba gets to salsa, and actually the Gafieira is the closest that Rio gets to Havana, the parallels are undeniable. It is a very authentic, lively and healthily sexy experience.
These clubs in the seventies were where the middle class re-encountered “the people”. At the end of the military dictatorship people wanted to forget the foreign imports and wanted to feel Brazilian again; they would flock to the praca Tiradentes in the city center, a place that had been at the heart of Carioca bohemian life, even before the days of Carmen Miranda.
The public from the south zone with their flashy cars, fancy clothes and different haircuts contrasted very much with the locals, who were still very old school and were poor.
As late teenagers that was a great place to pick up girls as you can read in Lost Samba: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34
Nowadays the political connotation has left but people continue re-discovering the Gafiera; they are always full, the music continues to be great and you don’t need to be a pro to shake your money maker on the dance floor.
Of all the pictures I have seen since I have started promoting Lost Samba with pictures this is by far the most fantastic.
What is it?
Well it is where the Christ stays nowadays before it was constructed. Look at the place! How did people get there? by horse? in weak cars? chariots? Can you imagine how great it must have been inside that well kept art-deco shelter with that fantastic view all around?
It doesn’t seem dilapidated at all and looks modern in a way, revealing the sophistication of Rio when it was Brazil’s affluent Capital.
How I wish I could spend an afternoon drinking beer there, or would it be tea?
Zico had lead Flamengo to be world champion in Japan and the whole country was very positive about the national squad that had several of their players.
That was the last squad where all the players still played in the national league, no one had been sold abroad; Valdir Peres, Leandro, Oscar, Edinho, Falcão, Júnior, Toninho Cerezo, Sócrates, Serginho Chulapa, Zico and Éder were household names and everybody knew them as if they were neighbors or friends.
The team was incredible; Tele Santana, the coach, believed in talent and had the theory of letting the adversary play and even score; if they did one goal Brazil would do another two.
Brazil was the favourite and as you will hopefully see in the video above their style was happy, artistic and nice to watch. Times were beggining to get hard and a world cup victory was the promise of brightening up the nation’s life.
Italy, and in particular their striker Paolo Rossi who scored three goals, weren’t impressed and beat Brazil in the semi-finals.
It is no exageration to say that this match’s result changed the nature of football in the eighties and beyond. Art football started to be seen as non-results driven while the Italian defensive football set the trend for the following decades. Even Brazilian coaches imitated it.
To read more about brazilian football: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34
If there is one place that can be pointed as the source of Rio’s cool, this is the Arpoador.
The huge rock is situated in the beginning of Ipanema and means harpoon thrower in Portuguese; it is named like this because fishermen actually hunted down the whales that roamed the coast of Rio de Janeiro from there.
In the late fifties and early sixties surfboards started arriving in Ipanema and the best waves were by the rock; it became the first hangout point for young people bearing looks that would be recognizable in this century; long hair, surfer trunks and bikinis.
In the mid seventies a Pier was constructed one kilometre away and stole the best waves and the coolness away.. Also, around the same time, buses started coming from the Northern Zone to the Southern Zone’s beaches and the final stop was close to the Arpoador. Slowly but surely it became the area where the “invaders” went and an uncool place to hang out.
The early eighties witnessed a revival of the Arpoador when the group Asdrubal Trouxe o Trombone (see my article about them) set up the Circo Voador (the Flying Circus); a venue that was to be the cradle of modern Brazilian rock.
Those days were short lived and the city council closed it down because of complaints about the noise at night.
In the nineties a skateboarding park was constructed next to it making it cool once again. The beach spot however remained a no-go area for the golden youth of the Southern Zone until recently when apparently it has revived as a trendy hang out point ( I haven’t lived in Rio for more than 20 years now so it’s just hear say,… can’t confirm it)
Lost Samba is available at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34