Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Garrincha, Torquato Neto and the Brazilian memory


Garrincha and Torquato Neto: there are many differences and many similarities between these two great stars in the Brazilian constelation. Both were famous around the same time, Garrincha in the mid-ffties to the early sixties and Torquato from the mid sixties to the early seventies. Both came from small cities, one was from Pau Grande a small town in the State of Rio de Janeiro and the other one was from Teresina, the Capital of one of the poorest states of Brazil: Piaui. One was an outstanding writer, thinker and poet; the cultured son of a judge, who was to become the founder of the Brazil’s counter culture and the other was one of the fifteen semi-illiterate sons of a humble civil servant, who despite having crooked legs was one of Brazil’s best football (or soccer, for the US) players of all time.

Both had in common the destiny of being improbable stars, and of reaching greatness without losing their essence. Garrincha was second only to Pele in the history of Brazilian football. He was world champion twice for his country and in the second time in 1962 he led the squad almost by himself to victory, a feat only repeated by Maradona when he led the Argentinian squad to triumph in 1986. The difference between him and “King” Pele, was that the latter had the knack of P.R, and looked at his career beyond the football stadiums. Garrincha lived the here and now, devouring what life threw at him be it his talent, his trophies and his goals or be it women and hard partying. He enjoyed every moment of it until his legs could not accompany his playing and his hangovers.

Torquato Neto was the lyricist for Caetano Veloso and for GIlberto Gil in the beginning of their career and based on his writings they took by storm the most important music festivals of their generation. They became the visible face of the mainstream/underground Tropicalist movement that revolutionized Brazilian music and that guaranteed both of them stardom until the present days. As the movement’s theoretician and main writer Torquato mixed and made sense of nationalist values, revolutionary tendencies, folklore and rock and roll and set the foundations of modern Brazilian culture. The dictatorship didn’t know how to deal with that explosion of creativity and exiled all the three. When they came back, things became more professional and “movements” became bad for sales. Torquato Neto kept faithful to his ideas but was ostracized and became a “marginal” poet and film maker and faded into irrelevance as the recording companies, as well as his former buddies, prostituted his ideas and prospered.

Both the lives of Torquato Neto and Garrincha ended tragically the tropicalist mastermind committed suicide on his birthday in 1972, while the football player became a serious alcoholic and died in poverty with his body rejecting anything that was not booze.

It is also good to remember Carmen Miranda and Antonio Carlos Jobim were never “forgiven” for their success abroad. The Brazilian Hollywood star never got over the rejection she received from her own people, at the height of her success, after she came to Rio de Janeiro for a presentation. Many say that it was because of the depression this caused that she died. With Tom Jobim, the songwriter who made the “Girl From Ipanema” famous, it was not that bad but he was never regarded as likeable, but rather as an arrogant “sold out” big name by most Brazilians.

The anti-Lula crusade that is happening also configures in this category. For many it is unforgivable that a working class man without a university degree could be elected president twice, do a good government, and be acclaimed all over the world.

Anyway.. here is the question: is the cynicism towards talent and success when it escapes the expected “script” a Brazilian trait or a universal one? It is surely not an Argentinian one; they have forgiven time and again Maradona’s countless “sins” as well as their musical hero’s, Charlie Garcia, ones. Perhaps it is difficult for anyone to accept that some people are born with assets and talents that others but have the same flaws and anguished as us.

The destiny of Torquato Neto’s and Garrincha’s free and talented spirits remind us of how sweetness can become sour. It shows us how gifts can be bestowed upon anyone and have nothing to do with rewarding effort or with being upright. If their sin was falling or not following the tide, what does it say about the superficiality of the people who rejoiced in what they had to offer in the good days but discarded them when they were of no use any more?

There is an expression in Brazil saying that “one should not spit on the plate that we ate from” and this is what happened to them. The question remains, is this a Brazilian trait?

Adventures in the Hotel Santa Teresa – Part 03


The next sign that we were on a wrong path was more tragic. On Christmas eve, Kadu was celebrating with his mother and his son when went to the bathroom for an extra-long line. As the powder hit his circulatory system his heart did not resist the artificial over-stimulation, which resulted in a cardiac arrest that killed him on the spot bringing tragedy to his family, spoiling the Hotel’s festivities and making everyone think twice about what they were doing.

Not long after that, the negative wave hit me again, but this time in full. I was about to deliver the precision scale that had been in my room for weeks back to its owner. Because I was late for a class at the university I had to take a taxi. On the way there we came across a police “blitz”, where a policeman stopped us and asked me to get out of the car. I left the scale in its bag inside but he told me to get it out and open the bag. As soon has he saw what was inside he asked for my I.D. card and called his colleagues. After I was surrounder by four or five of them, I showed my documentation as well as my university card.

“Why are you carrying a precision scale?” asked one of them.

“I use it for my studies, officer; I am a student at the Federal University.”

“Let me see that, student card again” He examined it “Hmmm.. what do you need a precision balance for if you are studying economics?”

The policemen stepped away and talked for a while until the first one came back to me. “Where do live?”

The next thing I knew, I was in a police car surrounded by cops with other four police cars following behind us, heading to the Hotel. When we got there it was a sunny and, as this was on a weekday around lunch time, most of the other tenants had gone out. I was in the captain’s vehicle, and when we stepped out I could see that he liked the place, and while he tidied his clothes, his body posture expressed the satisfaction of having caught a good kill.

“Nice place to live at, rich boy! Let’s go into your room and see what you have there.”

The policemen stormed into the hotel unceremoniously; they didn’t say anything at the reception and we went straight up the stairs and into to my room. With nine cops inside the space where I lived, slept and did my things I was very worried about how that day was going to end. Although they only had a scale as evidence, they could invent anything they wanted and it would be my word against theirs. Ever hear of planting evidence?

As one would expect, they began a game of good cop versus bad cop, one of them telling me that the captain was a cool guy who only needed some “collaboration” to let me go, and his nodding back saying that I could get five years.

“You know what they do to young rich boys like you in prison, don’t you?”

The captain and a few other officers sat on my bed while others searched the room. Soon my “friend” a big black cop, who almost got me believing he was nice and that I could trust him, came out of the bathroom with a vase in his hand. He looked very happy and started to rub his butt on to a colleague’s crotch and said.

“OK, have fun with this black hole!”

I was even more confused about his reaction but he showed me the vase I realized that they had found the weed seeding that I was planting outside the bathroom.

He gave me a wide smiled and said, “I promised him that the day we found one of these he could do whatever he wanted with my backside!”

The others laughed. Now that they found had hard evidence and didn’t need to resort to planting some, I was a lame duck. They reconvened and after a few minutes the “good” cop called me to the side and said.

“Look the captain told me that he will let you go if you pay the team five thousand cruzados (about a thousand US dollars).” He looked at me in a patronizing way, lifted his shoulders and continued. “There is nothing I can do; he is the Captain.”

I didn’t have that kind of money on me but I knew that a neighbor, a rich guy from the south of Brazil did. They let me go to his bedroom accompanied by the “nice” cop and when I knocked he opened the door and I was relieved that he was there. With an officer standing next to me and four police cars in the Parking lot, it didn’t take much for him to guess what that was about. After telling him how much I needed and guaranteeing that I’d be able to pay him when I received my salary, he was superb, accepted my word and handed a check without hesitation.

With the bribe in hand, we went back to my room and after the Captain examined the check, the cops left telling me to be careful with drugs as they were bad for my health. It took some time form to hear their cars leaving the hote. I just sat there completely dumbfounded. Relieved for not going to jail but gutted by what had just happened, a knock on the door took me out of my state of shock. It was the manager telling me that Olavo, the owner of the hotel, wanted to talk to me. I knew him well enough to say hi every time I saw him, but we had never stopped to have a conversation. He was in his early sixties and had the air of a playboy, legend said that he had lost, and was continuing to loose, all his money in gambling. He was sitting on a comfortable leather chair behind a classical office table in his office, the only air-conditioned room in the hotel. He invited me to sit down, asked the manager to leave the room and began to talk. He was not angry, but he was firm.

“So your name is Richard, right?”

I reclined in my chair, weighing the shit I was in and replied. “Yes, I live in the room next to the staircase on the third floor.”

“I know, you have been living here for a year and a half already, it’s all here in the papers.” He gave a deep sigh and the pleasantries were over. “Well… As you know, the police were here in the hotel. While most of them were in your room three of them came in here to talk to me about you.”

“Oh… I am sorry about that!”

“No… No need to be sorry, it is what it is, luckily you are still free.” He leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. “The fact is that they threatened to close down the hotel because I was harboring a drugs dealer.”


“Look, I know that you are not a drugs dealer and that they were after your money. You are just a good kid hanging out with the wrong people. The reality is that the officers who were here asked for nine thousand cruzados to keep their mouths shut and keep the hotel’s reputation. Now that is a lot of money.” I was going to say something but he cut me short. “I won’t ask you to pay me back this money, although if I called in a lawyer I could, the only thing I am going to ask you to do is to leave my establishment by the end of today.”

There was no argument against his request.

Rosa and I had to move that same night to Tania’s, who was living in the worst address of Copacabana, the infamous Galeria Alaska, but his is another story.

My saga became famous; from all the crazies who had ever lived there, I had been the only person to be expelled from the Hotel Santa Teresa. An accomplishment that will never be repeated as the hotel was bought later on by a French group and is currently one of the most exclusive and best ones in Rio, where rock stars such as Amy Winehouse and other big shots stay when they go to Rio.

If you don’t believe it visit their site: http://www.santa-teresa-hotel.com/


Tereza Rachel Theater – The cradle of Rock from Rio


Back in 1974 my friend Johnnie invited me to go to my first Rock concert of a band that had an English vocalist. The name of the band was Vimana, the English singer was to become a household name in the Eighties, better known as Richie. The guitarist and the drummer would also become mega rock stars in Brazil, Lulu Santos and Lobao respectively. For a twelve year old boy this was thrilling; I had never been to a concert, let alone seen a world class band. Their musical genre was what would become known as Progressive Rock represented by amazing bands such as Pink Floyd, Yes, PFM, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Focus and Genesis. It was not only the sonority of these bands that blew our minds but the technology too; their music was futuristic and was as close to high-tech that a kid of my age living in Rio de Janeiro would ever get to.

The show was not the epiphany I had imagined, in reality, Prog Rock was something that you had to warm up to, if the song wasn’t great one only started to understand/like it at the third or the fourth hearing, although to look good you had to pretend with your friends that you loved it. Vimana only had two exciting songs and the rest had complicated instrumentation which were as distant to my taste as most of the songs in my older sister’s records. The only thing that stayed with me after the gig was a buzz in my ear due to the super loud amplification, however what continued with me for a long time was the venue, the Tereza Rachel Theater, or the Terezao as it would become known.

Vimana went on to form a band with Patrick Moraez, one of the many keyboard players that Yes, one of the Progressive Rock monsters, but the project never went ahead. On the other hand, the Tereza Rachel went on to be the most popular music venue in Rio in the seventies. There was the more traditional and expensive Canecao, with tables and waiters, where the well known mainstream artists presented themselves and more underground theaters that were a bit too rough for upper middle class youngsters and where not all the bands were good. The Terezao was the place to go, and during its five year reign it managed to present the best upcoming artists at a accessible price and retain a counter-cultural aura.

Its stage witnessed the gradual shifted from Rock and Roll to Brazilian (electrified) music and then back to Rock in the eighties. It became so popular that it could not be ignored by the big names of the Brazilian Musical scene such as Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben, Tim Maia and Milton Nascimento and even the veteran legend of Northeastern music Luiz Gonzaga. The theater had a wild atmosphere of its own, and communication with the public was always easy for the artists. More than once did I presence them organizing the audience in choirs of men and women, choirs on the left and on the right, choirs upstairs and upstairs and downstairs and choirs whistling and non-whistling in famous songs. It was also a given that the a concert would end up in an out of season carnival with the audience taking the corridors and the stage in a crazy party. The Terezao was like the air escape of the pressure pan created by the suffocating dictatorship; a place where people could be themselves and literally let their hair down.

The audience was like a club; independently of who the artists were or the trend they represented one always bumped into the same faces. The weird thing was that it was in a commercial gallery and it would be strange to see on every weekend that tribe of displaced people gathering in front of the closed shops waiting for the gates to open. In accordance to what happened at the time there were many guys with long hair and dirty clothes, many girls in hippie dresses and a lot of cannabis. There must have been an agreement with the police because there was never one bust inside the theater in its history.

There was an intellectual and aesthetic effervescence in that theater that made everything that was happening pass through it. The best shows were of the newcomers: Alceu Valenca, Fagner, Djavan, Ze Ramalho, Moraes Moreira, who had recently left the Novos Baianos but still played with its legendary guitarist Pepeu Gomes and with Salvador’s Trio Eletricos’ founder’s son, the incredible Armandinho, Joao Bosco and so many others who would become established artists.. There were also the intrumentalist vein; names that would become internationally known in the Jazz scene such as Egberto Gismonti and Nana Vasconcelos and Hermeto Pascoal, would mesmerize Terezao’s audience with their technique and musical erudition. Meanwhile, democratically sharing the theater with these “respectable” artists, were the “dinosaurs” of Brazilian early seventies rock bands like O Terco, Made in Brasil, Bicho da Seda, Casa das Maquinas and of course Rita Lee, the succesful remnant of “Os Mutantes” Brazil’s pioneers in quality rock.

When the new bands of the eighties arrived there were still rock concerts at the Terezao, but with the appearance of new venues and of a new generation, it shrank and ended up becoming a meeting place for an Evangelical church. However for our generation was one of those magical things where who saw it loved it and who didn’t missed out in something amazing. I’m happy to be part of the first group.

the short history of the appearance of the Brazilian bikini.

Do you know the story of the first infamous Brazilian bikini?  It happened quite by chance, back in the early 1970’s, in the area of Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro.  The story begins with an aspiring young Brazilian model named Rose de Primo.  Allegedly, Rose received a modelling job offer that required her to wear a bikini.  Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) Rose didn’t own a bikini, couldn’t afford to buy a bikini and her mother wouldn’t make her one so…she decided to make a bikini for herself.  She used her underwear as a pattern but she soon realized that she didn’t have enough fabric to complete the whole bikini (she must not have started with much!).  Rose then used only the front and the back part of the bikini bottoms and tied them together on the sides with string.  She liked the way it looked and followed the same idea for the bikini top and…voilà!…the Brazilian String…

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Zen-Surfism made in Ipanema


Surf appeared in Ipanema in the early sixties via the children of american executives sent over to Brazil. In a beach town where the best way for a male to show off by the sea was to do headstands or human pyramids with his mates, the novelty caused a stir.

The surfer pioneers mesmerized beach goers with their long boards and blond hair, and as any other colonizer they stood out and did were not interested in mixing with the locals. It didn’t take long for local rich kids to want to do the same and the first Brazilian surfers appeared. Even in its earliest days practicing the sport was a statement; in a decade marked by politics, dedicating one’s life to glide waves was looked down by the militant students as a symbol of Yankee imperialism. But its charm and beatify and the good looks of its practitioners only made it more popular among the girls and in consequence among the guys who wanted to impress them.

By the seventies the political fever had died down due not only to harsh repression but also due to the economic boom that gave the Brazilian middle class access to live in the expanding beach neighborhoods and to the state of the art comforts. Surf culture took over the youth with its sex, drugs rock and roll and gave the sport a bad name, this time not with the intellectuals but with the parents and the police of the better areas of Rio. Surfers with their long hair and their wild attitude shocked traditional households, and were considered as drug loving, virginity snatching thugs, which, to be honest, wasn’t far from the truth.

It was at this time that my generation appeared in the scene, the long-haired guys were older and more street wise than us and next to them most of us were skinny nerds although we aspired to be like them. Many ended up buying surfboards and joining the club so to speak but in most “respectable” households, such as mine, a surfing son would be a motive of gossip and of shame among friends. Kids like us had to be content with body surfing or body boarding. This reaction to surfing came to a point that it was forbidden at certain hours of the days to allow the beach to look decent and the sea to belong to the nice boys.

The mornings consisted of arriving at the beach at nine, after which surfing was banned, looking for the best spots for waves, riding them until two, after which surfing was allowed again, and only coming home for lunch. We took body surfing seriously and on the summer holidays we’d be at it almost on a daily basis and many became quite good. However, independent of if you surfed or body surfed, there was an important side effects of such a close relationship with the sea and its forces: an understanding and an integration to the environment that few other sports or activities could bring. As the seventies ended, the more radical surfers had landed in jail and/or away from the sport while the survivors and the new generations took the sport more seriously and pioneered in health food and in living a healthier and more holistic lifestyle. Surfing became more accepted and found itself mixed up in the new-age way of life ideology, and that is where the term Zen-Surfism appeared.

There was a good reason for this; along with fishermen any person who rode, or who rides, waves will know about the tides, about the effects of the different kind of winds, about the different currents and about different kinds of waves and how to deal with them, and brings the environment he lives in into his consciousness and his daily life. The forces of the sea have never been in or out of fashion, but they have always been an indomitable force that can only be mastered to a certain degree. Life, society, politics, the economy, the work place are also unpredictable seas and knowing how to ride their waves that they throw and how to stay in the tranquility beyond the surf is important.

Nowadays the sport is considered what it should be: a healthy activity and people of all classes practice it. All of them goes on in the most democratic leisure centre on earth: the beach where, for the initiated, the waves are its fun fair, all of this is for free and provided by nature and ultimately its maker. Join this aspect of Rio with the Tijuca Forest, the biggest urban one in the world, and one can realize why so many people of that town possess a subtle wisdom and knowledge of how to live that is difficult to find in other urban centers of the same size around the world.

Eat, Sleep & Breathe Jiu Jitsu

Rickson Gracie: Just Like You from Citizens of Humanity on Vimeo.

For ‘Citizens of Humanity’, this beautiful video was shot in the backdrop of Rio De Janerio and features the legendary Rickson Gracie. Rickson is such an inspirational figure to us and embodies everything that we love about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

“Where there’s discomfort, there’s fear. In these very tough positions, you’re in a little piece of hell and through this daily suffering you learn to survive in these situations. You have to find comfort in the uncomfortable situations. You have to be able to live your worst nightmare. Jiu Jitsu puts you completely in the moment where you must have complete focus on finding a solution to the problem. This trains the mind to build that focus, to increase your awareness, your capacity to solve problems. Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has…

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Ipanema’s weird characters in the seventies.


Ipanema has provided the world its famous girl, the former world surf and para-gliding champion Pepe, beach volley world champions, the Brazilian g-string bikini and several other marvels. It has also been the choice neighborhood of many artists, politicians and intellectuals, famous both inside and outside Brazil such as Vinicius de Moraes, Tom Jobim, Fernando Gabeira and so many others. Enough has been spoken about them. Any narrative will always leave out a neighborhood’s weird characters who give its soul and, according to some schools of thought, reflect suppressed angles and layers of it collective unconscious.

In the seventies and the early eighties (Lost Samba’s time) the neighborhood was in the fore front Brazil’s march into affluence and modernity. Its streets were alive with all sorts of alternative people: hippies, militants, surfers, old-school Bohemians, yuppies, traditional families and of course the army of porters, maids, nannies who served these people and the neighboring inhabitants of the Pavao and Pavaozinho favelas. In this melting pot it would be inevitable that striking characters would emerge and become references for the community’s history.

Damiao Experiencia was probably the first person in Rio de Janeiro with a Rastafarian hairstyle, we are talking about 1977-78, and it was very long. He dressed all in white and walked around with an uncovered old acoustic guitar covered in exoteric inscriptions, a bag full of books he authored. He caused a stir wherever he went and everyone imagined he was a hidden genius or a great artist although he remained a mystery as he never approached anyone nor did he do gigs. After the initial shock his presence was digested, people got accustomed to the daily presence and became ever more curious to know what he was about. It turned out that he came from the northeast of Brazil and wrote strange music that never played on the radio. This was not because his work was too far out of reach; he sold cassettes with his songs but to our disappointment they had no rhythm, his voice was deep but out of tune and his guitar skills were next to nothing.

There was also Chicao, a huge black guy with the fiercest face who hung out with the long-haired and Californian looking Surfers. There had never been anyone as strong and with such a mean aura to walk the streets of Ipanema, and probably there will never be. It was a given that the surfers smoked weed, and by default he did too. This was a great statement at the time; a black “maconheiro” who probably came from the favela hanging around in the streets of one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of the country. Legend said that even the police were afraid of him, he never smiled any wherever he went  the fear crept in. I once saw him in a fight, it was during a carnival and he was on a small open van in a transgender costume with other guys of the surf gang, a porter said something making fun of them and Chicao got down and beat the hell of him. The big guy disappeared from Ipanema as fast as he appeared, I am not able to say why but I would guess that he ended badly, a guy like him would not have important relatives or friends to help him out when things went wrong.

The lady with a ribbon of tattooed stars under her bum was from the upper middle class but no one knew her name. She was blonde and had been part of Ipanema’s beauties in the sixties and lived in California when she was married to Paulo Sergio Valle a famous musician involved with the Bossa Nova, but by the time she started to get noticed she was in her late forties. She always kept to herself at the beach in a bikini. Her strong suntan combined very strangely with her David Bowie like make-up, wild haircuts and weird accessories such as pink Wellingtons. Legend said that she had taken too much acid in the early seventies and had never come back. In the beginning people could argue that she was sexy, she launched seductive looks at many a guy, but as the years passed time took its toll and she looked odder and odder; her endless gazes into the horizon and her inexplicable bursts of laughter signaled that there was something very wrong although after some time she began making friends with other weird characters and even found summer romances.

The old guy with a Pekinese was a constant presence at the beach too. No one remembers a day when he was not there, he was short and very tanned and had very long hair and a huge beard, which made him look like a mixture of Mahatma Ghandi and Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings in beach trunks. His companion was his little dog and it was difficult to say if he was a human version of his dog or vice-versa. apparently he lived in a house in Copacabana and came twice a day on foot to the Posto 9, where we used to go. He was friends with the kiosk owners among which Baptista, a big black guy in his forties, was the most influential. It was him who once told me that the small old guy was rich and that his house was big, something that only traditional families possessed in the South Zone. There was a big commotion the day that his dog died, everyone noticed it as they also noticed that after that his health began to deteriorate. His posture worsened even after he got himself a new Pekinese dog. He was still going to the beach everyday when I left Rio in 1989 when he must have been well into his eighties.

The last character here is Mr. Ether. This was a guy whose deterioration was followed by the entire neighborhood closely. People commented that he had been a medical student and came from a good family. I first saw him in the mid seventies when we moved to Ipanema, at the time he already stood out as a hippy-like figure, a strong guy with curly dark hair who always seemed to be stoned. The traditional citizens would always be scared when, in beach trunks, he laughed at their bourgeois mannerisms from the middle of the streets. At some point he took to inhaling ether, at first it made him even crazier but it didn’t take long for him to spend days sitting on the pavement with a cloth and a bottle of ether in his hands and with a dazed look on his face. He started sleeping on the streets and never left. The authorities would remove him but as soon as they released the guy he was back. As years passed he swelled up and stank of ether, one could sense him from blocks away and everyone felt amazed and sorry for the monstrous figure he had become, with his long hair and beard, his swollen body and his tramp like presence made him look like an alien from the Men In Black films thrown on the streets of Ipanema. I am not sure when he passed away but nobody could endure that tragedy anymore.



From foreign parents, from parents of different races, from parents of different classes, from parents of different cultures, from parents with different levels of intelligence and sensitivity from their own, orphans, families who moved up or down the social scales, so many candidates for alienation.
These people, and people from standard backgrounds are confronted from birth with the tendency of Capitalism to uproot and to make people anonymous parts of the wealth producing machine of our world. This is a system that provides a culture oriented to produce profit, where everything has its price, it also provides its inherent consumerism that defines everyone by what they buy, by what they desire and by their purchasing power
There are also the megalopolis; desperate attempts of humanity to feel safe from the environment outside, impersonal conglomerates driven by producing wealth where most of this planet’s population lives.
How can sanity survive in such an impersonal chaos? In this scenario we ask: who is alienated? the mainstream? all of us? the people who believe in the machine? the cynical?
These are the big questions, forget the economic crisis. How are we going to get out of the hole? When a government sais we are repairing our economy, restoring our future, whose economy and future are they referring to? Who do they represent? Some will say we should return to a more primitive ways: “Let us, the nation, the people. take charge and we will put things right”. Others will say the best should take control: “Let us, the ones who know, put things right, lets save the people from themselves”.
The question should be: “What are we doing?””How the hell did we get here?” “What on earth is going on?” We have developed unbelievable technology, super fast computers, spectacular special effects, incredible feats of engineering but we still can’t take care of ourselves. Why?
Without looking to the right direction, without seriously making a change we are bound to fail again and again and again. The answer is within us we must start looking.
We are on the wrong track, trying to be what we are not, accepting the unacceptable in order to survive, being cynical to truth. Family, work, educational and cultural channels are polluted by a thwarted system that feeds them. People who do not accept this way of life are alienated and are sent to its fringes, and this is where the true problem lies.

Adventures in the Hotel Santa Teresa – Part 02


After a year, the hotel became a mixture of home, club and circus; we enjoyed that neighborhood as if we were in a village and only left Santa Teresa for work or for special occasions. Whenever we could. and the weather permitting, we’d hang around appreciating the view, chatting and making music. Meanwhile, as in any human gathering, groups began to form and, perhaps because of our financial limitations, Rosa and I stayed stuck with the bohemian one but continued to have good relations with everyone else. On meal times, all factions came together and greeted each other in the lobby, where the old folk played cards, the divorcees showed off their latest girlfriends and Rico, a pianist/actor played tunes on the hotel’s old piano.

These were the mid-eighties, and cocaine consumption was rampant. When Luis Melodia’s producer, Sergio, came to live in one of the better rooms the partying became heavier. The girls who served us in the dining room lived in the Morro dos Prazeres favela so the supply of the white stuff was never a problem. It didn’t take long for our noses to be constantly running while we locked ourselves together in each other’s rooms, talking like crazy before going out to town to party. Rosa and I were the youngest of the group and it was great to hang out with our new well-connected and more experienced friends. Because I was very skinny and somewhat green, there were many attempts to snatch her from me, but as far as I know, no one ever succeeded.

A few months down the line, a heavy surfer type called Kadu moved in and it did not take long for him to join the gang. He had split up with his girlfriend and for some reason he shared his room with his mum and his young son. He was two years older than me, 27, and his brother was a proper drug dealer who constantly went to New York on “business”. As we had similar backgrounds; both of us were exiles from Ipanema. Soon we became mates and the friendship was blessed by his mum, an upper class lady who felt comfortable to tell me how horrified she was with the level of the people in that hotel. With him, my consumption became serious and as money started to become an issue, strange ideas about buying and selling the white powder began to cross my mind.

Meanwhile, at college a colleague came up with a “business” deal he was trying to set up with an American who wanted to buy a large quantity of blow to take back to the U.S. In my naivety, I thought this was a good opportunity to make some extra cash and asked around in the Hotel if anyone had a contact who could get me 250 grammes of cocaine, a respectable amount. Petit, a famous illustrator from Sao Paulo whose leg had also been affected by polio, lived with his straight girlfriend in one of the good rooms. He was one of the most popular characters in the hotels who despite his handy cap was always in a good mood and drunk. He put me in contact with Gamba, a toothless black guy from the Sao Carlos favela with Mike Tyson’s build but taller. We met in the car park one night; I gave him a thousand hundred US dollars and he said he’d be back with the stuff in two days.

The goods took much longer to arrive than he had promise and my friend at university and I began to get nervous. We put pressure on Petit but he did not know where nor how to find, Gamba. When the stuff finally arrived, we got a precision scale to weigh it and there was only about half of what we had ordered, one hundred and fifty grammes. We made a desperate attempt to find him, but that night there was a raid and the streets around the hotel were alive with police cars and with officers stopping everyone who dared to pass by. We did mage to circulate, knocked on a few doors but as soon as we mentioned the name Gamba, they turned away or closed their doors in fear.

There was no other option other than mixing the stuff with something else. The next day we bought vitamin C pills and boric acid and added them to the content. As we sat there like junky scientists doing our thing, it was hard to convince the rest of the guys not to dive into the pure stuff and I almost got into a fight with Kadu to make sure this didn’t happen. Anyway, we refrained from consuming our merchandise and managed to get the mixture convincing and ready. In the end because the coke wasn’t as good as our customer expected we had to give the American a huge discount and barely broke even. Our plans to commemorate our debut as dealers were reduced to finishing up the small portion we had kept for ourselves.


Signs from heaven began to appear saying that we were doing the wrong thing.

The first one was a car accident. I was about to graduate in Economics at the UFRJ and to do so I needed to complete obligatory the university’s Physical Education program. I had left this problem in the back burner because of my heavy life style that involved living at the Hotel Santa Teresa tenant, being an English teacher, a college student and guitarist in a rock and roll band all at the same time. As the graduation date approached this issue became serious because if I did not get the credits, I simply would not graduate. A chance came up; they organized a hike to the Pico da Tijuca, the highest point in the Tijuca forest and whoever went on it would get the grade and pass. This was just what I needed, but there was a problem: Getting there. The closest bus stop was a one-hour walk away and without a car I would have no means of meeting the group at the assembly point at the beginning of the trail which was located deep in the forest.

Maria do Carmo, a quiet journalist and psychologist who lived in the hotel was volunteered to lend me her beetle for that morning. I was very grateful for her being kind enough to save my academic life despite not knowing me very well. Not only on from the academic point of view was the outing good news; this was going to be an amazing trek through Rio’s dense forest on a sunny day, a healthy break from all that craziness. I arrived there in her blue beetle at seven-thirty am and by ten we were already had already reached the peak. The air was clear, the sky was cloudless, the weather was perfect and the view was magnificent and up there everyone was ecstatic for seeing Rio de Janeiro in all its glory. We all came back in a great mood and I was looking forward for lunch and an afternoon by the hotel’s pool.

Santa Teresa a half an hour drive away through the forest. After signing the teacher’s roll call, as soon as I got back into the car I took out a joint and put Bob Marley on the cassette player and drove through the narrow roads. As I was about to arrive at the place where tourists go up to the Christ Statue, I went round a curve while a coach was coming in the opposite direction. It was an awkward moment because the road was very narrow and I had to squeeze between the tour bus on my left and the rock wall on my right. While we were crossing each other, it felt like driving in a narrow corridor. At that moment, a car overtook the bus and we had a frontal collision. Although both of us must have been going at twenty kilometers an hour, the crash was strong enough for me to break the front glass with my forehead, and made a significant dent on Maria do Carmo’s car’s bonnet.

I got out of the car fuming and trying to think what I would tell when I got back to the hotel. I was OK, no bones damaged, but the site of the car in that state made everything go red, so I went up to the driver preparing to beat the hell out of him but could not believe when I saw that he was a friend of mine.

“Rique, it’s you?! Sorry man!”

“What a prick! It could only be you! What the fuck was passing through your head man?!”

He could only admit his fault and apologize. On the positive side he agreed immediately to pay for all the expenses.

Then there was the case of the borrowed bass guitar. Out of the blue Heitor, our drummer, called me up to say that Charles, our manager and mentor, wanted to hook us up with a great singer. The sixteen-year-old vocalist happened to be Tim Maia’s nephew, Tim Maia being the godfather of Brazilian Soul and Funk a tropical mixture of Barry White, by competence and looks, and James Brown, by attitude.

As our Bass player, Duda, was travelling it fell on me to replace him. I had to ask around for a borrowed bass and managed to borrow one from my English course colleague, Erwin. It was a fake Brazilian made Rickenbaker but with a heavy and jazzy sound. I took it to the hotel, showed it off and trained with it a bit until my fingers got used to the thicker strings and I was ready for the rehearsal.

Tim Maia’s nephew, Ed Motta, would grow to become a big name in Brazilian music, also singing funk and soul, classier but less charismatic than his uncle. For us in the Charle’s studio in the Morro de Sao Carlos favela, he was just an overweight but massively talented teenager looking for a band. The rehearsal went really well with us playing known songs, some of our funks which he improvised over and simply jamming. However, we never heard of him again. it must be said that Duba, our guitarist, was great at solos but not as great with rhythms, in particular funk, that was my specialty, so perhaps the band may have been too heavy for him.

When I got back to the hotel, I put the bass in the room and found Rosa playing cards with some old ladies at the reception. We were late for a concert I had got free tickets for at the Circo Voador, Rio’s coolest venue in neighboring Lapa. She excused herself and we left for Barao Vermelho’s concert which was great. The house was packed, the energy was perfect and the band was inspired which allowed for a fantastic Brazilian Rock night.

When we got back to the hotel the room door was open and Erwin’s bass was missing. We searched like crazy, a friend from the hotel drove me up and down Santa Teresa to see if we caught anyone walking around with a bass guitar case, but neither helped. The next morning, we asked the hotel manager to search in people’s rooms but he refused, which annoyed me but there was nothing I could do. We asked around but nobody seemed to know about my colleague’s instrument. The end result was that I was forced to buy him a new bass and that I began to mistrust people in the Hotel.




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