Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the category “deliriums”

Shamanism and Rock and Roll


..at least one professional philosopher has taken mescaline for the light it may throw on ancient unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness” these words are from Aldous Huxley in his famous book The Doors of Perception, a book that links the highest of western erudition, rock and roll and the traditions of ancestral cultures of Latin America.

A small but visible long haired fraction of the generation above ours brought back to life this way of thinking and experiencing the world. They, and the bands they listened to, influenced every Brazilian rocker, or indeed every conscientious middle class youngster, from the seventies and the eighties. This was a subculture that took seriously the precept that the everyday life was fake and that the only way to perceive the truth was by experimenting with serious stuff, and that this mission was necessary for bringing mankind back to its healthier origin.

No one laughed at them, the authorities actually feared their strong energy. In the context of a military dictatorship their quest had a revolutionary edge that made them likeable forbidden fruit. Sexuality was also in the mix, and engaging in one’s owns desires and in hallucinogens and was seen as a powerful weapon against the bourgeoisie and the military regime.

If these pursuits are prone to caricatures nowadays it is because the system did everything in its power to diminish what was going on. Ever since there has been a billionaire police repression, as well as public relations campaigns to demonize users and desperate efforts to invalidate anything that appears to represent ideas out of control. The moneymaking machine behind the so-called system also bombarded the youth with products in the form of gigantic and over produced rock bands as well as fashion gadgets. If they were the mother of the more “acceptable” cultural formulas of the eighties, the ideas put forward by guys like Huxley and Timothy Leary were the father.

The right-wing and the left-wing were united in their fight against the opening of the doors of perception. They would not survive in the unknown and could not digest visions that went beyond their books. They did not want eternity happening there and then and didn’t want to hear questions that had never been asked nor answers that had never been answered.

Seen from the Brazilian native’s perspective, these were white men lost in their alienated ways. They were the original mescal and Santo Daime takers, they saw the effects as a sacred that maintained them connected with nature and with the entire existence. Those massacred people knew that the mind, the brain and the consciousness belonged to something bigger and that we, the crazy white men, had lost the connection somewhere in the past.

In our world there were “civilized” musicians who had come close to this indigenous richness such as Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Paschoal although they had never taken mescal nor had followed Huxley’s path.

Let’s remember that music is an important expression for any society and that in the sixties and the seventies it had reached shamanistic heights in terms of bringing people together and spreading ideas and behaviors. The importance of bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are undeniable, even in our current time just see the video below and think about it.

Such cultural importance was difficult for the big record companies to deal with and they ended up reminding the public that it was money who was boss and not a clearer vision that showed that there is life beyond the big bucks. Their response was the watered down pop bands of the eighties who, despite their quality, were not beyond their masters’ control and who did not question the establishment.

Coming back to Brazil, the bands that sprouted from the new generation took a lot of chemical drugs but represented no cosmic connection. They were part and parcel of the eighties’ Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Their “novelty” was the crude pursuit for fame and success. The industry rushed out to call their predecessors “Rock dinosaurs” and sold the idea that to be “in” you had to reject everything that they were about,

However the “dinosaurs” had reached heights of fame and success that no band of the eighties ever would. Ironically, at least in their origins, they had not been interested solely in money but in walking down the path that thinkers such as Huxley had trailed. The origins of this path shun out of the destroyed civilizations of South America long before anyone had thought about rock or cash on those lovely shores.

Adam Smith’s Bulldozer


I had just begun at the economics college at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The first few weeks were festive with class trips, parties and welcome pranks. The classes were great and the subjects were much more interesting than what any of us had ever had in results oriented “cursinhos” that prepared us for the entry exams.
The teacher of Introduction to Economics was in charge of making us feel at home and was the one who took us out on the outings. He was supposedly cool, had participated in the student uprisings in the sixties and gossip went that he had been tortured, although some people said he had spilled the beans and given away people.
The first test was exciting, I had read my first texts in economics theory and was eager to express my opinions. I do not recall exactly what the dissertation was about, but I began it with a sentence (in Portuguese of course) that went something like this:
“Economics is based on the false assumption the people possess things…”
To my surprise the “open-minded” teacher hated this sentence and gave me a low grade and perhaps because of this I lost interest in the course, even though I ended up scraping through my years at the UFRJ and graduating.

It was not until a week ago when I saw the documentary Zeitgeist that I recuperated of my intellectual self-esteem. One of the commentators validated my sentence as he exposed how John Locke opened the doors to considering private property inherent to the human beings, something that Adam Smith, the father of the economics science, has as a basis for his theory. Basically Locke said that holding back the heavenly given surplus is part of the Holy design; Smith took his statement a step further in saying that we are a surplus keeping species and that the Almighty creates an economic equilibrium out of our selfishness by optimizing production and bringing the well being to everyone. In other words everyone’s selfishness ends up making up for a better world due to an “invisible hand”.

This is the intellectual basis of a world that produces the economic disparities that no one needs to go too far to encounter. Of course there are theories that counter this way of thinking and in the days of plenty no one really cares to think much about it, but this way of thinking is the throne on which the fat bankers sit their fat backsides.

Well.. Let’s go to the central question: is selfishness our true nature? Are there proofs that selfishness has been in the center of every society the humans have constructed? I would say that the evidence points to a huge no.

I’ll speak about the Brazilian natives that Adam Smith’s bulldozer almost decimated:

It turns out that the so-called savages have a lot to teach us. Contrary to what my ex-“revolutionary” professor tried to take out of existence, they do not recognize private property. Actually they do not grasp how anyone can consider something their own’s: everything belongs to nature, or to God depending on how you see it. All the objects in a tribe belong to the community, so there is no possibility of theft or quarreling over possessions.

After this important lesson there are more; the natives consider themselves as guardians of their forests. They see themselves as part of their environment, the forests provide them with everything they need so they pay back by veneering their source of livelihood and making sure it will be there to provide them with their needs.

There is more: they have chiefs, who outweigh the others in intelligence and agility but no one in any tribe would ever expect to obey their leader blindly and do things that would go against the interest of their community. A chief is like a captain in a football, or soccer, team: he toils with everyone else but speaks for them when required.

I could go on and on about the superior quality of life that they have when compared to the ninety-nine percent of the people hostages of a way of thinking that is taken as immutable truth.

Years later I am proud to have been scorned upon by someone who took upon himself to teach a pernicious way of thinking. It is a shame that natives do not have their own universities to teach us how to do things. Actually, they don’t need them; their teachings are so obvious that it is hard to believe how people could argue against them. Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve…

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.



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.

The Cosmic Samba


It’s all about groove and non-groove, a dance of the opposites, groove takes a lead non-groove tries to kill it, when everyone thought the groove was dead it comes back re-invented as something else in another or generation who will tire out and allow non-groove take over again. Opposites need each other to exist, like the two sides of a ladder or of the DNA helix, one force would not be if it were not for the other, like two legs things would move without them.

It is also a dance of life and death, of man and woman, of big and small, of rich and poor, of important and unimportant, of known and unknown, of disgusting and beautiful, of change and of preservation etc.. etc.. etc… Everything cycles, everything flows, everything dances, everything is part of it: the punches and the kisses, the orgasms and the pains, the delirious and the fascists, the police and the criminal, the priest and the rave, the banker and the native. They are all going from nowhere to nowhere and from everywhere to everywhere.

Before being a building the wall was pure matter then the hand of the paid man molded the bricks that were put together to realize the dream of the educated man for someone to live in and a family to blossom. Now the construction stands there, people admire it from the outside while the iPlayer, made in the Far East plays electronic songs in the inside.

The city goes on, the cars pass by and all sorts of people cross the streets. Where do they all come from? What are they thinking? How do they contribute? Why are they here? I am also part of the question, but who cares?

What about the groove? Could people catch it rising up from under the ground? Can anyone hear the song? Does anyone know the cosmic samba?

Post Navigation