Sunday, January 09, 2005

samba and beer

Ok second try at this. One of the charms of the third world is that you get to learn to be patient. Just as I was finishing an hour e-mail, the internet went off and I lost everything. Oh well...

Samba and beer. It doesn´t get any better than this. We woke up early and headed for Xuxa´s in time for a 1300 happy hour and lunch. Thereafter, we headed out with two of his friends to the pagode in the quadra at Portela. Thes two friends came here for a visit about 5 or 6 years ago and haven´t gotten around to leaving yet.

``There´s a cowboy in the jungle and he looks quite out of place with his shrimpskin boots and his cheap cheroots and his skin as white as lace.`` --Jerry Jeff Walker

If I had come here at 25, I´d have been a gonner for sure.

Anyhow we went to Portela and met up with Xuxa´s pack. It was someone´s birthday so everyone was yucking it up. That was the good part. I still feel that, overall, these big events put on by the samba schools are a mess. Overrun with people and expensive. The music is only ok. You should go to a big rehearsal just for the experience. You might love it. For me, the best music is at small pagodes and the technical rehearsals. Fewer people, better prices, killer samba (you can stand right there beside the bateria) and the hours are better which means transportation is cheaper and more available.

After Portela we went to my favorite scene in Rio, the Bambas do Catete. It´s a simple street corner with middle class to poor folks celebrating life and culture through samba. THE BEST!!! Everyone started huggin us immediatelyand even those who didn´t know us began to hug us figuring that we must be important or something. No one wanted to miss out on some hugging. The calor humnano here in Brazil really defies discription. Wonderful. We celebrated by....playing some samba. The bateria, about 90% of whom I know by name was rocking and filled with guys from other schools. Good stuff.

About 2330 we headed out for Lapa and the Canarios rehearsal. It hadn´t started yet to we sat at the Bar Cosmopolita and had......frango a passarinho. Sitting under the stars of the southern hemisphere on a balmy summer night surrounded by music and life. The buildings in Lapa are killer. They must be from the 30´s or so and have beautiful facades with statues and such. They´re a little run down but, as the area is enjoying a resurgence, I have hope that someone will buy them and fix them up. In America they´d just tear them down and put in a strip mall. Wé´ll see.

About 2400, the samba started with a vengence. I sprinted in there so as not to miss a moment. The diretoria recognized me, hugged me and told me to make myself at home. Very very cool. I settled into the bateria, once again, the tallest and whitest guy by several degrees. The bateria was full of young cats playing the fool out of their instruments. At first, no one wanted to stand beside the gringo. In case all hell broke loose, they didn´t want to be part of it. By this time, ~I´m used to this so I just hunkered down and played my heart out. After about an hour, I was one of the guys. Soon thereafter, the crew from Bambas showed up and even the ones I hadn´t knownuntil about 2 hours earlier all seemed happy to see me and were giving me the thumbs up. This place is great.

The bateria of Canarios das Larageiras is way better this year. They did well in there division last year and have chance to ascend to Sapucai this year if they do well again. They´ve packed the bateria with good players and great directors. They are very serious and don´t allow any drunks. They take instuments away from folks who don´t know how to play. It´s close to carnaval and this is serious. Just like the big schools. A big improvement over last year. I feel very lucky to be a part of this. Lucky lucky lucky. It´s always better to be lucky than good.
The samba was loud tight and hot. Great young players and some of us old guys rocking steady. There were only two short breaks between 2400 and 0200. No beer. Only water. Very unusual but necessary. At 0200 or so , the porta bandeira and mestre sala came out and the samba got even hotter. We played at 145 BPM as hard as we could until 0330 with no break. Everyone was wet with sweat and nearly dead but gritting their teeth and hanging in. The only time you could rest was when they would call and call and resonse. It would last about 15 seconds and back in. You just hung on waiting for that 15 second rest to come back around in the samba. Killer killer killer!!! If you are into popular samba culture and want to play, these local organizations are the deal.

There was a break at 0330 more or less. They were going to play more in about 30 minutes. However, by that time, my right hand was so swollen that I could barely grip my stick so I decided that it´d be best to save some for another day.

It´s official. There are monkeys in the neighborhood. They were sighted cruising along in the trees out back. They´re the little ones with tight little faces and little tufts of white hair poking out of their little ears. It makes them look like they have little wrestling helments on. Little tiny wrestler monkeys.

Off to find some cool stuff to do. Fui, j