Friday, January 14, 2005

follow up

Just a little follow up on today´s activities. We went to lunch at our favorite pe sujo just off the aterro do Flamengo. We had two beers, guarana, water, grilled chicken, grilled steak,rice beans and salad for $8. If I survive thewalk home, I´ll take a nap.

It seems that the Brazilian government feels that the era of American hegemony is over as it nolonger requires that it´s diplomats speakenglish. They need to be fluent in portuguese,spanish and french but not english.

Finally, just in case you were feeling sorry for yourself today, there was a report in the paper of a guy who left the northeast with his parents and 9 children and went to SP where he stayed two years. He moved to Rio where he had a good job for two years. After being layed off, he´s been on the steets for two years. He currently feels lucky because he found this area on top of an unfinished over pass where no one robs him. Although he sleeps with cars going 80mph past his head on the other side of the wall, He rests comfortably for the first time in a while. Since he´s no longer being robbed, he can collect enough aluminum cans to save enough money to leave Rio. j


The only real thing to report on is the Suzano class. It started off slow but yesterday, as Suzano said, ``O bicho estava pegando``. Man he was giving out information at light speed. We started out with what he calls inverted samba, ie starting on the finger tips instead of the thumb. I had worked this out as a third surdo part with the mutes on one and the up of two miming the left hand pattern on the head. However, Suzano apparently uses this pattern as his primary approach. When he lets loose, it´s serious. Monster is not a strong enough word. The otherthing is that his right hand barely moves. At least 90% of the ride is left hand. He also really emphasizes the platinelas. They have to keep moving and be even in sound.

From inverted samba we went into his trademark rides. He began to show all the funk/back beat stuff as well as the `latin feel`´ tumbao stuff which made him famous. Luckily, I had positioned myself right in front so, even though the morons in the class kept trying to play instead of listen, I was able to hear him and see exactly what he was doing. One other thing I noticed was that he plays a mylar head as well as he does a goat skin. I think that this may be a good way to get your tones up and equalized. The dude is smooth as silk.
After funk we went to reggae and other pop styles. Tonight I think the plan is to review quickly and then he´s going to give a little show with effects including loops and guitar pedal stuff. I swear I´ll have to throw a net of some of the people in the class to keep them quiet. I will definitely have my recorder. Suzano, BTW, cited the Grateful Dead with respect to taping and filming. He encourages it.

Last year I had an epiphany that the traditional caixa de cadencia, as taught to me by Jorge´s son Anderson and others, comes directly from the pandeiro partido alto part which plays: 1 and and 3 4 1 2 3and and where up of two, four and two are slaps. In the caixa ride they are rims with the other notes filled in with the left. There are, of course, many ways to sauce it up with buzzes and so forth just as you would while playing partido alto no pandeiro. This is what gives life to the bateria.

Anyhow, Suzano showed this ride on the pandeiro and stated that it comes from Cabula. So there you go, another piece of the puzzle with regard to the roots of samba. It seems to almost all be based in candomble. I plan to confirm this with Jorge Alabe on Saturday when I go to a churrasco at his house. I also plan to continue my research into the aphrodisiac question. I figure, if anybody knows.....filho de Xango. j

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Abbott and Costello have a beer

13 Jan maybe. Definitely Thursday.

Not that much funny stuff happended yesterday until, after the Suzano class I was headed to a roda de samba to try out some of the new stuff I´ve been learning. I stopped off at one of the hot dog vans on the street for a beer. I asked the wrong guy for the beer and he told me that I now had to share with him. After a brief exchange we agreed and he said ``Falou`` which is a way of saying ``cool`` or `´agreed`` but can also mean `´you said``. I couldn´t resist the opportunity of course so I replied `´falei?`` which means `´I said?`` He looked at me funny and said Nao, falou como `´falou``. To which I replied ``I said what?`` At this point he allowed as to how he had noticed my accent and asked where I was from. I explained that because I am Japonese, it´s very difficult for me to speak potuguese without an accent. At this point he took a moment to study the situation and decided that I must be Italian. I finally identified myself as a Texan who didn´t vote for Bush. This was all he needed. He launched into a full blown political diatribe. Interestingly, the Brazilians I have spoken to feel empathy for the troops and their families. Even the uneducated can apparently separate the American people from the American government (atalent which is obviously absent in arab contries). Bush is not a popular guy here and the word on the street is that America will never recover from 8 years of his policies. The folks here see China as a waiting beast. When they ascend to dominance, they will not be nice about it. The average Brazilian here is light years ahead of the avaerage American is knowledge of world events.

Anyhow, after a couple of beers we exchanged names and the guy invited me to pass by and have a beer when I´m in the neighborhood. When was the last time you had a 30 mintue conversation with a perfect stranger shook hands and called each other brother as you parted? This place is fantastic!!

The other funny thing involved crossing the street. Even after years of coming here, I´m still challenged by crossing the street. Brazilians rarely run across the street. They somehow effortlessly walk out into traffic and only get killed once in a while. It´s miraculous.
I thought that I had it timed perfectly. Just let this giant truck full of exposive gases go by and I´ll duck behind just in front of this motorcyle going about 80. It´ll be great. I´ll look good. Suddenly, the truck put on the brakes and pulled up onto the curb. My curb. My spot on my curb. It was then that I spotted the bicycle. Going the wrong way of course. He was only doing about 20 and had about 6 bottles of water in the front. Remember all those word questions you had to do in math class? Different velocities in different directions? This was it baby. Real life application. I quickly analized the situation and decided that this was no time to be thinking too much. I turned and made a run for it and ducked behind the truck and up onto the curb just as the two pursuers passed. I felt like Daffy Duck with his tail feathers burned off but at least I hadn´t somehow caused the gas tank truck toexplode. Big fun.

It´s beer 30 PM. Gotta run. j

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

brazilian t-shirts

12 Jan more or less

One of the amusing things about the third world is the t-shirt in english. Of course, the wearer of the shirt often hasn´t the foggiest idea what the t-shirt says and, I must say, I often don´t understand them exactly either. Yesterday there was a guy waiting for the bus with a t-shirt which said ``Freshness!`´. Another with `´Hard Flip`´ (pronounced rgee fleepee in portuguese) Later I saw a tall beautiful blonde girl swaggering along with `´Enjoy`´ printed across her breasts. I suspect that she may have completely understood that subtle message. Anyhow, this whole t-shirt thing makes for great sport and something to do while you´re just hanging around.

Went down to the `´Camelodromo`´ yesterday with Jorge and Mauricio.You take the metro to Uruguiana and when you exit, you´re in Paraguay. Everything you can imagine has been illegally imported and is sold at bargain prices. If it makes you feel any better, monsters like sony and microsoft are getting ripped off by the millions here. The deal is that a new video game here costs about $R 200. The minimum wage is $R 300. A pirate copy is $R 25. Do the math. The place is huge. They have everything. If you want to take souvenirs such as t-shirts back home, this is a good place to start. It´s easy to get to and away from and almost all merchants take plastic. Very safe but don´t take your wallet or any of the other stuff that draws attention. And remember, if they ask ``Where are you from?``, it´s Japan. Shortens the follow up conversation.

Went to Suzano´s class at 2000. This class is kind of at a bad time as it interferes with my usual musical adventures but it´s definitely worth it. Suzano is really a prince of a guy. Very patient. Likes everyone. Last night was much better in that the school built up a stage and provided microphones. While the morons plinked away on their pandeiros, I was able to stand right beside the stage and really watch what he does. His idea is genious. His playing is virtuoso level. However, the whole thing is really very simple in theory. You just have to put in the time. It´s just a matter of coordination of movement and spending the time (lots and lots of time) making sure that the sounds are all perfect and falling exactly where you want them. There is zero slop in Suzano´s playing. 100% of it is variations of alternating 16th notes but it sounds amazing.
So there you have it!! Now we´re all masters.

But seriously folks...we spent the class going over Coco, Baiao, Ciranda, and Maracatu. Interestingly, Suzano has a real love of funk so he puts a back beat in just about everything. He even puts a back beat in Maracatu which really fills it in. The back beat requires that you start the pattern with your finger tips rather than your thumb because you can only get a slap coming off your palm and onto your fingers. Trust me on this. I can explain it to you better with pencil and paper.There are seven basic tones not counting bends of opens which are done with the left thumb. The slap is done off the finger side of the hand which requires that it come on an upbeat which equires that you start the pattern (the one) with your finger tips. IN summary, practice playing all your rides starting on your finger tips rather than on your thumb. This may be more than you want to know about this.

Anyhow, after the class we met up with some friends at a rodizio de pizza on the LArgo do Machado called Gambino. It´s a little pricey but good if you´re hungry and want to treat yourself. The place has 120 flavors of pizza. Remember the bicycles from the Island of Doctor Moreau from last year? This is the pizza equivalent. They may be violating some kind of natural law by making some of these pizzas. Chicken stroganoff pizza. Bacalhao pizza (salted codfish). Of course they had all the usual suspects as well. They bring the pizza by your table and you eat until you pass out. They drag you over to a little cot and, when you wake up, they bring out the dessert pizza. They have strawberry ice cream and chocolate pizza. If you can imagine it, they can make it. Thought you had me right? Yes!! They even had sushi pizza. I must admit that I found that one a little creepy and chose to skip it.

Gotta take a waddle on the beach to work off some of this pizza. j

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