Saturday, January 21, 2006

africans, bugs and parasites

21jan 06

I´ve really gotten behind on this whole thing as I have been sleeping eating or going to samba straight for about a week.

While I was at Bambas last week, Alex´s wife was telling the story of how her long time parasite friend who lived in her gall bladder had finally overstayed his welcome and had to be evicted. He didn´t go quietly as he took her gall bladder with him.

I haven´t thought much about parasites over the past 30 years but I´m guessing that she had shistosomiasis, a worm you get from fresh water and that can live comensally in your gall bladder for years. Chip has some books on his shelf and can check my facts on this.

Anyhow, the important thing is that this little encounter led to an epiphany. I love these little momnets of clarity that come only once in a great while. It was at this moment that I realized that, for me to like it, music must have 3 essential ingredients. Africans, bugs and parasites. Think about it. Where does the best music in latin America come from? Wherever there are Africans. There also happen to be pesky little problems like malaria, dengue, Chaga´s disease, and leprosy, just to name a few. Here in Brasil, if you get out of the "Bug Belt" as my friend Bercu calls it, the quality of the samba goes way down. Even in the USA most of our great music came from New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. At the battle of Vicksburg, yellow fever killed more people than war wounds. Bugs and Africans baby. That´s the ticket. No Africans, no bugs, no parasites.... skip it.

You never know what´s going to happen around here. The other day this German couple was telling me about their experience in climbing the rock of Gavea. This is a mountain west of town over which the sun sets every day. They described how they free climbed on cliffs 10 meters high without ropes and how delightful it was to reach the top where there was a bon fire and fireworks and airplanes flying by. They had a great tine.

As it turns out (as reported in the paper), there had been a simultaneous expedition mounted by some teenagers. They got lost in the dark and set off fireworks in a call for help. The fireworks set the mountain on fire and required fly overs by airplanes who were dumping stuff on the fire to put it out.

I guess everything depends on one's point of view. Life continues to be a game of inches.

I met the reining Rainha da Embaixada das Caricatas at Sao Clemente the other night. The embaixada is a hot dog stand in the terrerao, a big entertainment area beside the sambadrome during carnaval. All these cross dresser dudes, Xuxa's friends of course, are there selling hot dogs to raise money for their club. The sentinel feature of the whole thing is the fact that they are all in drag and have a big rubber hot dog stuck on their heads.

Anyhow, "Samule" as the queen is called was at Sao Clemente in all her glory. The girl can dance. She´s about my height, 6'3" more or less with about 6" heels on and bright yellow and black panty hose. Flowers all over the place. She looked a little like a bumble bee with his head stuck in a bouquet of flowers. All the little kids were following her around and I went over to introduce myself and say "hey" from Xuxa. Nice girl. Said she´d come to our party at the end of the month. The sort of odd thing is that, as I made my way back to the bateria, I noticed that the children had begun to follow me instead. ???

I have lots more to report but I have to go for a walk. j

Monday, January 16, 2006

Priests gone bad and more

16jan 06

Things are perking along here in sambaland. Not as wild as usual and I attribute this to the conspicuous absence of our friend Xuxa. Remember he´s the guy who threatened to use foam rubber in his drag costume a couple of years ago. Getting Xuxa wound up and listening to his one-liners makes for great copy. He´s the man with his finger on the pulse of Rio. The `X` factor as it were.

We miss you Xuxa Bob.

The Bambas do Catete met for the first time yesterday. It was just like we never left. Great group of people on the street corner playing samba. I cannot say enough about street corner culture here. People are out on the street playing, singing and dancing with friends instead of watching TV or something. Thank God most people here still don´t have a computer. The bateria was full of little kids playing and dancing instead of killing cops in a video game. Big fun. We´re definitely part of the neighborhood.

In a "bar da esquina" recently opened by our friend Lica, I met one of the directors of Cacique de Ramos. He invited me out any Sunday to the pagode they have. It´s where all the big name pagodeiros got started and honed their chops. Unfortunately, it´s at exactly the same time as Bombas. I´m here to play.

I will make an exeption tomorrow. I usually go to Estacio for the Tuesday technical rehearsal but, tomorrow Marcos Suzano and Durval Pereira are playing with Pife Moderno at the CCC downtown. I´ve never seen Suzano live. Durval is a bad, bad, bad dude on the zabumba. Pife Moderno is sort of like forro flute.

I started a zabumba class today with Durval at the Maracatu Brasil around the corner. Great class. If you´re ever here this time of year, check out the oficinas de verao. Cheap and great. They say that if you learn new hard stuff as you get older, it keeps you from getting Alzheimer's. I´m good to go cause, baby, that left hand bacalhao stuff is funky. Durval can force you to dance with only his left hand. The dude is bad.

The once very cool sambadrome rehearsals have been discovered in a big way. They now cause traffic jams all over the area. It's still worth it but you have to go early and just plan on staying for a while. Friday we´ll have Viradouro, Salgueiro and Vila Isabel. I'll be there.

Speaking of Viradouro, they had to move their usual Sunday street rehearsal. It seems that a group of idiot drug traffickers from the morro nearby had a problem with their colors. Red and white are a rival gang´s colors. What is up with that ? Savages.

In the news of the weird department, a Bahian priest refuses to lay low. Last week he made the news when it was found that he was giving mass in various costumes. Dressing like a woman, dressing like Iyamanja and others. Needless to say, "The Church" took a dim view of the whole thing and sent him on vacation to the interior of Bahia. Somehow he let it be known that he was being courted to come out in pictures in several magazines. One can only imagine which ones. He was seen in the paper today with a cute little skirt and some high heels.

Maybe if Jerry Falwell got himself some high heels and a little lipstick he would lighten up a little. Laugh a little Jerry. Jesus loves you.

Tonight is forro with Xaxados e Perdidos at Severyna. Nice little scene with great Forro Pe de Serra. Just 3 guys laying it down hard with acoustic instruments. j