Dispatches from the road from our wayfaring travelers.
got lost yesterday. streets go in all directions here and
did our last classes in the morning, went up the road to the
we drove down the other side to the tiny town of casa branca,
at the bottom of the hill, as we rolled into the dusty red town square,
on the way back, myself and andrea got ourselves dropped off
little did i know that it would happen that way, maybe a few more
so eventually, we hit a street that looked familiar to me.
it was saturday night, and the bars and cafes were abuzz.
we kept walking. the road started to curve and i realized
it was an accordian, at least it sounded like it. at the end of
in the doorway were two cowboys; hats, boots, cigarettes
they stood in the doorway, facing each other. we sat at a table
the 2004 bus back to our flats didn´t run too much past midnight, so we had to
we saw a street vendor, selling popcorn, hot powdered chocolate covered
he may have been out of change, or maybe he just liked the feel
we were looking for our bus stop when we saw people walking through
the was an older black man on stage with a guitar, and behind him were
i guess we´re here on a cultural exchange mission. i hope anyone
Which is what this place is….so cool! It’s been one full week here in Brazil, I wish we could stay longer! This morning Andrea and I taught part 2 of the folk/pop/rock guitar class. Again, the Brazilians just soak up the American music. One woman Nivea loved all the classic rock of the 70s…calling out sort of obscure groups like Yes and Rennaissance. Even thought most of the students spoke only a little English, they knew a lot of the words of the American songs. We taught Big Yellow Taxi, Paper Moon, California Dreaming and more. Then we headed to the cafeteria/lounge area and rustled up our own barn dance with 10 or so of the students. Bau taught two circle dances and Steve taught one too that I really liked. We hung out with a student named Leandro…a self-taught players…so good…can play many styles…we all loved listening to him play Brazilian music, and he also plays the viola….not like the viola you think….a 7-string, or maybe 5-string?? instrument, nylon…great sound.
Yesterday, Bau and I heard a chorro (spelling?) band….mandos, ukes, that box thing you bang on, flute….so good. They played in a courtyard on the campus. Then we visited the Pro Music school that night for another jam session with all four of us..the students had lots of questions….one was “what is folk music?”….good question!
Okay, backtracking to that morning…..I had a wonderful workshop with the music ed. students of the univ. Somehow I got 25 college students to play freeze dance and sing If you’re happy and you know it and the like! They were great. I talked all about the kids programs at OTS and again, they had tons of interesting questions about how we teach. Then I was interviewed by one of the students for their campus radio station.
The group went up to the mountains today…I stayed back to relax. Tomorrow we will head to Ouro Preto, a town in the mountains about 2 hours away.
have i mentioned yet how nice eveyone is here in brazil?
and how delightful it is here? and how good the food and weather
let me work backwards from this moment, where i am typing
on a filthy keyboard and barely moving cursor in the hotel
ahem “business office“.
we walked back from the party, myself and andrea, up and down
the hills and darkened and desolate streets. for some reason, no one
at all parks their car on the streets at night. the sidewalks are broken,
ragged and uneven, and if you are wheelchair bound, do not make this
your vacation destination. besides the steep hills and our friend gravity,
there are sheer unexpected dropoffs everywhere. wherever there is a
driveway or corner, there is a steep plunge, a foot or two sometimes,
to the next section of sidewalk. did i say sidewalk? it is almost as if
each building has built its own sidewalk….cement, tile, brick, small stones,
dirt, patterns, crumbling pits, a patchwork.
so it´´s midnight, the streets are
empty and dirty, and we are walking. we actually get a little lost on
the way home, ending up on two spooky quiet streets ´we´´d never seen before.
bats were flying around the streetlights. not a soul driving. all houses
behind iron fences and gates, some yards surrounded by thick clear glass
fences, showcasing the yard like an aquarium, making sure you see but don´t
touch. electric wire or glass on the top. so much security here, neighborhood
stores with guards, malls with 3 or more security guards at each entrance and
more patrolling, in black suits like the secet service.
all that to say; for some reason, it seems not all that scary. any US city and
these streets would be certain death, but here, it seems alright. when we were
lost, on a particularly desolate and dark street of stone, the was a man standing
at the end f the street, in the middle of the T intersection, dark clothing and
sunglasses. andrea said he might have been the bat we saw earlier, but he was
a dark man who said nothing as we walked by with no panic. for some reason.
we were walking from a party and jam at a local music school, where
a local singing legend taught
mostly vocals. we started the evening attending a class in the (i suck at
remembering foreign words) rhythms of an instrument like a tambourine,
and were schooled in patterns for songs and capoera. we stood in a circle
of mostly beautiful and handsome brazilian women. i, resplendant in
my sweaty tank top from walking earlier in the day, may have stood out a little.
but learn we did. i was masterful at it not.
then we went and had a frozen dish made from the acai berry, like a sorbet,
covered with fresh bananas and granola. what a treat, and not the first one of
then the jam session. in the open air center of the school, which was in a
big old house. we sang a few songs. beer and wine were served. bacon brushetta
was served….toast, cheese, bacon and oregeno. introductions were made.
one of the women there was obviously someone important, a backup singer
with a famous pop star, and as far as i could gather from the conversation,
was on a soap opera. she held herself like a star. if you`ve ever seen the show
“just shoot me“, she was just like nina van horne. regal, self assured.
our hostess sat down with her sister (friend? not sure) and they sang the most
hauntingly beautiful duet ever. so sweet and pure. then another woman and
a guitar joined them for a trio, again, hauntingly sweet and beautiful.
the evening turned raucous, with drums and dancing and exhuberant singing
and laughter. i danced a little, until
i was dripping with sweat (again). it was a kind of magical evening. i wished
i had known any of the words to the songs, but i plucked and sawed and
drummed my way through the evenings brigadoon-like magic.
a delicious bean and sausage soup and some meat struedel were served
and the drinks flowed. another one of those can´t believe i´m here evenings.
the rest of the day earlier seems to pale in comparison, yet it was all kind of
magical. we went to an ecological park. i had the water from a big
green coconut, with a straw, through the hole they punched. it seemed
like a magic drink, neverending. i drank and drank. finally done.
then they split it open, gave it to me with a spoon made from a piece
of the husk, and we peeled out the gelatinous meat from the non scrapy,
non flakey kind of coconut.
on the way out of the park, we stopped at a roadside fruit place, where a man
with a machete carved up giant hunks of sweet juicy pineapple, and we stood
eating, sticky sweet juice flowing and dripping. we left, and in yet another
of many lovely gestures this day, he came running out to the car as we were
leaving, with two big hunks of perfect firm and ripe watermelon, and handed
them to us. not sure watermelon or pineapple ever tasted that fine.
i can´t even get into the wonderful lunch we had, one of many stupendous and
inexpensive meals we had.
but after lunch i took a walk, looking for the grocery store. i climbed hills
and was a big sweaty mess (what else is new) when i asked a woman
on top of a hill where the grocery was. she spoke no english, but understood
what i was looking for and pointed down the street. i thanked her and walked
down the hill. a few moments later i heard a voice, and she was running
down the hill she had just climbed up, just to give me better directions.
she pointed down the hill. “one, two“ then pointed her finger sharply to
have i mentioned yet how nice eveyone is here in brazil?
and how delightful it is here? and how good the food and weather
by the way, the weather is delightful.
Hello from Brazil. What an amazing country. The people here are absolutely lovely. They love learning about American folk music, the history, the way we teach music and even the way we sing. And we’re learning just as much from them…their music…samba, bossa nova and even brazilian pop music. Our host Walenia is has given us a great tour of Belo Horizonte, the biggest city in the state of Minas Garais. It has everything…..huge outdoor markets downtown, to serene parks, the lagoon, a zoo, and of course the University. Then neighborhood we are in is called Pampulha.
Last night was a highlight. We had a jam/dance party with the Brazilians at a small school that teaches mostly voice classes. We first took a workhop on how to play the pandeiro…it looks like a tamborine with a closed head. Very rhythmic. It seems that everyone here knows how to play the pandeiro! After the workshop…party downstairs…snacks and local beer (Skol) was served with a local soup that sort of tastes like the refried beans in Mexican dishes, but even better, and pork added. I forgot the name in Portugues. I do remember “Pao de Queso” though…..a delightful little cheese puff thing they sell everywhere…yum yum! The food is AMAZING…every single meal….but more on that later.
At the party, we traded off singing american folks songs and Brazilian songs…there were accordions, guitars, all kinds of drums, shakers, mando, fiddle and of course the pandeiro! Then, a barn dance with Bau calling out the moves in English and Walenia translating in Portuguese, while Andrea and Steve strummed and fiddled. Then….instant samba dancing ensued and lots and lots of Brazilian songs sung so beautifully I could cry.
Okay….i’ll see if I can post a pic and video here to really see!
Laura Doherty, Andrea Bunch, Steve Rosen and Bau Graves reporting in from Brazil.
It’s great here. The “winter” weather is 75-80 degrees daily. The people just as warm. The food really pretty unbelievable.
We are teaching at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, which is a huge campus, the 3rd largest in Brazil with about 40,000 students. The Musica building is spacious and very well equipped. Like almost all the public buildings here (schools, restaurants, banks, you name it) it is open and airy, with whole sections of wall open to the outdoors. A very large garden is planted in a big central counrtyard INSIDE the building.
Our host, Prof. Walenia Silva, teaches in the music program. and is an encyclopedia of information about Brazilian traditional music. We’ve been offering workshops for her students and others in the music school. The students are all well trained musicians, very quick on the uptake, and full of interest in American music. Many of them have a lot of knowledge about our music already — which is a little humbling since we have so little insight into theirs. Even though we’re singing in a language foreign to them, all of the students know the words to “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Last night we visited a small private music school called Pro-Musica, which has about 800 students and focuses on popular music. Students there sign up for a year of classes and they all take three classes per week — their specialty instrument, ear training/theory, and ensembles. They seem to run their operation on a shoestring and the amazing energy of their director. He invited us to offer a workshop on Friday so we’ll be able to experience the students then.
More to come soon. Boa tarde. Bau