Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A Photo from the Past...

Playing Music in Capelinha, Salvador, Bahia...1993.

It was a hot day. Summer. Few weeks before Christmas 1993.
Salvador is a special place. This used to be Brazil's capital for several centuries, until Rio De Janeiro became THE city. Nowadays Brasilia is the government's nexus. You rarely hear of tourists and visitors going to Brasilia, around the Amazon forest. Chiefly because there is no sea, no beaches, nothing of the kinky stuff that attracts folks to Salvador and Rio. So then, i would like to talk about this photo, taken by who?
The neighbourhood is São Caetano de Capelinha, right at the heart of Salvador, credited as one of the poorest and "most dangerous" in the city. In the blue distance you can catch the Atlantic ocean. When checked carefully, a bit of the architecture can be seen as well; typical Portuguese housing style; Roman almost in outlook and history.
From left is the bass player, also called Freddy. Freddy is one of the coolest dude i have ever played with. He rarely spoke and when he did it was very quiet; lots of sense and played the most amazing bass lines.
I am clutching the guitar which i still own and play today, an acoustic-electric Takamini, except that i have changed the suitcase, since that day. You can vaguely see all the stickers, taken from thousand places i had been.
Then Denilson. Holding his kit-drum pedals. Exceptionally gifted musician and storyteller. He played kit drums and percussion. He is the man who helped shape my Samba rhythms and i learnt a lot about tambourine (called "Pandeiro" in Brazil) from him. You cannot play Bossa Nova or Samba well, if you don't know the Pandeiro, which is as central to Brazilian music as tablas are to Indian music. The word Pandeiro, according to historical sources, as told by the late, English writer, Peter Fryer, in his exciting book "Rhythms of Resistance", comes from "Bandir" (an Arab word) and is Middle East, in origin. World wide, we call it the tambourine. Dielson loved to talk apart from music, the economic misery of this region, where most of the art movements in the country originates. Here, the highest number of slaves from Africa (globally) were taken and to date 80% of the Bahia population is of African origin. The subsequent inter marriage with native Indians and the Portuguese, has in several centuries, produced the most beautiful looking humans.
Denilson would remind us.
Samba began in Bahia. Capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts began here. Samba Reggae (also known as Axé Music) as well; "yet you find the most absurd poverty in Brazil here."
At one point I got a scabby (skin itching) infection while playing Capoeira barefoot, it was spreading and i scratched like a man possessed. Denilson, joked that scratching, was part of the dancing culture of the region, that to feel "the love" one had to scratch and understand the agony. Metaphorical, huh?
Intelligent Dielson was a twin and it was his brother, Dielson, who snapped this pic.
These twins were however, complete opposites. Whereas Denilson roved and drummed with no spouse yet; Dielson was a practical man, with nothing much to say, raising a huge family; his kids running around, in this dilapidated impoverished area, filled with pick pockets, guns, stray dogs and cats.
At the far right is Daniel, a cheerful American keyboards player. Daniel was always having fun. We hanged around the Porto beach alot where women would flock around and i recall him asking me :
"Fred (Americans always call me Fred instead of Freddy), what do all these girls see in me? My body is not as well chiseled as these Brazilian guys. Tell me. In California no woman looks at me but here I am the man!"
It was a funny, interesting topic which we looked at with laughing eyes. Music brings people together, makes instant pals, and may raise crucial questions without any qualms.
This particular day we had been in a studio top of this high building and tried recording a song of mine, which i would re-record years later : I Wanna Kiss You.
I have to repeat one thing about Salvador-Bahia.
In here you feel musical twenty four hours. Buses filled with chanting youths singing and drumming on the window panes and seats. Daily carnival. The actual carnival in February runs three days in the rest of Brazil, here it goes on forever. Bahia the region, Salvador the city: special place.
If you ever go to Brazil be there and learn the history especially of slavery, art, music and get to visit the home ofJorge Amado, in Pelourinho, one of the biggest writers in Latin America born and raised not so far from where we are standing.

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