thu 20/06/2024

theartsdesk Radio Show 27 - direct from Sāo Paulo with guest stars including Chico César | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Radio Show 27 - direct from Sāo Paulo with guest stars including Chico César

theartsdesk Radio Show 27 - direct from Sāo Paulo with guest stars including Chico César

New Sounds from São Paulo - and the musical movement against Bolsanaro

Chico César: musician-activist

The latest edition of Peter Culshaw’s global music radio update was recorded on the road in São Paulo, Brazil, featuring some of the most interesting local musicians a couple of weeks ago – before the virus tsunami hit (Brazil was behind the curve, its first case only reported on 25 February).


One of the main subjects of part of this show was protests against President Bolsanaro, who in an attempt to out-Trump Trump, has been encouraging censoring school textbooks, plays and musicians, spying on teachers, and bringing repressive initiatives against minorities from indigenous groups to Afro-Catholic traditions and LGBT groups, as well as revealing mafia-style links to militias in the favelas. If you want to know more about that a good place to start was the open letter signed by assorted Brazilian luminaries in February including Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Sebastião Salgado. A week of concerts in Sao Paulo was organised last month under the banner of Semana de Arte Contra Barbârie (A Week of Arts Against Barbarism).

On the first half of the show we were honoured to have as guest local star Chico César, who is a much loved musician from the North East now living in Sāo Paulo who has performed in eclectic styles and whose songs have been covered by everyone from Daniela Mercury to Maria Bethania. Initially a journalist for a decade and briefly a politician before becoming a musician, he has also become an activist – against “the agri-business who are killing the forest” among other things. He writes terrific books, including a well received book of erotic poetry.  

The second half features guests who all speak excellent English (if you want to avoid the translations of the first half, skip to the second hour) including the celebrated actress-activist Agnes Zuliani discussing the political and cultural situation. Then we have two of my personal favourite musicians in Brazil – Magda Pucci, who has kept a really extraordinary big band called Mawaca going, with difficulty, for 25 years. They are one of the most genuinely global music groups in the world – a track may consist of an unlikely collision between a Japanese song and a traditional Amazonian indigenous song, which surprisingly works beautifully (it's worth listening in just for that) or a cover of a Kurdish song which picked up a million hits on YouTube and garnered them fame in Kurdish lands. Not much known in the UK, their many CDs are all worth investigating. The American composer Terry Riley said they were the most interesting music he heard in Brazil. 

Last but not least, we have as guest Magda's partner Miguel Barella, a veteran cultural catalyst, top guitarist and trouble-maker, who was in the first ever punk band in Brazil in 1976 (those early tapes are due to be released this year). These days his musical platform is the powerful, poetic and highly innovative group Blue Beast – whose second album is imminently released. We get to hear excepts of Blue Beast and Mawaca as well as discussing how to define fascism and the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, and meeting a Priestess who could tell the future on a beach in Fortaleza. Thanks to Mawaca for the use of their studio.

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