OK, so what else do I love about Rio?
Even though I had already lived in Brazil for two years back in the late 60s, at that time I was in Porto Alegre and Curitiba, two cities with a European style and influence. They were nice, but I didn’t really feel at home until I spent some time in Rio, where the influences are more African than European. Why is that? Mostly because of the music, samba in particular, and the people who play this music. I almost always found a feeling of real camaraderie and mutual respect among the musicians, rather than a strong sense of competition, and I liked that.
There was nothing I enjoyed more than hanging out in a bar or restaurant where people would sit around a long table, singing and playing. Everyone knew the words to the songs, and there was such a feeling of joy and community…like a family.
In the USA, music is generally thought of as a performance, where some people play and/or sing on a stage and others sit in the audience and listen. Although we have shows and concerts here, too, we also have spontaneous musical “happenings,” which I found to be rare when I lived in the states. Here, even birthday parties usually end up with everyone spontaneously breaking into song, and it’s not unusual for a mini-batucada (percussion) group to warm things up on a public bus.
Aside from these popular get-togethers, Brazil is famous for its groundbreaking musical geniuses—people like Dorival Caymmi, Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Hermeto Pascoal and many, many others. I’ve always loved Brazilian music, and am happy to find myself here where I’m surrounded by it. Of course there’s junky music, too, but nothing will ever override the wonderful musical heritage created by these outstanding Brazilian composers and musicians.