So I set up the room, took a shower, checked email, set my room safety deposit box code (for securing my passport and my small fortune in dollars and credit cards. And tried to get some sleep. Fat chance of that. Found CNN, BBC on TV, tried to catch up on earthquake and tsunami news. And I slept for maybe 30 minutes.
In Brazilian traditional music, Celso comes from a Royal Family. I know it goes back further than what I’m gonna write (his dad filled me in on the real background many years ago, but i can’t remember the details….beer and cachaça?), but this should be a good start. I met Celso da Silva in late May of 1980 when I had been in Brazil only a few short days on my first extended, 8 month visit during which I was researching music, culture, improving my Portuguese, and screwing off. By accident, well, by nasty turn by the Brazilian customs agents who’d impounded all my luggage at the Rio airport because it contained microphones and recording equipment, I ended up in Rio for a week or so instead of in São Paulo where I was going to live with my dear friend Waldimas and his brother Walmes. Scanning the paper during that week, I saw that one of my samba superheroes was playing at a theater in downtown Rio, I think it was a Sunday. Well, I took the bus to the theater, and soaked up with mad-fan lust, the amazing show/concert of Paulinho da Viola, one of Brazil’s greatest samba singers and composers, born the same year as Paul McCartney. After the show, I had to express my fan-hood, and to met this legendary icon. So, dumb gringo that I was, I went backstage and, when the time was right, introduced myself and began talking with Paulinho. Problem was, my Portuguese at that point was so weak, and combined with my star-struckedness, my ability to be understood was pretty low. After a minute or two of my linguistic stumbling, he pawned me off on his youngish pandeiro (tambourine) player…a guy named Celso. I’m sure his eyes told Celso to, “get this guy off my back.” And he did. Celso, his future wife, and a few other members of the band hauled me away to a late night pizza joint. The camaraderie was amazing, though making myself understood was painful for them, and for me. But they stuck it out. We became fast friends. I even got an invite to Celso’s wedding later that summer. Oh, Celso’s dad is the pandeiro player for Brazil’s greatest choro group, Epoca de Ouro. Three of his uncles were in that group as well, including Uncle Dino, one of the greatest guitar players the world has ever seen. Better than amazing. Better than Stevie Ray Vaughn…any day of the week. He recorded with Carmen Miranda, and appeared on well over 10,000 recordings since then. Fast forward. In 2001, Celso and I co-produced the very last recording of Epoca de Ouro with Uncle Dino, and with Cesar Faria, their stellar guitarist, who, by chance, was the father of Paulinho da Viola. Small world. There’s lots more to this, but this gives some idea of the world I lucked into after that concert in 1980, all via Celso.
Somehow (actually, quite easily) we kept the conversation going, going, going. Around 6.30 or so, Celso called his brother Jorge Filho who lives around the corner and is the cavaquinho player for Epoca de Ouro. Ten minutes later, this Jorge Filho was sauntering through Lamas, heading to our table. Lots of laughs, lots of stories of musicians on the road (mostly having to do with Brazilians who don’t speak anything but Portuguese contending with restaurants, hotels, music stores in countries where German, Japanese, or English are the languages of choice…very amusing). A beer and several glasses of water later it was time to go…and suddenly we realized it was almost 9.45!!!! We were all astonished that we’d stayed in the same restaurant for seven straight hours! Guess there was lots of catching up to do. And, I’m happy to say, though my head was exploding and I was operating on less than an hour of sleep in 36 hours of traveling, I held my own in Portuguese, caused my share of laughs and guffaws. Not bad for a gringo who rarely speaks Portuguese any more, and so different from my first conversations with Celso and crew when my language skill, actually, my lack of same, was more painful for them than it was for me, and my pain was deep and difficult!