Singing-songing in the rain

Rainy day in Rio…in Portuguese, you’d pronounce that: Rayney day een Heeou! Ha, I love the language. Initial Rs are, at least in Rio, pronounced as Hs, double Rs too. A ‘friend’ from Piauí, well, the mother of my always amazing son, used to over-correct her English by converting all words beginning in H to begin with an R. So, the word for hammock in Portuguese is, then, ‘headgee’. Fine, but when she tried to talk about in English (it’s common in the northern state of Piaui to sleep in a rede, it’s too hot for a bed…), she would routinely say, ‘rammock’!!!! I love it!

Since it’s raining, I’m washing clothes, well, I’d be washing clothes anyway, but it’s a nice rationalization. Self-serve place near my hotel, costing about 10 reais (6 bucks) for the wash, not sure about the dryer.

My hotel would charge 15 just for a pair of Levis, but they would come back neatly pressed. This saves my lots of money, and gives me a chance to behave like a local. Already had a nice chat with the owner of the laundry.

Yesterday was a sort of lazy day after two very late nights, I was determined to be asleep by midnight, and though I was in the hotel by 10.30, it was 2am when the lights went out…writing, listening to CDs, the mind races!  I had a pretty bad lunch at the Boteco da Praia, a sorry version of my esteemed moqueca de camarão…the sauce was pathetic, not even close, and the shrimp were tiny, probably frozen.

I’m determined to have a good one, so Sunday I’ll try at another Bahian restaurant called Yemanjá in Ipanema.

I was searching for a DVD called O Mistério do Samba (Mystery of Samba), a documentary about the old timers from the samba school Portela, A Velha Guarda (the old guard). I found it for R$49 at Lojas Americanas on the internet, so Celso and I took the metro downtown to look for it. Of course they didn’t have it, only via their website, but they have a help desk where you can place the order with assistance from the store; mainly I wanted to make sure it would arrive at my hotel before my departure on Monday. The nice woman assured me it would arrive Friday, so we entered my account (I’ve ordered dozens of CDs from them over the past 10 years), put the DVD into my basket, and proceeded to place the order. “This order contains items not allowed for export outside Brazil.

YES, keep your samba movies in Brazil, do not allow them out of the country!!!! What???? Too many blacks in the film, don’t want to give the wrong impression? You only allow Brazilian rock DVDs to be exported??? Ok, so we had to change the delivery address to my hotel anyway, which we did. But their system kept going down (there is not a direct connection into the store’s system, they have to log on through that awful MS Explorer just like any customer! Five reboots! And then we could never get the system to advance past the change of address screen. After 15-20 minutes of fighting the computer, I gave up and resolved to pick up a copy from a decent book or record store…I knew I could have done this, but I was trying to save 10-15 reais. Since I paid for both metro round trips, that cost at least 12, and then I did find the DVD at a store called Modern Sound for R$59, so I ended up paying way more than that in the long run. It never makes sense to scrimp like this….I’ve had this lesson many times in Brazil before and I have yet to learn my lesson. Guess I never will. “This is not a serious country,” commented Charles DeGaul when he visited here a few decades ago. Not much has changed! At least in many areas…

Modern Sound is the best record store in Rio…while they don’t have everything, they have almost everything, including some great old Brazilian films on DVD. But a few years ago, they installed a full service restaurant (beer, wine, booze too) complete with a fully equipped performance stage from which musicians play every day, usually at 5pm. Last night, my friend Ronaldo do Bandolim, the mandolin player from Epoca de Ouro (see posts from earlier) was playing with another of his groups, Gente Fina. Some choro, some traditional hits, sambas, etc. The group was mandolin, drums, bass, guitar and soprano sax/flute.

Nice to drink a beer and listen to fantastic, virtuoso players inside a record store. I bought a copy of Ronaldo’s CD of music by Ernesto Nazareth, a composer of choro-style music from the early 1900s. The disc is great, it avoids the usual Nazareth standards and focuses on totally obscure selections. I’ve already heard it twice! Oh, Nazareth. Pronounced Nah-zah-ray. Which reflects the Portuguese spelling of the biblical town: Nazaré. Maybe Amazon has this thing, if so, get it!

On the way home, I stopped for something to eat at a classic boteco in Flamengo called Bar Picote. Tables on the sidewalk, cold chopp, tons of bar snacks, it’s the real deal. The food was fine, nothing special, but tasty.

The beer was cold. Not aguado!

The highlight of the stop was a character sitting at a table near mine dressed in a weird costume which I immediately recognized as the official dress for a carnaval group (called an afoxé) from Salvador, Bahia, a few hundred miles to the north, called Filhos de Gandhi–Sons of Gandhi. Now this is a group that was started by blacks, for blacks…it is VERY African. I’ve been to their rehearsals in Salvador, and I was always the only white person in the room. (wow, they would start a drum rhythm and it would then go on for an hour or more, singing different tunes along the way. Absolutely hypnotic, and it’s so traditional that men and women have separate rooms in which to sing and dance, as in Africa.) Anyway, this was an old, fat white dude (no, NOT me!), with a gray beard, but in full Gandhi costume complete with white turban dotted with a giant fake sapphire.
Too funny. He’s obviously a regular, he knew many of the people at the bar, and more who passed by. But he also got plenty of puzzled looks. I didn’t have the guts to be obvious in taking his picture, so what I have is blurry, or small, but might give some idea of his whackiness.

Clothes are halfway done in the dryer. (“From America,” said the attendant who just this second offered me a coffee…now that doesn’t happen in America! We make the machines, but leave the social graces to other countries!)

A guy the other night at Beco do Rato started conversing with me, and after a bit, he applauded my Portuguese, and when I said it wasn’t that great, he insisted, “You talk just like a Carioca, a Carioca being a person from Rio. Funny because years ago, when I was married to Rammock Lady, I had a northeastern Brazilian accent…even the Cariocas I encountered in those days made that comment! Guess I’ve been mostly around folks from Rio the last 25 years. When Son of Rammock Lady and I went to Lisbon, the cab driver asked if I was Brazilian! I took that as a complement to my language skills!

But the speech style in Rio, I think, has evolved over the last 30 years. To my ears, it has become exaggeratedly sing-songy. Lots of up and down patterns and inflections, which serve to help emphasize certain words, situations, feelings, intentions, excitement, etc. I find myself speaking like this quite often, and I don’t like it at all. When it becomes very pronounced in others here, it drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to slap people! I really don’t think it used to be like this. I know language changes, but that is not always a good thing.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite living samba composers is a highly educated fellow named Nei Lopes; he’s been around for at least 35 years and has had some significant hits. But for the last 10 years ago, he seems to be happy writing and composing sambas for less commercial audience, more intellectual, more thoughtful and I really like what he’s doing. He’s always writing about social issues in Brazil, and is often remarking on how Brazilians are so willing to give up their own culture for ‘aquela do norte’, meaning the USA.

He loves language and is often observing in yummy sambas, the adoption of English words into Brazilian Portuguese, or even how Brazilians use proper Portuguese words improperly. I just got his new disc, and one of his songs broaches the cultural invasion squarely in a song called ‘Pomba-girá Baixou no Halloween’. Pomba-girá is one of the saints (santos) or spirit-figures in Afro-Brazilian religions, most typically, I think, in Umbanda in Rio. So when this Brazilian spirit descends (baixar, baixou) on Halloween, well, the mixture should seem obvious.

He also directs a samba to the hip young Cariocas who insist on wearing their ball caps backwards saying, “Isso é mais um banal lero-lero que os gringos puseram na tua cabeça.” (Just more banal BS that the gringos have put in your head.) Funny dude.

2 comments on “Singing-songing in the rain

  1. oh really….


  2. Michael is Son of Rammock Lady. I think he's wondering about the funny writing he saw…I need to re-edit the post because I'd gone into the HTML version of the post to fix the typography and must have deleted a few words here and there. so if it reads funny right now, that is why…



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