This week is a short week at school because of the Corpus Christi holiday, so it’s Thursday morning and I’m on my orange couch sipping coffee and catching up on blogs. I’ve done the dishes that have been staring at me for a week and now I get to relax the next four days away. I’m thinking of going to Sao Paulo for a bit. Starbucks is calling my name, as always, but what’s more is that Sunday is the SP Gay Pride parade, and last year it brought more than 3 million people to Avenida Paulista. I want to see what it’s all about this year. I’m not all that psyched about being with that many people, but the city already has something like 17 million people in it, so maybe another 3 million people won’t make that much of a difference. (But 3 million people on a single street? That’s something I want to see.) So, who knows what I’ll do. I’d really love to go. It might be really fun.
To celebrate this long weekend, some friends and I went for coffee caipirinhas and dessert right after school. We sat and talked until the sun went down and after a quick stop at home to catch up on phone calls, I went to a free samba show nearby with one of my friends. First, nothing makes me happier than close, free shows. I dislike going all the way to the middle of nowhere because I’m dependent upon people for rides and when the feeling for escape floods my system I like to be able to leave without messing anyone else’s schedule up. The fact that this show last night was right around the corner from my apartment was perfect. The fact that it was samba was perfect. The fact that another teacher at school was in the show was also perfect. And so, it was the trifecta of perfection and thus, I knew I was in for a good time.
The Centro de Convivencia is a beautiful place. It doesn’t look all that beautiful from the outside, and in fact it looks like a giant 1960s minimalist concrete monstrosity, but on the inside it’s quiet and dark and the seats are all close to the stage so virtually any place you sit you get a great view of what’s going on. It was there at the CdC that I saw modern dance (and left thinking, WTF?), the Campinas Orchestra, and African drumming. Our seats last night were in the third row and so we got to see all the action. In addition, the seats in the theater are big comfy chairs, not the chairs where the seats fold up. These are full-on living room chairs. (Almost. But you get my drift. We’re talking comfort.) So it was shaping up to be a beautiful night.
What I didn’t expect was the wave of emotion and memory that washed over me halfway through the show when the group was performing their seventh or eighth samba. I sat in the theater, leaned back in my chair and remembered my first weeks and months here, when I spent time with Cat Head and listened to samba at Tonico’s in Centro. I remembered listening to him talk about the music with such reverence, watching him watch the band members and the dancers. I remember watching his eyes fill with watery emotion as he spoke and I remember feeling so moved by his emotions that I absorbed the music into my skin and hoped one day I might feel the same.
It hasn’t come to that, though. I haven’t learned to love samba in the same way he has, but I’m okay with that. To Cat Head, Brazil means something entirely different than it does to me and therefore, what he hears should be different from what I hear when I listen to samba. Last night, listening to the group, I thought of dancing samba in Lapa in Rio. I remembered the crowded corner bar my friends and I found, where we twirled around with strangers late at night, popping in for one song and then throwing ourselves out onto the street laughing and sweaty, off to find more dance floors. I remembered the Cooperativa where I went to dance Forro; I remembered Ilha do Cardoso where a hundred bodies packed a run-down floor laughing and spinning through the night; I remembered watching a musician play a guitar on Morro de Sao Paulo as I sat with my friend sipping beer in the rain. I remembered seeing O Teatro Magico in the old church on the night the electricity fell, and still their voices and guitars penetrating the darkness while all of us together sat and listened and were amazed. I remembered sitting in Cat Head’s apartment listening to vinyls of Baden Powell and Bola Sete. I remembered the songs from the church across my street drifting up and into my living room, and the groups of a cappella singers whose voices lifted up and came to me as if they were in dreams, ethereal and familiar.
Samba hasn’t been for me what it is for Cat Head. It hasn’t been the be-all end-all of music in my life and my experience here. But last night I realized, as I sat in my comfy theater chair, that samba can be the trigger for all those good memories of music and friendship here. Samba is Brazil, and when I hear samba—the drums, the accordion, the guitars, the sad clear voice of the lone woman singing about love—I will forever think of this place and of these people.
E com certeza, vou ter saudade deles. Com certeza.