Music to connect mind, body and soul

While I was putting myself under the added pressure for this blog to launch by a certain date, so that I could reach a captive audience of high quality, I could not cut corners with Caetano Veloso. The Brazilian composer who is now in his 70s, is an icon of the Brazilian popular music. The Tropicalist art movement, that during the 60’s dared to confront the military dictatorship, would not be the same without him. I chose this clip of the song “Luz de Tieta”, where he sings in duet with Gal Costa, another icon of Brazilian Popular Music, to illustrate the core of his work. The song is also the theme for the film based on the book Tieta by Jorge Amado, another revolutionary way ahead of his time, who would be 100 years old this year, if still alive.

Putting Caetano Veloso and Jorge Amado together is like finding the Alchemists formula for gold. Amado’s books are famous for their social consciousness mixed with high doses of humour. With his very personal style, he unfolds his stories with realism and compassion. Similarly, Caetano’s lyrics are honest and based on the reality of being alive.

A common aspect of any authoritarian regime is to force conformity of habits, life-styles, costumes and ways of thinking. It represses difference and forces homogeneity. It was in this way, that artists such as Caetano Veloso, came to be seen by the military as subversive and a threat to their regime. Caetano, together with other founders of the Tropicalia movement, embodies everything that conservatives hate: diversity, playfulness, joy of life, creativity, independent thinking…

In 1969, along with Gilberto Gil, Caetano was arrested. While taking exile in London, he composed the song London London. He was quick in assimilating aspects of the English culture and the semantics of the language, which he uses in a delicate reference to his experiences:

” I’m wandering round and round nowhere to go
I’m lonely in London London is lovely so
I cross the streets without fear
Everybody keeps the way clear”

I know, I know no one here to say hello
I know they keep the way clear
I am lonely in London without fear
I’m wandering round and round here nowhere to go
While my eyes
Go looking for flying saucers in the sky”

In this song, Caetano captures the reserved nature of the British culture. From the perspective of a more gregarious culture, this reserve can be interpreted as self-imposed loneliness.The line “While my eyes, go looking for flying saucers in the sky” refers to the tactic of the military junta of reinforcing the American myth about UFO’s in the news, as a way of distracting Brazilians of what was going on in the country. Caetano carries on the passing of time while people are busy with their day by day routine:

“Oh Sunday, Monday, Autumm pass by me
And people hurry on so peacefully
A group approaches a policeman
He seems so pleased to please them
It’s good at least to live and I agree
He seems so pleased at least
And it’s so good to live in peace and
Sunday, Monday, years and I agree
While my eyes
Go looking for flying saucers in the sky”

The verses reflect well the feeling of living in London as part of a clockwork. Time passes by while we are so busy struggling for a living.

“I choose no face to look at
Choose no way
I just happen to be here
And it’s ok
Green grass, blue eyes, gray sky, God bless
Silent pain and happiness
I came around to say yes, and I say
But my eyes
Go looking for flying saucers in the sky”

The last verses of the song, translates the sensitivity of Caetano, who behind the veneer of reservation, could see the richness of feelings of the fellow beings passing through him while avoiding eye contact.

When searching for a clip of London London in youtube, I was enchanted by the interpretation of Cibele Feat and Devendra Banhart. Dressed in Victorian costumes, the pair wonders around London and dance on the roof of a building with the City’s gray landscape on the background. Although their new interpretation might lack the original emotions behind Caetano’s intention, it fits in well with the current climate in UK today. The puritanism so prevalent during Victorian times corresponds to the austerity imposed by the current government in UK. While there is no Military Junta in these islands, there are bankers getting away with gambling and dictating on the future of a country. The spontaneity of Cibelle and Devendra is irreverent and translates the spirit of buskers and other street performers in London bringing colour and joy to the city, while office workers rush up busy for another ‘tick in the box’ day, where creativity and innovation is frown upon.

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