we’re words upon a window
written there in steam
in the heat of the moment
at the birth of a dream
vapors passing really
so i’m touched by the thoughts
in the fleeting minutes after
the time that we’ve come
come and go, you know, where the wind blows
an’ though i couldn’t define
i can only tell you that i
got a heavy soul.
the late 60’s, early 70’s in brazil.
above: raimundo fagner, caetano veloso and nara leão in their respective houses, with richard avedon’s the beatles photograph posters circa ‘67 on the wall.
what i just love about nina simone's rendition to “don't let me be misunderstood” is the fact that it is, as it was intended when composed¹, for her to sing, her song and nobody else - i could say that it is “a woman singing” but that sounds just terribly pejorative and naive in my mind and, of course, i’m certain (as you all) that nina is not just “a woman” or “a ethnic”, “a singer”, “a being”.
those words sang through this living alive being that is nina simone just takes the breakthrough meaning that justify all praise that this R&B classic has since 1964. yes, it is a beautiful song, a catchy song, but it is, above all things, a breakthrough song.
there’s no pleasure in be humble, to admit your faults and errors and in the imaginary of music, like in the majority of places, it’s common (non)sense that it is the male figure always the one who “bounds in front of, above all on his pedestal”. here, no: it’s nina showing a strength to be able to be her like that (as I’m pretty sure, it’s not an easy thing for her to do) refusing to consequently simplify her being as “a woman”, “a singer”, “a race”, “a being” as she is, above all, the singer and the song, the being and simone.
obviously, she was all that (and whoever wants to simply identify just with this or that, that’s what freedom is for and ignorance is bliss) but… try to sound like nina in the chorus of this song… well, forget that: try to make your life sound like nina’s singing the chorus of this song - it should be the main goal of everybody’s life, just like the life of nina simone is.
¹ to be free: the nina simone story, 2008. david nathan, RCA/Legacy 88697 38192 2.
“both nationalism and populism imply a unanimity based on a dubious belief.” - this is an article from a brazilian newspaper called jornal de música (“music journal”) from august of 1977 named black rio (ou porque pichar o que não se conhece) - in english, black rio (or why tagging what we don’t know) - written by carlos alberto medeiros and ítalo moriconi júnior.
(brazilians and portuguese readers can see the full article here.)
both journalists express such a coherent point-of-view about the black power/black pride movement in late 70’s in brazil that the fac-simile above is composed by snippets of both texts mashed-up by me (you may guess which person wrote each part - i took the liberty of using the glory of the dubious post-modernism freedom in communication).
the clarity of facts about why brazilian political statements are born already in a risk of been vanished instantly, every day, it’s incredible, timeless - and, sadly, still true.
it tells about the subversive context that the black power movement in brazil transformed itself based in the original north american ideals: in the united states it was a social and economical rupture, in a sense that white people like jerry wexler and ahmet ertegun were very accurate in touch with the art and soul, the feeling of black artists vs. music charts and berry gordy, a boss with a iron fist in his motown factory, had no mercy when the issue was financial wealth vs. pop culture.
here, the black culture was anything but dignified, and as the samba music and its original subversive ideology, it suffered what every counterculture suffers: it begins in the peripherical areas of cultural orbit, express itself to popular audience and, for better or for worst, appeal enough to the masses to turn into “suitable revolution” - pretty much like what they did to elvis presley, his musical roots and persona extravaganza.
it’s pretty easy to claim revolution when the dust has settled, and that’s pretty much sums up the ethnical/political pride of brazilian people. easy come, easy go and just like samba, funk, the black rio movement, the rio de janeiro's bailes funk (favela funk, funk carioca, etc.) brazilian culture is incapable of absorb subcultures without ripping off the hands, minds and pride of the original hearts and souls.
the military dictatorship government took the black rio movement and shut it from the 70’s to early 90’s - today what differs the society of the morros cariocas (rio de janeiro’s slums) and their culture from the generally wealthier popular culture people (in a monetary sense, in this case) is the social unity, the social belief (just the thing that military political power and insiders of black rio killed by consequence) and that’s 100% human, it’s impossible to be in any other way..
the main “social” dream of the world (utopia, maybe?) is to have black people, white people, yellow people, multicoloured people listening, dancing, loving, fucking, fighting, hugging, being, keeping the faith together - if every people stopped and reflected about why, at some point of history, they were “accepted” in the society and what their political/ethnical issues bring to be worth of it, the majority would probably would lose their minds… forever.
in the beginning, samba was not even considered music in brazil: it was subcultural rhythms and beats for outsiders, criticized by insiders. today samba is put (in brazilian pop music) as mere spectacle, distraction, much like the greek theater or the court jester in a kingdom from the past - and get me wrong, whatever the reason why they put up with that, fine by me, but the struggle, the clean living under difficult circumstances, the historical context and the factual, concrete, sincere value cannot be overlooked or stole from wherever it originated from - or even worst: to not only be overlooked but totally ignored (in the ignorance is bliss point-of-view) as it never existed.
brazil is yet an infant child, with only half of a century old. let’s love it and let’s give it what we get from it. let’s be as sincere as we possibly can (even knowing that to avoid sincerity for society is equivalent to avoid the sun for vampires).
to not love what it has but what it is. that’s power.