Monday, March 18, 2013


"Vicente is a lifelong Carioca [Rio native] with a lot of knowledge about the local music scene," said my friend's cousin who put me in touch with this quirky man. Vicente is a local tour guide in his fifties and was very sweet to show me around town a bit and let me do some laundry at his house. I explained to him that the goal of my trip is to hear and play and learn as much as possible. One evening he told me he would take me out to a place with great music and atmosphere and that I should bring my clarinet to play a few tunes. I imagined we were going to a local music hot spot where they would let me sit in. I thought perhaps he knows the owner of the venue or the musicians performing that night. I dressed up and packed all of my charts just in case.

We arrived at the venue and it was a karaoke bar. A karaoke bar. Here I was nervous about meeting some big name musicians and making a good impression and we walked into a karaoke bar! Actually Vicente explained that “karaoke” here in Brazil is with live music and we were actually in a “videokê” bar that uses the traditional videos with recorded music. I asked him why he told me to bring my clarinet and he said “so you can play along with people while they sing. See, I told you this would be fun!” I contemplated this strange idea while a man in a sharp hat strolled in and whipped out a soprano sax. He sat in the front and started jamming along while an array of Brazilian people took turns singing to electronic versions of Elis Regina, Djavan, Michael Jackson, and the Beatles. I figured I may as well join in so I pulled out my clarinet and he waved me over to sit with him in the front. We took turns improvising background lines while the people sang. I had a blast!

I think the favorite moment of my entire trip so far has been hearing a tall Brazilian gay man belt “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in English. I also got to hear Pink Floyd and a Portuguese version of the 80’s song “Power of Love." A man who was always clutching a comic book on stage was the highlight of the evening for me as he not only sang with feeling but danced as well. I heard from one of the regulars that this man has a mental disability and shows up every week to sing his heart out along to supportive cheers from the crowd. I then joined Vicente on stage to back him up as he sang an impressive “New York, New York.” 

After putting myself out there in so many challenging musical situations on this trip, I realized that here was a low-stakes enviornment for me to take risks and express myself without fear of judgement. The perfect musical training ground. It was then when a group of young girls completely destroyed “Can’t Buy Me Love,” that I decided “man, if these Brazilians can go up there and butcher songs in another language without shame, I have the right to do the same.” I marched to the window and put my name in. This time to sing. What did I choose? The first song I learned in Portuguese class with Professora Claudia. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. How cute! I'm glad you picked mi favorite bossa nova.