“It is difficult to continue being emperor in front of a doctor”. I never forgot this sentence, from the book “Memories of Hadrian”, by Margueritte Yourcenar. It is one of those lines that sum up a whole situation, and it has certainly a lot to do with my current state of body and soul, so to speak.
I am recovering from a terrible flu, still not feeling quite like myself. While trying to take back the control over my body – something pretty hard to do, if you think about it, I wonder that we don´t usually notice the amazing balance called health. Taking it for granted, as soon as we lose it, everything seems to be upside down, and we must confront the tremendous vulnerability of any human body.
It does not matter if you a are a pop-star, a monk, a hairdresser, a pet lover, an emperor: we are made of the same, very fragile stuff. The one dreams are made on, Shakespeare would add.
From time to time, the universe will take your hand, in a more or less gentle way (usually less) and show you a mirror: See? That´s what you are. Nothing more and nothing less. Or, as the British band Simply Red says in the song ‘Hillside Avenue’: “Your health is your life / Keeps you alive”.
As the month begins, I wonder how you´ve been experiencing this year. I believe for many people life is going on, as it used to be. A few little changes here, a few masks there and that´s it. I don´t know if I should envy or pity those people. The year is coming to its final quarter and I still feel like living in an eternal 2020. Of all the nice years I had available in the catalog!
It can be really exhausting living the same year twice. My friend E. asked me, if I am ok. I didn´t dare to reply him yet. Just trying to spare him the bitter truth: the best word to describe me now is functional. Not ok, but still functional.
From time to time I get to escape my repetitive reality by watching old sitcoms. It is not the first time I mention this show here, I know, but anyway, it works for me, so I here I go again: in the first episode of the last season of I dream of Jeannie, the iconic character played by Barbara Eden explains to her “Master” the reason why she cannot blink away the enchantment she has put on a spinet piano: “It´s easy enough to put the music in, but once it´s in, well, it has to play its way out”.
I wonder if the show writer was a jazz fan paying a subtle tribute to Louis Armstrong, who once said: “Musicians don´t retire. They stop when there is no music in them.” Don´t you also love such quotes? They are very easy to understand with the heart, although very hard to explain using words. Just like the most important things in life, and hope is one of them.
Ok, I know it is not easy to be hopeful all the time, but let´s give it a chance today. Let´s give hope a chance in this brand new month. Sounds too much for you? Then try it only for five minutes. A hopeful thought, a day. A hopeful thought today. Shall we?
Now tell me: I would love to know your relationship to music, in other words, when do you listen to music? When you wake up? By the end of the day? All the time?
Hello, there! How are things going? First of all, I would like to apologize for the long time since my last post. I´ve been quite busy, since the announcement of the semifinalists of the Rádio MEC Music Festival. One of the reasons is that the organizers asked for a promo video. A super complex production, aiming for the Oscar? No, not at all. Actually, they only asked for an innocent one minute mobile phone video, no post production elements needed. Something you would do in five, ten minutes max, right? For me, it takes the whole day and the final result hardly pleases me, so I repeat and repeat…
Call me perfectionist, call me unskilled, but the fact is that I hate to make videos of myself and I often decline such invitations, but this time I had to face the challenge. I know how important it is to have a real person talking to you, when we you are asking people to vote for your song.
In this short video, I introduce myself and explain that I´m honored to be a semifinalist on the festival and that my song, Depois do Verão, is an ode to better days, that shall come to all of us. Oh, and in the background you can see a collage with the many versions of the art for the cover of my first album. Still didn´t vote for Depois do Verão? Click here and vote for me, dear citizen! 🙂
And last but not least, I would like to tell you that earlier this month, I got my International Jazz Day 2021 participation certificate. I must confess that I was a tiny little bit sad because my poster was not on the global artwork page (it is silly, I know, very silly), but it´s all gone now. Signed by the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, Mr. Herbie Hancock, that certificate made my day. Thank you very much and until next year, Herbie!
Hello, you! Did you miss me? In case you did not notice it, I took four weeks off. I really needed it and, believe me, you would not have liked my company last month. July was not easy, though it ended in a sweet way. But first things first.
As I was saying, there would be a lot to report in July, starting with the censorship to a jazz festival, that was denied by the Brazilian government the right to fundraising. The reason? A previous post showing alignment with democratic and anti-fascist movements. Does it sound weird to you? Welcome to the weird Brazilian reality since the 2018 election!
The story only has some sort of happy ending, because they are getting help from celebrities, and also organized a very interesting crowdfunding campaign. If you would like to know which festival I am talking about and how to take part in their movement, click here. You will find out more about their work and how to become a partner.
I would have more ups and downs to talk about, but let´s go to the highlight of the month. Drum roll, please! I am on the semifinal of the national music festival promoted by Rádio MEC (Brazilian public broadcasting). You can vote for my song Depois do Verão here. You can vote once a day up to August 23. And you know what? Every vote feels like a hug and I am very grateful for having yours. Thank you for caring! Depois do Verão: click here and vote now!
And now, mesdames et messieurs the most important event of the day: Mr. Tony Bennett is turning 95! This jazz legend, a giant person, and a reference to all of us is also a very generous soul. Hes using his B-day to promote wonderful causes, check it out!
I do not have words to express my gratitude, love and respect for the work Mr. Bennett develops in jazz and to the jazz community. I must confess that one of my dreams is recording a song with this great master, but while this glory day is yet to come, I have already something to tell you now: Mr. Bennett once liked one of my comments on Twitter. How about that, hu?
Here is the story: Mr. Bennett posted after having his first shot and I wrote a comment on the post, saying: “And the best is yet to come…. with the second dose!” (he is now fully vaccinated, viva!) Shortly later, he favorited it. He liked it!
I was happy like a child! I think this is how it feels when a star crosses our way. I mean, a real star, the kind that earns the fame and success of a lifetime dedicated to music. Come on, who wouldn´t freak out? It made my day.
That little lit heart is a small treasure I will cherish in mine forever. Happy birthday, Mr. Bennett!
Hey there! How are things going? Chances are this is not the first Red Flower Press post you are reading, so I will take it for granted that you are aware I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It´s winter time for us now and usually that doesn´t mean much here, but not this time. Oh, no!
Although meteorology says the season will probably have higher average temperatures, we are now experiencing some pretty cold days, meaning temperatures around fourteen degrees Celsius, quite unusual here. I like the cold weather, specially when they come with sunny (though short) days and a bright blue sky, but I must confess that this home office winter made me very nostalgic.
The reason is very simple: usually, at this point of time, I am travelling somewhere for conferences and performances. Last year was already a shock, after all, most clubs were closed and many conferences were postponed, but since some activities are resumed this year, mostly privileging local audiences, I feel somehow left outside the “back to normal party”, so to speak.
1984 British rock band Queen released the hit “I want to break free”, with an anthological video clip. 2020 the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo wrote that the pandemic would teach us to cherish normality. In 2021 both visions make sense to me: I certainly miss my old life, but I am also aware that it was not ideal and I do want to break free from some old patterns.
The big question now seems to be how to deal with the challenge of reinventing ourselves. How to establish a new normal, that is actually better than the old one? Learning something from the pandemic (how to avoid another one, for instance) includes leaving some things behind for good. It also means being more thankful for the small miracles of life (a huge, wonderful mystery in itself).
I know it is just a matter of time for resuming all activities I had before the pandemic. I know that, in a big scale, things are getting better (wishful thinking?). Yet today, I get a chill in my heart.
I finally got my first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine! Was I nervous? Yes, of course! Well, not in a bad way. Nervous, but very happy. Maybe excitement describes it better. That and a lot of mixed feelings.
First of all, pride. What a conquest for humanity! Do you realize what a big achievement to the human genius it is to produce a vaccine in such a short time? A true milestone to Science, no doubt. Which leads to the next feeling: disappointment.
How is it possible that the same humanity can be also represented by those who simply say “no, thanks” to the vaccine? Please don´t get me wrong, I am all for Yoga and green tea, but this is a totally different thing. At this point, the need of a global immunization (or the closest we can get to it) is a clear point to all, I assume.
As Shakespeare beautifully described, we are all “such stuff as dreams are made on”. All of us: the good, the bad, the ugly, the whole gang. Maybe this is why we are so full of contradictions. I mean, dreams are pretty crazy, right? That would explain a lot, actually.
Anyway, I am extra happy because it happens in the lovely month of June, when we celebrate Santo Antônio, and our “Valentine´s Day”, here in Brazil. I tell the complete story on my latest newsletter. It is a very nice one and I think I explained it well, but for a tiny detail: I mixed up the Saints names!
I told you I was nervous.
Oh, by the way, it also included the link to my new lyric video (dedicated to the ones in love).
Wanna get my monthly updates first hand? Here you go!
Hey there! How are things going? Did you have some extra time to read my last post? I hope so, because I wrote it under a lot of pain, you know? I had a Paronychia, a skin infection around a fingernail (my case) or toenail. I went to the doctor, I was medicated, so there was not much to do, except waiting for my immune system to react (the capacity of our body to rebuilt itself is a true wonder, don´t you think?), while the antibiotics did their job (hooray for science!). Oh, yes and hold the pain. This was the most difficult part.
One of my strategies in such situations is to increase the good mood factor. Basically, I try to reach affective memories, hiding myself in a bubble of protection. Anything goes: songs, scents, food, cartoons or old tv shows, such as the 1960s production Idream of Jeannie.
At first, I didn´t like it, when I realized that the streaming service only provided the version dubbed in Portuguese, but after the first episode I didn´t mind it anymore. After all, those were the same voices from the rerun I used to watch in the Brazilian tv in the late 1980s. I was immediately taken to a very nice place in my head, full of fond childhood memories and it helped me to forget the pain. At least for half an hour.
Watching a TV show aired from 1965 to 1970 in 2021 is very close to an anthropological exercise. The main plot is already, let´s say, problematic: a young blonde, blue-eyed lady representing an Arabian genie, dressed with very revealing pink clothing, calling a guy “Master”. Yep. On the other hand, it is also about an experienced woman with a free spirit and a lot of joie de vivre, not ashamed to use her powers, nor to defy her “master”. Actually, most of the fun in the sitcom comes from the inversion of the expected roles in the master-genie relationship.
That said, I must confess: the gags make me laugh and this is quite a lot for a fifty-year-old production. But what I really liked about the show was the music. From the opening theme to the soundtrack, Dream of Jeannie represents a time when Jazz was “the” thing and anything else was… square. And it gets better: suddenly, there was also Tom Jobim!
In the episode “The Greatest Entertainer in the World” (season two, episode 23), guest star Sammy Davis, Jr., playing himself, is shown in the middle of a rehearsal. And guess what? He sings The Girl from Ipanema in a (maybe unwillingly) Bossa Nova and Latin Jazz mix version. It felt so good to remember that Jobim was everywhere (and Vinicius de Moraes, João Gilberto, Baden Powell, Astrud Gilberto, Sylvia Telles, among many others stars from the time), representing Brazilian music. A flowering legacy, that I am honored to honor.
I couldn´t help smiling. Jeannie girl, you did it again.
Do you need help? Since 2020 this is the kind of question that became almost rhetorical. If you are feeling 100% all right and do not think you need any kind of help (financial, emotional or psychological), chances are you´re in a denial process and yes, you need help to get out of it.
I understand you. We are all humans and we try to defend ourselves in any possible way, it´s our instinct, but as I recently heard from an eminent Brazilian neurobiologist: if you have any common sense, you´re not feeling all right now. It is not the good, old “this world is a mess”. This time it is different. We are all facing something new (though, by the way we handle the planet, we could see it coming) and although optimism and faith are important tools in overcoming the pandemic, they cannot replace a sober, lucid approach to reality.
The only problem about this rational exercise is that reality has been quite bitter for a while now on a level that is hard for us, human beings, to handle. Financially, emotionally and psychologically speaking. With that in mind, it is not difficult to assume that we are all in the need of some sort of extra help. At least so I thought, when I reached out to one of my favourite jazz web radios.
I listen to their channels basically everyday and got pretty used to their catalog and I´ve realized that there was a lot wrong or missing information concerning the names of the songs in Portuguese and many Brazilian interpreters, specially female singers were not credited.
Trying to help, I wrote them this very respectful e-mail, starting by congratulating the team and offering my services as a volunteer to double check the content written in Portuguese. Then I clicked “send” and waited for the answer, with that warm feeling of self-contentment we experiment, when we believe we did something good. If you like happy endings, you might consider stop reading now.
The following day I got an answer (goodie, goodie), but their reaction was kind of disappointing. They claimed they do not have any Portuguese speaker on their team (so I figured and this is precisely why I volunteered in the first place) and, well basically that was it. They also said they would welcome any notice on missing or inaccurate information. Hum… ok, I guess.
Was I upset? A little bit. Can I say they were impolite? Not at all! Did they ask for my help? Nope. Maybe they considered my offer an inconvenience, who knows? Maybe it was just a bad day in the office. After all, as anything in life, offering and getting help is also a matter of timing.
Hey there! How are things going? Did you notice how it took me less time show up again after my semi-philosophical approach to cakes and jazz? I know you would! I´m trying, you see? Thank you! By the way, I still haven´t tried a new recipe, but I will keep you informed, don´t worry.
It is a good thing that I have you fully attention now, because I am starting our reflection today with a question: have you ever realized how comic book superheroes save Hollywood from time to time? Well, my theory (I have a lot of them, you know) is that Bossa Nova plays the same role of lending prestige to pop star careers.
In both cases, there´s a solid base of die-hard fans that will be at least interested in checking up (meaning clicking and possibly sharing) the new movie or single. A quite tempting and always welcome extra boost to any project, specially in the current three-second attention span society.
But what happens next? I wonder how this strategy actually helps building either a movie or a jazz audience. A long term, proactive, well informed consumer is kind of different from being a die hard fan. One does not exclude the other, they are maybe even complementary, but they are not the same thing.
Take my personal example: I am a comic consumer since my childhood and they became my research topic (you can check my research activities here) at the University. I even posses a small collection at home and I am always looking for comic stores when I visit a new city. Yet, I am not interested in superhero movies.
A similar thing happens concerning Bossa Nova: I am not only a huge fan of it, but I´m also an enthusiast about the current developments of the genre and I always include Bossa Nova songs in my performances. As the great Brazilian singer and composer Alcione says: “Samba is a cousin of Jazz” and since Bossa Nova has Samba in its DNA, for me they are all part of a big family. And yet, I am not interested in each and every pop remix using samples of Jobim for more than the three-second attention span.
In one line: you can borrow prestige for a while, but you cannot keep it forever.
Hey there! So nice to see you! This time you probably thought it was the end of The Red Flower Press and I don´t blame you for that at all. With that said, I would like to inform you that I have the best excuse ever: I was improving my website! I am sure that even if you do not have a site (yet), you understand that making changes to our virtual home-sweet-home is the sort of thing that can consume a lot of your time and basically all your patience.
And what´s new? First of all, I added three (yep, three!) new pages. Let´s check?
Research: Talking about music, comics, visual arts and more (includes a link to download my PhD thesis).
And last, but not least, a new podcast: 10 Minutos de Jazz com Geisa Fernandes. The idea was to talk about Jazz to a general audience in three short episodes of ten minutes each. I am specially proud to announce that this podcast is part of 2021 International Jazz Day official events. So, if you understand Portuguese (or would like to learn it), check it out!
If you check the new pages, you will see that I´ve been quite busy lately, talking to fellows from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico… meaning that I had to stay a really long time seating in front of a notebook screen. In order to do some stretching, from time to time I would stand up and do some house related activity, like cleaning, cooking or, the most challenging of all… baking cakes.
If you are one of the happy few that think baking is easy, a piece of cake, so to speak (sorry, I couldn´t resist), my suggestion is that you stopping reading this post, for now I am talking to you, my dear sister or brother in arms in the eternal fight for a cake that goes right. You, that cannot understand how can your cake look (and probably taste) so different from the one in the picture or video tutorial. I get you. I am with you. My last failure was a lemon cake. A simple, foolproof (so they said) lemon cake recipe.
Watching the result of my attempt, I realized that baking cakes has a lot to do with classical music. Ever thought of that? Each ingredient (instrument) must be added respecting a predetermined order and treated in a specific way. Try to use a bit less sugar or a bit more butter and the whole thing is ruined. Eggs are a separate chapter. Same thing when we talk about the temperature of the oven. The result depends on this beautiful perfect balance.
Now think about jazz, a genre that has improvisation in its DNA. A totally different creative process. As beautiful as, but different.
And suddenly, there was a light. That´s it! I finally understand my problem with baking cakes and it is not a problem at all, just a matter of style: I cook like jazz.
Be seeing you!
p.s. My next try in the baking field will be a pumpkin and coconut cake. I´ll keep you informed.