You probably know the story of Ugly Duckling , but just to be sure: Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) first published it on November 11, 1843. The tale was part of the the first volume of “New Fairy Tales”, and it has been been adapted for various media, including opera, musical, and animated film.

In the plot, a baby duck suffers a lot of verbal and physical abuse because of his appearence. After a classic “hero’s journey”, during which he goes through a harsh winter hiding in a cave on the partially frozen lake, the ugly duckling, now grown, finally discovers that it was, in fact, a majestic swan.

The way I see it, Ugly Duckling and Superman have a lot in common. I talked about super heros here already, but today I would like to talk specifically about Superman, more specifically about the Kryptonite x Superman relationship. And his relationship to Ugly Duckling.

You see, in both cases the first source of destabilization came from the family. The parents of Superman and the solo mother in Ugly Duckling both tried, in some way, to protect them, but their efforts were not enough to free our characters from the terrible suffering caused by their origins, whether in the form of bullying or as a symbolic artifact. WActually, we could sumarize both plots in two words: family, caution.

Maybe the reason for the huge success of these characters is related to the fact that we feel represented, when we realize that families/environments of origin in general, and not only ours, can be the source of much of our joys and good memories, but they might also become the first element of oppression one must face.

I am particularly impressed by the number of people who claim to have their most fervent supporters among their family members. People who believed in and supported their ideas and encouraged their careers from the ground up. Very beautiful stories indeed, but they do not even remotely resemble mine. Some of us need to get things done without the extra support of family members.

Despite what the gossip magazines say, a significant part of us needs to go on even without standing ovations, without huge financial sums involved in our contracts. The truth is that a huge number of performers have a routine much closer to a factory worker than a fairy tale princess.

Perhaps people get confused by the way the life of many artists is represented on screen and in literature: they are either starving bodies carrying tormented souls, or millionaires followed by paparazzi day and night. The dichotomy confuses our family and closest friends, who think that if you are not rich or famous like that guy they showed on TV, so maybe this thing you do is just a hobby, and you should probably get yourself a real job.

Most of the time, this distorted view is not even expressed in words. Non-verbal signals include disapproving looks or small gestures (rolling eyes come to mind) that can be quite painful for those at whom they are directed.

If you are part of the happy 100%-family support bunch, you probably have no idea what I am talking about. For the rest of us is either Ugly Duckling or Superman.

I do not know how you handle your kryptonite, but I really wish you would not give up on your swan flight.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Do you consider yourself an organized person? I would love to tell you that I have my whole year planned in advance or, at least, the entire month, but instead I have to admit (with a little bit of shame) that despite my efforts to classify my priorities in short, middle and long ones, in terms of sticking to a pre-schedule list of activities, I barely reach a week.

How come? Well, if life happens while we are busy with our little things, sometimes it throws a big flaming ball on our direction. “Catch it!”, life says. You know you are going to hurt yourself anyway, but what can you do? You simply try not to drop the flaming ball, than you handle it (and your burns) the best you can, and when it cools dows a bit, you keep playing the game.

Some call the flaming balls “problems”, but I´d rather prefer to describe them as big things. All right, I know we learn to remember and cherish the good big events in life, but let us be honest: we all know that there will also be lots of rainy days, some storms now and then and, eventullay, even biblical floods.

“It is allright, if it is going wrong“, sings Ed Motta in the refrain of his 1997 song Vendaval (Windstorm). Gilberto Gil reinforces the message in Retiros Espirituais (Spiritual Retreats):

In my spiritual retreats
I discover certain banal things
How to have problems,
Be the same as not
Resolving to have them, is to have them,
Resolving to ignore them, is to have them

Last week I got one of those flaming balls thrown right in my face. Lots of burns, probably some scars. Needless to say, my weekly schedule was (again) totally ruined, but gee, did I manage to handle it well! Now, dear life, it is my turn. Catch it!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Last Sunday I went to a birthday party and the most amazing thing happened: I met a former elementary/high school colleague! The birthday kid was a common friend of ours, but we both ignored it for years. Meeting V. was awesome, but the really amazing thing comes now: she recognized me from my voice.

V. talked about me in the most affectionate way. She described me in my teen years in such a lovely way, it made me feel more than flattered, but the fact that she remembered my voice made me feel unique. In the last episode of Quaranjazz, my series of interviews produced during the hard time of the pandemic I talked about this aspect of the voice: it connects us to a a very intimate zone of ourselves.

It can be very hard to hide emotions from your voice and even more to fake them. Depending on your talent, you may fool people saying things you do not mean, but can you do it without changing the pitch pattern of your voice? I strongly doubt it.

Being able to contemplate my early self through the eyes of V. felt like hopping on a time machine. It starts as a great adventure, but you never know whether the trip down to memory lane will be nice or very unpleasant. Did I change? What have I become? Am I now the kind of person that little me would like to be around? (the playlist inside my head starts playing Amy Winehouse: I cheated myself, like I knew I would...”)

The time machine made a detour from V. and brought back to my memory a cute short story about my birth, told by my godmother, the first one to see me through the nursery room window. Her comment to my mother was: “It´s a girl and her mouth is huge!”

Back home, I hopped off of the time machine and I was glad to realize that I still recognize myself: I am a girl, with a unique voice and a huge mouth to let it out.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

My great-grandmother was the daughter of a native Brazilian woman with a farm worker. She told my grandmother that when the news of the abolition of slavery in Brazil arrived, black folks threw their work tools in the air, and started singing and dancing. My great-grandmother, who was a little girl back then, got scared and went to hide under the bed.

This is one of my favorite family stories and today, when Brazil celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day it has a even bigger meaning to me. The date recalls struggle of the native Brazilians. Struggle for existence, struggle for representation, struggle for the maintenance of acquired rights. The list is long, and, as you can see, the struggles are many and always very arduous, but perhaps the most difficult of all is to break the structural prejudice resulting from the idea that the indigenous peoples were lazy and they should be grateful for being “saved” by the European invaders.

Much more ingrained in our minds than we would like to admit, in Brazil this prejudice can be noticed, for example, in the open pride shown by people who claim to be descendants of European families. While the most partial, remote kinship relationship with a European is celebrated and even used as a justification for unflattering attitudes (“I speak very loudly because I am the eighth generation of Italians born in Brazil”), there is a complete lack of interest in the search for traces of the heritage of indigenous peoples, present in the overwhelming majority of the Brazilian population.

Well, on this April 19th I would like to draw attention to my indigenous ancestors. I have very little information about them, but I am committed to not letting their memories die. I am a link in a long chain of miscegenation and today I would like to proudly say that there is a whole lot of indigenous blood in my veins. As Brazilian singer and composer Djavan says in the song Cara de Índio: “Despite my clothes, I am also indigenous”.

Come on, great-grandmother, you can get out from under the bed now!

April 19: Dia dos Povos Indígenas. Day of Indigenous Peoples.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

p.s. another song on the topic I like very much is Curumim Chama Cunhatã by Jorge Ben (Baby Consuelo´s version of it is also great!)

It is amazing how some dates are engraved in our affective memories. May 5th, for example. It is linked to a very special date for me, my grandmother’s birthday. I’ve already talked about my mother’s mother here and how her faith in education managed to change the destiny of her children. However, as time passes I feel more and more connected to my grandmother not because of what she did for the family, but because I understand what she stopped doing precisely because of the family.

In other words, I admire her for the woman she was.

It may seem obvious, but if you take a look at the social media bios and see how many people define themselves as “mother of…”., “father of…”, you will see it is not that obvious at all. Besides, as much as I fail to understand such personality definitions based on motherhood or fatherhood, these are at least voluntary definitions, I believe. The same cannot be said for what happened to women in relation to marriage and motherhood in the early twentieth century.

Before being a choice, raising a family was an obligation and while men usually managed to keep some outdoors habits, the limits imposed on the life of a married woman with children would be much stricter. My grandmother was a very intelligent woman and I would loved to have chatted with her about many things.

What were her dreams as a girl? Her first love? Her favourite dress? I’d like to have asked her a lot of questions, though I know she wouldn’t have had all the answers. I wish we could have had at least the chance to look for some answers together. I wish many things, but that’s okay, for I know that every time I succeed, she is with me on the way.

“And what about time?”, you may be asking yourself. Well, as Caetano Veloso would say: Time is as weak as water. Happy birthday, Granny!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

There is always a lot of expectation around New Year´s Eve. Basically, two main groups dispute endlessly the right thing to be done on this particular night: the ones who prefer to sleep over it and start the New Year fresh and renewed, and the ones who believe you´ve got to have some sort of ritual to assure an auspicious year to come.

As I mentioned before, in Brazil a New Year´s classic ritual is to dress in white. It is one of my favourite traditions, but I have many other personal ones. My mental personal retrospective. As the first dawn of the year approaches, I let my mind fly back to the same period, a year ago. No doubt we moved a few steps forward.

Need an example? The single fact of having a vaccine developed in such a short time is already a huge development for humanity. It should be a sign of hope for humanity, but then again, there is all the mess going on everywhere. Future generations will have problems trying to understand how could we be so brilliant and so dumb at the same time.

Nevertheless, it is hard to pretend that there is nothing going on and that we should live our lives “old normal” style. With protocols changing all the time, it is very hard to plan anything at all, from a single performance to a tour. Artists, booking agents, venue owners, regulars: everyone is frustrated. And tired. Everyone is really tired.

I wish I had a flawless plan for the year starting today. Something that I could share with you, some sort of “5 steps to get it done in 2022” list, but I don´t. There is a lot of uncertainty going on, that´s for sure. Do you know what is also for sure? We will make mistakes. A lot of them. Wanna know why? Because life is like a concert.

As I say to my musicians before going on stage, it doesn´t matter how many times we have rehearsed and prepared ourselves for the show. There will always be some surprise in the middle of the way.

You don´t have to look for the unexpected (you don´t need to), but when it comes, don´t fight it. Embrace it, adjust the route and move on.

Enjoy your New Year.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Corporations always win. The average individual, caught in the net of big companies, which will decide all aspects of their lives. From what you eat, to where you keep your money; from how you spend your leisure time to with whom you spend your pleasure time, there is always a corporation involved. Not even religious dates manage to escape the voracious radar of corporations and Christmas is no exception.

My story begins early in the month, on December 6th. On that day I bought online eighteen packages of Panettone to give as a present to family and friends. In Brazil, the Italian yeast-leavened bread, usually made with raisins, candied fruit peels, almonds, and a bit of brandy is a holiday traditional, and I was very happy for the good deal. With the delivery due to the fourteenth, what could go wrong? Well, quite a lot, as I would find out.

By the 10th it was clear to me that the package would not arrive on time. My account on the web store kept showing: “preparing your order” and the web chat was not a big help either. One day, I waited online for seven hours (I started in the 79th position on the line) just to be automatically disconnect, when the counter showed there were three people ahead of me. Pure evil? A total lack of organization? A mix of both?

I was not only very angry about not getting any kind of attention by the company, but also totally frustrated about the lack of my (already plaid) gifts. My sister came with a partial solution: a local super market had enough packages to replace my lost, by the same price. Great! The big corporations would not ruin my Holiday, although there was still the matter of the money to be solved.

On the 15th, since the delivered date had expired, I logged in again on my account on the web store and canceled the purchase. No need to tell you that, again, the company did not contact me. Little did I know, the plot twist was about to happen.

On the 20th the order arrived. Watching that huge box with all the packages laying on living room I felt confused. No sign from the company, no money back, double costs to me, double profits for them (if you consider the replacements bought at the supermarket). I simply did not know what to do, and hated the fact of being made “a hostage” by a big company.

I felt really angry and quite guilty for having such a feeling so close to Christmas. After all, no situation is so bad that it cannot be made worse by guilt. On the following day, I had a great idea, which turned the situation in my favor. A second plot twist: instead of trying to reach the company for a refund, I would simply donate the Panettones to the orphanage I usually help. Of course!

This way, it does not matter anymore, if the company will ever pay me back or, at least, answer one of the numerous e-mails I´ve sent. The packages had already paid themselves, so to speak. This time, the big corporation would not win, for a change.

The next day, the box with the Panettone packages was gone and there was a big empty space in my living room, but my heart was overflowing with pure joy. Since then, I feel ready for a Happy New Year.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

How do you like to learn new things? I love it! At least, this is what I conclude every time I conquer the procrastination monster and start floating through the garden of delights, also known as: “things I did not know about, but now I do”. Learning is like exercising: if you do not like it, it is probably because you never gave yourself the chance. Actually, our body is programmed to like both.

Falling in love with the subject you are learning about and turning your interest into something that can be shared with others is the basic principle of research, and I am glad to remember this feeling while collect information for a new project in music.

Do you also sometimes wonder about how different your life would be, if you had taken a different step in the past? Sooner or later, we find ourselves at this point on the road, questioning some (maybe all) of our previous choices. No shame on that. Just try not to get lost on it, for it is a tricky road. It can easily lead you to nowhere, so whenever you find yourself in a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” situation, the best thing to do is to fight back using a good argument.

Here is mine: becoming a researcher was one of the most valuable and useful achievements in my life. Researching is learning and learning opens your mind. I could say it using a lot of fancy words, explaining how the process of discovering new things increases brain synapses in a way that learning the next thing is a little bit easier, and the process repeats itself every time you experience new situations. Every time you go outside your box, so to speak. Instead, let´s have it short and straight: learning new stuff makes you more intelligent.

A very intelligent man was born on this day, in 1898. He saw the twentieth century rising, overcame tremendous adversities on his childhood and teenage years and managed to build himself a solid reputation as a lawyer and briefly as a politician. He was an amazing guy and he happened to be my dad. I had him around for a short time, but somehow he has always been quite present in my life. His name was Oséas and I tell more about him here, if you are interested.

I would like to wish him a Happy Birthday and tell him how grateful and honored I am for having him as my father. I know he will get the message. Love always find a way.

Be seeing you!

G.F.