Como Nossos Pais (Like Our Parents) is a 1976 song by Brazilian singer and composer Belchior. It is one of the first songs of my repertoire and it has a special place in my affective memory.I sang it already many times, but there is one particular performance that I will never forget.

It was during college time. It was a Saturday night and my roommate J. had just broken up with her long time boyfriend. She wanted to go for a walk and I, sympathetically, went along. Many steps and lots of talk later, just when my friend’s morale was getting better, a man came out of the middle of nowhere and said: “Give me what you have!”

I think he showed us a knife hidden under his hoodie or maybe it was a gun, all I remember is that J. and I looked at each other, trying to figure out what to do. None of us had carried a handbag and smartphones were not yet a reality, so the thief took the only more or less valuable item at hand: my friend’s watch.

Needless to say, after those very scary seconds we totally forgot her break up. The mood for a walk was also gone, so we headed towards the main street and looked for a bus stop. Just ahead of us there was a cultural centre with a restaurant inside and they had live music on weekends. The place was kind of fancy, but it was an opportunity to have a drink (we really needed one) and grab a cab back home.

We got in and realised the singer was an acquaintance of ours. He talked to us during the break and invited me to sing a song. I remember I was in jeans and a t-shirt and it felt really weird to be dressed like that on stage, but what the heck? The night was weird already.

I sang Como Nossos Pais. Why this song? I do not remember if I chose it from the set list of the band, or if I suggested it during the break (weird night indeed). Anyway, its ruthless verses about lost dreams and the bitter reality suited the moment perfectly and I put all my heart and soul on them.

We played impromptu, but the result, surprisingly, was not bad at all. The house was full and there was a lot of applause. I remember seeing my friend clapping her hands enthusiastically (by then she had already had a drink or two, I shall add). Looking back to it, I believe the “magic performance” was a mix of beginner’s luck and the universe trying to balance things somehow.

We went back home with the feeling that, after all, it was a happy lucky day.

Today is J.´s birthday and I wish her many happy returns, plenty of amazing stories to tell.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Think about the number of photographs you took today with your mobile camera. Now think about all the pictures that passed in front of you on this same device. How many of these images could be considered a work of art, in the same way that we refer to the content produced by Cartier Bresson or Sebastião Salgado?

The expansion of tools, despite democratising access to content, was not responsible for the corresponding increase in talent. In other words: having a camera and taking lots of pictures does not automatically turn anyone into a professional photographer, let alone an artist.

Perhaps because being an artist is not about owning something material. It has much more to do with giving something, providing something that is not measurable: an emotion. And I am not talking about viral videos and memes. I am talking about the ability to deliberately and repeatedly cause a certain effect, a reaction, an emotion in your audience.

Recently (to my immense embarrassment) I became aware of the work of Les Luthiers, a sensational Argentinian group, active since 1967 (currently in their fifth formation), which combines music and refined, sometimes delirious humour. With austere lighting and costumes and very few scenic elements, the ensemble manages to build its own universe, which works even in the worn out video tapes images of their first recorded concerts, now available on the internet.

A unique aspect of Les Luthiers is the virtuosity of their members, not only in the execution of various instruments, but also in the handling of the so-called informal instruments, an idea of founder Gerardo Masana. Toilet lids, tubes, gas balloons, nearly everything becomes “a musical thing”, as the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Paschoal would say.

Early deceased, Masana did not get to witness the incredible success of the group he formed, although he is very present in each performance through his unusual inventions played to perfection. That is another thing about true artists. They are capable of provoking brand new emotions in their audience, despite of space and time.

Watching and listening to Les Luthiers’ musical-comic sketches is a lesson in stage posture, stage presence, dedication and genius, if that can be learned. Their performances turn the question “What is an artist?” into pure wonder: What great artists!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

I love Tina Turner and I remember singing Private Dancer (1984) before I was old enough to fully understanding its meaning. Perhaps because of this memory, apparently ingrained in the deepest corner of my mind, I remembered this song while redoing, for the third time this week, the calculations of the texts I need to deliver by the end of the month. An article here, a review there and let’s not even talk about the podcast I need to record. Phew!

If you imagine a day in the life of a jazz musician as a creative adventure plenty of improvisation and magical moments, I must say you are half right. The other half, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with it. Well, ok, the improvisation part is true. Actually, each musician has a personal list of things not related to being on stage, nor to rehearsing to deal with daily and a lot of improvising is required in order to get it done.

Now don´t you get wrong here: I love all those activities: writing, reviewing, researching, recording, promoting my music… Ok, the marketing part is not so exciting. I am not an enthusiast of social networks, and probably would delete my accounts in half of them, if it was not for the music promotion sake.

Technical chores (audio and video recording and editing) can also be very challenging for me. No wonder it is where I am usually way behind schedule, but all in all, I like to know how things related to my career are done and, as we know, learning new things is good exercising for the brain. But, come on! It is really a lot of stuff and I am not an enthusiast of multitasking either.

So, at least up to the end of the month (and, according to my last calculation, most probably for the first half of the next month, as well), I am more a writer than a singer, whether I like it or not.

In such moments, when it is easy to lose motivation, my trick is to remind myself that: 1. if I get tasks it’s because my opinion matters to someone and I should be proud of my professional reputation, and 2. I may not see the whole point now, but at some moment all the pieces will come together and voilà! That seemingly less interesting task can be the connecting point to other (more interesting) projects.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Do you know the sound of a black hole? NASA does. The agency has recently released an audio recording of a black hole and the first thing I thought was: Wait a minute! What happened to all that talk about space being a vacuum and therefore being no medium for sound?

Whenever I find the news to be disturbing, I try to get more information about it. This is what I have found so far about the sounding black hole: according to NASA, “the popular misconception that there is no sound in space originates with the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no medium for sound waves to propagate through.”

Misconception? Wait a…ok, ok, let´s read their statement further: “A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, has copious amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for the sound waves to travel.”

Gas is the medium. Got it or…. have I? Actually, I still had a lot of questions, such as: how come the travelling sound waves became audible by human ears? And, most important of all: how do they sound?

Again, a little research can do wonders for you: the process of data sonification consists in re-synthesizing the sound waves and scaling them up in order to make it possible for human ears to hear them. According to NASA, “another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillions and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency.”

Anything involving quadrillions is simply too much for my mind to imagine, but the whole process is so fascinating! Music is indeed everywhere.

I couldn’t help wondering that all this talk about how this “new thing” sounds is quite similar to describing a new genre. People will get it sooner or later. Just give them time to process it.

And, as for my last question, click here and find out how this music without music sounds.

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.

Victime de la mode is one of the most famous songs from the album Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo, by the French rapper of Senegalese and Chadian origin MC Solaar, but surely the title also fits someone you know.

I never had neither the money, nor the inclination to be a fashion victim. My motto has always been: “do the most with the least”, meaning: handling well a limited wardrobe, and this applies to what I wear on stage, as well. Since the pandemic made us un-learn how to dress (don´t know what I am talking about? Lucky you!), I had to to exercise my special skills as never before.

In fact, I owe my little super power to my dear late aunt, who was a seamstress. She taught us from an early age to pay attention to the fit of the fabrics, the cut of the clothes and the details of making, even when buying fast fashion pieces. And once you´ve learned how to buy well, it is much easier to create several looks wearing the same dress.

It is amazing what you can do with the help of a few accessories! The choice of colors is also very important and it can make a lot of difference in the final result. I talked about my many reasons for wearing only black on stage in this podcast episode, but among the most important ones is the fact that this color allows you to recycle dresses better than any other.

As I get things done for my Jazzday 2022 event, I think that every return is like a premiere. You know what you´ve got do, but the butterflies in the stomach seem more intense than ever, the production details to handle seem more numerous than usual, and even the choice of a combination of accessories for my little black dress seems particularly difficult. Despite all that, it feels great to be back!

Talking about elegant women, Sammy Stein is an awesome writer and jazz lover and I´m sure you are going to love her website and her blog: The Jazz Report. I had the pleasure of collaborating with an article on the birth places of Bossa Nova. Enjoy your reading.

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!)

My friend J.P. likes to know what I think about things. From a slap on the Oscars Award to international politics, he cares to hear my point of view and I certainly appreciate it. For this reason, even perfectly aware of the risks implied, I allow myself to be very sincere with him.

When he asked me about elements to consider when choosing a career, the first thing I mentioned to him was the importance of passion. People usually say that you have to like what you do, in order to become good on it, but I would go even further and say that “liking” it, is just the beginning.

If you plan on doing something for the long term, you need to be passionate about what you do. How passionate? To the point of dedicating an incredible amount of hours of your day, of your life, to it and still have a twinkle in your eye when you talk about it with someone else.

Don’t be a fool: there will always be disappointment, disillusionment and a lot of tears along the way. Will that stop you? No, because you will still know it is part of a game worth playing. How will you know that? You will simply know, trust me, or better, don´t trust me, trust yourself.

Be passionate about what you do, but don´t forget that the word passion carries both sides: the drama and the thrill, high and low, yin and yang. Be passionate about what you do and you will be in tune with the continuous flow of life.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Finding a new place to live is a extenuating, sometimes very painful process. You have to check a lot of places before finding the right one and there is a good amount of frustration involved. On the other hand, it is also a tremendous opportunity to learn about people, to hear about their stories and to understand the multiple meanings of the word “home”. Personally, I find it a lot like building up the set list for a concert.

I already mentioned here how I truly believe in the power of learning and you can learn quite a lot by listening to what other people have to say. The same is true about songs. Give them the chance and the time to grow on you and they will tell you so much! That is why I always find it hard to shorten a set list, but as with people, sometimes you have to curate.

After a lot of time and dedication, you get to that small group of songs that expresses the concept of the concert, in other words, what it is about. Then you realize that some of them don’t talk to each other, so you have to make choices again. And again. And again. It might as well be true that for every moment of life there is a matching song, the one that hits the spot, but it is certainly not easy to find it.

In order to deal with the task in a easier way, I developed a simple 3-steps-method, which consists in brainstorming, peer-reviewing and final treatment. The brainstorming part is always a lot of fun, but it is also very tricky, for some of the songs in the first list are “just songs that I like” and not the ones that I really need to fit the idea of the concert.

The second step could also be called “reality bites”, for it consists in presenting the list to the lead musician, the one that will be responsible for the arrangements. It is when you can check if your storytelling works. It can be a positive experience or you can realize that your first list needs a lot of changes. Though a bit less fun than the first step, the second one is responsible for building up the spine of the show, so to speak and it always involve losses (songs being cut off) and gains (suggestions being added).

And as for the set list final treatment, all I can say is that you have to trust your choices and stick to your timetable. Just like in life there are magical moments in which we meet the right person at the right times, the perfect set list is all about finding the right theme and placing in the right position. If you thought about movie editing, you got the idea.

There will always be room for improvement, but once the storytelling works, declare that part of the mission accomplished and start rehearsing. As in life, the show must go on!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Summertime, the world-famous song by George Gershwin was originally the opening aria of the opera Porgy and Bess, and is a jazz-inspired lullaby. Summer time is also (and you have to love the irony) the period of the year when I get the less sleep.

Summer in Rio, as far as I can remember, has always been very hot, but global warming and disorderly urban growth (did someone say rampant real estate growth?) are apparently doing their job and every summer temperature records are broken. Forget the expression “Rio 40 degrees” (Celsius), usually used to express the party side of the cool city. What we experience now is “Rio 50 degrees” and there is, literally, nothing cool about it.

I use psychology and the air-conditioning and try to stay positive. It works, sometimes. Not during the night, though. Instead of “the livin´ is easy”, my summer time is an ode to insomnia. And who can be more sensitive and vulnerable than a sleepless human being? Don´t forget to take my sleep deficit into account in the next parapgraph, will you? I wasn’t exactly myself, but my semi-zombie version.

After another night of hellish heat and failed attempts to sleep, early morning found me in a semi-asleep state which, along with a sudden gentle breeze suddenly running through the room, was the best I could hope for at the moment. And that’s where it started. The noise. That tremendous noise of tiles being cut, which had been tormenting me all week at alternate times of the day. That unbearable noise had decided to spoil my morning of almost falling asleep as well.

I got up and went straight to the window overlooking the building next door, where the noise was coming from. Well, straight is a way of saying it, because to reach that window, I have to climb a little bench. From there, I started waving my arms to get the attention of the man who was cutting the tiles with his noisy machine: “Sir! Oh, sir!” It took a while for him to realize where the voice was coming from. “Up here, in the window! “Up here!”

When he finally looked my way, I used my best polite-yet-firm tone and asked him to continue elsewhere, if possible. And to my enormous surprise, he shook his head. I yelled, “Thank you so much” and the deafening noise stopped.

Maybe you’re asking yourself now, “yeah, so what?” Maybe that’s the way you solve all your problems: directly, without further thinking. Maybe my solitary revolt against acoustic abuse seems trivial to you, but to me it was a big deal. I tend to be the type that thinks, reflects (too much), and never goes into, shall we say, extreme actions. Until now, at least.

Maybe it is the insomnia speaking, or maybe it is because I’ve run out of musings, but in this particular situation I’m glad I acted on the spur of the moment, jazz style. I felt really brave and able to take care of myself. No drama, no overthinking.

I doubt this is a concept applicable to all areas of life, and eventually summer time will be gone and I’ll go back to sleep well, but until then it is good to know that I can still surprise myself.

… and the livin´ is easy…

Be seeing you!

G.F.