Monday, September 1, 2008

Without Sadness There's no Samba *

I didn't make this line up, I pinched it from a documentary I saw this afternoon called "O Mistério do Samba" (The Mystery of Samba). I didn't really know what to expect from this film besides great music. And indeed, there was plenty of that: I even caught myself singing along a couple of times (oops, sorry, but great sambas are irresistible!). But what I enjoyed the most were the stories, sad and funny, told by the great sambistas and singers of Portela, the revered Old Guard of the samba school based in the suburb of Oswaldo Cruz. And the little excursions to the tiny suburban houses and backyards and bars where they have been living their modest lives and composing their incomparable songs. The men are great storytellers, but I found the women especially moving and hilarious: in one scene at a hairdresser's, one of them is talking about her philanderer of a husband; she still remembers the day when she went after him, picking up stones from the street and throwing them at him. Another unforgettable scene: a group of sambistas is sitting around a table, drinking beer, playing, singing. An older woman walks by with her shopping bag, stops, dances a few samba steps, bows to them, and keeps on walking. According to the director, this little scene was completely spontaneous and unexpected. I'm glad that they could film it; it's precious and revealing of the soul of this most musical of cities.

At the end, we're all applauding and, mirroring what had just happened on screen, an older man dances a few samba steps, too. And I'm thinking: what a good reason to stick around a while longer! If you come to Rio, don't forget to check the papers for rodas de samba, including the ones at Portela! The women of Portela's Old Guard are also renowned cooks and the subject of a gem of a book called "Batuque na Cozinha."

* In Portuguese: Sem tristeza não tem samba. And this reminds me: yes, there is that contagious rhythm and percussion, but samba is also sweet melodies and melancholy, passionate stories.

Photo (featuring singers Marisa Monte and Zeca Pagodinho with members of the Velha Guarda da Portela) credit: Bruno Veiga


Blogger Timber Beast said...

It's sort of like saying "You can't have a high if you don't know what a low is." True. Verdade.

September 3, 2008 4:24 PM  
Blogger Sheila Thomson said...

Very true. But if people don't understand the words, they may think it's only "happy" music, since everyone is singing at the top of their lungs and tapping on the table or clapping hands to the rhythm or dancing around the table!!! Some of the stories are actually heartbreaking, but the rhythm and that percussion...absolutely infectious. Impossible to stand still!!

September 3, 2008 5:57 PM  
Blogger Spinning said...

We want this film to play in the US, you know... ;)

September 7, 2008 10:38 PM  

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