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Who Needs a Camera?

You can find this story online at Soul Brasil magazine.

Let me introduce myself. I’m originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I’ve been a singer and performer all my life.  In the 1980’s I was part of a theatrical-rock band called O Espírito da Coisa, that means “The Spirit of the Thing,” and Katita was my nickname. Around 1985-86, my band flew to Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state to perform by the Rio Negro, the largest black water river in the world and the largest left tributary of the Amazon River.  

I remember getting off the plane and feeling the pores of my skin filling with water from the extreme humidity. Visiting Florida and Hawaii come close to that feeling. I noticed then that the air conditioner at the hotel was never off. 

 The show was scheduled for the afternoon in a place where the Amazon and Negro River meet, and a large amount of people come to spend their day at the local beach.  The area was full of motorboats, and we had the opportunity to tour the area and witness the clear line you see when the pale-sandy color of the Amazon River meets the Rio Negro. It was during that trip that I saw a pink dolphin for the first time. They are called “boto” and are the largest river dolphins in the world. What a magical site. From the black waters I saw that pink shining skin come up and play.  And where there is “botos” you also find piranhas.  The first time I saw a piranha (a piece of it) was when my mom returned to Manaus to visit her brother many years prior to my trip. She came back with a native Indian fishing spear, condiments for cooking, and a stuffed piranha mouth Indians use as a comb. 

We performed in our bikinis and trunks and around 5pm it started raining. The sound engineers quickly brought pieces of plastic and covered the speakers and equipment. They knew the tropical rain during December and May always appear at that time. Just us, the tourists, were surprised how quickly it came and went. 

It was an incredible trip to me. Not only because the place was so amazing, but also because I was visiting part of my mom’s history. She was born in Portugal and her father and brothers worked as fishermen.  They usually came close to the coast of Brazil and when my grandma died, my granddad moved the family to Manaus to try a better life. Ah, the immigrant life I inherited. Eventually, one of my uncles went down to live in Rio de Janeiro. After my mom finished her boarding school she went to live with her brother. It was there that my mom met my dad and I was born. 

 But, this was just the intro for the real story I want to tell you.  The next day of the show we went for a small trip through the “igarapés” of the tributaries of the Amazon. “Igarapés” are routes navigable by canoes only.  I believe the whole band was in one long canoe.  The noisy motor accompanied us while navigating through the wide portion of the river, but as soon as we entered the narrow passageways they turned off the engine, and that’s when I was transported to another world. Not a physical one, but a cosmic world, an ancestral world. It was then that I heard the silence of the forest, or the sound of the planet. The canoe kept moving among the trees rooted in the river water and time stood still… It was a weird feeling because I couldn’t explain what I was experiencing. Have I been there before? 

After awhile our guide brought us to a small tree house where a family lived in the middle of the forest. We were introduced to a “preguiça,” a sloth that was hanging on a tree trunk. She was moving but I couldn’t see her slowest moving.  

Then, a small boy or a girl (I don’t remember which) brought us the pet of the house: a small monkey called “macaco prego.” He was a tinny creature that deeply moved me.  Especially when I noticed he was chained.  I looked into his eyes and I saw a human being. His piercing eyes stayed with me all these years. And maybe, that’s why I had to tell you this story.  

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Creating the 2019 Brazilian Heart Celebration!

This is one of the most exciting times of the year for me. In 2012 I’ve created a show to celebrate the lives of Brazilian singer/songwriters. In 2014, after Maria Bethânia’s celebration, I made the decision to transform it into a musical, and since then the magical show includes more than a dozen Brazilian artists celebrating International Women’s Day.

Researching to write the script of the Brazilian Heart Celebration is like a puzzle. This year’s theme kept changing in my mind until all seemed to focus and make complete sense. In the beginning I wanted to celebrate 50 years of 1969, so I found out about the Brazilian hit parade of that year. Then, the political vibe of the present moment pushed me towards songs of protest and change in Brasil and the US. I read many books. 33 Revolutions Per Minute, Marching for Freedom about MLKJr, Gilberto Bem Perto about Gilberto Gil, and many biographies. I watched DVDs about Woodstock, Harry Belafonte and the Civil Rights Movement, Caetano and Gil’s exile in London, interviews with Belchior, Geraldo Vandré, documentaries about Woody Guthrie’s life, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and the music festivals in Brasil. After awhile, my brain usually mixes everything and I don’t know how to start. Then, I go through a restless period waking up in the middle of the night with vivid ideas of connections among composers, stories, and transition songs. Finally a light bulb comes on! Here we are: Songs of Protest and Change plus Honoring Gilberto Gil.

Since 2012 the show also celebrate the International Women’s Day. This year I invited singers Diana Purim and Emina Shimanuki, bassist Poliana Magalhães (just arrived from Portugal,) and drummer Ana Barreiro. I also invited Kanami (Kanushka, my Russian sister) to be our Vocal Director. I strongly believe in the power of group energy so artists stay on stage during the whole show. Nothing more intense than 12 women singing, playing, and acting with open hearts.

The moment is definitely asking for revisiting our acts of social and political change through music. Each singer will be singing two solo tunes, one in English and one in Portuguese. I suggested historical songs and after they were chosen, I worked on the stories and quotes around them, adding transition songs as well. My friend and actress Mariana Leite collaborated with me.

For many years I wanted to pay homage to singer/songwriter and Tropicália master Gilberto Gil. I admire him immensely and had the honor of opening his show at the House of Blues in Hollywood many years ago with my old band Sambaguru (thank you, Tita Lima.) When I went to see his duet with Caetano Veloso two years ago in downtown Los Angeles, I finally felt it was time to pay homage to him. Gil is a philosopher and a visionary. It was not hard to choose some of his songs, but I was left with the feeling that I would miss not playing many more.

I remember watching Gil at Canecão (show place now gone) in Rio about 30 years ago. The audience asked him to come back on stage three times. When he returned for the last time he said: “I’m getting old, guys,” and then laughed. What a charming and loving man. In his manners, words and actions.

Every year I invite new artists who besides being talented, are also kind and supportive. It’s fundamental that they enjoy sharing their craft and emotions with each other. I think this cast trust my ideas and opinions as well. The theme made us open up and face different political opinions, what I consider a great opportunity to practice compassion. The show requires one meeting to read the script and two musical rehearsals. I consider this experience a miracle!

Another miracle is to find sponsors who believe in your vision. I’m blessed for I’ve found some angels! The sponsors come in all shapes and forms. First, Marcia Argolo and Jorge Vismara who are with me since 2012. They open their home with smiles and excitement, take pictures, listen and also feed us! No words to thank them. Peter Lownds is always there when I need a translation or an English version, besides helping us with our pronunciation, and appearing on stage as well. Deborah Edler-Brown (who had been part of two celebrations with us) was so kind in correcting and suggesting changes to the press release.

Another couple of angels are Dolores and David Mead, who take care of the lease of the theater. This year Dolores invited two other couples to share the costs of it. Friends helping friends. :-)

And finally, thank you to Miriam Pellegrino of Ubatuba Açaí (present since 2017), Odete Pashaie of Brasilian Blow Dray Hair Salon (thank you, Sonia,) Judy Mitoma (who understands the importance of a helping hand after many years producing The World Sacred Music Festival,) John Crahan (who always shares links of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now with me,) Bengi and Peter (Turkey and Belgium represented), Mandy and John (East coast supporters,) Melinda Kelly (I call her Mel=honey), Paula and Phil Glosserman (Phil was part of the Brazilian Heart group I started in 1998), Cecilia Noel (my Peruvian sister who I had the honor of sharing the stage in my beginning years in Los Angeles), Suzanne Alpert (you never forget who visits you when you go to a hospital,) and Nicole Wesley, a lawyer who loves to support the Arts and showed up at the last minute by the hands of Sarah Pontes. And last but not least, my husband Neal Barbera with whom I learn every day.

A successful performance is a product of sweat, talent, luck plus joy and respect among all involved. I’ve been at fault thanking every supporter for my memory fails once in awhile with the responsibilities my dream entitles. So, let me take the opportunity to thank Brasil Brasil Cultural Center (Amen and Nayla Santo), Ana Laidley (the best samba teacher and therapist ever!), Soul Brasil (Lindbergh Junior and Magali), Ana from the Brazilian Consulate, Maggie Lalique, Sergio and Sasha (KPFK FM), Patricia and Tatiana, Thiago Barreiro, Maria Alice Jacob, Viver Brasil Dance Company (Linda Yudin and Badaró), Beto Gonzalez and Samba Society, Bob Easton, Thalma de Freitas, Fabiano do Nascimento, Simon, Fabio, Bill Brendle, Flavio Medeiros, Isaías Elpes, Clarice Cast, Felipe Fraga, Antonio de Sat’Anna, Leo Costa, Mitchell Long, Ted Falcon, Catina deLuna, Anna Beatriz, Mariana Goulart, JP Mourão, Carla Hassett, Mi Medrado, Maria Jacob, Caro Pierotto, and every artist who I collaborated with in the previous celebrations. I’m forever grateful.

If you still didn’t get your ticket, do it now. Witnessing magical moments do wonders to the soul. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

Thank you, for taking the time to read this story. Each one of us love what we do, and I’m sure you will feel it on Saturday, March 2nd.

Our first meeting to read the script of the show, take a picture together and set musical rehearsal times. From left to right: Diana Purim, Sonia Santos, Natalia Spadini, Kanami, Mariana Leite, Ana Gazzola, Katia Moraes, Emina Shimanuki, Poliana Magalhães, Liz Kinnon, Ana Barreiro, Nando Duarte and Marcele Berger.

Our first meeting to read the script of the show, take a picture together and set musical rehearsal times. From left to right: Diana Purim, Sonia Santos, Natalia Spadini, Kanami, Mariana Leite, Ana Gazzola, Katia Moraes, Emina Shimanuki, Poliana Magalhães, Liz Kinnon, Ana Barreiro, Nando Duarte and Marcele Berger.

Marcelo Berger, Poliana Magalhães (just arrived from Portugal,) Ana Barreiro (joining us again after appearing in 2016,) Peter Lownds, Diana Purim (first time with us,) and pianist Liz Kinnon (who always have a supporting word to offer.)

Marcelo Berger, Poliana Magalhães (just arrived from Portugal,) Ana Barreiro (joining us again after appearing in 2016,) Peter Lownds, Diana Purim (first time with us,) and pianist Liz Kinnon (who always have a supporting word to offer.)

Ana Gazzola and Sonia Santos. Supporters and part of the cast since 2016!

Ana Gazzola and Sonia Santos. Supporters and part of the cast since 2016!

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Photo of the flyer taken by my friend Cezar Santana many years ago at the Southernmost point of the USA. Key West is 90 miles from Cuba. I thought this image was perfect for “Songs of Protest and Change.”

Photo of the flyer taken by my friend Cezar Santana many years ago at the Southernmost point of the USA. Key West is 90 miles from Cuba. I thought this image was perfect for “Songs of Protest and Change.”

2017 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Tom Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald. With Catina DeLuna, Ana Gazzola, Anna Bea, Sonia Santos, Kanami, Mariana Leite, Natalia Spadini, Clarice Cast, and Liz Kinnon,

2017 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Tom Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald. With Catina DeLuna, Ana Gazzola, Anna Bea, Sonia Santos, Kanami, Mariana Leite, Natalia Spadini, Clarice Cast, and Liz Kinnon,

2018 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Immigrants and Jacob do Bandolim.

2018 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Immigrants and Jacob do Bandolim.

Ted Falcon bringing Jacob do Bandolim to life in 2018.

Ted Falcon bringing Jacob do Bandolim to life in 2018.

2016 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Rita Lee. From left: Kanami, Deborah Edler Brown, JP Mourão, Mariana Goulart, Ana Gazzola, Carla Hassett, Ana Laidley, Katia Moraes, Sonia Santos, Mariana Leite, Caro Pierotto and Ana Barreiro.

2016 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Rita Lee. From left: Kanami, Deborah Edler Brown, JP Mourão, Mariana Goulart, Ana Gazzola, Carla Hassett, Ana Laidley, Katia Moraes, Sonia Santos, Mariana Leite, Caro Pierotto and Ana Barreiro.

The t-shirt! It’s a tradition since 2016. The names of the cast on the back.

The t-shirt! It’s a tradition since 2016. The names of the cast on the back.

With Peter Lownds during 2015 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Noel Rosa.

With Peter Lownds during 2015 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Noel Rosa.

During 2014 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Maria Bethânia.

During 2014 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Maria Bethânia.

The beginning: 2012 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Elis Regina. From left: Marcia Argolo, Nayla and Amem with baby daughter, yours truly and Jorge Vismara @ Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.

The beginning: 2012 Brazilian Heart Celebration honoring Elis Regina. From left: Marcia Argolo, Nayla and Amem with baby daughter, yours truly and Jorge Vismara @ Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.

Part of the 2019 cast: Ana Gazzola, Katia Moraes, Kanami, Diana Purim, Marcele Berger, Emina Shimanuki, Natalia Spadini and Sonia Santos.

Part of the 2019 cast: Ana Gazzola, Katia Moraes, Kanami, Diana Purim, Marcele Berger, Emina Shimanuki, Natalia Spadini and Sonia Santos.

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My Musical and Poetic Way to Scream!

Today is Brasil's Independence Day, and a perfect day to release Motivo. The song came out of my frustration with the Brazilian politics, and was the first song I composed in my ukulele. I showed it to Nando Duarte who graciously played in it, arranged and produced it. Coincidentally, on the day of the recording, my friend and flutist Rebecca Kleinman from San Francisco was in Los Angeles.  Nando created weaving flute lines on the spot, added Clarice Cast on percussion, and I laid down the vocals. All came to life in an afternoon in Santa Monica. 

The photo is by Caesar Lima.

Listen here! 

Lyrics:

É, tenho motivos pra gritar

Sim, tenho motivos pra gritar

Mãe, tenho motivos pra gritar

 

Uma torrente enorme de tanta notícia

Mentiras abafadas, sobra covardia

Quem era tão Valente agora tem azia

Eu vejo o acanhamento dessa gente pia

Dando grana a Deus por uma ideologia

 

O Moro, a Dilma, o Temer e o Lula na cozinha

E o cozinheiro Cunha na patifaria

E o louco do twitter na selvageria

De primeiro mundo sem diplomacia

 

Tenho motivos...

Posso ficar aqui e reclamar da vida

Apavorar o povo e zombar da política

Agonizar na raiva e na antipatia

Mas não votei no homem e creio na alegria

De quem vê beleza nessa cantoria

 

Pre ser honesta sofro de um medo ancestral

Um mal que atinge a todo ser sentimental

Essa paúra aumenta quanto mais recuo

Eu sonho com penhasco enquanto encaro um muro

 

Se você não viu, nem aprendeu meu bem, então

Só vai repetir essa estrada cheia de ilusão

Que tal começar? Recriar a tal revolução? 

Na minha opinião, ela começa aqui no coração.

I updated the second verse towards the end of 2018:

Você e eu e todo mundo na cozinha

E na panela um monstro em banho-maria

Nós todos no debate da selvageria

Gentileza morta, vã diplomacia

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