Personalized Bossa Nova From Veloso
By JON PARELES
Published: September 6, 1991
"I go against the grain, sing against the melody, swim against the tide," Caetano Veloso sang in "Branquinha" ["Little White One"] on his brilliant 1989 album, "Estrangeiro" ["Foreigner"]. In fact, he makes every melody he sings sound luminous and newly discovered. But in following his own path, Mr. Veloso has become one of the world's most visionary songwriters.
Although he has been known in Brazil since the 1960's, Mr. Veloso released his first United States album, "Caetano Veloso," just five years ago. It was a selection of his songs from the two previous decades, yet it was a detour from the music that had made him a superstar in Brazil.
He didn't use the electric guitars and drums of his regular band; instead, he was backed only by his own acoustic guitar, an occasional second guitar and the quiet pattering of hand percussion. His voice, tender but sure, had the sound of a poet ruminating over his past, examining it with affection and curiosity. The music's delicacy reconnected the 49-year-old Mr. Veloso with the bossa nova that he had grown up on; at the same time, it showed how much he had personalized Brazilian music.
Tomorrow night at Town Hall, Mr. Veloso will be playing songs from that album and others, using the same backdrop of acoustic guitars and percussion. And next Tuesday through Sunday at the Ballroom, he will bring the small group into the intimacy of a cabaret.
In Brazil, Mr. Veloso has been a musical revolutionary. At the end of the 1960's, he and other musicians from the state of Bahia (including Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa) decided to experiment with both words and music, adding electric guitars to their bands and using the fragmentation and imagery of modern poetry. "All the songwriters of my generation were influenced by modern Brazilian poetry," Mr. Veloso said by telephone recently from Rio de Janeiro. "Poets like Vinicius de Moraes, who started as a poet and became a pop lyricist, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Joao Cabral, who writes with a sharp knife. Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese modernist, was also important, and the prose of Guimaraes Rosa. And there was Oswald de Andrade, a pioneer of modernism in Brazil. His poems are short, funny and very aggressive. He invented the idea of cultural anthropophagy, cannibalism. He said Brazil's history began when the Bishop of Sardinia was eaten by the Indians of the Amazon.
"When the Beatles started to interest us, I was already in love with the bossa nova, and with this Brazilian and Portuguese literature. I heard Bob Dylan after this, and he began to influence me when I couldn't understand one word of English."
A song Mr. Veloso wrote in 1967, "Tropicalia," gave its name to the songwriters' movement, but the excitement was short-lived; Brazil's military Government considered the new music a threat. Late in 1968, Mr. Veloso and Mr. Gil were detained by federal police, and after a period of house arrest they exiled themselves to London in 1969. There, they soaked up the era's psychedelic rock while sending songs back to Brazil to be recorded by singers like Miss Costa and Mr. Veloso's sister, Maria Bethania. When Mr. Gil and Mr. Veloso returned to Brazil in 1972, their reputations were intact and their audiences continued to grow.
Mr. Veloso didn't turn into a finger-pointing protest singer. "Sometimes I love it when a very open political statment is in the middle of a song and it sounds like a political statement as a color added to other colors," he said. "But I don't like when a song is supposed to be a political speech or a politically useful thing, when it becomes a lecture and it's not beautiful. First, it must be beautiful."
During the 1970's and 80's, his music reasserted its sinuous, harmonically sophisticated tunefulness after its flirtation with blunt rock-and-roll, while his lyrics grew more associative and imagistic, blending an embracing Romanticism ("My vagabond heart wants to hold the world inside me") with glimpses of stark clarity ("the blah blah blah of economics on television"). Mr. Veloso's music has long since swallowed his influences.
His performances here follow a Brazilian and European tour that accompanied the belated Brazilian release of "Caetano Veloso." Once again, Mr. Veloso has re-examined his past. "Putting together a show, it seems to be casual, but it has to have a line inside from beginning to end, as if I was making a film," he said. "When you see a Jean-Luc Godard film, it doesn't have a story, but it has a wholeness."
A Little More Anger
While he is performing with his lightest touch, Mr. Veloso is in the middle of recording a new album, working with Arto Lindsay, who co-produced "Estrangeiro." Part of it was completed in Rio de Janeiro, and Mr. Veloso will stay in New York to finish the final songs. "In this new material I am more somber, darker, more pessimistic, because things are very difficult in Brazil now," he said. "I am an optimist, basically, but things are very bad. In this moment we are not respecting ourselves as a country, as a nation, as a people.
"Bahia is incredibly dirty, there are lots of people unemployed in the streets, and nobody is trying to think of the possibility of becoming a real citizen. Lots of children in the streets are getting killed. This is the bottom of the well. So I think my songs are a little more angry."
Tonight and next week, Mr. Veloso will intersperse his older songs with material he has written for others. "When I write for Maria Bethania, she tells me exactly what she wants," he said. "She'll tell me she wants a song that has this word in it and that kind of feeling. One time she told me she wanted a song with the word 'baby,' in English, and the line, in Portuguese, 'Read it on my T-shirt.' So I do it. Writing for myself, I do the same thing. I kind of hire myself to write about some images or subjects, and sometimes I am able to respond. Other times, I don't know why I write a song. Some idea pops in my mind, even though I'm not preparing to write a song, so I do it. But most of the time, it is a question of will."
Mr. Veloso is to perform tomorrow at 8 P.M. at Town Hall, 123 West 43d Street, Manhattan. Tickets are $22.50. Information: (212) 840-2824. At the Ballroom, 253 West 28th Street, Manhattan, sets begin at 9 and 11 P.M. Tuesday through next Sunday; there is a $35 or $40 cover and a two-drink minimum. Information: (212) 244-3005.
FOLHA DE S.PAULO
7 de setembro de 1991
Caetano canta “Acústico” em NY
faz a partir de
hoje uma série de
shows em Nova
termina de gravar
nos EUA seu novo
por Arto Lindsay.
Caetano grava novo disco em Nova York
Na cidade também para uma série de shows, o compositor diz que se sente em Copacabana dos anos 50
De Nova York
“Isso aquí parece Copacabana”, diz Caetano Veloso em (e sobre) Nova York. Depois corrige: “Copacabana nos años 50”.
Caetano fica em Nova York até a primeira semana de outubro, para terminar as gravações de seu próximo LP, producido por Arto Lindsay.
Hoje, ele se apresenta no Town Hall e em seguida, de terça a sábado, no Ballroom. É o mesmo show que apresentou no Brasil e que o “The New York Times” definiu como um retorno à simplicidade da bossa nova.
“A minha própria existencia se debe à bossa nova. O novo disco não deverá soar como bossa nova. Tem sempre alguma coisa. Eu toco mal violão mas o pouco que eu toco veio da bossa nova. Eu não sei tocar guitarra elétrica. Não sei nem tocar o violão assim… mostra a mão, batendo; eu só sei tocar puxando. Como bossa nova. Eu sou um mau aluno da bossa nova mas um aluno apaixonado”, disse no Ballroom, depois de ter posado sentado, com violão, para os fotógrafos.
Daí a imagen de “midtown” como Copacabana nos anos 50”. “Conheci Nova York há uns 10 anos. Fiquei louco. Achei que era uma cidade relaxada. Me sentí em casa. Mas depois eu vim fazer um show.. “Uns” no Public Theatre. Poucos anos depois. Continuei achando Nova York tão adorável quanto antes, mas sofri muito. Porque em Nova York não tinha recursos. O som era limitado, eu tinha que ficar parado por causa da luz. Foi o único lugar em que o show foi prejudicado. Fiquei arrasado, deprimido. Eu choraba quando acabei o show. Me senti desrespeitado. Achei que algunas pessoas da platéia estavam dormindo durante o show. Mas na semana seguinte saiu no “The New York Times” e no “Village Voice” elogios sobre mim. Ninguém reclamou do som ou da luz. Depois vi que era assim mesmo, normal. Pobre é pobre. O capitalismo aquí é levado a sério. Se você vende catorze milhões, você tem catorze mesas de mixagem só para sua voz. Se não rende, você canta numa lata de lixo muito bem. É terrível mas é assim”, diz.
Da última vez que tocou em Nova York em março, num show de Tom Jobim e Sting, con Gil e Elton John, era evidente o pouco caso dois músicos ingleses pelos dois convidados brasileiros. “Detestei a minha apresentação. Não sabia o que estava fazendo ali. Mas vi shows do Arto aquí que tinham os mesmos problemas técnicos dos meus. Notei que não era porque eu sou brasileiro. Se você não rende, não tem vez”, diz.
Para Caetano, há duas maneiras dos astros do showbiz internacional se relacionarem com a música brasileira ou do Terceiro Mundo: “Uma é você usar algumas características das músicas dos países pobres como uma espécie de tempero para a sua música. O Olodum tocando com Paul Simon é isso. Mas Paul Simon dialogando com Milton Nascimento não é isso. Eu não acho que nenhuma das duas seja negativa. Ambas divulgam a música brasileira. Mas eu tenho mais interesse naturalmento pelo tom de diálogo que é o predominante no David Byrne, por exemplo. Ele faz uma coletânea das gravações mais experimentais do Tom Zé e lança no mercado americano como uma produção sofisticada com a qual ele acha que ele e os colegas dele que são inteligentes devem tentar dialogar”.
Quanto ao show e ao disco, Caetano não tem muito a dizer. O show é o mesmo que foi apresentado no Brasil, na Itália e na Espaha, com as músicas do LP “Acústico”, guitarra de Tony Costa e percussão de Marcos Amma e Marcelo Costa. O disco ainda precisa ser mixado e três faixas ainda não foram gravadas, sendo que duas ainda precisam ser compostas. “Estou me devendo composicões”, diz.
Do Brasil, ele também prefere nao falar: “São dificuldades muito grandes as do Brasil e para falar eu teria que pensar muito. Não estou num período de reflexões ou conclusões a respeito de nada”.
Mas mesmo no meio da derrocada, alguns sobreviventes ainda têm força para dizer que a música brasileira é a mais refinada do mundo em harmonia, melodía e letra. “Um país que conta com Tom Jobim pode ser dar ao direito de, por momentos, ter esas esplosoes de vaidade”, diz Caetano. Sorrindo, é claro.
Caetano Veloso's Smooth Sounds
By PETER WATROUS
Published: September 9, 1991
In some ways, live pop music's mission is to create drama, to convince an audience that it is experiencing a unique historical moment. The Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso, who performed at Town Hall on Saturday night is good at it. Mr. Veloso is absolutely understated, and charismatic, and has figured out how to turn a large hall into a living room, as if his performance were improvised.
Backed by two percussionists and another guitarist, Mr. Veloso made the sold-out show seem offhand. When a percussionist was soloing, he would look at him, chin resting casually on the neck of his guitar. At times he would roll his eyes or raise his eyebrows, or crack his voice to indicate irony or clue in the audience on the humor of a tune. The audience, mostly Brazilian and clearly infatuated, quietly sang along with a handful of Mr. Veloso's best-known tunes, including "O Leaozinho," "Menino do Rio" and "O Estrangeiro," and yelled requests.
But Mr. Veloso was at his best without the backing of the band. Just playing his guitar, he would float phrases above the chords, picking up a percussive sharpness occasionally but content usually to let a melody's sensuality carry the tune. And without the added instruments, a composition's harmonic movement, and its relationship to a melody, could be heard.
In many ways the experience of Mr. Veloso's music is archaic. Mr. Veloso -- and much of Brazilian pop -- is the heir to the great American songwriting tradition that ground to a halt with the advent of rock-and-roll in the 1950's, and his tunes were filled with sophisticated harmonies and melodies. Contemporary American pop, often built around texture and rhythm, has made melody secondary; Mr. Veloso, who will also be playing at the Ballroom, 253 West 28th Street, Tuesday through Sunday, played a handful of pre-rock American standards, including "Get Out of Town," and "Stella by Starlight." They made sense in the context of the show: Mr. Veloso, an unabashed sentimentalist, isn't apologizing to anybody about either his experimentalism or literary intent. It's a broad view of pop music that is tough to pull off, but Mr. Veloso does it easily.