Language, Man, what a barrier. Personally, this is what has always created issues for me (and I imagine other people). Since a young age you have the language that you speak at home fluently, its the one your parents use to converse with you, the one you know by heart. Then, you go to school and start to learn this other language or languages, each with their structure and cadence. As you become more fluent in each new language your brain tries, at times, to go one step further and starts to mix vocabularies.
For myself, this happens naturally because certain cadences and phrases, although from different languages, seem to sound better together. When you’re speaking with other people like you (who do this mishmash of speech) there is no problem, however, most people won’t be like you. This is when those issues arise, in the real world, you have the barrier of language forcing you to adopt a specific structure. Man, does that create problems, you start to develop an accent, a certain speech pattern, or vocal ticks. Your brain has the thought, but the mouth has a problem filtering this information. I know this is a long explication for what should be a music post, but I think this serves to explain Caetano Veloso’s masterpiece of an album “Transa” released in 1972.
This is an album that attacks the bias head-on, whether unknowingly or knowingly, some listeners have against world music or music done in another language. Throughout Transa, Caetano who was living in exile in London, uses English, Portuguese, and Spanish interchangeably to demonstrate a certain kind of “plight of the immigrant” that can be universal to anyone. Now the English listener, who holds the defacto key to rock or pop canon, has no choice but to acknowledge what Caetano is singing about and to have some common ground to meet him halfway. It is this common ground that Caetano uses to envelope you with a massively Brazilian and South American sound. Its a sound that for most people who are used to American/English sound structures would deem experimental, it is, but the beauty of it is that the music Caetano draws from, much like language, comes from finding how to play around with the musical diction that he already knew which was never experimental.
Simply listen to lead off track “You Don’t Know Me”, its such a brilliant mix of styles: forro, reggae, and English folk motives are all tackled in a way that seems comfortable to Caetano. The uncomfortably of being ignored because of his background, is presented in a “good grief” moment. Ok, here, is what you wanted me to be, now what? Its a very acerbic, biting track but one that was completely necessary, because Brazilian music, especially the kind being done around this time, was being soundly ignored by American and European audiences (and to a certain extent in present times). This is all music that should be part of our musical knowledge but isn’t because of that language barrier.
I guess my challenge to you, as the reader/listener, is to find reasons why songs like “Its a Long Way”, “Nine Out of Ten”, or “Triste Bahia” shouldn’t be part of your own personal canon. All of them should have some common ground, that you as a listener already share, you just gotta give Caetano the time to show you. I think the track called “Mora Na Filosofia” best captures that spirit, the song itself which hovers around Portuguese and Spanish, is calling for the end of the philosophy that rhymes love with pain. Of course, in essence he says its Spanish and Portuguese barriers included. What a statement! That’s why he was willing to sing in English, its common ground and all that. Simply put, this is one of my all time favorite albums, the one that justifies all the Bob Dylan of Brazil garbage, and one that I would highly recommend anyone of any background to spend some time with (I mean take a look beyond the wall…). More great Brazilian music tomorrow…
World Cup Predictions for the Day:
– Belgium v. Russia: Belgium (Winner)
– South Korea v. Algeria: Germany (Winner)
– USA v. Portugal: USA (Winner)