Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

A Pink Floyd tale in Rio de Janeiro


Daniel owed me one after hooking me up with Marcos. It was undeniable that Marcos’ deep voice blended well with my songs, and in the beginning the work looked promising. Marketing wise, things also looked good. Daniel knew many people at Radio Fluminense and the timing was correct; Punk was dying off and we could be presented as one of the new bands that were coming up; more sophisticated and less aggressive, something like a Brazilian Tears for Fears or Duran Duran. Every time one turned the radio to “Maldita FM” there was a new band happening. I was hopeful as many friends of mine who played as well as I did, were already touring the country and making it big.  However, three months down the line Marcos decided that he was not interested in endless rehearsals of songs that were not his, and walked away. This pissed me off and Daniel wanted to redeem himself.

Both of us worked as teachers at an English course, and Daniel was the colleague who had most to do with me there; British parents, deep into rock and with very similar musical tastes. These were times when the bands you listened to defined what you were about, and because of this we had important bond. Physically he looked like James Taylor with a mustache, but in the best Pink Floydian tradition he was an authentic English gentleman, and before being a teacher he had been a world traveled air steward.

In his defense, he was also upset with the Marcos affair because he had been serious about producing us. He played no instrument and, perhaps because of this, he was determined to be in the background of a rock and roll success story, something close to a Malcolm MacLaren of the tropics.  Although the breakup was another disappointment in a long line of set backs both of us were still hungry and Daniel maintained his faith.

This was the scenario in which he hooked me up with Danilo.

What the three of us had in common our passion for Pink Floyd. Danilo was hardest-core of us; he was the oldest and had been one of their first fans in Rio to. Far from being psychedelic crazed out guy, he came across as an intellectual, soft spoken, never said rude words, didn’t like football or cocaine and smoked weed only occasionally. He had called his daughter Emily, named after one of Pink Floyd’s early songs, which at that point I had never heard, but that we were to play in our band. His misses was Daniel’s misses’s best friend. Both the guys lived with their girfriends, and the two girls were phd’s in financial matters. Were it not for his past in the musical industry and for his love for the guitar he would be downright boring, but he was not. He had started doing gigs when he was fourteen; playing Beatles songs in parties with one of the first electric guitars in town. Later on, he joined the Analphabeatles (Analfabeto means illiterate in Portuguese) one of Brazil’s pioneering cover bands who my entire generation had heard of.

Pink Floyd was a tricky choice in the Eighties. Everyone knew that the “dinosaurs of Rock” went against everything that the decade represented, especially in a country that was at least five years behind in terms of Punk. However, playing Classics such as Echoes, Wish you were Here and Time with a guy like Danilo was exciting, and I felt proud of it. We were aware that we would never make it big but we could create a niche following, and above all, it would be fun. There were, no doubt, many aficionados around; ironically most the musicians of the eighties bands loved Pink Floyd, although they would never admit to it and face the penalty of being a fashion outcast.

The rehearsals had to be at Danilo’s; I had just moved with Rosa to a flat close to a favela. The area was great, it once had been the address of impressive mansions by the edge of the Tijuca forest but now a shanty town had taken over and my work partner refused to take his gear there.  I tried to explain that there was no problem as everybody knew me, but this was of no avail. I regularly went up and down its winding alleys bordered by open sewage to use the public phone and to buy groceries, which was seen with good eyes by the community. This also brought some sympathy with the drug guys because it showed at the same time that I was not a snob and that I was not afraid. They never harassed me, but because of their presence my window had a bullet hole in it and at least once a week I could see the gun fights happening on the other side the small river below the flat.

The only advantage of my place was that we could play as loud as we wanted. Danilo lived in a much safer area, Humaita, in a modern building with internal rules that forbade loud music from dinnertime onwards. The solution was to rehearse early; we would meet after lunch in his room overlooking the Botafogo district and delight ourselves in playing Pink Floyd classics until evening came. There was another reason I loved going there; his flat was close to the well-priced and excellent restaurant belt in Visconde de Caravelas Street. Before our sessions, we always went for the famous succulent steaks at the Aurora restaurant or for the squid and broccoli rice at the Spanish restaurant right in front of it.

After a couple of months, we had become a competent Pink Floyd cover band with the unusual formation of just two guitars and two singers who did vocal arrangments. We chose a name for the band: Ibiza Bar, based on one of Pink Floyds older albums, and we were ready for our first gig. The first venue we tried was too fashionable and they would not even listen to our demo cassette, I suggested we go to a more mainstream and busy place next to the Jardim Botanico Park, the Mistura Fina. He was not too convinced that we were good enough for the venue, but they accepted us at once. The next step was to promote the night, Danilo’s day job was as a graphic designer so he came up with a great poster using one of Floyd’s first album covers. I called all the other teachers from the course, friends from the University and whoever else I could think of. Daniel also did his best to promote the gig and in the end the house was three-quarters full, quite a good public for the kind of music we were doing our presentation went very well considering the limitations. The manager invited us to play there another two times and after that, we stopped.

Soon after, for several reason, I left Brazil to live in the UK, Daniel was furious but Danilo was understanding and decided to carry on with more instrumentalists. In a weird twist of fate, the other guys who replaced me were class mates from school. Now with a drummer, a bass player and a keyboard they went fully electric. Daniel ended up behind the scenes projecting ink stains behind the band, a device used by the pioneers of psychedelia in the 1960’s . They also changed the name of the band to Eclipse and the band grew to become recognized internationally.

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3 thoughts on “A Pink Floyd tale in Rio de Janeiro

  1. alanstix on said:

    Reblogged this on Pinkfloydiana.

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