Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the tag “counter culture”

The conflict of the century

Image

Whoever thought that the conflicts of the Nazis against the allies ended with the second world war may be wrong. The conflict of conservatism against freedom is still out there. As this site relates to Latinos I will talk about the face under which it appeared in Brazil, in form of  the conflict between caretas (squares) and doidoes (crazies) that was ever-present in the 60’s 70’s and part of the 80’s.

After the dictatorship got rid of the left wing revolutionaries (many of whom were caretas ) the families, the military and other reactionary forces moved their attention to the menace that long-haired rockers, surfers and weed smokers in general presented. It remains a mystery why the powers found these libertarian minds dangerous, but they did.

The Brazilian middle class bought into the American mainstream fury against the libertarian forces of the sixties. The divide was clear, or you were in favor of changing the world, wore hippy clothes and had long hair or you wanted to save the world from those agents of change. The doidoes were in the minority, but their intensity was irresistible and their presence was overwhelming to a mainstream that had the entire military and police apparatus on their side.

It is easy to minimize and make jokes about this conflict, but if one looks beyond the surface it has had an immense effect on the world as that generation reached maturity. The first one was the growth of religious fundamentalism; in order to undermine this hunger for change and the growth of communism (which in its essence is simply the notion of a society based on collaboration rather than on profit) the powerful introduced religion as an effective diversion. The place where this was most felt was in the Muslim worlds here the US and its careta allies invested heavily in zealots, such as Osama Bin Laden. The disaster in Afghanistan and in other countries with a Muslim majority is there for anyone to see. But it was not only there that this offensive took place, in Brazil and in the rest of Latin America all sorts of evangelical churches appeared and became the acceptable face of the will to change and of hope in for a better future. They became an important political force which the internal and external powers rely on.

The other area of combat against the doidoes was the war on drugs. The hard fist on drugs strengthened the criminal element, and the innocent cannabis was substituted by the lucrative cocaine and heroin. What was once something designed to be a chill out and a way to have a few moments without the weight of “the system” on one’s back became demonized and resulted in a costly multinational war. If diverted to more rational uses, the amount of money spent on this global paranoia against the “long haired” would have helped mend the economic, cultural and social cracks happening everywhere in our times, it would also have helped the world become a more intelligent and less hypocritical place with much weaker criminal organizations.

The doidoes counter attacked with the internet, a free vehicle to spread information, and to bring people together. The founders of the internet envisaged it as an instrument to bring democracy to knowledge as well as a way for people to escape the control of the state. Although the caretas are trying to undermine its freedom, this has been a highly successful revolution and has been one of the few  positive developments in the past decades.

Although no one knows how the future will be, if we take Brazil – a country known for absorbing anything you throw at it, where people of all races, cultures, faiths and ideologies are building something new – as a paradigm for what will happen at the end of the tunnel some conclusions may be taken. There, the conflict betweencaretas and our doidoes is still alive but got less important after the country was forced to brace together to tackle an economic crisis that lasted fifteen years and that makes the current one in the “First World” look like a walk in the park.

In those dark days each side learned from each other and now that the country found prosperity people from all classes have become more confident, more creative, more aware of their situation and more practical. It is not that the country can put itself in a place to teach other nations on how to deal with their contradictions, Brazil still has many problems with corruption and social inequality. However its experience shows that the friction of opposites makes things move forward and dealing with them in a rational way, using them equally and with an open mind is the way forward.

The summer of the Tin

What you see above was posted by Marcos Telles in his great site Pier de Ipanema (www.pierdeipanema.com) focused on Ipanema’s surfer generation in the 70’s.

The video is about one of the most unbelievable summers in Brazilian history: in 1988 the Australian ship Solana Star set sail from Singapore loaded with top quality Marijuana. In order to dodge the attention they took an unusual route: they traveled around South America and then up the Brazilian coast heading to the US when the maritime police intercepted them somewhere between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Instead of allowing themselves to be arrested, in the lack of a better option, they threw their cargo in the ocean before the cops arrived. It happened that the weed was kept in tins which the currents took to the coast where surfers and fishermen recuperated them. The youth received the content of those tins like manna from heaven and the resinous and heavy scented weed provided  an unforgettable summer that some people find hard to remember 🙂

Following the Brazilian tradition of giving names to summers, the one of 1988 was the Verao da Lata (the Summer of the Tin).

Mal Secreto

There are songs that are a like a magnifying glass to a period in time, Mal Secreto is one of them. It was written in the height of the censorship/dictatorship of the seventies by Jards Macale. It talks about the anguish of being bogged down by the regime and mal secreto (secret evil – not a perfect translation because mal could also mean an illness here) in this case represents his political conscience that is having to be concealed and is making him sick at the same time. This song is one of the many that scraped through the censors by using allegories to talk about what was happening.

The fact that this is hard core rock and roll for the standards of 1971/2 is also revealing; the genre would become an avenue for confronting the establishment and for youth rebellion in Brazil from that time onwards.

The parallels with Janis Joplin are undeniable, which also shines a light on the music business implications. Gal Costa, the singer, was together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil an Maria Betania part of the Tropicalia movement, a very complex mix of pop culture, left wing, national discovery and commercial interests which I will talk about in more depth in another article.

Caetano and Gil were in exile but Gal Costa had stayed back in Brazil and had moved from Bossa Nova to Rock (well… not entirely) which shocked the left but helped her sell well and fill up show houses with the newer generation of wealthy upper middle class kids. This unveils a complicity between protest and commerce. From those days onwards it would become clear that artist were much closer to products than to “voices”.

It is worth while mentioning Lanny the legendary guitarist who conducted the musical part of this song. He was Israeli and would end up loosing it completely because of drug abuse.

Post Navigation