Archives for posts with tag: SESC Pompeia

November 20th, Dia da Consciência Negra or Zumbi dos Palmares Day has been a holiday in the populous states of Rio and Sao Paulo since the 1960s, though not everywhere in Brazil. Public holidays are declared by federal, state and municipal legislatures – the 1932 Paulista Revolution, for example, is a holiday in the state of São Paulo only.

A fine statue of Zumbi dos Palmares in the centre of Salvador da Bahia

Black Consciousness Day marks the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a 17th century military leader of the African and mixed-race slaves who had escaped to the settlements known as quilombos – or smaller mocamabos (huts or hide-outs), ladeiras (slopes) or magotes (heaps, piles) – in the interior.

In the same way that Jesuit priests had established viable settlements or missões in the interior, the quilombos practised agriculture, while also using less ethical means to survive. And like expeditions against the missões, military expeditions were mounted to punish and destroy the settlements, which included poor white Brazilians. As an incentive, captured quilombolas became the property of their captors.

Bust of Zumbi in the capital Brasilia

In such turbulent times it’s easy to imagine that raid, theft, extortion, enslavement and violence were practiced on all sides. It’s an unclear and loaded history in which the academic authority seems to be Stuart B Schwartz, a Yale historian and Portuguese speaker. He has made new primary sources more accessible through translations into English.

A film about Zumbi’s predecessor, his uncle Ganazumba (‘great lord’ in Angolan Bantu) made in 1963 by Carlos ‘Cacá’ Diegues was not released until 1972, after the military dictatorship in Brazil had ended. He also made “Quilombo” in 1984 – its scenario overlaps with the 1965 theatre piece by Augusto Boal which Boal considered “the biggest artistic and popular success of the Teatro de Arena of São Paulo.”

Zumbi continued to be a favorite in Arena’s repertoire during the 1960s and early 1970s. Produced also in the 1970s in Nancy in France and in New York, last week this piece was revived at the SESC Pompeia theatre in Sao Paulo.  Arena Conta Zumbi is part of an extended programme at SESC Pompeia celebrating the contribution of Boal to Brazilian theatre.

The SESC Pompeia programme about Augusto Boal’s work

Avenida Pompeia is a Sao Paulo thoroughfare which rises steadily north east from the Vila Madalena metro station to the crest of a hill, then descends the slope in one long straight line as far as the Marginal which runs along the Tietê River. Vila Pompeia is a gentrifying suburb with a growing number of restaurants and small businesses, and abundant street art, extending even to the pavements. The Avenida trees in the central reservation lit up for Christmas are a fetching sight.

Avenida Pompeia descending towards Vila Pompeia

Down in Vila Pompeia proper, the buildings are lit for Christmas too. Headlights of ascending and descending cars play on the undersides of the car park carriageways as if in concert with the decorations. A far cry from the landscape of the quilombos

Vila Pompeia by night

P.S. Don’t know why I didn’t publish this when I wrote it in November 2012 …

By the time he was 9 years old, Moura knew he wanted to be a musician

Went with friends to listen to a tribute concert for Brasileiro woodwind player and composer Paulo Moura organised by his widow Halina Grynberg, as part of a programme supporting an exhibition she has curated about his musical life. The venue is the Pompeia SESC in Sao Paulo.

Interior, SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo

The SESC Pompeia theatre is in the old factory buildings on the site, rather than in the swish new purpose-built towers. The imaginative re-use of industrial space, with seating, a central open fire, and a sculptural water feature, is striking enough, but the theatre space is more so, with two sets of raked wooden seating facing each other, and the stage at the centre of the industrial shed.

Centre stage, SESC Pompeia

Moura played with US jazz greats – Cannonball Adderley – and with Brasileiro maestros – Sergio Mendes – as well as with classical stars – Leonard Bernstein – in a long career which spanned the international rise of samba and of bossa nova. Tonight’s programme features a quintet of pianists on four, yes FOUR grand pianos. They have all played with Moura at various times. The lids of the grands are placed at the four corners of the stage, their sombre black adding a funereal reminder that this is a tribute.

Four of the five pianistas – Lima, Taubkin, Sverner, Korman & Tiso

The melodies these tunesmiths play are standards from the chorosamba, and bossa nova repertoires, by Moura and other Brasilian composers. They play in an astonishing range of styles, from Brahms, through Debussy, to ‘piano bar’, and reaching back to ragtime and forward to bebop. A deluge of notes is hammered out to a rapt and attentive audience. The evidence that Brasilian musical styles are just as wide-ranging and flexible as any jazz or classical idiom is authoritatively set out, underpinning the credentials of this most musical of nations.

Young Carioca musician with instruments and technology

I remind myself that one of tonight’s composers, Chiquinha Gonzaga, scandalised the polite society of her day with her interest in and support for the choro music which we revere here. The question crosses my mind: will we sit and listen in 50 years time to the baile funk music which is currently banned in the Rio favelas, in the same attentive way?

For more on funk in Riosee

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