Saturday, August 05, 2006

Lenine, Brazilian Super Star!

I'm happy to say that I went to Lenine's concert performance here in Los Angeles on Thursday night, August 3, 2006. Though he is a super star in his own country, Brasil, he is virtually unknown in the US.
The singer-songwriter performed without the aid of his talented band.
He courageously performed his repertoire solo and 'unplugged'. Stripped bare to a mixed audience of ex-patriot Brazilian fans and curious Angelinos, Lenine carried his music with a powerful honesty. His inner rhythm was enough to power him. Lenine's ironic poetry was largely lost on an audience of Americans who were clueless to Portuguese but his music was easily felt. I had many funny thoughts running through my mind. As I usually do, I thought about the caricatures that govern people's perceptions. Being a "world musician" makes me especially sensitive to the issues that surround music that is not mainstream in the US. If anyone came to this concert because they expected to hear samba they were deceived by their own preconceived notions of Brasil and its culture. Lenine is somewhere between a rock star and a pop star in Brasil but when American's think of Brasil their minds wander in the direction of sexy samba dancers and cheerful carnival songs. This notion of cultural caricature never escapes my psyche because old stereotypes never die. Carmen Miranda was the Brasil of the 1930's and 1940's for Americans. In the 1960's it was Astrud Gilberto and "the girl from Ipanema".In the 1990's it was Pharrel and Snoop surrounded by a bevy of Rio's beauties. The movie 'Cidade de Deus' helped to shake American's out of their stuppor but the rediscovery of Bossa Nova threatens to return their perceptions to some other Brasil that barely exists. When I was in Brasil to compose music for my CD 'Tristeza e Beleza na Cidade Negra', I listened to the radio a lot and went out to a few concerts every week. The popular music of Brasil is diverse but the traditional music of this vast country is even more varied. Their are many regional styles that are lesser known outside of South America, so much culture to offer, it is a shame that Brasil's music is marginalized by static perceptions. It reminds me that many of my African friends must still field questions about whether they have skyscrapers and city streets on the continent. Maybe the "backward people" are in America.