Rio, a city whose charms and curses can’t be easily summed up. Here, I have heard the very best and the worst. Had my limits repeatedly confronted and my patience challenged….and rewarded over and over. Rio has me under its spell.
Every time I arrive in Rio I feel even more at home than the previous year. The body of the city by now is familiar – the neighborhoods, the smells, the breathtaking views, and the ubiquitous sound of samba. But things shift in the musical landscape: the little bar that I used to play in every week one year may have given over to some less attractive format, or stopped music altogether. The restaurant where I went to play every Saturday would now feel repellently loud. Or a person will invite me to something where I discover a whole new group of musicians – another room in my musical house, its doors and windows tantalizingly suggesting other places, sounds, personal connections.
The night I arrived I went to a roda de choro (jam session) where I met some old friends and some new ones, including a violinist and a clarinetist who had musical personalities that made me feel welcome.
The next day was occupied with one of my favorite games which I call “Going Shopping for Things I Can’t Name”. This round was played for plug adaptors, coat hangers and a lampshade. Success was elusive but eventually mine.
Second night I went to a samba club called Trapiche Gamboa, in an 18th century warehouse building (whose walls are really made with whale oil). This is a gorgeous space three stories high with stained glass windows, tiled walls and floor, an immense chandelier, and consistently the best examples of the Brazilian musical styles – choro, samba, jongo and more. This evening was forró and we were there to dance. But tonight was extra special because Hermeto Pascoal was in the crowd. I went and talked to him for a bit and told him that we play a lot of his music in Boston. He was very warm, and seemed pleased to hear it! Later he got up with the band and did a spirited call-and-response. Those of us there had been touched by something very special.
Far from relaxing into a slow-southern kind of pace, I arrive in Rio at a sprint. My body (and the number of hours in the day) are given a run for their money by my interests. I dash around full-tilt for a week, attending several concerts each day, rodas de choro, nights out dancing. But I might suddenly crash, need to shut it all out for a day or two, to stay in no matter what day it is or what delights I’m missing. Over a couple of months I feel changes in myself; I start to adjust and let myself be carried by the flow. I’ve learned some basics of Carioca survival: take naps, stay home if it rains, and don’t make promises for later!