Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Brazil Vol. 3: Cortejo Afro, Joker & Accidental Renaissance Paintings

Weekly Update 2020-10: The final chapter of my trip to Brazil, alongside finally facing my fear and watching the film Joker, and a new meme group about accidental renaissance painting-looking photography.

Music: Cortejo Afro
Last week I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful bloco Cortejo Afro perform, and then had the honour of workshopping with the band's very own Mestre Gordo. His beats were so fun and complex, I can't wait to try them out in Toronto.

Cortejo Afro was created on July 2, 1998, Bahia's Independence Day, in the community of Pirajá. Onstage, the band has high energy, exuberant clothes and rich choreography linked to Afro culture, idealized by its founder the artist and designer Alberto Pitta. For over 30 years, Pitta has been working with clothes with an Afro influence, creating models for the afoxés and blocos in Salvador, including making costumes for Olodum for 15 years.

Pitta's intention is to rescue the colours, sounds and rhythms of Carnaval, which in his opinion “time took care of erasing, making the biggest popular party in the world, in one folder”. He has introduced themes of white on white, blue and silver, which are the colours of the Afro Brazilian Orixá (deity/spirit) named Oxalá. The big sombreros, according to Pitta, "aim to show the look of the African tribes' reigns, especially of Benin, Ivory Coast, among other African countries".

Some of the band in their Oxalá colours.

I don't think the band is even really known for this, but Cortejo Afro (and Ilê Aiyê) collaborated with Björk for her album "Mouths Cradle" and then were left out because they didn't fit the (nearly) all-vocal concept of the album. In these YouTube days we live in, she has since released the song as an alternative mix, which I think is much better than the original:

The last Monday of the trip came all too soon. We said goodbye to some of our bandmates, packed up and drove two hours up the coast to Praia Do Forte with Bahia on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Praia Do Forte is a lovely little beach town, lots of partying but definitely a tourist spot that's a little more chilled out than Salvador. This was honestly the first time I felt a sense of safety that I am normally so used to in Canada. I still wouldn't want to leave my phone lying around anywhere, but I felt pretty safe walking alone at night in this town, unlike anywhere else I had been before in Brazil.

At night we all cooked dinner together at the beach house where most of the group was staying, picanha and sausages.

On Tuesday we drove 20 minutes or so to Imbassai, another beautiful beach alongside a restaurant og growing renown for its specialty dish: a huge grilled and deboned king mackerel with salty shrimps under a blanket of grilled plantain. One dish, along with the sides of rice, farofa, pirão and spicy Brazilian hot sauce.

The fish! Hand for scale!

Pato made us all moqueca for dinner, a Brazilian recipe based on fish or shrimp, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime and coriander. It's like the Brazilian take on a Thai fish curry, super duper good.

I didn't get a pic til the end of the pot :P

Wednesday was my last full day in Brazil, and we spent it in the natural tide pools along the beach. We also watched the scheduled releasing of baby turtles from the sanctuary into the ocean, which was super cute.

I spent Thursday morning exploring more tide pools with Barbara, and then met up with the rest of the group on my slow walk back to the hotel to gather my stuff and go. What a whirlwind!

My last real Maracuja (Passionfuit)...and cachaça at 11am. Hey, I'm still on vacation!

I asked for "all the snacks" in Portuguese on the plane. Larissa would be proud.

After only two weeks away, it was such a packed trip that I need some adjustment time to process it all! After writing about it all though, I feel like I've absorbed the trip more completely in my brain.

Since we're off from band practice until Pato gets back in late March, I'll be taking a long, hard look at my drum kit and learning about how to care for it (and the true cost of replacing its parts back to a playable level...that scares me). Though no matter what cost it will be in the end to repair, there's no other way I could have motivated myself to learn everything I'm going to teach myself about drum kits. Hello, Google!

Random Thought: Joker
I am not a movie person at the best of times. When I heard that a new Joker movie was coming out with heavy themes of mental illness and the way we overlook them in our society, I immediately knew I would not be watching this film. As the movie took hold of audiences I began to hear more snippets of the film through the descriptions of my friends and coworkers, and it only repelled me further.

While we can all do with a little shock to the senses as a reminder to treat people with more kindness and understanding, I have a hard time with the subject matter of mental illness in television and movies because it hits too close to home for me. I was even tempted again when Oscars season came around and Hildur Gudnadottir won best original score for the film, heaven knows I love a good original movie score. But still, I could not bring myself to watch the film.

Fast forward to getting on the last leg of my trip home to Toronto, trying to find something to watch on the plane's entertainment system. Yes, I had seen that Joker was on there, but this surely didn't seem like a more appropriate time to get into that hole, so I skipped it again.

Then, something caught my eye - the passenger in front of me and to the right (perfect viewing angle for me) was watching Joker with English subtitles, at what seemed like the start of the movie. When I caught myself watching the movie along with them, probably 20 minutes had passed by. I didn't feel too deeply disturbed, and Joaquin Phoenix is quite obviously an amazing casting choice.

I realized that I could handle the movie with no sound (I am already quite used to subtitles), so I continued watching the film on my own entertainment system through to the end with only subtitles. It is a true shame that I missed out on Gudnadottir's wonderful score, but I am so susceptible to the emotions drawn from sad/moody music mixed with sad subject matter that I surely would not have made it to the end of the movie in such a manner.

And so, on this side of my viewing experience, my opinion about the film's underlying message remains largely the same. I am appreciative that this film was made, in the hopes of showing people that they need to make more room for kindness and acceptance in their lives, but moreso that we all need a wakeup call from this crushing system we all buy into. I am trying to shake free from my political and social apathy but I was already trying before this movie came into my life and I will continue to do so now.

Hey, did I mention that the poster was made with old-school wood typesetting? The little texture in the K of Joker is a real, actual texture made by ink and wood against paper. Read more about the process here.

Isn't this cool? You can see they also flipped the K upside down later on.

Inspiration: Accidental Renaissance Paintings
Well, not actually paintings, but photography that accidentally captures the aesthetic of renaissance paintings (which were the photography of their time, at any rate). Yes, it's another nice Facebook Group, fresh off the presses for you.

Tokyo Wine Festival (context makes this one funnier!)

Turkish feminist kicking a riot cop in Istanbul during a march on International Women's Day.

It is a true mishmash of the human condition, to be sure. There's something really good here in the mix of artistry, nostagia, history and the true randomness of subject matter smattered with glimpses of cultures and parts of the world we have not yet personally seen. It's also a great example of life imitating art...imitating life. 

And in case you weren't sure what exactly qualifies as an accidental renaissance painting (photograph), there is a handy post to get you on your way. 

This group definitely deserves an add if you appreciate the little things in life - almost 56,000 members at time of posting. Enjoy!

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