Looking for Jobim: bossa nova nostalgia still reigns in Brazil, but only for foreigners.
Brazil's bossa nova jazz movement began in the 1950s and became popular in the United States after an entourage of Brazilian musicians performed it at Carnegie Hall in 1962. Five decades later, the music still brings to mind Brazil: a blend of cultural sophistication and a bohemian lifestyle, where nothing seems to matter except a well-tuned guitar and tropical sunshine. In its heyday, bossa nova jazz competed successfully with the Beatles on the world music scene. But the music went into a coma in 1964, after a military coup. Brazil's musicians either went into exile or quickly realized that the romantic ideology of bossa nova no longer captured the times.
"It became impossible to ignore the military dictatorship," says Carlos Boquette, an ex-federal judge, now a historian and a tour guide in Rio. Sitting down at Alcazar Restaurant on Avenida Atlantica along Copacabana beach, Roquette enjoys a cool wind that blows the table umbrella overhead. Alcazar is one of the few hot spots of the bossa nova era that is still standing. Places like these would stay open until dawn, serving chicken soup to people coming out of the piano bars after a night of partying.
Other places served up dishes for the partygoers, that is, until 1964. "The rosy, upwardly mobile middle-class patrons of the music, and also the artists themselves who came from this background for the most part, knew that it no longer made sense in those times to sing about little boats, Rids mountains and the sunshine in Bahia. It wasn't part of Brazil's reality," Roquette says, ticking off the names of clubs that closed down along Avenida Atlantica, places like Bar dos Pescadores, Clube da Chave, Farolito. None remain. "No one is trying to invest in preserving Rids bossa nova history," Roquette says.
Businesses here hope tourism will bring the music back. Brazil's travel industry has expanded. International travelers spent over US$1.60 billion here in the first half of 2004, more than a 46% rise over the same period in 2003, according to Brazil's Central Bank. In June 2004, a vacation month for Americans and Europeans enjoying their summer, tourism ranked among grains, soy and iron ore as the main source of U.S. dollars entering the country. Foreigners spent $370 million more in Brazil than what Brazilians spent overseas in the second half of last year.
They're not all coming here for bossa nova music, but if tourist areas play their cards right--and some private companies are doing just that--Brazilian music will become an enticing main course for visitors here on vacation or business. At the very least, it can become a very satisfying appetizer in a country known for producing some of the world's most talented musicians.
A few establishments are trying to restore the music of yesteryear. One restaurant, Tok Final, in Leblon, an upscale Rio neighborhood, offers bossa nova jazz. "There are just four places in Rio that play bossa and we're one of them," says Ana Cristina Voigt, entertainment producer for Tok Final. She is working on a project called Father's Children, where the new generation of bossa nova composers and singers meet at the club every Thursday.
"Bossa nova is back in style in Brazil because all of the other styles are so bad," says Samara Catunda, a promoter for Antonino Bar and Restaurant in Lagoa. Durval Ferreira, one of the bossa nova movement's classic guitarists, produces shows at Antonino's. "Young people are listening to bossa styles more than ever," Catunda says. But at 10:30 p.m., one couple on the dance floor is moving to Frank Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight and not Onde Anda Voce, a bossa classic by Vinlcius de Moraes and Toquinho.
Bossa only. Along the old Rua Vinicius de Moraes, where Vinicius and Jobim came up with the idea to write the Girl from Ipanema while sitting at a restaurant now named after the song, tourists soak up some '50s bossa nostalgia. Shirts with the Ipanema lyrics are sold here. Across the street, at the Vinicius Restaurant Show Bar in Ipanema, the bar's entertainment manager, Fernando Cerdeira, says that if you want tourists, you have to play bossa nova. "If you don't play bossa nova, they'll get up and leave" he says.
A small recording company in Rio, Dubas Music, is trying to cash in on the trend by producing re-arrangements of bossa nova standards, along with new bossa nova cuts. At a quarter till midnight at Vinicius Show Bar, a star from the glory days, Maria Creuza, sings to a crowd of 40 or so. "Why do foreigners love bossa so much? Maybe it's because they don't understand the lyrics and the melody gets to them," she says after the show. "People are coming here to look for that feeling of Jobim. The music has content. This style will never die."
At Alcazar's, an elderly man in his 70s, dressed in all black sings and talks about music from the 1940s. He makes up a song for modern times: "If you are lonely, call me on my cell phone," he sings to a bossa nova beat, getting a chuckle from a lady accompanying him.
The next morning, in the Aneoradouro Restaurant of Hotel Miramar overlooking Copacabana Beach, the sound of U.S. pop musician Cindy Lauper's Time After Time, fills the dining room, followed by U.S. soul singer Peabo Bryson's If Ever You're In My Arms Again. An hour passes, and not a single bossa nova tune plays.
KENNETH RAPOZA * RIO DE JANEIRO
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|Title Annotation:||TOURISM; Tom Jobim|
|Comment:||Looking for Jobim: bossa nova nostalgia still reigns in Brazil, but only for foreigners.(TOURISM)(Tom Jobim)|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2005|
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