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Brazzil - Brazil in US - September 2003

Brazilian Day in New York Goes "Global"

Brazilian Day in New York was a huge event this year, with a much
larger press presence than in other years. Globo International has
taken over the artistic direction of the event, transforming it into a
marketing scheme. Local restaurants set shop on the sidewalks,
offering rather overpriced dishes and appetizers

Ernest Barteldes


Sixth Avenue in Manhattan became a reflection of Brazil during the celebration of the annual Brazilian Day in New York City on August 31st.  Thousands converged to the 46th Street area, which is known to Manhattanites as Little Brazil.

During the whole day visitors and homesick Brazilians sampled typical foods from that country as local restaurants set shop on the sidewalks, offering rather overpriced dishes and appetizers, such as pastel (a fried, stuffed pastry) and coxinha (breaded chicken "thighs", actually a kind of a poultry croquette).

Inside delis and cafés revelers bought and consumed drinks, since public drinking in festivals has been prohibited in New York since the summer of 2001, a measure enforced by former mayor Rudolph Guiliani that was likely prompted by an incident with an unruly crowd during the Puerto Rican Day Parade a year earlier.

A large Brazilian flag was unfurled behind a giant stage set up on W 43rd Street and 6th Avenue, where there was a concert—the largest ever—featuring three artists flown in from Brazil especially for the occasion.

On stage there was also the appearance of several stars from Globo TV, the huge media corporation that became involved with the event this year after signing a partnership agreement with The Brasilians, a local newspaper that has been promoting the yearly event since 1992.

The opener was Daniel, a popular sertanejo (the equivalent to the American country music) singer. He was backed by his band and a group of dancers, and he went through a mix of original songs from his solo albums, covers varying from Marisa Monte to Luiz Gonzaga(the poignant "Asa Branca", a song about how the frequent periods of drought affect the people from the northeast of Brazil) and tunes from his former duet with the late João Paulo, who perished in a car accident a few years ago.

The concert was followed by a series of speeches from the promoters alongside quips from several stars, which included kiddie TV host Angelica and Formula Indy champ Raul Boesel. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg could not appear, but he recorded a video greeting to the crowd in which he appeared dressed in a Brazil soccer team jersey.

There was an awkward moment when singer Mona Lisa was invited on stage to perform "God Bless America", which would be followed by the Brazilian National Anthem. The singer, however, went on and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" after the first song. In response to that, the crowd spontaneously broke into the Brazilian anthem as soon as she finished.

On stage, there seemed to be an uneasy climate until singer Daniel got hold of a microphone and concluded the anthem with the crowd. After a few more speeches, guitarist Davi Moraes (the son of Moraes Moreira) played a very electric instrumental rendition of The Anthem.

The stage was then set for Moraes, who performed a very interesting set of original songs and covers of many classic pop songs, including Titãs' "Comida" (Food) and Alceu Valença's "Morena Tropicana." Moraes, whose work I did not know, gave me quite a good impression by playing a youthful, updated version of the experimental sound performed by Os Novos Baianos in the 70s. There is a lot of percussion and traditional Brazilian sounds, but there is also something new that the young guitarist showed us there.

It was almost 6:30 PM when the main attraction, Ivete Sangalo, hit the stage. Although the crowd had been standing there for hours on end, few of them seemed to be tired, so Sangalo's high-energy set made everyone dance.

Ivete's set was comprised of songs from her solo work coupled with songs from the time she was a member of Banda Eva, the band from Bahia where she began her career in the late 90s. The numbers included "Avisa Lá"(Tell [Them] Over There), a song by Olodum that has been remade by many artists from Bahia (Daniela Mercury also performed that song during her U.S. tour earlier in the summer) and Carro Velho ("Old Car"), Sangalo's last single with her former band.

The crowd of thousands behaved well, and there were apparently no serious incidents during the event. As soon as the show ended, the people left the area in an orderly manner. Many of them headed to the bars and restaurants in the area. I noticed many familiar faces at a nearby Brazilian restaurant my wife and I went to after the show.

Brazilian Day was a huge event this year, with a much larger press presence than in other years. The fact that Globo International has taken over the "artistic direction" of the event has, however, disturbed me in a way.

The media giant, as we have seen in the past, has always had a tendency of doing things in a way that turns certain events into huge marketing schemes. I mean, for the first time we had a sertanejo artist (all the other shows were mostly Carnaval-inspired, with the exception of rocker Lulu Santos in 1992). I also had my misgivings of having all those TV stars on stage knowing they were there strictly for promotional reasons.

But on every cloud there is a silver lining. Instead of being a footnote on the international press, the local festival will be reaching people that couldn't be there. Globo International will have the highlights on a TV special that will air on September 6th on their cable channel (check local listings for times).

For better or worse, Brazilian Day Festival, might just become one of the biggest summer events in New York City.


Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com




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