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Brazzil - Music - July 2004

New York's Brazilian Weekend

Central Park's Summerstage, in New York City, had the colors
of Brazil this year. Direct from Brazil, the Ara Ketu band and
Margareth Menezes gave memorable performances. Two
Brazilian movies were screened: Lives of Rhyme, about Rio's
rappers and Speaker Phone, a satire on modern technology.

Ernest Barteldes


Picture Brazilians were the main event during the weekend line-up at Central Park's Summerstage in New York City during the 2nd New York University's (NYU) Brazil Movie Festival, which took place July 9 and 10th.

On Friday, a huge crowd gathered to see Ara Ketu, one of the most popular Axé Music bands in Brazil. There were Brazilian flags everywhere, and many of those in the crowd were proudly wearing their flag's colors. Those who didn't come in early enough could not get in, and many enjoyed the show from the outside.

"Ara Ketu misses you", said vocalist Cacau after the first few numbers, getting a loud ovation in response. They wasted little time with talk, and played a selection of their hits, such as "Mal-Acostumado" (Spoiled), "Carta Branca" (White Letter, an expression that translates more accurately as Blank Check), including several classic songs, such as the oft-recorded "Isso Aqui é o Que É" (This is it) and Gilberto Gil's "Que Deus Dá"(God-given).

The set lasted for about 90 minutes, and the band generally gave everything the crowd wanted to see and hear, and those present sang along to every song on the set.

The band sounded extremely tight, and vocalist Cacau seemed to be in great shape as he danced and jumped while belting out the songs.

The enthused audience was formed mostly by younger Brazilians in their teens and twenties. There seemed to be no incidents, and despite the extreme crowding, everyone was extremely well-behaved.

On Saturday it was the turn of Margareth Menezes, the Bahia songstress who made a return appearance to Summerstage (she was there seven years ago).

The public at that show was a bit more varied than the day before. The audience was definitely a bit older, and there seemed to be more non-Brazilians there this time around.

Her set was a mix of original songs and well-known songs. She caught everyone's attention with "Alegria da Cidade" (The Joy of the Town), a song that mixes afro beats with rock and roll riffs during the chorus.

Menezes seemed to want to showcase all of her influences during her set, which included, apart from Axé hits such as Carlinhos Brown's "Me Abraça e Me Beija" (Hug Me and Kiss Me), featured Northeastern tunes like Dominguinhos' "Eu Só Quero Um Xodó" (I Just Want Some Love"), sambas and other beats.

The crowd responded by cheering, dancing nonstop and singing along with the songs they knew. The band sounded well rehearsed and very tight. Menezes' style is a bit more grown-up than Ara Ketu, and her musicians have a more obvious jazz influence—which explains her appeal to an older crowd

"There was a good response," Menezes told me backstage after the show. "There was an important vibe—something I hadn't felt here in a long time."

Menezes, who lives in her native Bahia, told me that she will be returning home soon for the launch of a new live DVD and then it's rehearsals for the upcoming Summer events in Brazil.

Both Ara Ketu and Margareth Menezes gave memorable performances at Summerstage this year, and those shows will linger in peoples' memories for a long time.

The festival included the screening of two movies. Friday featured Fala Tu (Lives Of Rhyme), a documentary about a troupe of rappers from the slums of Rio. On Saturday, it was the turn of Viva Voz (Speaker Phone), a comedy about misunderstandings and confusions caused by modern technology.

2nd Brazilian Festival of New York
July 09 and 10, 2004
Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY

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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