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Gil and Gal—What a Guy, What a Gal

 Gil 
        and Gal—What a Guy, What a Gal

Brazil’s
Culture Minister, Gilberto Gil, should make singer Gal Costa
an arts ambassador and send her round the world. This single act would

lead to Portuguese ousting English as the international language and have

tourists flocking here by the million. Gal’s voice is as clear as a bell
 with a sensual warmth that cocoons the listener in ethereal bliss.

by:
John Fitzpatrick

It says a lot for
Brazil and its President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, that he chose
one of the country’s greatest singer-songwriters, Gilberto Gil, to be
his culture minister, and it says a lot for Gil that he accepted. Although
Gil managed to get permission to perform a couple of times a year but,
by taking on this position, he stands to lose quite a bit of income from
giving shows. Not only that, the busy life of a government minister means
that he has had little time for composing.

According to the local
press, Gil has written nothing in the last few months. Maybe this is not
too bad a thing since his last album, an awful tribute to Bob Marley,
was pretty dire. Why someone as talented as Gil should waste time on something
as trite, repetitive and monotonous as reggae is a mystery. I have a feeling
he was trying to appeal to the younger market, which has been fooled by
the Marley industry into believing Bob was some kind of symbol of black
aspirations.

It is unlikely that
the post of government minister will provide much inspiration, but perhaps
a few months away from his real profession will give our arts minister
time to reflect on his next step.

Griping Artists

Having said that,
Gil’s post is no sinecure. Artists are a difficult lot to deal with in
any country and are always quick to bite the hand that feeds them, whether
it comes from the state or private sector. Gil is currently trying to
sort out a row over tax breaks granted to companies in return for funding
the arts. Some state-owned companies recently appeared to be saying that
the money should only go to artistic projects which supported government
polices and/or centered on Brazilian issues. As usual, the artists—mainly
filmmakers—voiced concern at this so-called threat to their artistic
freedom.

It would be interesting
to know what the man in the street—and Minister Gil, who does not
rely on handouts from the taxpayer—thinks of this. I recently watched
a couple of (mercifully) short films which had been sponsored by Petrobras.
They were the grainy, black and white, confusing kind of pretentious stuff
you would expect college students to make. Maybe good raw material but
definitely to be kept behind closed doors. Most of us probably think we
have great voices when we sing in the shower, but we don’t inflict our
offerings on the public. The difference with these films was that it was
the taxpayer and consumer who was footing the bill for the director’s
narcissism.

The government is,
probably correctly, showing signs of intervening and overruling the companies.
This means we can be thankful, perhaps, that Petrobras-sponsored short
films will be confined to whatever subject the director cares to inflict
on us rather than on documentaries on tractor production figures and record
harvests. Or can we? In any case, we should be pleased to have someone
like Gil, rather than a hack politician or bureaucrat, in charge of culture,
although whether a culture as vibrant as Brazil’s needs a ministry is
another matter.

I saw him just over
a year ago when he and Milton Nascimento were presenting a CD they had
made together. After a splendid two-hour show, they came down into the
audience and spent half an hour singing their old hits, dancing and, at
one point, formed a giant conga. It was a marvelous evening and I could
not help but admire both artists for their sheer energy and the way they
genuinely bonded with the audience. You could never imagine an American
or British rock star making an effort like this.

Gal Costa—the
Voice of Brazil

Finally, if I were
an adviser to minister Gil I would suggest he exploit one of Brazil’s
greatest natural resources—the voice of Gal Costa. He should make
her an arts ambassador and send her round the world. This single act would
lead to Portuguese ousting English as the international language and have
tourists flocking here by the million. Even though she is in her mid-50s,
Gal’s voice is as beautiful as ever, as clear as a bell with a sensual
warmth that cocoons the listener in ethereal bliss. I would recommend
her to anyone who is learning Portuguese since her diction is so clear
that every word becomes a sparkling jewel. Listen to "Quando Eu Fecho
os Olhos" on her latest CD Galbossatropical and you will see
what I mean.

John Fitzpatrick
is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has
lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance
and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações—
 www.celt.com.br,
which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian
and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br

© John Fitzpatrick
2003

 

 

 

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