New York’s Brazilian Weekend

 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.
by: Ernest
Barteldes

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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