Sweeter and Sweeter

Sweeter and Sweeter

Roseana is the major star of the Party of the Liberal Front,
the trump card the party is playing in
the race for the presidency.
Furthermore, she is beautiful and elegant, well spoken,
and attractive on
a television screen. And she is
the only woman in the crowd of starched, male politicians.

By Brazzil Magazine

I was a lowly midshipman on a training cruise when someone introduced me to Gilberto Gil in some out-of-the-way
gin joint in Luanda. It was Ash Wednesday. The year was 1967. Angola was still under Portuguese rule. Luanda, its capital and largest
city—founded by the Portuguese in 1575 in the northwest part of Africa on the Atlantic Ocean—had none of the enduring scars
of wartime experiences that it shows today.

Tuca, the late Brazilian singer and a sweet chubby woman who had a strong and enchanting voice, accompanied Gil at
the outset of his long successful career as a songsmith. They were touring Africa with a small troupe of Brazilian pop musicians. We had a glib and friendly chat about trivialities. He facetiously dubbed me "Saylor" and told me about his childhood
in the State of Bahia. At one point, he didactically enunciated one of his favorite courses of reasoning, that is,
"the underlying facts and causes that provide logical sense for the premises that establish Brazilian rhythm as one of the most
melodious and harmonic in the world of pop music, as a result of its African

Throughout his life, Gilberto Gil has maintained this baroque speech, marked by elaborate ornamentation and
strained effects, not to mention the unmistakable modulation of pitch and tone in his typical and graceful Bahian twang. We were both very young then, and enjoyed playing with words. He laughed when I told him that any
intelligent conversation would have to do with playing on words; the rest were just dull reports or definitions. He vowed to quote
me on that one in the future.

Thirty-four years have gone by, and in such a huge time frame I only saw him once in Salvador, in 1975, but we hardly
had a chance to talk. Nowadays, I glance through a newspaper or a magazine at random and there he is. Gilberto Gil is still getting around
a great deal, but he hasn’t changed much.

I often watch him on TV and read about him in the periodicals. When I hear him in some talk show, it feels as though
we are still back in that small African bar shooting the breeze over a couple of beers.

"I have not yet forgotten the starlight and the moonshine that filtered through the transparent ceiling of my
bedroom in the small town of Ituaçu, in the interior of Bahia, where I lived out my early
youth", he narrates. "I look upon
that clarity—charged with some sort of transcendental energy—as one of my first

That may well have been the cause for his introspective disposition.

"Through those tiles I could appreciate the night, see the eclipse, and wait for
Santa", he reminisces. "The entire
idea I acquired on the concept of light, from oil lampions to Aladdin’s magic lamp, arises from those first bedazzlements".

Carried away by a flood of inspiration, he usually brings out his sense of mystical religiousness.

"Hence I further related to other types of light, interiorized my emotions, and established a bond between the man
and the transcendence. I have, therefore, this relish for religiosity, for this human need to find myself explained within the
scope of nature, within the cosmos, and also way beyond my own

The man, Gilberto Gil, may be introspective, but the poet, the singer and the songwriter are extroverts to be sure.
They’ve all had a shining and coherent existence together, as well as equally substantial quotas of bedazzlements.

Many were the inducements that led the newspaper
O Globo to single out Gil as the Brazilian cultural celebrity of the
year 2000: the record he made especially to be inserted in the deluxe edition of the book inscribed to him by the artist Bené
Fonteles (Gil, Voice and Guitar, in 15
Songs); the magnificent show with Maria Bethânia on New Year’s Eve, at Barra Lighthouse,
in the city of Salvador, the state capital of Bahia; the celebration—in partnership with Moraes Moreira—of the 50
year-old existence of the electric trio (a truck in motion, rigged with a stereophonic sound-reproduction system, carrying
performers of live music that sing sambas,
frevos, forrós and
axé tunes, all being typical Afro-Brazilian rhythms); the reunification
with Luiz Gonzaga’s accordion and timbre on the sound track of the movie
Eu, Tu, Eles (I, You, Them); the record and the
show with Milton Nascimento; the keen insights and positive outlooks by plastic artists about his works; and the certainty that
he will soon be able to retake the project of a CD dedicated to Bob Marley’s songs.

This tribute to Bob Marley is a paramount object in Gil’s moments of introspection and revaluation of his career.

"Those are songs by one of the artists who have impressed me the most, both as a musician and as a human
being," Gil stresses. "Bob Marley left a colorful and perfumed trail on me that I wish to preserve. I have thought of him a great deal
for ten years now as one of the last spokesmen on behalf of the question of the Black Diaspora and of the role of the blacks
in this world. I have this urge to repay Bob for all that grandeur of his. With that purpose in mind, I’ve already talked with
his widow, Rita Marley, about my sojourn at Jamaica, in order to finish up the Rio de Janeiro-Salvador-Kingston

Gil hasn’t been on a regular vacation in a long while, and his agenda for 2001 was exceptionally varied, and full: a
concert tour with Milton Nascimento during the first quarter (Uruguay, Argentina, Northeast Brazil, United States and Europe); a
new edition of the World Percussion Panorama (PercPan) Festival in Salvador, São Paulo, Rio, Marseilles and New York); and
the usual invites he’s never unwilling to accept, inasmuch as he always feels obligated to help whomever takes interest in his
art. The Bob Marley project will have to be put off for the time being.

Even though Gilberto Gil may have, in a recent interview, defined himself as an erratic being, with
"gusto for political and social discussions relating to
art", he is not likely to get involved in controversial quarrels and squabbles, much less
create them. And when he does, it is with the serenity—almost the sweetness—of a sage.

"Yes, I account myself to be growing sweeter and sweeter as the years go by, more and more tolerant in regard to
the existence of views that deny my outlooks and
assertions", he remarks. "I’m inherently contrary to
wrangles. The sword is not my instrument. I cannot reckon my standpoint as essentially dominant. I have no need for winning wars; I’ve
never been much of a warrior. And more and more I tend towards accepting dissimilar ways of thinking out

Gil believes that most of his songs are meant to deal with
"the tenuous thread that separates a man with his feet on
the ground from a man with his eyes in the
sky". In that respect, the poet and the musician are as one entity. Within
the songsmith—the writer of lyrics and tunes—there is an impetus that incites integration:

"Sometimes, it is the melody that steps forward to settle that sort of dialogue with a compromise. On other
occasions, the words make the approach; but sentiments always come first. Every thought is invariably preceded by a

And yet there are differences between lyrics and tunes:

"Words become broken into fragments, but not music. Words tread various paths, whereas music is Pythagorean,
an assemblage of organized sounds. However, both lyrics and melodies empty into the sonorous chaos of the mantra.
My music has always been a tribute to this chaotic side of the sounds of nature: the waterfalls, the reverberation of thunder,
the singing of the birds, and the blowing of the wind. That is natural and mathematical. Then words come in between. All of
a sudden, you utter a howl, and that means something; that cry winds up in some little space meant to be the dwelling
of words. In the end, everything falls into the category of

Gil’s religiousness is exercised in a very particular manner: the boy who has been brought up within the Catholic
faith converts himself into "Candomblé", a religion practiced chiefly in Brazil, syncretized from Roman Catholic ritual elements
and the animism and magic of Nigerian slaves. Seashells, when cast, will reveal that Gil is of "Xangô", a violent and vindictive
god whose tantrums are thrown with thunderbolts. Still and all, the "Candomblé" gods are hardly known for their logical
reasoning or steady behavior.

But the mystic is skeptical of reincarnation.

"In fact, a syllogistic tenet such as mine finds it difficult to grasp this migration phenomenon of souls into bodies.
Those who choose that route must’ve had their own set of experiences on this matter. I didn’t. I respect those visions, although
my Cartesian mind rejects them. According to Patrick Drouot
(a French physicist who studied past
lives), it is necessary to free your rational consciousness, and let this immense feeling invade you, in order to be able to accept it. There was a
time when I simply brushed off reincarnation. Not anymore. That doesn’t mean I believe in it; it just means that I’ll go along
with it".

Once again Gil concentrates on the sheer value of speech and calls our attention to the fact that religious
philosophies are very mindful of the importance of words. He sees eye to eye with the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa in that
"all is worthwhile if the soul is not
vile", and credits fate with everything he’s been through in his existence, including his
latest successes.

"Things happen only because you push yourself around. There’s conformity in everything, in your dreams, in
your myths. In other words, things come to pass `in conformity with your age’, as time and space urge you to action.
Summing it all up: we’re talking reflections here; the world mirrors you, and you mirror the

Turning back to his first lights, Gil believes that this world is a permanent continuance of the battle between
duskiness and luminance, between intuition and reason.

"It is a struggle against that gravitational feeling that glues us to the ground and subjects us to the creeping
impulses of envy, hatred, wrath and all other forms of justification for small
souls. A few special men won that battle:
Einstein, Gandhi, Mandella, Martin Luther King Jr.… and, to be sure, Dorival




Jornal O GLOBO: oglobo@globo.com.br



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