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Titanic Days



Titanic Days

After three years of success with inflation brought to its lowest level
in 40 years there are few skeptics left who doubt the efficiency of Plano
Real. The plan, however, still has major challenges ahead, namely the reduction
of the budget deficit and sustained growth.

By Brazzil Magazine

Allowing artists a rare opportunity for exposure in an intimate setting,
without the amplification that has become standard in today’s pop music,
MTV’s Unplugged series has both rejuvenated and propelled the careers of
artists as diverse as Melissa Etheridge, Tony Bennett, and Pearl Jam. By
furnishing musicians a more relaxed format, this innovative program has
inadvertently disbursed the Midas touch. Unlike other small-screen presentations,
Unplugged offers the artist the opportunity to perform an entire set, rather
than just one hit tune. CDs extracted from the series, like Gilberto Gil’s
Acoustic, have achieved remarkable success, and many of the Unplugged
recordings have earned Grammys. The latest MTV spawned CD is from Titãs,
a group that has exemplified the vitality of Brazilian rock since the mid
1980s.

Titãs (Titans) is a group from São Paulo that has continuously
fused their vision with the rhythm of the times. The band has constantly
reinvigorated its playing by keeping in front of innovation and by incorporating
the best and most compatible elements into an approach of rhythmic power
and individuality. Each new Titãs release foreshadowed rock’s next
phase and established an artistically diverse moment in pop music. Viewed
by many as an institution that has inscribed its name in the Pantheon of
MPB (Brazilian Popular Music), Titãs ascended onto the rock scene
with their first recording, Titãs, in 1984. Their first hit,
"Sonífera Ilha" (Sleepy Island), was a romantic lament
and was indicative of the band’s initial direction. Their second effort,
Televisão, produced by Lulu Santos in 1985, maintained a
similar style. But tastes were shifting toward New Wave, and lyrics with
a sarcastic edge also appeared on the recording and were soon to become
an important characteristic of the band’s work.

After two projects, Titãs had acquired the savvy and studio experience
that placed them in a position to dicker with their record company regarding
aesthetic exploration, and in 1986 Titãs returned to the studio
to record an album that was to become the touchstone of Brazilian rock,
Cabeça Dinossauro (Dinosaur Head). Its use of guitar distortion,
electronic effects, persistent rhythms, compact forms, and tongue-lashing
lyrics, which implicitly protested society’s ills, awed critics and consolidated
a multitude of Titãs fans. The poetic force and musical strength
of Cabeça Dinossauro marked the maturity of the band and
separated them from other Brazilian rock bands. Produced by Liminha, Cabeça
Dinossauro was designated as the best recording of the 1980s by Jornal
do Brasil.

Working again with Liminha, Titãs reached their most turbulent
phase in 1987 with Jesus Não Tem Dentes no País dos Banguelas
(Jesus Doesn’t Have Teeth In the Country of the Toothless). Attacking the
political situation and the status quo, Titãs accidentally threw
open the floodgates of success. From that point on, each release brought
the band greater popularity, even among critics who loathed the current
climate in rock `n’ roll. With Go Back, recorded live in Montreux,
Switzerland, in 1988, Titãs formally introduced themselves to hordes
of international admirers.

In the blur of these successes the band released Õ Blésq
Blom in 1989, a project strongly influenced by the repentistas
Mauro and Quitéria. Repentistas are musicians who travel
through the countryside (primarily in the Northeast of Brazil) telling
stories, inventing, embellishing, and insulting each other in rapid-fire
storytelling duels. The term stems from the expression "de repente,"
or suddenly. The title Õ Blésq Blom doesn’t mean anything.
It is simply a sound that a duo of blind street singers from Recife, Pernambuco
state, used when they wanted to pretend they were singing in English.

Õ Blésq Blom marked a stylistic turning point for
Titãs and a landmark in Brazilian rock. Unrestrained lyrical sarcasm
and sly wit, mocking conventional society, is unmistakable throughout the
recording, as seen in this excerpt from the tune "O Pulso" by
Arnaldo Antunes, Marcelo Fromer, and Tony Bellotto:

 

O pulso ainda pulsa

O pulso ainda pulsa

Peste bubônica câncer pneumonia

Raiva rubéola tuberculose anemia

Rancor cisticercose caxumba difteria

Encefalite faringite gripe leucemia

O pulso ainda pulsa

O pulso ainda pulsa

 

The pulse still throbs

The pulse still throbs

Bubonic plague, cancer, pneumonia

Rabies, rubeola, tuberculosis, anemia

Rage, cirrhosis, mumps, diphtheria

Encephalitis, pharyngitis, flu, leukemia

The pulse still throbs

The pulse still throbs

It seemed like Titãs couldn’t be stopped. These eight consummate
musicians were on a roll. They knew what they were doing and were earning
big money doing it. There was a strong balance of talent within the group,
yet Arnaldo Antunes stood out as the force that ignited the band with his
electrifying stage presence and his rich, dissident poetry, full of puns.
In this promising atmosphere, Titãs decided in 1992 to produce their
own work and presented the public with their 7th and most controversial
recording to date.

The release of Tudo ao Mesmo Tempo Agora (Everything At the Same
Time Now) brought a rash of negative reviews. Music critics who had been
raving about Titãs for years, were suddenly complaining about an
"alternative" sound. It seemed like reviewers were playing their
familiar game of lift then demolish. And the surprises were not over. Panned
by the media, Tudo ao Mesmo Tempo Agora was commercially a flop,
and following the tour, Arnaldo Antunes left Titãs to embark on
a solo career. His departure was a slap in the face.

One year later, still in the shadow of Tudo ao Mesmo Tempo Agora,
and without Arnaldo Antunes, the band reappeared with a continuum of intensity
called Titanomaquia. The title is an invented word that comes from
the word tauromaquia (bullfight). Produced by Jack Endino, the recording
remains a pinnacle of hardcore Brazilian New Wave. "Felizes São
os Peixes" (Happy are the Fish) is cutting, muscular, and bursting
with heavy slash guitar work. Controversial lyrics, dissonant harmonies,
and primal screaming on tunes like "Agonizando" (Agonizing) reflect
a musical angst that would soon be imitated by countless other bands. Although
underrated by the press, Titanomaquia set a new standard for Brazilian
rock `n’ roll and anticipated the musical aesthetic to come.

Rumors about the dissolution of the band leaked out with the release
of Titãs 84-94. The two volume retrospective commemorated
the different phases of the band and its 10 years together. Gossip continued
to grow as each member of Titãs embarked on individual projects.
Nando Reis recorded his debut solo disc, 12 Janeiro, and wrote for
other artists like the reggae group Cidade Negra and singer Marisa Monte.
Toni Bellotto wrote a novel, Belini e a Esfinge (Belini and the
Sphinx). Marcelo Fromer produced a singer of brega. Sérgio
Britto and Branco Mello formed the band Kleiderman. Charles Gavin studied
abroad. Paulo Miklos recorded his diversified solo project.

Despite the talk, Titãs surfaced in 1995 with a tour de force
of rock, punk, New Wave, and techno dance music called Domingo.
The project was organized and focused with each Titan playing brilliantly.
Special guests included Herbert Vianna and João Barone (Paralamas)
and Igor Cavalera (Sepultura). In addition, there was a reunion with Arnaldo
Antunes on the tune "Tudo em Dia" (Everything On Time). It was
hard for the press to ignore this fanfare of fine musicianship, and Domingo
was an overnight sensation.

Differing stylistically from past recordings, Acústico,
their latest work for MTV’s Unplugged, is an exhibition of indisputable
artistic achievement. The challenge for Titãs this time was to convey
their familiar sledge-hammer delivery with acoustic instruments; no post-show
overdubbing is allowed in the Unplugged format. Playing turbulent rock
`n’ roll in a large auditorium presents a musician with one set of obstacles;
acoustic playing presents quite another. It is especially a drummer’s dilemma,
and Charles Gavin was impelled to completely reinvent his approach to the
drum set. For Unplugged he would not be driving a band of seven accomplished
musicians with amplifiers cranked up to the verge of pain and flooding
through an oppressive sound technology, but a tightly controlled chamber
orchestra.

In this unorthodox format Titãs rose to the challenge with a
deluge of adventurous ideas. One of them was to form a close creative alliance
with cellist and arranger Jacques Morelenbaum, well known for his affiliation
with Caetano Veloso. Morelenbaum’s imaginative arrangements called for
three brass, a woodwind quartet, an additional percussionist (Marcos Suzano),
a string quartet, and a harpist. With this orchestration he created a distinct
sound mass that not only preserved the explosive character of the music,
but also strengthened it. The Titãs punch remains, but it comes
through the melody lines and the sharp-tongued lyrics rather than a head-banging
wall of amplifiers.

Recorded during two shows at the João Caetano Theater in Rio
during the 6th and 7th of March, Acústico is as much a video
as it is a CD. The disc/video holds blazing performances by some of the
brightest lights on the scene today including Marisa Monte, Rita Lee, Marina
Lima, Fito Paez, and reggae star Jimmy Cliff. Moving through romantic ballads,
MPB, New Wave, funk, reggae, and grunge, Acústico embraces
familiar hits, never recorded material, and new works. It is not a "Best
Of" compilation, but a sensational 22 track repertoire of quintessential
Brazilian rock.

There is an undeniable group gestalt injecting the entire recording
with a firmly ordered and seamless consistency. This should occasion no
surprise given the caliber of each player’s musicianship. All are performing
at aroused levels of expressive power and focused intensity. This latest
recording confirms that Titãs has remained a questing, exploratory
unit and assures the delivery of a slew of hits. Ironically the first hit
was "Pra Dizer Adeus," (To Say Good-bye):

 

É cedo

Ou tarde demais

Pra dizer adeus

Pra dizer jamais

 

It’s early

Or way too late

To say good-bye

To say never

Born again as a ballad, "Pra Dizer Adeus" hooks the listener
with the simplicity and sincerity of its lyricism. Its clearly focused
structure and firm harmonic logic is augmented by Morelenbaum’s variegated
string arrangement. How apropos that "Pra Dizer Adeus," recorded
first in 1985 on Televisão, has returned as a hit 12 years
later.

Playing with power and assurance, Charles Gavin is absolutely riveting
on "Comida," (Food) the disc’s opening track. Rising to the challenge
of the acoustic instrumentation, his controlled passion fuses provocatively
with the rhythmic currents set up by acoustic guitars in the hypnotic introduction.
The drum set is literally an extension of himself. Originally an electro-funk
arrangement on Jesus Não Tem Dentes no País dos Banguelas,
the tune’s current reincarnation combines the heated fervor of a tenor
sax solo with Sérgio Britto’s inspired keyboard work.

The tongue-in-cheek reggae "Família" from Cabeça
Dinossauro, dissects one of society’s idiosyncrasies—familial chemistry—with
relevant alacrity while the Titãs rhythm section—Nando Reis and
Charles Gavin—administers a foundation of economical bass lines and strong
back beats. A complex, richly colored introduction and coda arrangement
for two flutes contrasts the caustic societal matter of the lyrics sung
by Nando Reis.

"Marvin," a funk tune that was first released on Go Back
and again on Titãs 84-94, has returned refreshed. This
time "Marvin" is nourished by a consistently spark-producing
cuíca and a somber trombone solo that epitomizes the savory
insight of the lyrics, again sung by Nando.

Marisa Monte radiates on "Flores" (Flowers). Time and again
she claims our attention with a gripping intensity on this tune from Õ
Blésq Blom. An original voice of great distinctiveness, her
performance in this duet with Branco Mello is another illustration of Monte’s
deepening individuality and magnetism. An intriguing, always perfectly
controlled tension grows as Monte floats ethereally over the driving rhythm
and horn sections.

"Não Vou Lutar" (I’m Not Going To Fight), a tune Paulo
Miklos started writing some time ago, but finished during the Acústico
rehearsals is consistently absorbing. Miklos excels as both a player
and a writer. "Os Cegos do Castelo" (The Blind Men in the Castle)
is a composition Nando Reis wrote especially for Acústico.
But here, the bass roll passes into the hands of the disc’s producer, Liminha.
The tune has an MPB. spirit and is laced by woodwinds and strings. "Diversão"
(Entertainment) from Jesus Não Tem Dentes no País dos
Banguelas hammers the listener with insistent power. Its melodic structure
is illuminated by the originality of a horn arrangement by Marcelo Martins.
"Diversão" achieves a total detonation through the masterful
integration of horns, percussion, hard acoustic guitar attacks, and an
unrelenting bass line.

The Titãs Acústico CD has already sold over 500
thousand copies and has brought pressure to other vanguard groups like
Os Paralamas, formerly Os Paralamas do Sucesso (The Mudguards of Success),
to release works of similar import. Paralamas actually considered recording
an Unplugged project but found the market already congested by the Titãs
release and has since opted for a commemorative box-set reissue titled
Pólvora (Gunpowder).

Dazzling live performances by Titãs have always been rooted in
electricity, a specialty of the band. Thus, the public’s tremendous reception
for this "unplugged" Titãs CD was somewhat surprising.
And now the logistics of touring with Acústico have posed
some problems. The original idea was to have shows only in São Paulo
and in Rio. These would be easier in terms of hiring session musicians
who could realize the concept and read the charts with minimal rehearsal
time. But because the show has been growing at a startling rate and involves
many musicians, a lot of scenery, and a large production crew; the breaking
down, moving, and re-assembly of the production has become expensive and
complicated. Titãs, nonetheless, intends to produce the same Acústico
show with the same personnel and travel with it.

At the end of this year Titãs plans to release a disc of compositions
that have never made it to a CD. In 1998 the band will pause briefly for
work on solo projects. By dividing their time between new releases and
work on individual projects, the band has managed to stay together for
15 years. The temporary interruptions in the band’s career for parallel
work appear to be fundamental for encouraging its overall imaginative and
artistic experimentation.

After a decade and a half on the roquenrol roller coaster, this
band has become an obligatory reference of Brazilian pop and continues
to provide innumerable lessons for up and coming musicians. Their influence
has thoroughly shaped the face of Brazilian rock music since the 1980s.
One reason Titãs is still in the forefront of Brazilian rock is
the enduring quality of their music. Acústico amply demonstrates
another: Titãs can still hand out a surprise.


LYRICS AND

TRANSLATION

"Marvin" (1984)

R. Dunbar and 

G. N. Johnson

Meu pai não tinha educação

Ainda me lembro, era um grande coração

Ganhava a vida com muito suor

Mas mesmo assim não podia ser pior

Pouco dinheiro pra poder pagar

Todas as contas e despesas do lar

Mas Deus quis vê-lo no chão

Com as mãos levantadas pro céu

Implorando perdão

Chorei, meu pai disse, "Boa sorte,”

Com a mão no meu ombro

Em seu leito de morte

E disse

"Marvin, agora é só você

E não vai adiantar

Chorar vai me fazer sofrer."

Três dias depois de morrer

Meu pai eu queria saber

Mas não botava nem o pé na escola

Mamãe lembrava disso a toda hora

Todo dia antes do sol sair

Eu trabalhava sem me distrair

As vezes acho que não vai dar pé

Eu queria fugir, mas onde eu estiver

Eu sei muito bem o que ele quis dizer

Meu pai, eu me lembro não me deixa esquecer

Ele disse

"Marvin, a vida é pra valer

Eu fiz o meu melhor

E o seu destino eu sei de cor."

E então um dia uma forte chuva veio

E acabou com o trabalho de um ano inteiro

E aos treze anos de idade eu sentia

Todo o peso do mundo em minhas costas

Eu queria jogar mas perdi a aposta

Trabalhava feito um burro nos campos

Só via carne se roubasse um frango

Meu pai cuidava de toda a família

Sem perceber segui a mesma trilha

Toda noite minha mãe orava

Deus, era em nome da fome

Que eu roubava

Dez anos passaram,

Cresceram meus irmãos

E os anaw6kx levaram minha mãe pelas mãos

Chorei, meu pai disse, "Boa sorte,”

Com a mão no meu ombro

Em seu leito de morte

"Marvin, agora é só você

E não vai adiantar

Chorar vai me fazer sofrer

Marvin, a vida é pra valer

Eu fiz o meu melhor

E o seu destino eu sei de cor."


"Marvin"

My father was not an educated man

Still I remember, he had a great heart

He earned his living with a lot of sweat

Even though it could not be worse

Little money to pay

All the bills and expenses of our home

But God wanted to see him on the ground

With his hands raised to Heaven

Begging for forgiveness

I cried, and my father said, "Good luck,"

With his hand on my shoulder

On his deathbed

And said

"Marvin, now it’s only you

And it’s no use to go on

Crying, you will only make me suffer."

Three days after his death

I want to know

But I couldn’t put a foot in school

Mom reminded me about this every time

Every day before the sun rises

I work without distraction

At times I believe that it’s going to be impossible

I would like to escape, but where would I be

I know very well what he wanted to tell me

My father, I remember, will not let me forget

He said

"Marvin, life is hard

I did my best

And your destiny I know by heart."

And then one day a strong rain came

And the work of a whole year was finished

And when I was thirteen, I felt

All the weight of the world on my shoulders

I wanted to gamble, but lost the bet

I worked like a mule in the fields

I would eat meat if I stole a chicken

My father took care of the whole family

Without realizing, I followed the same road

Every night my mother would pray

God, was in the name of hunger

That I did steal

Ten years passed

My brothers grew

And the angels took my mother in their hands

I cried, my father said, "Good luck,"

With his hand on my shoulder

On his deathbed

"Marvin, now it’s only you

And it’s no use to go on

Crying, you will only make me suffer 

Marvin, life is hard

I did my best

And your destiny I know by heart."


"Não Vou Lutar" 1997

Paulo Miklos and 

Sérgio Britto

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto

Vou me entregar como um soldado cansado e faminto

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto

Porque a verdade explode cada vez que eu minto

Não posso mais viver em conflito

Não vou negar o que é tão claro

Vou me entregar em tudo que eu faço, em tudo que eu falo

Não vou negar o que é tão claro

Porque a verdade explode mesmo quando eu me calo

Não posso mais viver sem estar ao seu lado

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto

A verdade explode cada vez que eu minto

Não posso mais viver em conflito

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto

Não vou lutar contra o que eu sinto


"I’m Not Going to Fight"

I’m not going to fight what I feel

I’m going to give up like a soldier tired and hungry

I’m not going to fight what I feel

Because the truth explodes every time that I lie

I cannot live in conflict anymore

I won’t deny what is so clear

I’m going to surrender everything that I do, everything that I say

I won’t deny what is so clear

Because the truth explodes even when I’m quiet

I can’t live anymore without you by my side

I’m not going to fight what I feel

I’m not going to fight what I feel

The truth explodes every time that I lie

I cannot live in conflict anymore

I’m not going to fight what I feel

I’m not going to fight what I feel


"A Melhor Forma" 1997

Sérgio Britto, 

Paulo Miklos, 

and Branco Mello

A melhor forma de esquecer

É dar tempo ao tempo

A melhor forma de curar o vício

É no início

A melhor forma de escolher

É provar o gosto

A melhor forma de chorar

É cobrindo o rosto

Evitar as rugas

É não olhar no espelho

Esvaziar o revólver

É puxar o gatilho

A melhor forma de esconder as lágrimas

É na escuridão

A melhor forma de enxergar no escuro

É com as mãos

As idéias estão no chão

Você tropeça e acha a solução 

Acabar com a dor

É tomar analgésico

Matar a saudade

É não olhar pra trás

A melhor forma de manter-se jovem

É esconder a idade

A melhor forma de fugir

É a toda velocidade

As idéias estão no chão

Você tropeça e acha a solução


"The Best Way"

The best way to forget

Is to give time to time

The best way to cure a vice

Is at the beginning

The best way to choose

Is to check the taste

The best way to cry

Is to cover the face

To avoid wrinkles

Don’t look in the mirror

To empty the revolver

Pull the trigger

The best way to hide your tears

Is in the dark

The best way to see in the dark

Is with your hands

The ideas are on the ground

You stumble and find a solution

To end pain

Take an analgesic

To kill the longing

Don’t look back

The best way to keep yourself young

Is to hide your age

The best way to escape

Is with complete haste

The ideas are on the ground

You stumble and find a solution


Discography:

1997 Acústico

1995 Domingo

1994 Titãs 84-94

1993 Titanomaquia

1992 Tudo ao Mesmo Tempo Agora

1989 Õ Blésq Blom

1988 Go Back

1987 Jesus Não Tem Dentes no País dos Banguelas

1986 Cabeça Dinossauro

1985 Televisão

1984 Titãs


 

Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil, received
his Masters degree in music from California Institute of the Arts. He leads
the Brazilian jazz ensemble Axé and plays cuíca for
escola de samba MILA. You can reach him through his E-mail: cuica@interworld.net

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