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“Moro no Brasil”: Brazil’s Joy and Pain Through Her Music

"Moro no Brasil," (aka "The Sound of Brazil") Finnish director Mika Kaurismaki’s 2500 mile journey to discover the amazing diversity of Brazilian musical culture has just been released by Milan Visual Entertainment. 

Far beyond the familiar samba and bossa nova, Kaurismaki’s travels uncover an astonishing diversity of musical styles including frevo, maracatu, coco, embolada and forró, meeting musicians, singers and dancers who show the overwhelming force of music in the often difficult daily life of Brazil. 

Kaurismaki’s subjects run the gamut from the members of the little-known Fulnió Indian tribe to the heroically famous Seu Jorge, a samba singer from Rio who has an international recording and acting career.  The DVD and its accompanying soundtrack are available now.

Kaurismaki begins his journey at the roots of Brazilian music, in the Northeast states of Pernambuco and Bahia.  "My principal idea was to start with the Indians, who were the first ones to sing and dance in Brazil, and show how the music changed and developed when foreign cultures arrived, first Portuguese and then African and to show where it is today," Kaurismaki says. 

The film takes the viewer through several regions, styles and generations, introducing mancá master Silvério Pessoa, forró legend Jacinto Silva, internationally-renowned afro-reggae-sambist Margareth Menezes and Seu Jorge, the 36-year old singer and actor who turned a difficult upbringing in a Rio favela into a samba with street attitude and social awareness and became one of the most important names in Brazilian popular music.

Born in Orimattila, Finland in 1955, Mika Kaurismaki had made a name for himself among European audiences by the mid 1980s with gangster films such as "Rosso" and "Helsinki Napoli," which were known for their unique sense of irony. 

He developed a reputation as an unconventional director with the thriller "Condition Red" and the ecological adventure film "Amazonas."  His collaboration with Jim Jarmusch and Sam Fuller, "Tigrero" won him the International Film Critics Prize in 1994.  Since 1989, he has lived partially in Rio de Janeiro.

"When we hear about Brazil in the media is, unfortunately, mostly negative, principally about violence and crime," Kaurismaki says.  "But I have encountered many beautiful things too.  What impresses me the most is the joy of life of the common people who suffer. 

"Music plays a big role in the life of the Brazilian people, it can often be seen as offering a way out and a means of increasing self-esteem.  Through their own music, I want to show the people of my current home, their pursuit of joy, of ‘alegria.’"

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    Musica na cabeca
    I had the pleasure of stumbling across this documentary in my local cult video shop a week after returning to Sydney, Australia, from my first trip to Brazil. By co-incidence the documentary focused on the music of the three specific places that I had visited over the previous five weeks: Pernambuco (Olinda/Recife), Salavador and Rio de Janeiro.

    The trip to Brazil was as a soul/funk/jazz musician on a musical odyssey ”“ as well as out for a few cervezas and a bit of fun. I felt I’d only scratched the surface. Moro no Brasil put a lot of what I saw, heard and people I’d met into a little more perspective. It further clarified the incredible cultural and historical diversity and joy of different Brazilian music; variously rooted in tradition but in a constant state of conversation and change.

    Basic Portuguese allowed my traveling companions and me to meet with and share and perform our music with Brazilians. And they liked our music as much as we liked theirs! And luckily a few of us are still in touch.

    I’d like to think from now on I’ll be back to Brazil promoting my gigs in Rio and Sao Paulo and reciprocally promoting Brazilian musicians in Sydney and Melbourne. Quite a fantasy for those familiar with the independent music industry (but the world can’t erase his fantasy!). Thanks to Kaurismaki for Moro no Brasil and for keeping the exchange of ideas and inspiration going………..

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