Rio Alternativo

6 06 2013

Sao Paulo has always been Brazil’s alternative hotspot with its rock scene, Rua Augusta hipster hangouts full of tattooed girls and nose-ringed boys, Voodoohop parties, street art and this weekend’s art-sex PopPorn Festival.

But Rio? The city of easy living, beach bodies and samba and bossa nova (in the priveleged Zona Sul at least)?

Surprisingly, Rio also its own alternative scene centred around Copacabana sweatbox club Fosfobox, and including the BootieRio and Buati parties. But now there is also a new new punk/metal hotspot Praça de Bandeiras in the grittier Zona Norte.

A whole new side to the “Marvellous City”.

Sampa’s gay rain

4 06 2013

Rain failed to dampen spirits at the world’s biggest Gay Pride party, the annual Orghulho Gay party in Sao Paulo. Between one and three million people hit the streets to celebrate, including domestic superstar Daniela Mercury, newly “out”, who kissed her wife Malu to cheering crowds.


4 06 2013

Views of Rio

5 05 2013

Images of the world’s most photogenic city from photographer David Allan Harvey and his new book, “Based on a True Story”.


5 05 2013

DJ Carlos CAPSLOCK has a) the best DJ name in the world

b) a startling, and rather avant-garde style

and c) a funny/disturbing “logo” in the form of a smiling blonde face.

He is one of the crew for Sao Paulo’s Voodoohop parties discussed before on the blog here.

Bossa nova e foda

16 04 2013

A strangely affecting video from the now 70-year old but musically still-youthful king of Brazilian pop, Caetano Veloso.

Bangkok Amazon

15 04 2013

Street art by Cece Nobre, in Lad Phrao.

Space Invader

9 04 2013

A projection turns a Sao Paulo skyscraper into a gigantic retro arcade game, playable by passerby with iPads. More here.

MPB break

19 03 2013

First it was the Australian hipsters, now here come the Brazilians. This is new MPB (“Musica Popular Brasileira”) act Macau ( or at least one previously unknown to me) featuring the ice-cool Barbara Eugenia.

Summer songs

16 03 2013

Mallu Magalhaes and her song “Highly Sensitive” (used in a Latin American commercial for Windows 8).

Brazilian music now and then: Criolo ao vivo on vimeo and Caetano back from the past

4 03 2013

Brazilian rapper/crooner Criolo has not only taped his concert in Rio, he has put it up on his website to download for free (or a contribution if you wish). See it here.

Meanwhile I also unearthed this cute tribute to the original ‘tropicalistas’ – Brazil’s original  1960s and 70s folk-funky-rock rebels who influence is still felt  – in artists like Criolo – today.


2 03 2013

From the new Caetano Veloso CD, “Abraçaço”.

True love is blind

1 03 2013

Watch the sweet Brazilian short film “Curta – Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho” here, in its entirety with English subtitles (click on the CC in the bottom bar). It is about a blind boy and his (predictable but still sweet) crush on his new friend. The film is now being reworked into a two-hour feature.

Neighbouring Sounds

23 02 2013

Neighbouring Sounds is the first film by Kleber Mendonça Filho, and has been heralded by many critics as the arrival of a major new talent. One writer described it as  “almost, but not quite, great” and most reviews felt that despite some flaws, the film was taut and subtly disquieting. The trailer above, with its masterful intercutting of domestic scenes and ominously building music, certainly seems to support that.

The film follows the lives of those living and working on a block in the city of Recife, in Brazil’s Northwest – at first utterly normal but hiding a sense of tension and paranoia pervasive in crime (and guilt) ridden middle-class Brazil. The arrival of a new team of security men brings this menace to the surface. What exactly are they there to protect?

On the “to-watch” list!

Gaby Amarantos is the Beyonce of the Amazon

21 02 2013

Although judging from this track and her risque fashion sense, she could also be dubbed the Brazilian Rihanna. The curvaceous singer from Belem, on the banks of the Amazon, has been monickered a ‘Brazilian Beyonce’ for her love of off-the-shoulder black leotards. But her music is just as interesting as her fashion sense (and the kitschtastic cover of her new album).

Like all great port cities, Belem provides a rich stew of influences, not only Afro-Brazilian but also from around the Spanish-speaking countries of the Amazon rainforest basin. The result is techno-tinged merengue Amazonian pop like this:

And the winner is….

15 02 2013

Vila Isabel, whose agriculture-themed float clinched them the crown at the 2013 Rio Carnaval. Photos of this year’s festivities follow.

Korean Karnaval

12 02 2013

Carnaval has hit full swing in Rio this week  – see the images above from the Ipanema street parties courtesy of Junior, my Brazil informant ;)

The official competitions have started too in the Sambadromo with the second division teams marching on Friday. Inocentes de Belford Roxo, one of the local samba schools, chose as its theme “Celebrating 50 years of Korean immigration to Brazil” complete with K-Pop star Psy watching from the sidelines. The “Gangnam Style” singer had earlier performed to Carnaval crowds in Salvador with Bahiana singer Claudia Leitte.

Meanwhile back in the Rio first divisions, 2010 champions Unidos da Tijuca marched with a German theme, complete with one of their trademark magic tricks – in this case floating hammers of Thor.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday.

Carnival of cats

8 02 2013

This year’s Carnival in Brazil will be bittersweet in light of the country’s recent horrific nightclub fire. The inferno in the provincial city of Santa Maria, in Rio Grande do Sul,  killed more than 200. Some smaller Southern cities have discussed cancelling their celebrations in light of the tragedy, but Rio’s – of course – will go on.

The Guardian has this interesting video on a second-division samba team from the Rio favelas, who call themselves “The Cat of Bonsuccesso”, discussing the rich folklore of the Carnival and what it means to them.

Unfortunately I couldn’t embed the video but the link is here:

Rio’s Carnival hits its climax this coming weekend.

A fitting tribute

25 01 2013

Sao Paulo’s arresting multicoloured tribute to Oscar Niermeyer, the architect who passed away this year aged 101. He was responsible for one of the city’s landmarks, the hulking masterpiece or to some,dystopia, of the  Copan building. Famed for its massive bulk and sinuous curve, this skyscraper was built as an innovative mixed-income housing project, complete with luxury penthouses and cheap public flats (supposedly favoured by the city’s tranny hookers). It houses so many people it has its own postcode, and a local Buddhist group uses its summit for meditation (in place of the traditional mountain top).

Local street artist Kobra has produced this massive mural right in the heart of the city, on Avenida Paulista.


22 01 2013

True Blood, Game of Thrones, the Wire … and now Destino? HBO is not only the home of many of the best American TV series it is also home to (who knew?) a Brazilian wing. Destino is an HBO Brasil minseries dramatizing the waves of immigration that have built Sao Paulo, with episodes on the city’s African, Korean, Bolivian and Jewish communities (the last of which features avant garde fashion designer Alexandre Herchcovitch in his acting debut).

African episode:

Jewish episode:

Dirty Hearts: an alternate history

22 01 2013

Corações Sujos is a film about the fascinating but little-known story of Shindo Renmei, a Japanese terrorist organisation that killed 23 people in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state in the dying days of World War 2. Refusing to believe in the surrender of the Emperor, die-hard loyalists set out to attack those within the Japanese immigrant community they accused of defeatism and spreading Allied Propaganda.

The film is – according to a Brazilian friend – not actually very good, but I’m still grateful that it introduced me to such an interesting episode of history, one that has apparently long been a taboo conversation among the Brazilian-Japanese community, eager to show its degree of assimilation.

The film inspired me to check out another book on a similar topic, “A Discontented diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militarism”. I’ve ordered it from Amazon but not yet read it fully – from the sample pages it seems an interesting and surprisingly readable discussion of the Japanese community in Brazil, considered either a goody-good ‘model minority’ or more interestingly to me, a dangerous hotbed of violence and sedition. Evidence of this is in newspaper clippings from the 1960s cited in the book of dangerous “Japanese-looking” criminals hounding Sao Paulo.


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