25 08 2016

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Blonde

25 08 2016

I have spent the last few days in Frank Ocean’s world. I can’t remember the last time an album had such an impact on me; I have felt myself immersed in it. I have listened to it (of course), savouring the strange, witchy layers of sound, the abrupt changes, the loping melodies and the lyrics which float out at you and hit you in the face on second or third or fourth listen. And I have been reading about it too. I followed the internet debates – was it a scam? Was it too “white”? Was it too boring? I wondered, why isn’t it gayer? Then I found myself appreciating  a man putting out a record both black and gay and yet beyond any of that, and still so truthful and tender. I love its abstraction, its lack of soundbites, its subtlety, its weird beauty. I love the video for “Nikes” with its glittery butts and pearl suits and artistic flair.  Here are Frank’s thoughts on making the album, followed by the review from Pitchfork.

Frank says: “Two years ago I found an image of a kid with her hands covering her face. A seatbelt reached across her torso, riding up her neck and a mop of blonde hair stayed swept, for the moment, behind her ears. Her eyes seemed clear and calm but not blank, the road behind her seemed the same. I put myself in her seat then I played it all out in my head.”

“Raf Simons once told me it was cliché, my whole car obsession. Maybe it links to a deep subconscious straight boy fantasy. Consciously though, I don’t want straight — a little bent is good.”

“I found it romantic, sometimes, editing this project. The whole time I felt as though I was in the presence of a $16m McLaren F1 armed with a disposable camera. My memories are in these pages, places closeby and long ass-numbing flights away. Recording in Tokyo, NYC, Miami, LA, London, Paris. Stopping in Berlin to witness Berghain for myself. Trading jewels and soaking in parables with the many-headed Brandon aka BasedGod in conversation.”

“Boys do cry, but I don’t think I shed a tear for a good chunk of my teenage years. It’s surprisingly my favorite part of life so far. Surprising, to me, because the current phase is what I was asking the cosmos for when I was a kid. Maybe that part had its rough stretches too, but in my rearview mirror it’s getting small enough to convince myself it was all good. And really though… It’s still all good.”

And Pitchfork, in a 9 out of ten review, said that:

The stories Frank tells here find solace in sorrow. They’re fucked up and lonely, but not indulgent. They offer views into unseen places and overlooked souls. They console. They bleed. And yes, they cry.”

 





Brazil, beach

25 08 2016

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Photography by David Alan Harvey.

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BRAZIL. Rio de Janeiro. 2011.[lF][lF]Contact email: New York : photography@magnumphotos.com Paris : magnum@magnumphotos.fr London : magnum@magnumphotos.co.uk Tokyo : tokyo@magnumphotos.co.jp Contact phones: New York : +1 212 929 6000 Paris: + 33 1 53 42 50 00 London: + 44 20 7490 1771 Tokyo: + 81 3 3219 0771 Image URL: http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox_VPage&IID=2K7O3RKCWSKL&CT=Image&IT=ZoomImage01_VForm





The Rio Olympics

25 08 2016

And so, the Olympics have come to an end. As someone who has such passionate memories of Rio, I was excited, and scared, as the games approached. Zika, water pollution, a bike path swept out to sea, a virtual coup, a deep recession: what else could go wrong for Rio?

But in the event the games were neither a disaster, nor – from my perspective – a triumph. The opening and closing ceremonies struck me as a little bland – in this least bland of cities. Of course, they were implemented on a much tighter budget than at other recent Olympics but with the incredible richness and breadth of Brazilian culture, it all seemed a bit anaemic. A bit obvious. I have to say that I was disappointed. Giselle Budchen walking to the “Girl from Ipanema” – really?

So what had I expected? I had visions of Carmen Miranda and the legend of Iracema, great black leaders like the Zumbi of Palmares, the Salvador Muslim slave revolts and Chico Rei, the slave who became a quasi-African king.  What of capoeira and candomble? The great national myths – the revolutions of Tiradentes, the teeth puller, and the rebels of the sertao badlands in the Northeast? I had imagined riotously costumed interpetations of the Amazonian folklore of the jungle peoples: the bumba meu boi, boto dolphin spirits, the minhacao and mula sem cabeca, as well as tributes to the literature of Machado de Assis, the Theatre of the Oppressed. This had been a great opportunity to recast Brazil  in its own imagination as a multiracial, but black, country,  a “new” Brazil. I had prayed for Caetano Veloso to kick off proceedings, spotlit on a stool singing his progressive anthem  “Tropicalia”…. but perhaps that was always naive. These things don’t necessarily “sell” to a worldwide audience. After all, Caetano was there but it was barely noted in the world media. Perhaps what they really needed was Jennifer Lopez?

The games themselves were engaging. The Brits made it rain gold and silver, China and Australia sank and bickered over the swimming and the Chinese team provided a great charmer in Fu Yuanhui and a love-to-hate villain in Sun Yang. Singapore scored a gold, and Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps secured their legacies. And then, in a final pleasing touch, the Brazilians faced their football nemesis, Germany, and finally triumphed at Maracana.

But now that it is over, was it worth it? Guanabana Bay didn’t get cleaned up. The promised new subway lines opened – just in time – but the fighting in the favelas goes on and the Rio taxpayers are left to foot a hefty bill. For a city that is used to throwing such amazing parties, this had all felt a little…forgettable.The fact that the highlight of the closing ceremony was Tokyo’s presentation for 2020 said it all.





Elke Maravilha: a marvellous life

25 08 2016

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Halfway through the Olympics came the news that a Rio icon had passed away. Elke Maravilha was a model and actress, famous for her flamboyance. Blonde and beautiful, she had a huge appetite for life, a magnetic smile and a mile-wide wild streak that had endeared her to generations of Brazilians.

Born Elke Giorgierena Grunnupp Evremides, (you can see why she used a stage name) she had emigrated to Brazil as a child from Leningrad. She came from an academic mixed Russian and German family, and grew up speaking nine European languages before breaking into showbiz as a ditzy blonde appearing on TV talent shows and the catwalk.

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It was her work as a fashion model that led her to form a friendship with Zuzu Angel, the pre-eminent Brazilian fashion designer of the 70s and an unlikely rebel, who used her high profile as a constant thorn in the side of the military dictatorship after her activist son had been kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the regime. Elke was also arrested, after tearing down “wanted” posters offering a reward for his capture. She was held in an infamous prison and torture centre for five days and eventually stripped of her Brazilian citizenship, forcing her to fall back on her German passport.

Still, her show business career went on, often appearing on the television show of the hugely popular surrealist TV comic Chacrinha. She also landed a part as a brothel madam in a TV series that became her signature role. In addition to her huge gay following she was now crowned the godmother of Rio’s sex workers.

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Elke married eight times, most recently to a man thirty years younger, and lived in a pink mansion in Copacabana near the beach, continuing her wild ways until she passed away aged 71, a shock-blonde rebel to the very end.





Brazil, seventies

25 08 2016

Secos & Molhados, the experimental theatre-rock band that launched Ney Matogrosso, a Brazil-rock icon famous for his flamboyant bisexuality and soaring falsetto.

 





Street art superpower?

25 08 2016

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South America is home to some street art heavy-hitters like Sao Paulo and Valparaiso, but now Paraguay’s capital Asuncion has weighed in, staking an impressive claim with its hosting of the pan-Latin American street mural festival Latido Americano.

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