New York’s Brazilian Weekend

     New York's Brazilian Weekend

    Central Park’s Summerstage,
    in New York City, had the colors
    of Brazil this year. Direct from Brazil, the Ara Ketu band and
    Margareth Menezes gave memorable performances. Two
    Brazilian movies were screened: Lives of Rhyme, about Rio’s
    rappers and Speaker Phone, a satire on modern technology.
    by: Ernest
    Barteldes

    Brazilians were the main event during the weekend line-up at Central Park’s
    Summerstage in New York City during the 2nd New York University’s
    (NYU) Brazil Movie Festival, which took place July 9 and 10th.

    On Friday, a huge crowd
    gathered to see Ara Ketu, one of the most popular Axé Music bands in
    Brazil. There were
    Brazilian flags everywhere, and many of those in the crowd were proudly wearing
    their flag’s colors. Those who didn’t come in early enough could not get in,
    and many enjoyed the show from the outside.

    "Ara Ketu misses
    you", said vocalist Cacau after the first few numbers, getting a loud
    ovation in response. They wasted little time with talk, and played a selection
    of their hits, such as "Mal-Acostumado" (Spoiled), "Carta
    Branca" (White Letter, an expression that translates more accurately
    as Blank Check), including several classic songs, such as the oft-recorded
    "Isso Aqui é o Que É" (This is it) and Gilberto
    Gil’s "Que Deus Dá"(God-given).

    The set lasted for about
    90 minutes, and the band generally gave everything the crowd wanted to see
    and hear, and those present sang along to every song on the set.

    The band sounded extremely
    tight, and vocalist Cacau seemed to be in great shape as he danced and jumped
    while belting out the songs.

    The enthused audience
    was formed mostly by younger Brazilians in their teens and twenties. There
    seemed to be no incidents, and despite the extreme crowding, everyone was
    extremely well-behaved.

    On Saturday it was the
    turn of Margareth Menezes, the Bahia songstress who made a return appearance
    to Summerstage (she was there seven years ago).

    The public at that show
    was a bit more varied than the day before. The audience was definitely a bit
    older, and there seemed to be more non-Brazilians there this time around.

    Her set was a mix of original
    songs and well-known songs. She caught everyone’s attention with "Alegria
    da Cidade" (The Joy of the Town), a song that mixes afro beats with rock
    and roll riffs during the chorus.

    Menezes seemed to want
    to showcase all of her influences during her set, which included, apart from
    Axé hits such as Carlinhos Brown’s "Me Abraça e Me Beija"
    (Hug Me and Kiss Me), featured Northeastern tunes like Dominguinhos’ "Eu
    Só Quero Um Xodó" (I Just Want Some Love"), sambas
    and other beats.

    The crowd responded by
    cheering, dancing nonstop and singing along with the songs they knew. The
    band sounded well rehearsed and very tight. Menezes’ style is a bit more grown-up
    than Ara Ketu, and her musicians have a more obvious jazz influence—which
    explains her appeal to an older crowd

    "There was a good
    response," Menezes told me backstage after the show. "There was
    an important vibe—something I hadn’t felt here in a long time."

    Menezes, who lives in
    her native Bahia, told me that she will be returning home soon for the launch
    of a new live DVD and then it’s rehearsals for the upcoming Summer events
    in Brazil.

    Both Ara Ketu and Margareth
    Menezes gave memorable performances at Summerstage this year, and those shows
    will linger in peoples’ memories for a long time.

    The festival included
    the screening of two movies. Friday featured Fala Tu (Lives Of Rhyme),
    a documentary about a troupe of rappers from the slums of Rio. On Saturday,
    it was the turn of Viva Voz (Speaker Phone), a comedy about misunderstandings
    and confusions caused by modern technology.

    2nd Brazilian Festival
    of New York

    July 09 and 10, 2004

    Central Park Summerstage

    New York, NY


    Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that,
    he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich
    Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published
    by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island
    Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and
    other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at
    ebarteldes@yahoo.com.

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