Milton Nascimento's farewell

Image: Lucio Fontana
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Considerations on the last show of the singer from Minas Gerais

In a week marked by great losses for Brazilian culture, Milton Nascimento's farewell to the stage acquired a load of meanings that may take a while to be completely absorbed.

The event, held at the Mineirão stadium, in Belo Horizonte, had a planned overproduction. Screens, pyrotechnic effects and distribution of posters for the audience were made with television broadcasting in mind, but the formation of the band, the choice of repertoire and the script for the presentation were conceived long before that.

The show began with the strong percussive introduction of Tambores de Minas, reaffirming a black ancestry that is always present in the composer's work. At the center of the stage, Milton Nascimento, 80 years old, appears sitting on a kind of throne, wearing a costume that recalls the Mantle of the Presentation of Bispo do Rosário, with a stronger color. A tribute to a marginalized black artist, but also a subtle reference to the proximity of the end, or the reunion with the sacred. Bispo do Rosário spent years preparing the mantle with which he would ascend to heaven, as he said. Milton Nascimento's mantle was created by stylist Ronaldo Fraga from Minas Gerais.

Visually, this is one of the keys to understanding the breadth of the show. The proximity of death, creatively crafted as a celebration of life. Duality present in several songs by Milton Nascimento and his partners. We are talking about culture.

After the opening percussive explosion, Milton establishes another connection, this time with his childhood. He picks up the accordion, made famous in one of his best-known photos, and plays Sand tip, a song that talks about lost things, abandoned railroads, a symbol so dear to Minas Gerais. By extension, from Brazil. It is good to remember that Ponta de Areia was the port on the coast of Bahia, which “connected Minas to the sea”, in the precise verses of Fernando Brant.

Diving into the universe of memories becomes denser with Old Hill, also by Milton/Brant. A song that performs the miracle of amalgamating Gilberto Freyre, Sérgio Buarque, Darcy Ribeiro, Florestan Fernandes and all the sociologists who have studied the class structure in the Brazilian rural world, synthesized in free verse, which only a genius could set to music in such a perfect.

Another key opens: that of the observer of social inequalities, discrimination, injustice in the world. Never a pamphleteer, but always attentive, aware of the artist's role. and splice with October, which ends with the premonitory verses “my story is told / I'm going to say goodbye”.

Then he performed a block of songs from the so-called Clube da Esquina, with the presence on stage of Lô Borges, Beto Guedes, Toninho Horta and, a little later, Wagner Tiso.

Think of a single black in a group of whites. But a black man whose talent is so superior, whose voice is so sublime, whose musicality is so rich, that he ends up involving everyone in such a way that the lyricist partners are contaminated by his naive and libertarian vision of life. When they write with Milton Nascimento, they become Milton, construct and verbalize images and feelings that they would never have crooner of the group was an Italian or Anglo-Saxon blond.

But the voice of Milton Nascimento, 80, is not the same. His hands no longer make those dissonant and innovative chords that made him revered by musicians around the world. Surrounded by a sharp band of new musicians, with emphasis on the vocals of Zé Ibarra, Milton Nascimento performs a series of hits that make the Mineirão audience sing and jump like a rock concert. For Lennon and MacCartney, Like a Sunflower the Same Length as Your Hair, Everything You Could Be, Nothing will be like before, Blind Faith, Sharpened Knife, and many others (not mentioned here in chronological order).

A new connection is evident: with everything the world was experiencing in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. Not explicitly, but in behavior. memories of flower power, festivals, sexual freedom, opposition to social standards. The parade of songs begins to cross borders and borders, and partnerships with their generation mates light up the night. Paula and Bebeto (Milton/Caetano) is a libertarian anthem, even today. Recorded by him and Gal Costa, to whom the show is dedicated. Clube lovingly intersects chords and verses with Tropicália.

Another sensory door opens, with Bento Calixfollowed by Little Fish of the Sea e Cuitelinho. Folk, ancestral themes, collected and perpetuated through generations. Milton Nascimento shows, without the need for any rebarbative speech, his connection with the deepest Brazil, with the simplest and most original traditions of our culture. Everything is crowned by the magnificent song heat of the earth, (Milton/Chico Buarque), an anthem-synthesis about which it is not necessary to say anything, just listen. Another big absentee of the week, Rolando Boldrin, certainly smiled at this moment.

Milton Nascimento does not forget the continent where he was born, Latin America. The peasants, the workers, the exploited are also on the other side of the frontier, whatever that may be. And Violeta Parra is remembered, as well as her friend Mercedes Sosa. Return to Los 17 is sung in an emotional way by an audience where young people predominated (or could it be that the cameras of the Globe Play Were they selective?). It is symptomatic that, once the show was over and Milton Nascimento was taken from the stage by his son and friends, the playback sounded like Song by La Unidad Latinoamericana, by the Cuban Pablo Milanez, made famous here by the version by Chico Buarque and Milton himself.

To complete, there was no lack of political, direct, universal discourse. After Student's Heart, an emblematic partnership with Wagner Tiso, ends with a short sentence: “Long live democracy”. The audience added a Lula-lá, with hundreds of hands forming an “L” for the cameras.

Evaluating the influence of such an immense, so intense work is something for future generations. In a final public gesture, Milton Nascimento raises important questions for Brazil, for our culture. What evil mechanisms made the great Brazilian popular song cease to be “popular”? What causes talents like Milton, Chico, Gil, Paulinho, Caetano, Melodia, Sérgio Santos, the old and new sambistas and so many others, to be overlooked for obscure niches, while execrable things, poetically and musically, occupy the media spotlight television and radio? What kind of cultural degradation has the press promoted in recent years, and with what interests?

We just have to thank this immense artist who has given us so much, and who gives us, in his farewell to the stage, more than excellent music, several reflections.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penallux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

 

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