Chico and Gaetano

Patrick Caulfield, The Letter, 1967
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Chico and Caetano are also prolific writers, thinkers each in their own way.

Music and literature often go together, allowing for comparisons, contrasts, analogies and symbolic crossings. Some of our greatest composers, like Chico and Caetano, are also prolific writers, thinkers each in their own way. Caetano, author of the meticulous and autobiographical Tropical Truth, maintains a constant work of observation of Brazilian music and culture through articles published in various vehicles. He tried cinema too, with the curious The Talking Cinema. Chico, in addition to being a composer of indisputable masterpieces, is a novelist, he wrote for the theater, but in cinema he only worked as an actor, in a discreet way.

The two have been friends since the 1960s, when they met at Record festivals. They played shows together, recorded albums, had a TV show together, but curiously, many people practice a certain Fla x Flu between them. Chico's group, supposedly more engaged, more politicized, Caetano's group supposedly more libertarian, more, let's say, “odara”.

Well, that might have made sense at some point in the last century, seen in a shallow, linear way. But the reality is not that, it never was. Any more open mind can see the greatness and beauty of the work of these two geniuses. They did not grow up in isolation, as they belong to the extraordinary generation that also gave us Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola, Tom Zé, Luiz Melodia and other original creators, but these were never placed in confrontation, as they tried to do with Chico and Caetano .

Both composed unforgettable fados, and I take advantage of this sound cue to cross the Atlantic. In Portugal there are two luminaries of contemporary literature, one already deceased and the other the same age as Caetano: Saramago and Lobo Antunes. Writers of great talent, original in form and critics of status quo, but they hated each other. After Saramago won the Nobel, he got worse. Lobo Antunes, spiteful, watching his chance disappear over the horizon – imagine two Portuguese writers winning the Nobel Prize! – began to despise the award, speaking badly at every opportunity. And obviously there is a pro-Saramago crowd and another pro-Antunes crowd in Portugal.

Chico Buarque won the Camões Prize for Literature. Gaetano applauded. A lesson that the two Brazilian artists leave behind, between the lines. In the field of art, competition detracts rather than ennobles.

See these words by Caetano, in a recent article, about the illustrious son of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda: “Brazil is capable of producing a Chico Buarque: all our fantasies of self-disqualification are annulled. Your talent, your rigor, your elegance, your discretion are our treasure.

I love him like I love the color of the waters of Fernando de Noronha, the gaucho accent, the curly hair, the Portuguese language, the movements of the world in search of social health. (…) His songs impose prosodic demands that command even the value of creative errors. (…) The samba in the football newsreels of Canal 100, Antônio Brasileiro, Bruxo de Juazeiro, Vinicius, Clarice, Oscar, Rosa, Pelé, Tostão, Cabral, everything that represented a turning point for our generation was captured by Chico and transformed into effortless colloquialism. We saw better and more calmly how much we already had Noel, Haroldo Barbosa, Caymmi, Wilson Batista, Ary, Sinhô, Herivelto. The Cuban Revolution, the bridges of Paris, the cosmopolitanism of Berlin, the refinement and brutality of different areas of the African continent, the consequences of Mao. Chico is in everything. Everything is in Chico's clear diction. When the world falls completely in love with what he does, it will finally have seen Brazil. Without the love that I and some boast about our Portuguese roots, he does much more for her (and for what he adds to her) than all of us put together”.

Caetano, whom his enemies accuse of being egotistical and vain, is pure passion for Chico's work. This one, more restrained, does not write spilled articles, but does not fail to honor his trade partner. Or did you not notice that your latest composition, How about a samba, explicitly quotes verses from the “rival”? “A son with dark skin/ with beauty/ Very Brazilian, how about that?/ Not with money, but culture.” (Chico Buarque, 2022). Remember something? “Money doesn't tie me down / but beauty / Money doesn't / dark skin / Money doesn't” (Caetano Veloso, 1979).

Sorry, Portuguese, but our two geniuses teach you a lesson in civility, respect and love!

* 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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