Great heroes of Brazilian resentment

Image: Dominique Zinkpè


Two songs, two interpretations that show us how the limit of life é be imitatetion of próown life. Sometimes there is more truth in the imitation than in the original

There is a video in Dona Nete's almost infinite collection in which REM, the band, plays live, if I'm not mistaken in Berlin, in the open air, in an open park, which must be well known, huge. The video is a cut from what would be a show, and offers us the moment in which they play the song Imitation of life. Michael Stipe is wearing a suit and tie, everyone in the band seems to have their costumes ready, which is not bad at all. Michael Stipe wears a slightly ill-fitting dark suit, an earthy patterned tie, but what stands out is a blue painting that crosses his face, as if it were an indigenous painting of war or peace, of a war in blue, a pronounced blue, going from light to dark, without being exactly dark, a blue that announces cobalt blue, which I consider particularly beautiful.

It could just be a painting, it could be a mask. The song resonates like a mantra, it's one of the band's great songs, and in the first verse he shows a smile that is quickly lost in the sequence and continues seriously, very serious, not very serious, but seriously serious, crossed by seriousness, while the band reverberates the melody and the crowd jumps, gets excited, dances and follows the band. The video is not only centered on Michael Stipe, for obvious reasons that he is the lead singer, it is centered above all on his face and features, and the technical apparatus in action, willing to capture any detail, preferably follows the expressions and features of his face. .

In the construction of the video, the song's melodic transitions are interspersed and interrupted by her expressions, by the expressions on her face, and these expressions provide another itinerary to accompany the song. Michael Stipe continues as if he were somewhat oblivious to everything that is happening around him, yet he is completely immersed in it, and this ambivalence, paradoxically, gives more strength to the performance, the song reverberates more and more, the more distant he seems to be. her.

There is a moment in the video that seems to reveal, almost unexpectedly, deep within his eyes, something like a sadness, a modest, soft and permanent sadness, alien, like him to the song, that permeates the music and that the music, performed there, as if he evoked it, without knowing why. The alienation that the ensemble evokes and summons is paired with that alien and sad look of Michael Stipe, face painted, and yet, that is the whole point, it is his alienation as a performance that makes him so strongly present to the situation. Imitation of life.

The song's lyrics are less obvious, almost for a reason of content: the limit of life is to be an imitation of life itself. The ultimate in life is to imitate life, to imitate what you cannot achieve. Living is looking for something that basically will not be found under any circumstances. I digress, naturally. The construction and the formula seem a bit Pascalian to me, but there are days when almost everything sounds a bit Pascalian to me, I reread “Os Pensamentos” and am absorbed in them, which is also a form of imitation. Still in the lyrics, it seems, and it really only seems, that each person's crying, a repeated evocation at the end of each verse, is the last (if not the only) resource that puts us out of this fatal circuit of imitation, most of us even, the maximum of our life, knowing that the maximum of life is to imitate what cannot be achieved.

That's why no one can see us cry: we have to preserve our crying, the last resort of our nostalgia for substance. Here, something we could call the circuit of ipseity. No one can see me crying, that's why we shouldn't cry, except in an unreachable place, otherwise our crying is not safe. If crying becomes a spectacle, if an audience is added to it, it is condemned to be an imitation of crying, to be a marketable image of crying, we no longer cry, we imitate.

If this interpretation is correct – correct here is a clearly problematic adjective, and it means only if it sounds intelligible – Michael Stipe needs this backpedaling performance to give some breath of substance to the song that emulates the enthusiasm and energy that only exists as an imitation of enthusiasm and energy. Just like life. In this specific case, that show, filmed in that way, reduced, cut, edited, an extremely successful effect of an immense technical apparatus, finally put into the watery format of Dona Nete's disposable videos, this performative expedient is the best way to make it work , that is, to make him say something: imitate the imitation in the environment of shadows that imitate shadows. Suddenly, an unexpected truth. I do the math on this because I've been making this video haunt me all day for weeks. I see it often: I imitate the imitation.

Until I accidentally bumped into another video, another artist, another song. I connected two dots, without much pretense. Apparently they are incredibly distant: Candeia (Antonio Candeia Filho, 1935-1978) singing Paulinho da Viola (Paulo Cezar Faria), Argument. It's cool, I accept the argument, but don't change my samba that much. Let us define: Paulinho da Viola is Apollonian: everything about him, and consequently, everything he sings, is perfectly finished, he leaves no edges, no grooves, no noises. His chosen form is the perfection of form.

He sings: he weaves his plans in secret, he leaves without saying goodbye, he doesn’t remember my mistakes, he hurts those who lost everything – a frivolous heart. The lyrics portray a unique ferocity of the desires of this heart, obviously called frivolous, and yet, it is sung with such Apollonian grace, that one does not notice the violence that this desire produces, like any desire worthy of the name, taking everything you want, the way you want. Together, the art of the interpreter, the art of the composer, the art of the Scorpio man, in a perfect sum: a frivolous heart.

It's not this samba that Candeia sings, it's another one, we've already said: it's Argument. It's a samba about samba itself, about samba as a genre and its question, about what's left of samba, about the eternal false debate about the “modernization” of samba. Nothing is more modern than samba, let's face it. The theme is Candeia himself. Candeia, who was born in samba, is from the noble samba lineage. He was also a civil police investigator and bad fortune found him: he was shot five times and became paraplegic in 1965. Samba accompanies this whole story. From Oswaldo Cruz, where he was born and raised, from his house and Dona Ester's house, the “Vai como pode” block was born. It is the quintessence of samba. Go as best you can. Argument, the song, is also this: it is Candeia seen by himself, who asks for himself when asking about samba: it's cool, I accept the argument

Or past mania
Without wanting to be on the side
For those who don't want to sail
Do like an old sailor
That during the fog
Take the boat slowly”)

Again: the theme is serious, it is the destiny and nature of the genre itself, put into question by the genre itself, the destiny of the samba that is taken as the theme of a samba. In its own way, a reflective judgment, samba only denies samba, if samba, sambando. Don't deny it. Agonize. But it doesn't die. Paulinho, however, gives it a unique, melodious grace: a conversation between friends, or almost; clean, without edges, a friendly agreement, a bet to win, a shave.

Candeia, however, goes in the opposite direction when he interprets the same samba, and if I may say so, in a beautiful and emphatic way. Everything is in the way he sings, and in how he himself is in the way he sings. Upon hearing it, Paulinho's samba immediately becomes something else: it is hard, terrible, a lament, it is heavy, a curse. Candeia is entirely in the interpretation, and the truth is different, in the same terms: I accept, I resist (maybe?), I refuse, I swallow the argument. Candeia, who is a unique figure, not only in samba, is the author of “Ppreciso me encounter”. A samba made in 1975, recorded by Cartola in 1976, on the album "Cartola", the fifth track on side “A”.

The song is very famous in Cartola's interpretation, and re-recorded by a myriad of “illustrated” white people, knowing what this means in Brazil. Cartola's interpretation, equally remarkable, perhaps lies between the two, between Candeia and Paulinho: it is harsh like the interpretation given by Candeia de Argument, beautifully harsh, is also Apollonian as if it were an interpretation of Paulinho, less so, but also. Cartola weighs his sadness and puts some joy there, not just any, to give an unexpected beauty to the sadness, which also has its beauty of office. I oscillate naturally, I retrace my path in an instant, but there is no way, for me, not to have Candeia's rocky interpretation, hammering the granite, beautiful, the highest artistic and aesthetic degree of Brazilian resentment, when he sings with the argument:

Without wanting to be on the side
For those who don't want to sail
Do like an old sailor
That during the fog
Take the boat slowly.

Okay, I accept the argument.

Sometimes there is more truth in the imitation than in the original. Okay, I accept the argument.

*Alexandre de Oliveira Torres Carrasco is professor of philosophy at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).

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