Juçara Marçal – mourning and redemption

Barbara Hepworth, Red in Tension, 1941


Comment on the album “Delta Estácio Blues”

"Don't say we're dying / Not today": this is how the song begins old yellow (Rodrigo Campos), which opens the album incarnate by Juçara Marçal and which was released in that far and near 2014. For some critics, incarnate it is the death certificate, which came before the wide open death in 2016, say, of a country project that was on the way.

Loaded with potent lyricism, incarnate attested to the failure of the developmentalist illusions of the PT governments in a moment of euphoria, which is why, although death is imminent, it is denied, as the aforementioned verses well illustrate. “I want to die in a short day / I want to die in a blue day / I want to die in South America”, confirms the song. Death becomes an act of resistance – and the language that sees 2016 as a coup only reinforces this version of our country's recent history. “The wound opened up: it never stopped”, as he says abortion ring (Kiko Dinucci), another song by incarnate. End times.

For years later, in a moment of new euphoric emotion, this time projected to the almost Sebastianist future that surrounds the 2022 elections, Juçara offers us the provocative album Delta Estacio Blues, released last September. There, it is possible to say, there is an elegy to the fractures of this new time that has already been announced, as well as a gloss on the ruins that the past dream left. In other words, what did Lulism (and the political culture that permeates it) owe to Brazil and what should be claimed in this new tomorrow.

The name of the title, borrowed from one of the songs on the album, the result of a partnership between Juçara, Kiko Dinucci and Rodrigo Campos, reflects this scheme well: by establishing a bridge between Robert Johnson's Delta Blues Mississipi and Estácio's malandros, Juçara intends to that classic “evolutionary line” of Brazilian musical modernity that Tropicalismo made us acclimate to. Now, by treating Estácio and his bambas as pagans, the song, in tune with the modern Brazilian discourse, points to the exclusion of these authors. “A few years in the dark / And reappeared / Delta Blues Mississippi / Worship a new God”.

Brazilian musical modernity, which finds its greatest example in the guitar beat instituted by João Gilberto, was part of a tacit agreement between this entity and Brazilian political-economic modernity, which in turn found its maximum correspondent in Juscelino Kubitschek's Brasília. Always exclusionary and after authoritarian 1964, this notion of modernity would be corroborated, authenticated, by the tropicalist movement, which would be incorporated into the new era of the world gestated by the civil-military coup of March 31st. Estácio's bambas, in turn, had their artistic material expropriated by those who reaffirmed it as a commodity.

Hence, João Gilberto's great genius lies in the incorporation of these different authors – “Bide, Baiaco, Ismael” – in a discourse of internationalization of his work, and not that of its original authors. By recovering Estácio's rascals, already embedded in the dynamics of this blameless world, to speak with Antonio Candido, who led Brazil to the messianism that is there, Juçara points out that, from this, our redemption can also come out, as Candido also pointed out. She for her, the result of a ululating historical erasure, which in turn is the foundational basis of our modernity – as if our creation myth were, in itself, a theft of History.

This whole notion of mourning and redemption has orbited the work of Juçara Marçal. A feeling of libertarian freedom, pardoning the pleonasm, also emulates an air of revolt over the years of dispossession. This feeling of going it alone reaches its apex, for example, in the song that opens Delta Estacio Blues, “I saw the Crown at a glance” (Siba Veloso): the Crown of the Malunguinho Kings is seen at a glance, but it is seen and a powerful identification is constructed, itself an element of reaffirmation. However, there is no pier (“Sem Cais” – Negro Leo/Juçara Marçal/Kiko Dinucci) and it is not known where the boat will stop. There is also a need for self-existence there.

This whole process culminates in Juçara's interpretation of the famous song by Ismael Silva, “Antonico”, in the live shows for the release of the album. “Antonico”, recovered by the tropicalistas in Gal FA-TAL (1971), in tune with the notion of “evolutionary line” in Brazilian popular music, is the ultimate example of this society of favors in which, with ideas out of place, only what remains is the dialectic of malandragem, to speak again with Antonio Candido.

I believe, still in this vein, that the fragmentary sequence presented in the launch shows “Oi, Cat” (Tantão and Os Fita); “Memories I kept” (Fernando Catatau/Juçara Marçal/Kiko Dinucci) and; “Crash” (Rodrigo Ogí), produce a very unique historical journey effect. In “Oi, Cat”, there is a memory of the exact moment when, faced with a high horizon of expectations, one dares to fight (and win) for basic rights that the modernity I mentioned above saw as an obstacle to effective modernization. when singing I don't have a home, immediately enters (and sampled) Jango's historic speech at the Central do Brasil on March 13, 1964 in which, on the eve and under pressure of the 31st of that same month, the then president announced the Basic Reforms. “What you want / I want it too”. Times of hope – and struggle.

The end of this story, however, is known. The counter-revolution that started with the barracks of March 31, 1964 – a military rebellion turned into a Coup d'état – reshaped the country. Developmentalist, the Dictatorship spared no efforts in making the country rediscover its regressive foundation, in the right expression recently coined by Roberto Schwarz, and sweeping itself, not under the rug, but into each of the self-awarenesses, any ballast of that time of the past world, either via execution or via assimilationist sabotage.

However, there are those who chose to resist – like Bide, Baiaco and Ismael, by the way. And it is for these that the beautiful “Memories I kept” is intended. The song is clear and enigmatic at the same time: “Me and my house / My abandoned house” – the house is yours, but it's abandoned, nobody inhabits it. “Me and my soul / My rebellious soul” – from revolt redemption can be born. “Memoirs I Kept” enters a growing spiral of an anguished being – “Looking for answers so deep / I was afraid I would never come back”.

The answers to the end of the dream represented by the years that go from 1930 to 1964 are profound because they are gaps and normative, as well as the fear of the real answer: that this time really will never come back. The whole song builds up brilliantly and builds to a frenzy that echoes “Crash”: “Yes, here I am again / Feeling my heart / Looking for answers / Or a feeling / That brings me back / Memories I've kept / If they really care / Let them come again”. Although dead, because the dream died in 1964 – and (re)died with 2016 –, the heart beats, it is felt. And it is necessary that the memories of this utopian time, imagined, although real and unreal, since it ended, remain alive to keep some horizon of (revolutionary) expectations awakened.

The end of the song is touching precisely because it reaffirms this, as if in an ode to life in the moment of greatest possible pain (the abandoned house, the memories that one doesn’t know if they matter…): “Bringing a light breeze / Or other hurricanes / That I can find / Some solutions / And if I bring it back / Memories that I kept / Even if they are dead / That I know where I left it”.

And it is this presence of the dead, aware of their condition as dead but not inanimate, since they know where they are, that turn on the light for revolt in the new time of the world (the light breeze and the hurricanes). No wonder “Crash” is the result of rapper Rodrigo Ogí. In a post-postmodern world of gangrenous (post-late) capitalism – very well represented as a space for living and sociability, life drive at the time of death drive in “Corpus Christi” (Douglas Germano/Juçara Marçal/Kiko Dinucci ) – and erupting, cataclysms and catastrophisms as orders of the day, only anger and hatred release. “The bastard pounced / All his hate on me / If it was a while ago / It would be the end of me”. But it isn't anymore. The scoundrel continues to vilify the existence of sociability practices, but now “Flucker falls to the ground / And I continue the session”. As “every document of culture is also a document of barbarism”, quoting Benjamin, here we have an example of positive barbarism, which he develops in his incendiary essay “Experiência e poverdade”. Positive barbarism shocks, attacks, and precisely because of this, saves. The redemption of anger as a form of hatred.

It is impossible to analyze “Crash” in such a small space as it opens up space for a thousand other horizons. It's a song of anger and liberation (is it a song anyway?). His construction enters into a crescent of hatred and he is the one who justifies it, however, it is not in vain: “My anger is a cancer that does not let you go”, “There is water in my house but I bathe in blood”, “ He asks me to dance and now he doesn't want me to dance the samba”.

They are all attempts not only to justify war (revolutionary, it is emphasized) but to sublimate violence (revolutionary) as the only way left to legitimize the memories (of training) that were kept. “I do everything not to get into a war / But if I do, I won't stop fighting / No one told you to come and bother me / You're going to get wooded!”. You don't accept anything passively, nor do you let yourself be carried away by tiredness that paralyzes you, rather the opposite, it mobilizes you. “It's the return of the aroeira vine / On the back of the one who ordered it” (“Aroeira” – Geraldo Vandré), more than fifty years later, in the new era of the world, to speak with Paulo Arantes, whose ideas inspired this entire text.[I]

*Vitor Morais Graziani is a history major at the University of São Paulo (USP).



[I] Thanks for the preliminary reading and comments by Julio D'Ávila and Sheyla Diniz. I emphasize the limitations of an analysis such as the one below, based on the lyrics and which ignores the peculiar sound of Juçara Marçal's work – an “industrial” sound, as Julio referred to it, for which I thank you for the excellent expression. I risk, in a very preliminary way, the guess that this “industrial” sound is closely linked to a notion of “revolutionary modernity”, which would reach its apex in “Crash” (Rodrigo Ogí).

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