Maria Bethania

Paulo Pasta, Under the Light of Almost Daylight, 2009, Oil On Canvas, 50 x 60 cm
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By CARLOS HORTMANN*

Art, memory, history and hope!

A few years later, I heard Maria Bethânia live and in color again, a truly phenomenological experience – as some philosophers would say; that transcended the borders of music, because, artistically, it took us to dive into what is most beautiful in Brazilian culture. By singing iconic songs like “Um Índio”, “Mulheres Brasileiras”, “Cálice” among many others, Maria Bethânia transported us to an artistic universe that represented a little of Brazil in Portugal.

The uniqueness of Maria Bethânia, with her striking presence, becomes visible when we see her enter the stage (it always seems to be the first time). The rare talent surpasses the penetrating power of her voice, which fills all the spaces in the room, but in the intimate atmosphere – Benjaminian “artistic aura” – created between the artists and the public. The daughter of “Dona Canô” and her expert musicians sought to involve the audience in a web of affections, memories, reflections, ecstasy, desires, nostalgia and […]. In unparalleled authenticity, Maria Bethânia teaches us how we should enjoy poetry and not simply hum words.

This interpreter of Brazilianness does not opt ​​for the easiest path of Lukacsian “escapism”, by bringing through songs urgent and relevant issues for our time, such as: the intensification of the climate crisis, the destruction of the Amazon, the indigenous genocide, as well as the destruction of Amerindian cultures by colonialism. When interpreting “Um Índio”, for example, Maria Bethânia invited us to reflect on the need to preserve these indigenous cultures, in the sense of valuing and respecting these fundamental roots in the social and historical formation of Brazil. Still, the vanguard role that native Brazilian peoples have played in the fight and resistance in the preservation of the Amazon and national biomes – which Brazilian agribusiness has destroyed with great intensity. A “Warning Shout”!

I imagine that by singing “Cálice”, a song by Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso's sister, he seeks to artistically express the geist and memories of the (not so distant) dark times of the Brazilian business-military dictatorship, which Bolsonarism strongly revived in Brazilian society. I emphasize the importance that mass artists have in preserving the historical memory of those who resisted and fought against dictatorships, oppressions, expropriations and all forms of injustice, which are often sidelined or even erased by hegemonic historiography. Walter Benjamin already warned of the importance of making “history against the grain”. He could continue to discuss other aspects analytically, but it would be counterproductive, as I intend to record in that space in the form of memories the moments of joy and deep reflection for this individual who writes to you.

The impact of the different messages sung by Maria Bethânia in her concert was overwhelming, it was perceptible and one could feel an intimate and intense connection between the instrumentalists, the singer and the active public, a mixture of admiration, ecstasy, joy and restlessness. Her voice echoed like a cry of resistance and hope!

This chronicle would be incomplete if it did not emphasize the high musical standards of the instrumentalists, but especially for the guitarist (guitarist) of the young Brazilian generation. João Camarero and the famous percussionist Lanh.

All in all, a true show that will echo for a long time in the memory of those who experienced this delightful moment.

* Carlos Hortmann He is a philosopher, historian and musician.


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