Bourbon Street, the purpose-built Sao Paulo jazz club named for the street in New Orleans, calls one of its cocktails a Hurricane. Reason enough for it to be empty, but this Thursday holiday evening it was so empty that the upstairs balconies were closed. Sao Paulo is ‘travelling’, fleeing the metropolis for more scenic points – on the beach at the coast, in the mountains in the interior, to the attractions of Rio, anywhere but in the metropolis, which those who are not Paulistanos say drives them crazy. So who was there last night?

Entrance to Bourbon Street Moema, Sao Paulo

The club is a large dimly-lit auditorium, with tables on two levels on the ground floor, a dance floor in front, and upper balconies curving around both sides, supported by slim cast-iron pillars. At the back is a bar, at the front a deep stage, lit from behind through glass brickwork set into the curved back wall. A DJ plies his trade from a balcony. Lighting and sound, played a little too loud as usual, are modern and high-quality. The venue is both public and intimate

Directed to a table under the watchful portrait of Ray Charles, we sat following the patrons dancing to a Brasilian soundtrack. The lively crowd took to the floor readily, more so when Orquestra SAGA arrived  http://www.orquestrasaga.com.br/SAGA/Home.html. They’re a biggish band dedicted to playing Brasilian dance hall (gafieira) music, fronted by Gabriel Moura, son of musician Paulo Moura (for more on Paulo Moura see https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/21/musical-nation/ ). The band is well-connected with previous generations of Brasilian musicians, playing with some of the most famous – singer Seu Jorge, percussionist Wilson das Neves, singer Fabiana Cozza, trombonist Itacyr Bocato. The name of the band? Sociedade Amigos de Gafieira.

Interior Bourbon Street Moema

The couples danced well, the women waiting to be asked by the men and occasionally dancing alone, the men squiring their partners expertly around the spacious dance floor. Many of the dancers knew each other well, perhaps belonged to a club (SAGA?), we concluded, attracted by the gafieira soundtrack. But others in the audience danced just as willingly and as well, and here too, more women than men. All ages, shapes and sizes, some of the men wearing hats inside, in the current fashion, even while dancing. Older men generally were neatly dressed down, the younger ones favouring a more working class look – jeans, and white Tshirts under open checked shirts, or perhaps a striped polo shirt. The hats may be in homage to the SAGA brand – panama hat and co-respondent shoes, though I didn’t spot the shoes.

Orquestra SAGA vocaliste Flávia Menezes

Women, on the other hand, had taken the opportunity to dress up – keyhole dresses, or off the shoulder, with laced-up backs, big hair, some also sporting impossibly high heels even for walking, let alone dancing. None more glamorous than the Orquestra’s singer, whose dress was an alluring confection of dark rose pink, the banded satin serving both to reveal and to conceal in the time-honoured way. Her singing partner Moura – fawn hat over his dreadlocks, ‘unstructured’ buttoned jacket and tie – clearly favoured the working class look.

The music and dancing both excellent, there was an infectious warmth about the occasion which made you wish for more of the same, not just as a ‘preservation’ event but as a regular night out, not only booked for a night when the bar was likely to be otherwise empty, but as popular as in the Rio de Janeiro of the 1930s in which gafieira arose.  http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gafieira   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gafieira

House band at Estudantina in Rio de Janeiro, where the gafieira revival began in the 1980s