Archives for category: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo in the holiday season from mid-December until the end of January is like France in July and August – deserted. Restaurants shut, shops close early, staff on holiday in a distant corner of this huge country … They go to the beach to jump seven waves to see in the New Year, or to the mountains to escape the heat and to believe they are in Switzerland, or home to the north-east or to the interior.

On the street, only the security staff – porteiros for the apartment buildings, segurança privada at their posts in green fibreglass cabins for the wealthier suburbs – are in evidence. With mirrored windows, sometimes you can only tell cabins are manned by the whisper of the inevitable television.

Zona oeste, Sao Paulo

Zona oeste, Sao Paulo – the segurança wondered why I took this

The more extravagant Christmas lights have been turned off, houses and apartments locked up, plants watered. Dogs sprawl disconsolately on the driveways, or growl and sniff under the iron gates. A gecko darts across the footpath and up a tree trunk. They come into the buildings to escape the heat.

Street people are in evidence, collecting drink cans for recycling, or settling for the night under black plastic or under their hand-carts. They feel emboldened to shout their thoughts down the echoing streets.

Traffic is unusually light, party-goers in Lurex and perfume. The sky darkens, threatening rain without coolness. And beneath it all, under the brash diminuendo of aeroplanes overhead and the premature rattle and boom of fireworks, an unaccustomed Sao Paulo sound – quiet.

P.S and now the rolling thunder of fireworks, shouting, cheering, whistles, chanting and noise that is the countdown to midnight, predictably early. Feliz Ano Novo from Sao Paulo!

The vintage and antiques market at Praça Benedito Calixto in Sao Paulo on a Saturday is pretty lively. Under the tarpaulins, spread out on trestle tables or displayed in the traders’ booths, there’s a huge variety of goods for sale. It’s been a landmark destination for more than fifteen years. http://www.pracabeneditocalixto.com.br/

Silver and shadows

Silver and shadows

The market is set up in the square among the trees and benches from 9:00 a.m. Praça Benedito Calixto is home to restaurants and shops, cafes and offices. It’s just off the busy Rua Henrique Schaumann, the continuation of Avenida Brasil in the Zona Oeste of Sao Paulo.

Market safeguards

Market safeguards

Parking is an issue, as in all Sao Paulo, though the locals are only too happy to help for a small fee. Around the stalls it’s a crush which doesn’t subside until after 4 p.m.

You can take the kids

You can take the kids

Markets like these are open-air museums of the material culture of Brazil, and a great place for buying gifts. You could say that they are a more successful version of the modern museum or gallery with its coffee and shop – you can handle and buy the exhibits.

Gift shopping

Gift shopping for …

Calixto has more of the vintage than the antique, and some stalls verge on the junk shop end of the market, but there are also high quality items, old and new. I once bought a rococo bronze torchère there which had come from a propserous fazenda in the interior.

Torchère

Torchère

It’s a cornucopia of vintage advertising, vintage cameras, ‘Persian’ carpets of all kinds, ceramics, crockery,

 ... sunglasses,

… sunglasses …

crystal chandeliers and their individual ‘drops’, all kinds of clothes for men, women and children, old and new,

 ... sticks,

… sticks …

silver cutlery, vintage film lighting, smaller items of furniture, old and new, old and new glass ware,

 ... stools ...

… stools …

graphic art, hats, vintage household goods of all kinds, incense, jewellery of all kinds, knives,

 ... silver ...

… silver …

leather ware, linen, masks, contemporary paintings and sculpture, picture books, puppets,

 ... CDs and vinyl ...

… CDs and vinyl …

vintage radios and record players, hand-made shoes, spectacle frames, old tools and machinery, vintage toys …

Colourful communication

Colourful communication

A food court in the centre of the Praça sells Brazilian food and drink, and in the middle of it, this expert group of musicians plays chorinho.

Chorinho band, every Saturday until 5 p.m.

Genuine chorinho, every Saturday until after 6 p.m.

The seven-string guitar, cavaquinho and pandeiro are the mainstays, but like the stall holders and their goods, it’s a changing line-up. Yesterday the guests were an accomplished second cava (bottom left) and an energetic young woodwind player (left, on clarinet). 

Espaço Cultural Alberico Rodrigues with literary busts

Espaço Cultural Alberico Rodrigues with literary busts

The Praça is also home to a pocket theatre, upstairs in the café / bookshop / gallery / publishing house run by the writer Alberico Rodrigues.

Literary café

Literary café

It’s a pleasant place to take a break from the crush, at the foot of a wall display of literary giants.

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Banca Praça Benedito Calixto

The carefully constructed cultural eco-system in which market traders do business alongside writers, antique and repro rub shoulders cheerfully, excellent carpets hang alongside copies of copies of graphic art, and chorinho can be enjoyed within earshot of jump blues, is a delight.

Decorative market, and customers

Decorative market, and customers

As are the customers themselves – did I mention it’s a great place for people-watching? Not just at Christmas, but all year round.

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Jump blues on the street

November 20th, Dia da Consciência Negra or Zumbi dos Palmares Day has been a holiday in the populous states of Rio and Sao Paulo since the 1960s, though not everywhere in Brazil. Public holidays are declared by federal, state and municipal legislatures – the 1932 Paulista Revolution, for example, is a holiday in the state of São Paulo only.

A fine statue of Zumbi dos Palmares in the centre of Salvador da Bahia

Black Consciousness Day marks the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a 17th century military leader of the African and mixed-race slaves who had escaped to the settlements known as quilombos – or smaller mocamabos (huts or hide-outs), ladeiras (slopes) or magotes (heaps, piles) – in the interior.

In the same way that Jesuit priests had established viable settlements or missões in the interior, the quilombos practised agriculture, while also using less ethical means to survive. And like expeditions against the missões, military expeditions were mounted to punish and destroy the settlements, which included poor white Brazilians. As an incentive, captured quilombolas became the property of their captors.

Bust of Zumbi in the capital Brasilia

In such turbulent times it’s easy to imagine that raid, theft, extortion, enslavement and violence were practiced on all sides. It’s an unclear and loaded history in which the academic authority seems to be Stuart B Schwartz, a Yale historian and Portuguese speaker. He has made new primary sources more accessible through translations into English.

A film about Zumbi’s predecessor, his uncle Ganazumba (‘great lord’ in Angolan Bantu) made in 1963 by Carlos ‘Cacá’ Diegues was not released until 1972, after the military dictatorship in Brazil had ended. He also made “Quilombo” in 1984 – its scenario overlaps with the 1965 theatre piece by Augusto Boal which Boal considered “the biggest artistic and popular success of the Teatro de Arena of São Paulo.”

Zumbi continued to be a favorite in Arena’s repertoire during the 1960s and early 1970s. Produced also in the 1970s in Nancy in France and in New York, last week this piece was revived at the SESC Pompeia theatre in Sao Paulo.  Arena Conta Zumbi is part of an extended programme at SESC Pompeia celebrating the contribution of Boal to Brazilian theatre.

The SESC Pompeia programme about Augusto Boal’s work

http://www.sescsp.org.br/sesc/programa_new/busca.cfm?conjunto_id=10390

Avenida Pompeia is a Sao Paulo thoroughfare which rises steadily north east from the Vila Madalena metro station to the crest of a hill, then descends the slope in one long straight line as far as the Marginal which runs along the Tietê River. Vila Pompeia is a gentrifying suburb with a growing number of restaurants and small businesses, and abundant street art, extending even to the pavements. The Avenida trees in the central reservation lit up for Christmas are a fetching sight.

Avenida Pompeia descending towards Vila Pompeia

Down in Vila Pompeia proper, the buildings are lit for Christmas too. Headlights of ascending and descending cars play on the undersides of the car park carriageways as if in concert with the decorations. A far cry from the landscape of the quilombos

Vila Pompeia by night

P.S. Don’t know why I didn’t publish this when I wrote it in November 2012 …

Went to see Sao Paulo Ska Jazz at popular venue Jazz nos Fundos (Jazz at the Back). It’s behind an unpromising-looking car park near a flyover which is home to a recycling depot used by Sao Paulo catadores, collecting metal, cardboard and wood on man-sized handcarts. The venue reflects its location in the decor – the look is industrial salvage with musical overtones.

https://theproverbial.org/2013/04/28/jazz-orkestra/

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Front line brass

Sao Paulo Ska Jazz (SPSJ) revisits pop and Brazilian classics – Oasis, Tom Jobim – with a ska or a reggae rhythm and a hard-driving brass section supported by electric bass, drums, piano and electric lead guitar. The music may recycle other styles, but it’s definitely not rubbish.

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Big band

Though the sound can lack balance, the musicians are a tight-knit unit, with the quick understanding and appreciation of each other’s talents which comes from working hard together.

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Watchful Musical Director

The eight-piece band is fronted by sax player Marcelo Pereira, who also plays with La Orkestra K. Playing the guitarra (electric lead guitar) at the core of the band is MD Aquiles Faneco, directing with an eagle eye and taking his solo spots with aplomb and sometimes abandon.

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Piano solo from Sidney Ferraz

The players listen closely to each other, backing up solos, introducing or returning to the melody, as the focus shifts from one to another.

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Baritone and tenor saxes, trumpet and muted slide trombone

The band has been together for close on five years. How refreshing that they can nevertheless still surprise one another with what they do!

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A muted performance!

Look at the expression on the face of trumpet-player Diego Garbin as trombonist Douglas ‘Tigrinho’ takes his solo. The noise this band makes is a joy! From the Jazz nos Fundos archives, here they are in full swing.

http://jazznosfundos.net/#!10391

It was a public holiday in Sao Paulo last Saturday – the 460th anniversary of the founding of Sao Paulo.

https://theproverbial.org/2013/07/23/where-sao-paulo-began/

The holiday fell on a Saturday, so no time off work, but nevertheless, with a sunny weekend beckoning, there was a holiday mood. A good day for a walk. Avenida Paulista, where a street celebration was promised, or Ibiripuera Park, with weekend crowds and shaded walks?

Corner of Rua Inglaterra and Rua Groenlandia, Jardims

Corner of Rua Inglaterra and Rua Groenlandia, Jardims

I walk up to Ibiripuera Park, the largest in Sao Paulo, through steady traffic. Vendors man their pitch at the lights, selling cut-price flowers, gadgets, and in his usual spot, a man who sells brooms. Sitting beside the road, I thought he had an exotic Brazilian animal on his lap, but it was only his stock of feather dusters.

Sao Paulo is well supplied with public sculpture, perhaps aspiring to the European tradition of bronze soldiers and statesmen, but it’s generally on a more intimate scale, celebrating more modest Brazilians – journalists, tennis players, civic leaders.

https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/31/public-sculpture-brasil/

Cora Coralina, leading Brazilian poet

Cora Coralina, leading Brazilian poet

On an approach to a side entrance of the park there’s a bust of celebrated writer Cora Coralina (1889 – 1985), not published in book form until her mid-seventies, though she had been writing since her teens. Living in Sao Paulo for much of her life, she was a modest and popular writer, born in the interior of Brazil in  – and returning at the age of 67 to – the town of Goiás Velho which was the source of much of her subject matter. After her husband’s death she earned a living by making and selling sausages and cakes, selling books, and also writing stories, poems and children’s literature for the newspapers.

The park is bustling with the Saturday crowd – cyclists, joggers, skaters and skateboarders, families with pushchairs, friends out power-walking as they talk – and here too there are vendors, of agua de coco, ice-cream, refrigerantes or soft drinks, and bicycles for hire. On the grassed areas there are the practitioners of capoeira – a Brazilian dance and martial art form – people singing and playing the guitar, pairs of lovers, tight-rope walkers practicing, people in hammocks, religious groups praying in public …  Most people don’t have gardens, so the park offers them welcome space, fresh air and natural surroundings. During the week the park’s population reflects the affluent suburbs close by – they come to exercise – but on Saturdays they stay away.

Greased Pig by Ricardo Cipicchia

Porco Ensebado (Greased Pig) by Ricardo Cipicchia

We walk along the shaded asphalt paths, a leisurely stroll, with all kinds of people walking in both directions, skaters weaving through the pedestrians, cyclists in their lanes, and every imaginable kind of casual dress and undress. Children play around the water fountain, a circle of youths and girls bat a volleyball from hand to hand, someone strings up a hammock. The sun is quite fierce, but an avenue of giant bamboo is quiet and fresh. A large plastic cup of cool agua de coco is welcome. The park is full, but not crowded. A park employee stands at a pathway junction with a whistle, warning skaters to stay in their lanes as they speed down the hill.

Statues appear scattered throughout the park, chosen for popular appeal. The bucolic game with a greased pig is clearly a favourite – its back and neck have been burnished by many hands. The sculptor Ricardo Cipicchia also has a piece on the esplanade in Santos, a fisherman casting his net into a boiling sea.

https://theproverbial.org/2013/04/25/saturday-in-santos/

Here in Ibiripuera everything is peaceful. So much so that the park police have an easy Sunday. Who could imagine that down on Avenida Paulista the street party included a demonstration, which turned into a riot, complete with special police and property damage?

Policing the park

Policing the park

From that perspective, you understand that one of the functions of public art is to define a national character, a model for citizens to follow. The gentle, innocent country people and poets are acceptable, desirable, but urban rioting seems to be just under the surface this summer. Both are cultural expressions, posited as opposing tendencies, and the function of public sculpture in this is clear.

In the days of the military Junta the radical arts group 3Nos3 performed “baggings” of public sculptures – covering the heads of various dignitaries and mythological characters with plastic or cloth bags to demonstrate the ostrich-like blindness of the country’s political class to the state of the nation and the abuses of power. (Thanks to Simon Lewandowski.) And perhaps a reference to some more sinister practices too. More at

http://www.mac.usp.br/mac/conteudo/cursoseventos/mac_encontra/2011_2/ramiro.asp

Mario Ramiro bagging a public statue

Mario Ramiro bagging a public statue

I’ve written before about Bárbaro, an Uruguyan assado or barbecue restaurant in Vila Olimpia in Sao Paulo.

https://theproverbial.org/2012/06/17/tango-platense/

It’s more than a year since my last visit, and business is good. The property has expanded to include more space – it’s the width of three residential plots now, boasting a terrace, a sala de festa and an outdoor space at the back. The dining rooms at the front and the back continue to host a good tango show, with a three-piece band, a statuesque singer and an excellent pair of light-footed tango dancers.

Urugyan tango band with guest singer

Urugyan tango band with guest singer

The carnivorous menu is good – the morcilla salgado or savoury black pudding is a great starter – and a jug of clericot, otherwise known as white sangria, accompanies the barbecue very well.

The bandoneonista is a virtuoso, the keyboard player has a sense of humour, and the bass / guitar / singer / musical director is very accomplished. After the show, the bandoneoinista engages in spirited discussion about the nationality of tango musicians. He finishes the conversation with a friendly bear hug (um abraço) but it’s an Uruguyan, not a Brazilian hug, as it’s followed by a rough kiss on the cheek. Uruguyan men are uninhibited kissers of their own gender, while Brazilian men shy away in horror, proffering a theatrical Roman handshake instead. It’s not just the music which varies by country in Latin America. Here’s a famous tango which you’ll recognise, La Cumparsita, an Uruguyan composition.

No, not the outré Spanish film-maker, but a good tapas restaurant. The décor bears more than a passing resemblance to his film aesthetic, and your bill is presented in a fine red ladies´stiletto, but in the interest of avoiding copyright infringement, that´s as far as it goes.

Original artwork

Original artwork …

The architect-designed interior is stylish and comfortable – Spanish roccoco meets cocktail lounge – and the service is charming and attentive. Upstairs is an intimate function room seating 20 or so, and affording you a view of the industrious kitchen. Spanish chef Tomàs Peñafiel and his Argentinian team turn out tasty tapas and other Spanish classics – paella, bacalao, and churrros, among others – and the jamón serrano is good.

 ... with live jazz

… with live jazz

They´ve been open about a year now, and have recently begun to offer a live jazz quartet on Wednesday evenings from about 7 pm. With a repertoire from Spanish boleros through Brazilian choro to funk and jazz classics, the music matches the food for fusion and appeal.

Jazz en plein air and in full flight

Jazz en plein air and in full flight

And the wine list is also appetising. Spanish and New World, cava and sangria, and if that´s not to your taste, ask for your cocktail of choice. This is a venue whose watchword is good quality, in food, in wine and in music. What more could you want?

http://www.restaurantealmodovar.com/index.html

Avenida Paulista is the main thoroughfare in the older business district of Sao Paulo, in the city’s Centro. These days, the offices throng Avenida Faria Lima and the wealthy live in quiet low-rise suburbs like the Jardims, but once the mansions of the coffee barons lined Paulista in impressive displays of wealth. A few relics remain from its time as a grand address.

Catedral Nossa Senhora do Paraíso

Catedral Nossa Senhora do Paraíso

But being Brazil, nothing is quite as it seems. This cathedral building dates from 1952, and is the seat of the largest community of Melkite Greek Roman Catholic Christians in the world. They trace their ancestry to Antioch at the time of the apostles, following the Byzantine rite, in full communion with Rome. Services are conducted in Arabic …

Turn-of-the-century relict

Turn-of-the-century relict

This quiet beauty remains stubbornly anonymous. Government building?

Corner site - listed building?

Corner site – listed building?

Brazil has a system for listing buildings of historical and architectural interest – a listing is somewhat ominously called a tombamento – and the fate of such buildings seems to be government ownership or as in the case of the site above, business premises for consultancies and similar. Since 1991 there have been tax concessions for (regulated) conservation and restoration work on listed buildings, indeed the law applies to all kinds of material cultural heritage.

http://www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/cidade/secretarias/cultura/patrimonio_historico/preservacao/index.php?p=430

That may be seen as very little and very late in the case of Avenida Paulista, when you look back to how it was.

Avenida Paulista 1902

Avenida Paulista 1902

From http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A3o_Paulo_(cidade)

And down near Avenida Faria Lima, where the public infrastructure – Metro station and now roadworks and bus station – is gradually catching up with rapid commercial development, a quick solution is still popular. It’s November, shopping starts now; which colours shall we use for our redecoration? The strong Brazilian visual sense is in rude health.

Avenida Teodoro Sampaio

Reindeer on Avenida Teodoro Sampaio

A Croatian-born trumpeter playing New Orleans jazz in a French-look bistro – where else but in Sao Paulo, cosmopolitan world city?

Brand of cachaça (sugar cane spirit)

All of Jazz is a celebration and an academy for all forms of jazz, set on a quiet street at the modest end of upscale Itaim Bibi in Sao Paulo. It’s in an ochre-red building, with echoes of New Orleans in its first-floor balcony and its ambience.

Rua João Cachoeira 1366

Rua João Cachoeira 1366

The music starts around 10 in the evening, every day except Sunday, with an ever-changing programme to delight the ear as you sit at marble-topped tables and sip your drink or sample the menu.

Jazz quartet May 11 2013

Bentwood chairs, a tiled floor, a bar against one side and the small room is full – it would be crowded with an audience of 50.

Jazz video jukebox

Before the evening’s band comes on, jazz videos play on a small screen. Upstairs, there’s a wide range of jazz CDs and some videos for sale, alongside a few upstairs tables. The band takes its break on the street out front. Customers join in – this venue doesn’t stand on ceremony.

Trumpeter Busic is well-versed in the classics, from New Orleans to New York, from Dixie to Miles Davis, and his accented singing lends charm to the band’s playful renditions. A Latin Summertime, a gospel-tinged approach to blues – the musicians have a lot of fun with time signatures, styles and colours, sharing it with audience in best showman style.

André Busic Quintet 26th October 2013

André Busic Quintet 26th October 2013

The rhythm section is particularly jokey, the pianist inventive, and Busic preaches with the best of them when he cuts loose. The tenor plays with a sweetness all the more surprising for his impassive demeanor, while the greats of jazz look on from their monochrome portraits. This is a venue whose raison d’être is simply to come and enjoy the music.

http://www.allofjazz.com.br/

The Torre Pedroso de Moraes and the Torre Faria Lima in the business district along the Avenida Faria Lima in Sao Paulo are a pair of landmarks. Developed for Brazilian company Aché Pharma, Faria Lima stand head and shoulders above the surrounding mixed-use buildings, while Pedroso de Moraes provides a tongue-in-cheek foil. The high tower is iconic near and far.

Street-level view

Street-level view with theatre entrance below

Pedroso de Moraes was built first, and is known locally as the ‘Palácio da Carambola’ for its star-fruit-shaped supports.

Pure geometry

Pure geometry

The inverted ziggurat of Pedroso de Moraes is a kind of anti-tower, its sharp edges and broad-shouldered shape a riposte to the sleek areodynamics above.

Intersecting volumes

Intersecting volumes

Yet they interact harmoniously, the high-gloss finish serving to unite as well as to reflect.

Glossy surfaces

Reflective surfaces

A familiar sight when glimpsed in traffic, Faria Lima surprises with its scale in close-up.

Lilliputian street furniture

It dwarfs the street furniture

The distinctive entrance to the tower’s gallery and theatre is playful compared with its business-like access on Pedroso de Moraes.

Offices of Demarest & Almeida Avogados

Offices of Demarest & Almeida Avogados

The  Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake entrance gives the colours of its tower a playful shake, as if it were a handful of bunting ribbons. (Tomie Ohtake is a Brazilian abstract painter and the mother of the architect, Ruy Ohtake.)

Signature entrance

Signature entrance

The interior foyers are a series of long low spaces built with more of the raw concrete and white steel bracing used for the exterior. Exhibition spaces are the familiar white cuboids, pleasantly high-ceilinged.

Spacious interior view

Spacious interior …

... with comfortable café

… with comfortable café

There were photographic exhibitions on when I visited, both international and Brazilian, including photographs of Brazilian architecture, a fitting subject for such a well-known edifice.

Iconic building

Iconic building …

... with local adventures ...

… with local adventures …

... in architecture to match

… in architecture to match

One suspects that when Aché Pharma, recently the subject of bid speculation, becomes as obscure a name as Pedroso de Moraes – a Brazilian pioneer bandeirante known as “Terror dos Indios” – the tower for which they funded the development will still be known by the name of its architect.

Reflected cloudscape

Reflected cloudscape

Banded colour

Banded colour …

... carried through into interior

… carried through into interior

Carambola support

Carambola support

Even more dramatic at night

Even more dramatic at night

 

In 1554 a group of  Portuguese Jesuit missionaries established a school and settlement in the unexplored interior of Brazil, on a plateau which sits high above the place where the rivers Tamanduateí and Anhangabaú meet. Known as São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, it was a mixed settlement of Jesuits, Portuguese colonisers and indigenous Caingangue people.

The first Colégio building was a simple wattle-and-daub hut, or in the words of José de Anchieta, one of the founding priests, “um paupérrima e estreitíssima casinha“, a very basic and narrow little house. By 1556 a school and church had been built using rammed earth.

The names for the rivers, and the fact that they shared the settlement, suggest that the indigenous people had good relations with the colonisers. The site for the mission chapel was originally the house of one of the indigenous chiefs.

Rebuilt 1653 and 1953

Rear wall overlooking the steep drop to the Anhangabaú

Not all the settlers had good relations with the indigenous people. In 1560 the Governor General of Brazil, Mem de Sá, ordered the inhabitants of the nearby village of Santo André da Borda do Campo to move to the Colégio, to protect themselves from indigenous attacks behind its walls. In 1562 the Colégio was itself besieged, and although it survived, attacks were to continue intermittently for the next 30 years. But the settlement grew, and in 1585 the Colégio was expanded.

Looking out over the inner courtyard

Inner courtyard

In their mission to convert and educate the indigenous peoples, the Society of Jesus also came into conflict with the colonisers, who wanted the indigenous as slaves and  labourers on their plantations, not as literate Christians. When disputes arose with the labourers who lived in Jesuit communities, the colonisers found they were dealing with the Jesuits, rather than with the labourers. In 1640, the Jesuits were expelled from the settlement they had founded. By 1653 Fernão Dias Paes Leme, one of the colonisers who had supported their expulsion, had brokered their return. The Colégio underwent major repairs.

Daughter of the cacique (indigenous leader) Tibiriçá with José de Anchieta

Bartira, daughter of the cacique (leader) Tibiriçá, with José de Anchieta

The colonisers mounted expeditions to the interior, setting out from São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga to capture runaway slaves, to enslave more of the indigenous population – cheaper than buying African slaves – and to search for gold and precious stones. These expeditions followed a flag, a bandeira, the explorers being known as bandeirantes. It’s a history of which the city remains very aware.

Bandeirante pioneer Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, Parque Trianon, Sao Paulo

Bandeirante pioneer Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, Parque Trianon, Sao Paulo

Gold was discovered in the interior in the 1690s. The Jesuits meanwhile continued to convert the indigenous to Christianity, to educate them, and to learn their languages. They were active throughout the colony.

Jesuit Museum at Embu, Sao Paulo state

Jesuit Museum at Embu, São Paulo state

In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled once again, not just from São Paulo, but from Brazil and from Portugal by the powerful Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, who was later made the Marquess of Pombal by a grateful Joseph I of Portugal. The Jesuit church in São Paulo was used by the Portuguese Crown and later the state, becoming known as the Palácio dos Governadores, and the Pátio do Colégio as the Largo do Palácio. The church was demolished in 1896.

Tribunal de Justiça do estado de São Paulo

From the practice of Severo Ramos de Azevedo & Villares

Surrounded by more exuberant Paulistano architecture – the former Primeiro Tribunal de Alçada Civil  is an extraordinary 1930s confection – the Colégio which sits neatly on its hilltop today is a reconstruction, rebuilt between 1953 when the site was returned to the Society and 1979 when the Museu Anchieta was opened.

Pátio do Colégio

Pátio do Colégio, rebuilt 1653 and 1953

This quiet seventeenth-century Mannerist building hides its extraordinary history behind a modest whitewashed facade. When the museum’s re-design is implemented, let’s hope they make more use of its dramatic story.

http://www.pateodocollegio.com.br/newsite/

In 1933 the Mercado Central opened in the centre of Sao Paulo, establishing a covered venue for what had been a collection of street markets for all kinds of food. Harking back to the dominance of agriculture during the café com leite era ended by the Revolution of 1930, the agricultural products of Sao Paulo state were to be sold in what was a grand and decorative yet also a functional building.

Entrance to Mercado Central with coat of arms of city of Sao Paulo over

The cornucopias supporting the Sao Paulo crest are echoed in the fruit-filled urns surmounting the keystone caryatids – could this be the origin of Carmen Miranda’s famous millinery?

Cast iron ribbed roofing with Corinthian capitals

Cast iron ribbed roofing with acanthus leaf capitals

The Mercado’s architect was Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo (1851-1928), who ran one of the most prestigious practices of the time. He was the architect of what is now the Pinacoteca Sao Paulo gallery

https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/16/jardim-da-luz-2/

a building which began life as a vocational school for the applied arts. The Mercado has also undergone changes of use – renamed the Mercado Municipal, and from 1969 transformed into a retail- and leisure-oriented space, while the sale of wholesale agricultural produce has moved to the larger, out-of-town-centre CEAGESP site at Vila Leopoldina. Like the Mercado, this site is also open almost every day.

http://www.ceagesp.gov.br/english/

The Mercado Municipal is a retail space where every conceivable kind of foodstuff is sold

You can't make a silk purse ...

Sold by Porco Feliz, without irony

including that essential for the feijoada pork and bean stew, pigs’ ears.

The food enthusiast can spend a happy hour or two shopping for the wares of vintners and butchers, fruiterers and fish-mongers (including piranha), sellers of herbs and spices, cheese-mongers, every kind of coster-monger … the variety of food is astonishing.

A mezzanine floor has been created inside the ample proportions of the market building. It has a good collection of restaurants of varied types, with a large common seating area crammed with chairs and tables, and a range of counters preparing the food bought to you by busy waiters. Going to the market is a family day out. In summer, the tables are cooled by large fans which spray misted water over the diners.

Themed stained glass

Paradise gardens

A striking feature is the series of stained glass windows on agricultural themes on the opposite side, above the food stalls.

stained glass

It’s a bird’s life

Imported from Germany, they depict the raising of the produce on offer below. Idealised even for 1930, there is little sign of the agribusiness engine of the Brazilian economy of today. Nonetheless, they are charming. They’re difficult to appreciate at a distance – click on them to see them across your screen. More on the Mercado’s history at

http://vejasp.abril.com.br/materia/mercado-municipal-sp?gclid=CMDa5sTLy7cCFUtk7Aod-QUAPQ

What’s missing from this picture? We couldn’t smell any freshly baked bread, though there are some few stalls which sell bread, and some of the older stalls serving food downstairs are famous for their bologna (mortadella) filled bread rolls. Perhaps food hygiene prohibits baking anywhere except in the padaria. What was stranger for Brazil was not being able to smell freshly roasted coffee – we didn’t spot a single stall.

They've Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil ... ?

They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil … ?

But you can visit any of six Nespresso shops in Sao Paulo, and more elsewhere in the country, where coffee is not so much a commodity as a high-margin luxury item, supporting the sale of expensive coffee-making machines which – truthfully – are nothing like as successful as the old Gaggia machine in any corner bar of Italian extraction. The staff are dressed in muted browns, the shop fittings are carefully co-ordinated, and you can serve yourself with capsule coffee. But that glorious smell is not in evidence there either. Strange country, Brazil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGXcjM9SOQ

Jazz nos Fundos is a venue for those in the know in Sao Paulo. On the edge of the Via Madalena nightlife district, and accessed through a working estacionamento or car park, it’s a place to come and listen to the best of Sao Paulo jazz, to patronise with friends and lovers, or to meet the opposite gender. Barely a building at all, it’s a roofed-in corridor which looks as though it was once a car-repair garage.

A nod in the direction of a salon

A nod in the direction of a salon

The venue’s studied air of post-industrial neglect is enhanced by the detritus and the decrepit musical instruments decorating the walls, the rows of old cinema seats for aficionados in front of the stage, and the general gloom of the L-shaped space. A changing art display is hung on some salvaged panels leant against the wall. Customers start to arrive at about 9:30, as the musicians are setting up. Arriving a little earlier means the crush at the small bar is easier to manage. It’s around the corner at the end of the seating area, where you can also dance, or find the toilet. This venue can’t be accused of being too comfortable.

A Latin line-up to make you dance for joy ...

A Latin line-up to make you dance for joy …

The cu-bop line-up of La Orkestra K has played here a few times. Their infectious dance music puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart. With piano, reeds, guitar, brass, wind, percussion and rhythm section, and vocals in Spanish and Portuguese, they cover a range of Latin American musics – Colombian porro and cumbia, Cuban paseo and bolero – and their own compositions, under the musical direction of Paulo K. Individually impressive as soloists, they have clearly worked together many times, to forge a tight and playful ensemble, as their SoundCloud tracks testify.

https://soundcloud.com/laorkestrak

 ... and streamed live to a screen near you

… and streamed live to a screen near you

Formed in 2011, the Paulistano band has its origins in the music school of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, and they have learnt their craft well. Just as impressive a sign of the musical vigour of Brazilian culture is the fact that Jazz nos Fundos streams all its music live over the Web, and archives it as an excellent library of contemporary Brazilian jazz. It’s a static webcam, but what a soundtrack! From December last year and this February, here is La Orkestra K’s contribution.

http://jazznosfundos.net/#!8883

STOP PRESS La Orkestra K is in the recording studio putting the finishing touches to their first album. Stand by for dancing!

The eponymous Paulo K (arms folded)

La Orkestra K, the eponymous Paulo K with arms folded

At the elevated heights of Rua Oscar Freire, Rua Teodoro Sampaio is known for music  – up where Oscar Freire runs out of boutiques and restaurants, Teodoro crosses it with shops offering every kind of musical instrument and supporting electronics, instrument repair, scores and books, CDs, and the odd bar. Lower down though, Teodoro becomes a furniture market, with emporiums selling all types of mobiliário – beds, chairs  couches and armchairs, stools, tables, accessories – and it stretches for many blocks. It’s surprising to find live music down here, but that’s just what the barzinho on the corner of Teodoro Sampaio and Rua Joaquim Antunes serves up every Friday night.

Barzinho on the corner of Sampaio and Antunes

On the corner of Sampaio and Antunes

Making its presence heard easily over the traffic grinding its way up Teodoro, a samba band is playing and singing lustily. Assim Ta Bom (Well Alright!) has been playing samba together for 20 years. The core of the band is two brothers on surdo (a large standard bass drum played with a rubber-headed beater) and four-string cavaquinho, and a father-and-son team on percussion and vocals. They also substitute for the cuíca, a kind of squeaking drum, by imitating its characteristic sound vocally. A tantao and a tamborim complete the ensemble.

Assim Ta Bom in action

Assim Ta Bom in action

All the players are mic-ed, and sing along vigorously. And as always in Brazil, not only the band but all of the audience too know the words, and they sing along freely. The band plays in the upstairs room, tiled and lit with neon. The beer is plentiful, and resupplied promptly; bar snacks are served too. The audience comes in large groups, and they run their tabs by putting the empties in their beer crate, and settling up at the end of the night. One table of eight or so consume a bottle of vodka – mostly the men – in an hour. It’s a raucous, good-natured event.

The audience gets on its feet in style

The audience gets on its feet in style

The lyrics are bawled out over poly-rhythmic drumming, through which the cavaquinho melody can just be discerned. This music, played in the same circular grouping or roda as capoeira, is about the rhythm and the words. It prompts some startlingly impressive dancing. As a gringo tourist, I am made to feel completely welcome.

Samba ao vivo

Samba ao vivo

Assim Ta Bom are loud, warm, enjoyable – much like Brazil. The way the locals respond to them – not just friends and family, but casual passers-by and bar regulars too – suggest that like Brazil, they are here to stay.

Rua Joaquim Antunes 381

Brado, a newly opened restaurant in Pinheiros in the west of Sao Paulo, is worth a second look and listen. A free-form menu boasts a range of Italian and Brazilian food – the asparagus risotto was good. The bar is stylish without trying too hard.

Good selection, and good service

Good selection, and good service

A tasteful interior is complemented by the quiet walled garden at the back, complete with banana tree. At the front, timber decking extends almost to the footpath. A manobrista  is on hand to spirit your car away to nearby parking.

Two thirds of a jazz and choro trio

Two thirds of a jazz and choro trio

On Saturday, the passing traffic wound its windows down to hear choro and Brazilian classics and jazz standards played with elan by a trio of electric bass, keyboard and woodwind. And it wasn’t only me who found the music to their taste – as well as appreciative honks and thumbs-up, I saw one taxi literally go by, reverse and stop out front for three minutes during a lull in the traffic to allow both driver and fare to appreciate the repertoire.

One-Note Samba and more

One-Note Samba and more

So much nicer than traffic noise, the music made it a pleasant place to catch the breeze. And with good coffee, prompt service, and panna cotta com marmalada de pêra to look forward to, it’s a tempting alternative to the Saturday feijoada.

http://www.bradorestaurante.com.br/

Wire sculpture – compare with Lanchonete Frevo below

https://theproverbialdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/2013-02-10-16-53-11.jpg

Opposite a glamorous building of the privately-funded Universidade Nove de Julho in Barra Funda, a slightly shabbier building plays host to a minor musical miracle.

New building for private university

High-rise private university, Avenida Francisco Matarazzo, Barra Funda, reflecting …

Room in a public school, dedicated to music

… low-rise public school, Avenida Francisco Matarazzo, Barra Funda

In the music room of the Colégio Olga Ferraz, where the Associação Cívica Feminina (ACF) runs after-school activities, a band for local youth meets regularly to practise. It’s the Banda Choro Blue from a small charity, the Instituto de Música Choro Blue, run by expatriate Bostonian John Berman and his partner, the tireless Lilian Candalaft. This article in the Brazilian business magazine Epoca has more details  http://epocanegocios.globo.com/Informacao/Resultados/noticia/2012/11/alegria-do-choro.html

Where the Brazilian greats are studied, guest musicians visit

Where the Brazilian greats are studied, and guest musicians visit

When we arrive, some kids are already there, and greet us in a consciously adult manner, secure on their own territory. A good number of them are children of migrant workers from the north-east of Brazil, nordestinas who find work in Sao Paulo as maids and cleaners, some of them single parents supporting children on very modest wages. One of Berman’s motivations in working with these students is to raise their awareness of and pride in their own musical culture, which is rich and strong in the African-influenced north-east.

Jazz and choro musician John Berman (foto Michel Pereira)

Jazz and choro musician John Berman (foto Michel Pereira)

A natural and charismatic teacher, he gradually draws them into the practice room, helping them to set up music stands and instruments, checking tuning, welcoming his students warmly as they arrive, and introducing the visitors. I am presented as an interested blogger, his daughter Debra as a New York visual artist – more about her work at  http://brasilart.org/2012/07/15/human-canvas-photo-post/ and at  http://brasilart.org/2013/02/17/decor-deb-berman/ . Her boyfriend Max Comasky, a bass player of 13 years standing, sits in with the band today.

Berman begins by reinforcing some learning points on Brazilian musicians and musical styles, in the guise of choosing something to play. The kids respond with good-natured, sometimes jokey answers.

Deepening the learning

Deepening the learning

Veterans of public playing despite joining the band somewhere betweeen the age of eight and thirteeen years, they settle comfortably into playing from their repertoire, and the music begins to swing. One young man sits beside the guest on bass, absorbing his moves with close and longing attention – he aspires to playing the bass himself.

Max Comasky, bass, and understudy

Max Comasky, bass, and understudy

Students begin with the recorder before choosing an instrument, perhaps starting in the band on percussion, which is also Brazilian.

Group learning, percussion section

Group learning, percussion section

Some are studying instruments elsewhere – the sisters on the front bench are taking classical lessons for violin and for flute, though they play the band repertoire with skill too – and everyone can take the loan instruments home to practise.

First violin and flute on the front bench

Close concentration on the front bench

The elan with which they play makes clear that these students do practise – the two lads on saxophone swap improvised phrases playfully, the other flautist on the front bench shyly constructs a phrase, the clarinettists underpin the pieces with steady melodic flow.

Alto and tenor saxes, with tenor doubling on flute

Alto and tenor saxes, with tenor doubling on flute

Modestly accomplished

Modestly accomplished

Concentrated woodwind

Concentrated woodwind

When Berman wants to illustrate a point about the rhythm of the music, he waves his arms wide and claps and counts in the rhythm he wants, and has the students stand and move to the music so that they feel the rhythm. Spontaneous smiles break out.

Get up, get on up ...

Get up, get on up …

Comasky demonstrates his ‘slap bass’ technique, adding the instrumental element.

Get UP, get on up ..

Get UP, get on up …

As latecomers arrive, they pick up instruments and join in. Despite it being school holiday time, the band’s all here.

Not a good place to take a phone call ...

Not a good place to take a phone call …

 ... but he makes that triangle ring like a bell

… but he makes that triangle ring like a bell

And yes, during this practice, Deb Berman warmed up by decorating the entrance door before moving on to the back wall, for a quick-sketch mural in the colours of the Brazilian flag.

2013-02-13 16.02.24

Brushwork

But by far the most exciting and impressive thing is that these kids, barely teenagers, perhaps in the face of indifference from parents

Percussion ...

Percussion …

 ... wind and ...

… wind and …

 ... woodwind

… woodwind

are enjoying practising and playing music, over a time-scale of years – that’s more than many students with much greater access to such opportunities can manage. Their joyful noise is a testament to their spirit and that of their supporters. Encore!

2013-02-13 16.23.15

Banda Choro Blue

P.S. Here’s a clip from Brazilian breakfast TV about Choro Blue. The band is covered from about 2:15 on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ead0aUr1lm4

P.P.S. And here’s a snap of Deb Berman’s mural at Choro Blue’s forthcoming new practice rooms. The paint is still wet …

Choro Blue mural, Sumaré, Sao Paulo

Choro Blue mural, Sumaré, Sao Paulo

We Anglos are used to speaking the world’s lingua franca – around 70% of the world’s business is transacted in English – so we’re taken aback to find that not everyone can default to our tongue, or that some have only a handful of words in their Anglo vocabulary.

It’s not confined to Latin America – in Tokyo airport I saw an alluring refrigerated display of a drink they call Sweat – but in Brazil, with less British influence than say Argentina, it’s especially true, though they’re catching on, witness the huge number of English language schools. Sao Paulo is providing free English lessons for taxi drivers to prepare for the Cup and the Games. Cultura Inglesa, a clever combination of consulate, arts centre and language school, has 56 branches in Brazil.  http://www.culturainglesa.net/wps/portal/inicio

Evidence for the absence of English in Brazil and Uruguay surprises you with unintentional, sometimes Anglo-Saxon humour. A selection below.

Leather goods boutique Christ, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Boutique, not church, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Supermarket, Montevideo - not a Welcome sign

Supermarket, Montevideo – not a Welcome sign

For the educated dog, Sao Paulo, Brazil

For the educated dog, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Not

Not.   Supermarket, Sao Paulo

Let's hear it for fabric softener. Supermarket, Sao Paulo

Let’s hear it for fabric softener. Supermarket, Sao Paulo

Boutique near the Playa de los Ingleses, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Boutique near the Playa de los Ingleses, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Pharmacy, Sao Paulo

Pharmacy, Sao Paulo

Bakery section, Sao Paulo supermarket

Bakery section, Sao Paulo supermarket

People are puzzled when I stop to take such pictures …

Sao Paulo is under constant development and refurbishment. As in many large cities, the sounds of building work are a near-constant accompaniment to daily life – power tools, delivery trucks, steel and concrete fabrication, the shouts and whistles, and the hand-tools, of workmen (haven’t seen a woman builder yet) are woven into the soundtrack. In Sao Paulo, ‘verticalisation’ is the main activity.

Image

Make a space and fill it in

The older buildings are gradually demolished to make way for towers of apartments, with perhaps a commercial element included. This process is not always straightforward – the redevelopment of Avenida Faria Lima in the 1960s, for example, met with some resistance. See https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/16/regeneracao-gentrificacao/ .

Image

Corner of Rua Artur d’Azevedo and Rua Fradique Coutinho

On the corner of Azevedo and Fradique, one block of buildings has been gradually shut down for demolition and re-development. A series of graffiti-style posters has appeared, drawing attention to the site.

The female figure was the first to appear, on the traffic control unit, much as they have done in nearby streets, at first painted onto the unit direct.

Corner of Rua Joaquim Antunes and Avenida Rebouças

Corner of Rua Joaquim Antunes and Alameda Gabriel

Eventually all four sides of the Azevedo and Fradique unit were covered, security banding adding a randomly appropriate element to the image.

Image

Mixed media – paint, newsprint, traffic unit. Her eyes have been opened

Images on paper had begun to appear elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

Image

Rua Teodoro Sampaio

Image

As the humans leave, they emerge

As buildings fell vacant, the images spread, much as their real-life subject might do as they are disturbed by demolition. The instinctive revulsion most people feel towards cockroaches was deployed very effectively in this piece of guerrilla art.

Image

The bar on the corner is now closed

Zezé of the gymnastics academy had been above the shopfront on Azevedo – latterly an automotive workshop – for 35 years, and bid her students and neighbours a sad farewell.

Image

Rubble on the academy stairs and the blinds awry – only the façade is still standing

This development is symptomatic of a deep-seated issue in Brazil – the ownership of property. Business owners often do not own their premises. The goodwill they build up over years can be destroyed with little notice to make way for a more profitable development.

A year ago the artist put the finishing touches to the mural on the local pool hall, also established about 30 years ago (the leaping / floating man against a blue background an homage to French surrealist Yves Klein – see  http://tudosobretech.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/exposicao-a-fotografia-manipulada-antes-do-photoshop/  ). Whatever benefit the new building delivers, I doubt it will be as characterful as this establishment. Are the graffiti artists the only ones to mourn its passing?

Image

Mural art with cockroaches

UPDATE Demolition is well under way. A hole in the fabric of the city, soon to be filled by another vertical. For a moment, the unadorned sides of cast concrete buildings are exposed.

Standing on the corner

View on the corner

UPDATE 02

Here’s the hole in the ground from which the new tower will be built.

Corner of Azevedo and , October 2014

Corner of Azevedo and Fradique, October 2014

 

In a previous post https://theproverbial.org/2012/11/19/sao-paulo-necropolis/  I sketched the history of a leading cemetery, the Cemitério São Paulo on Rua Cardeal Arcoverde. I went back on Sunday for a stroll – it’s a quiet place in a noisy city, its sculptural works are some of the most impressive to be seen, and it’s a noticeably green spot in the concrete jungle which surrounds it.

Angel in the city

Angel in the city

Arriving early, you encounter the destitute who sleep in the shelter of the grand graffiti-ed entrance porch, with blankets, cardboard and plastic for warmth. Some also use cachaça – sugar cane spirit – perhaps mixed with soft drink. In this setting, one is more inclined to think “There but for the grace of God … ” than to condemn.

The other side of the porch was occupied

The other side of the porch was occupied

Rua Conego Leite which leads to this entrance suggests the cemetery’s former grandeur too – a terrace of picturesque Art Nouveau villas hides under painted motley, a neo-classical loggia on one corner of the crescent facing the entrance echoes the porch’s style.

Loggia, corner of Cardeal Arcoverde and Conego Leite

Loggia, corner of R. Cardeal Arcoverde and R. Conego Leite

Inside the cemetery there are signs of life too. I explored another corner this time, and beside a plot too small and awkward to use I found a kind of living space and home-made shrine on the niches for cremations, where a sheltering tree grows.

Someone lives here

Someone lives here

The trees and plants, here by accident or by design, are in good shape.

Beautifully variegated, self-seeded ...

Beautifully variegated, self-seeded …

 ... or perhaps not

… or perhaps not. Next to a well-tended plot

The main monument a traditional yew tree

Shaded by a traditional yew tree

Plants in art and in life

A more controlled planting

Thoughtful integration of plant and stone

Thoughtful integration of plant and stone

The cemetery is thronged with the usual devotional and memorial sculpture – vistas of Christs interspersed with Pietas, the occasional Madonna and Child, grieving families, and a scattering of angels. More unusual examples stand out in this feast of sculpture.

Relaxed, informal angel, awaiting her or his charge

Relaxed, informal angel, awaiting his or her charge

Memorial family group

Memorial family group

Mourning family group

Grieving family group

Overcome with grief

Overcome with grief

Neighbours in death

Neighbours in death

An imaginative approach to sculpture is not restricted to the human figure here. Contrasting colour, shape and texture – an arabesque of carved marble against a slab of dark polished granite – the use of arch- and box-shaped space, the integration of plant life with stonework, even the varying treatments of the plinths, all display the keen Brazilian sense of the visual.

The symbol of the opening door recurs.

Heaven's gate

Heaven’s gate

Slabs of stone can be incised …

Motto on an academic family tomb -

Academic family tomb – “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” Psalm 92

… whether horizontal or vertical …

Memorial to veteran athletes of Sao Paulo, with Olympic urn

Memorial to veteran athletes of Sao Paulo, with Olympic urn

A poetic adieu, touchingly casual

A poetic adieu, not set in stone

… or indeed casually leaned against a rough-worked upright. A slab of stone can be left symbolically blank …

2013-01-27 11.27.25

Both blank and incised, both symbol and language

Both blank and incised, both symbol and language

… or serve as a sculptural reminder of a first-rank family.

Back of family memorial by Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

Back of family memorial by Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

(Front-facing view on the crest of the hill in my previous post  https://theproverbial.org/2012/11/19/sao-paulo-necropolis/ ) The northern entrance at the bottom of the hill echoes the idea with a more prosaic but nevertheless striking composition in raw concrete.

Northern gatehouse and offices

Northern gatehouse and offices

It’s an effective background to another innovation, stone trelliswork which echoes the pierced wall of concrete and also integrates plant life.

Closed and open

Closed and open

This memorial alerted me to yet another Paulistano immigrant community, the Hungarian, and with the same ‘thoughtful integration of plant and stone’ as the box-shaped Hungarian memorial above, made me ask if I was seeing a Hungarian aesthetic.

Stone of various kinds can be seen in bas-relief too, whether traditional military-style work …

Compare with the WWII Brazilian Italian airman in previous post

Compare with the WWII Brazilian Italian airman in previous post

…  a memorial style …

Journalism is an honoured profession in Brazil

Journalism is an honoured profession in Brazil

… or a more symbolic portrayal.

The grain of marble like falling light

The grain of marble like falling light

Purely cast bas-relief can also be found.

Door to mausoleum shared between three families

Door to mausoleum shared between three families

There are signs that people occupy themselves in varied ways here – placed on the back of one tomb I saw a collection of broken pieces of white marble, and imagined children amusing themselves by collecting them while older family paid their respects and browsed. The staff inter the dead, but they also gather fallen branches, build and make repairs, clean the tombs with feather dusters.

If you visit as I did not to bury or to pay respects to family or friend, nor with a morbid urge, it’s the sculptural aspect which is so striking. A range of examples illustrate the point.

Pensive angel by Gildo Zampol

Pensive angel by Gildo Zampol

Among the angels in white marble which appear here, especially along the walk from the entrance porch leading up to the chapel of rest, this work is outstanding not just for its technical virtuosity – zoom in for a closer look –

Torso close up

Torso close up

but equally for its finely judged expressiveness. This is a portrait, an archetype, and a spiritual ideal. It sits quietly amidst the ritual and the workaday aspects of the cemetery, a beautifully executed artwork.

Window and torchère, chapel of rest

Window and torchère, chapel of rest

Tomb components with instructions for assembly

Tomb components with instructions for assembly

Memorial sculpture can be showily theatrical or surprisingly frank here.

The archangel Michael, though in Brazil it could be Eshu

The archangel Michael, though here it could be Candomblé deity Eshu

The Last Kiss by Alfredo Oliani.

The Last Kiss by Alfredo Oliani. Her eyes are already sunken in death

He is still very much alive

He is still very much alive. Commissioned by a wife for her husband’s tomb

On the ridge of the hill, a well-known though less direct work by another Italian Brazilian sculptor is known as the Túmulo do pão, the Tomb of Bread. It’s a poignant reminder of the impact of a death in the family.

Túmulo da família Forte by Galileo Emendabili

Túmulo da família Forte by Galileo Emendabili

Sculptor of the military obelisk in Ibirapuera Park which commemorates the 1932 Sao Paulo Constitutional Revolution, Emendabili is of course popular here. This smaller-scale, more private work has a huge impact.

The pathos of the boy’s head on the table and the stoical grief of the man are beautifully conveyed. Staged to make full use of its setting, giving the same symbolic weight to the table and to the loaf of bread as to the human figures, this is a tour de force, one of the strongest in an impressive collection of sculptures which stand the test of time.

2013-01-27 11.00.36

The dead tellingly marked by absence

More at http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cemit%C3%A9rio_S%C3%A3o_Paulo

Walking down Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, at the gateway to the bar-and-restaurant-mecca of Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo, I stumble upon artistic traditions, old and new. I’ve been this way before, and enjoyed the street art along a roughly-built brick wall flanking a car parking site.

Street art, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde ...

Street art, Cardeal Arcoverde …

As so often in Sao Paulo, the open space is fleeting, temporary. Car parking is a way of making real estate cover its costs until you can make it really pay, by building an apartment block on it.

 ... now under black paint, with the building demolished

… now under black paint, and the building demolished

The street art may have been superceded, but something catches my eye. I’d noticed a form of street art recently which had made me smile – images on paper flyposted to the street wall. It seemed appropriate, given the subject.

Here was a whole nest of such images – maybe this was from where the other had migrated, or was I seeing a new trend emerging?

Xilo Shirt shopfront, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, Sao Paulo

Xilo Shirt shopfront, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, Sao Paulo

‘Xilo print’ is Portugenglish for woodcut print. From this shopfront a group of artists produce and sell printed T-shirts, prints on paper, and printed canvas bags and cushion covers. Blocks are cut by hand into MDF (medium density fibre-board) and stored in racks in the shop – they print a shirt while you wait. The images are cultural icons – musicians, artists, actors, cinema characters, signs and symbols, the ever-present sexual images. Old blocks are built into the decor of the shop. And they offer woodcut printing classes.

There are originals for sale too, mixed media on paper, displayed hanging by bulldog clips from nails in the wall. High art appears among the cultural icons, from Leonardo to Magritte. I mention the now-obliterated art across the street, and I’m told that the harlequin figure – see above – was by a Spanish artist. These folk care about their art, and they make it pay too.

Creative quarter, Vila Madalena

Creative quarter, Vila Madalena

What’s more, Xilo Shirt is in a little cluster of original clothing shops, all decorated in the distinctive manner of Brazilian street art while blending seamlessly with the ‘native’ graffiti. A car mechanic’s wall next door sports a colourful satirical piggy bank next to a blue octopus with a manic grin. .

Pig and octopus

Pig and octopus

The combination of outspoken visual brio and entrepreneurial energy strikes me as characteristically Brazilian. You sense the huge potential of the culture, especially when you consider the country’s immediate economic prospects.

What was less expected was a glimpse of the past. Further down Cardeal, there’s a basement shop which has always intrigued me. It’s a jumble of furniture, architectural fragments, light fittings, bric-a-brac and the odd painting, but I hadn’t seen it open before. The door was open, so I made my way down a sloping walkway with inset steps – like the entrance to a tavern cellar – and spent an intriguing half hour with the occupants and their wares.

Carved marble cartouche at the altar, Catedral da Sé

Carved marble cartouche at the altar, Catedral da Sé

Turns out they are restorers of antiques, hence the varied jumble. They make objects to order too – a resin Egyptian sarcophagus for someone’s birthday celebration – and carve plaster moulds for novelty figurines. Incredibly dusty, this Aladdin’s cave gave me a glimpse of another Vila Madalena, a fine arts workshop. I recall that it’s said that the craftsmen and women working on the Sao Paulo cathedral in the 1920s lived in Madalena. Like planets aligning, the pull of the area became clearer. I saw the street art from a longer perspective.

Familigia Mancini has had not one but two very successful restaurants in the old Italian quarter of Sao Paulo, Bela Vista or Bixiga, for many years. On the gently curving one-way pedestrianised cobbles of Rua Avanhandava, the customers’ cars, the taxis, the moto-boys delivering pizzas on their light motor cycles and the occasional rubbish truck or Prefeitura van jostle for space while people alight and manobristas whisk their cars away. It’s lucky there’s plenty to watch on the street, since you can wait forty minutes for a table, nursing a Campari and soda on the benches outside Mancini’s.

Mancini’s, Rua Avanhandava, Bela Vista, Sao Paulo

Set amid the tall Sao Paulo apartment towers, the street is a glittering river of la dolce vita which has brought the neighbourhood upmarket. Apartment blocks have been renovated, and the affluent footfall has attracted chic interior decor boutiques – another attraction to occupy you while you wait to be seated.

Mancini’s is a comfortable establishment, but tonight we are on the other side of the street at Walter Mancini’s, where not only the food but also the music vies for your attention. In contrast with the homely interior of Mancini’s – exposed brick and wood over a number of levels and alcoves – Walter Mancini’s is built along a curve of plate glass looking onto the street, and refracting the lights of the interior. This is one place where Sao Paulo – TV actors, journalists, established musicians – comes to be seen, and it’s reflected in the decor.

Front row seats at Walter Mancini’s

The soundtrack is jazz standards, played by a changing line-up of trios and quartets who take to the central podium. A small grand piano, acoustic bass and a drum kit are fixtures, and the amplifier is decently soft and clear. Valve trombone, saxophone, a chanteuse, all make an appearance. The musicians appreciate and acknowledge the occasional applause from the customers – many are so engrossed in their conversations and their company that you can forgive the players their stony-faced demeanour. For all that the playing is skilled, and the standards played with competence and passion. You see the musicians at table when they have played their set.

Oh, the food? I’ve never had a bad Italian meal, even in the back streets of Palermo, though some have been indifferent. Here it’s Italian Brazilian, which is prepared with a somewhat heavier hand – pasta is thicker and doughier, sauces more salty, flavours less balanced and refined – competent, satisfying and popular though it is. In truth, this is a social restaurant rather than a gastronome’s delight, where the ambience is key, whether one is with family or with the stars and the ‘wannabe’ stars. The decor gives you a clue – a long frieze of framed black and white photos of old Sao Paulo, and over the bar, brass plaques commemorate the performers, writers and artists of the metropolis. Lowering your eyes when you finish studying the plaques, another, more obvious function of the bar is crystal clear. Here you can enjoy the delights of your favourite tipple as you observe le tout Sao Paulo. Once you have secured a seat.

A Sao Paulo insititution

Bought a carpet runner today at Praça Benedito Calixto from the expert Oswaldo. It’s a beautiful floral pattern featuring the traditional dark blue indigo and dark red madder, with geometrical elements of the pattern in natural wool of a creamy white, the floral decoration with pink, brown and green detail, and the pattern symmetrical around a central medallion.

One half of Hamadan carpet runner, 10 feet by 2 feet 6

Traditionally a centre of carpet trading for what is made in the surrounding villages, the finer carpets are named for their villages while more everyday items are known by the name of the city, Hamadan. These beautiful objects are described as “good utility carpets”. See

http://www.carpetencyclopedia.com/pages/Styles_and_origin/Persian_carpets/Hamadan-189.html

When you learn that Hamadan has been known for its carpets for a very long time, and you begin to realise just how long ago that could be – it’s on the Silk Road, it’s mentioned as Ekbatana in the Book of Ezra in the Old Testament, as well as by classical Greek historian Heordotus, and indeed may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – your perspective on what’s under your feet, and on the people who made and make these objects becomes dizzyingly extended. Take a step back from the generic ‘Persian carpet’ and appreciate it in its historical context, just as beautiful as its impact in the here and now.

It really is called that … this municipal cemitério has a grand entrance. The street opposite ends in a semicircular crescent, now obscured by commercial development. The shops specialise in antique furniture, appropriately enough, whereas the porch shelters the destitute.

On busy Rua Cardeal Arcoverde – named for the first cardinal born in South America

Begun in 1920, since both the Cemitério da Consolação and the Cemitério do Araçá were full, the Cemitério São Paulo extended the opportunity for the socially ambitious literally to build on their reputation with grand tombs and statuary by established sculptors.

Just past the entrance there’s a well-kept memorial to the combatants of the 1932 Sao Paulo Constitutional Revolution, showing the city’s crest.

Their inspiration the law, LEX

The gate is a neo-classical composition, matching the chapel and the records office in style if not in colour scheme.

Both the sober entrance framing the city and…

… the chapel of rest flanked by funerary cypresses show us peace above, PAX

A crucifix stretched out in the sun beside the records office

You’re struck by the profusion of statuary, especially of the human figure in every attitude of grief.

Unusually strong male statue strikingly installed

The sloping site positively writhes with humanity in vistas and avenues.

Metropolis and necropolis

The cemetery is a welcome patch of nature in its urban surroundings, providing quiet, fresh air and cool shade, though as in the surrounding city, every available space is used.

Niches in the perimeter walls

While there are some grave sites for professional groups …

The final curtain

Mausoleum for nuns of the Brazilian order Missionarias de Jesus Crucificado

… and for individuals …

Italian first conductor of Sao Paulo Conservatorium watched over by van Beethoven

… the vast majority are family vaults, and focus on their dynasties from both sides of the family, emphasising the male line.

Individuals pass on, we continue

Their names are from Italy, Lebanon, Japan and Armenia  as well as from Portugal. The iconography is largely Roman Catholic, with classical and Masonic allusions too –

Cristo Redentor, the Good Shepherd at the Door, the broken column

Masonic temple in miniature

Even Shinto veneration of one’s ancestors appears in syncretist Brazil

– in this context, meaning accrues readily.

” … shall be raised indestructible.”

Tile work makes an occasional appearance.

Mother and child, family tomb

Statuary in metal and in stone is finely wrought.

Shepherd boy and charges

Colour and texture effectively deployed

Marble crisply carved, whether in close-up …

… or complete piece

The mausoleums are well built, with careful detailing.

Drainage for planter boxes

Some measures have been taken against the ravages of the twentieth century – air pollution, for example – and there are almost no graffiti.

Art Nouveau work with near a century’s accumulation of grime

This angel remains snow white

Some memorials were prettily and deliberately conservative in the 1920s.

Angel in bas-relief under Romanesque arch with acanthus-leaf capitals

Some embraced the future with a will.

Memorial to a son in the Italian air force

Some symbols are updated in style, or used in a less obviously religious way.

The Via Dolorosa winds around a funerary vase

Image of the statue of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, patronne of Brazil

Young woman enveloped by a stiff cloak – perhaps alluding to the venerated statue

The worship of Mary is a recurring theme in Brazilian Catholicism, with appearances as the Virgin and as the Mother of God.

From the life of Mary in bronze, the family name and “Ave Maria” carved high on the obelisk

Modern mother and child

Obelisk or chapel, traditional or modern, family or individual, even Christian or not, all kinds are gathered here.

For a priest, a chapel …

… complete with altar, Islamic inscription, Candomble offering … ?

… and angels above

Small but functional family chapel

Family tomb by leading Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

Jesuit tomb for Maluf family – perhaps less keen to highlight construction now

(See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20373040 )

Sure of salvation through living right …

Traditional grouping with traditional message

… or trusting in God at the last trump …

At St Peter’s gate

… when the final preparations are made,

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

a door does seem an appropriate symbol.

Chapel of rest

Life in Sao Paulo always seems to be book-ended by tower blocks – unless you live in an expensive suburb like the Jardims, where the height of development is curtailed, or in a gentrifying suburb like the slice between Avenida Faria Lima and the Pinheiros Marginal ring road – see

https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/16/regeneracao-gentrificacao/

– where the tower blocks are commercial, not yet residential. In Pinheiros, residential towers are springing up on available plots, though the apartments being sold off plan are not moving as easily as once they did.

A pair of towers face each other …

You notice that in a suburb like Itaim Bibi, which has been developed as a business and residential district for some time, the property owners and their architects seem to be competing for landmark status.

… across the street in Itaim

It becomes a bragging contest, in which money talks.

Itaim landmark not just in its own street, with pretensions to the status of the Copan Building

Close up, it's huge

Close up, it’s huge

The retail branches of banks – they do very well in Brasil on a level of customer service which expatriate Anglo-Saxon customers find surprisingly inadequate – are dotted about the city. Their investment in branch property is modest, but well presented.

Lighting outside bank branch off Rua Henrique Schaumann

The chic boutiques display their wares cautiously for the emerging middle class. You sense a precariousness about their existence which does not seem to be shared by the banks.

Show room dummies on Rua Henrique Schaumann

Alongside, on the hoardings of building sites, street art flourishes briefly.

Next door to the showroom

And in the interstices between developments, the poor make a living.

Catadores – recyclers – are a familiar sight in Sao Paulo, pulling their handcarts laden with metal, wood, or most often cardboard, through heavy traffic. Their efforts contribute to an admirable and economic 76% of cardboard produced by Brasil being recycled. More at

http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=1312

They recycle cardboard, support their childen – the family sleeps behind this fence tonight

The cheerfulness of most Brasilians in the face of such differences in prosperity, whether or not during the traditional season of goodwill, gives one pause for thought, and much hope for Brasil’s future …

Traditional Christmas trees, Sao Paolo style

… even book-ended by such disparities in prosperity. Perhaps that is not the problem we perceive it to be.

Just another tower in Itaim …

… reflecting its neighbour across the street

You can tell you’re in Vila Madalena well before you get out of the car – the facades of the bars shout for attention, with mural art, enticingly lit windows, or clever architecture such as salvaged floor boards nailed any old how against the frontage. Too-loud live music advertises its wares from open doorways. Clients cluster around the popular venues, spilling out over the steep and broken footpaths onto the street, talking, laughing, embracing. The manobristas or parking attendants try to flag down the cars crawling by. The occasional residential houses left stranded in this sea of nightlife seem slightly shocked by all the activity.

Bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label kept for individual customers

Bar Piratininga on Rua Wisard is an amiable venue behind an unassuming glass canopied front. Once a house, it’s the usual long shed of a building, divided over two open floors with a mezzanine at the rear, and a decent small sound system piping live piano music throughout. We go up to the first floor alongside the piano and order drinks.

Tonight Olmair Raposo is at the keys, playing a broad range of popular rock from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He’s a friendly bear of a man, his repertoire and his English showing the influence of his ten years abroad in North America. Elton John is a particular favourite, as are the Beatles, who occupy a special place in the hearts of Brasilians. Raposo plays with lilting, sometimes hard-driving rhythm, and sings with clear diction.

Olmair Raposo, pianista e vocalista with guest John Berman on clarinet

When he is joined by clarinettist John Berman the pace picks up as they dip into jazz standards, batting inventive solos back and forth with gusto.

We order a portion of mandioca, sweet deep-fried manioc root which comes to the table golden yellow, hot and crisp, and is rather good with tomato ketchup. The waiter executes a few dance steps as he reaches the top of the stairs – everyone enjoys the music here. The youngish clientele listen attentively and applaud with enthusiasm. Raposo repays their attention by playing their requests, scribbled on a napkin and brought to him by the staff. They cheer and sing along.

1920s house and car, up-to-date venue

It’s hard to believe that some years ago this venue was on its last legs and about to close. It reached back into its history – once a cafe, it was one of the first bars in Sao Paulo to serve draught beer or chope, also pioneering music trios at a time when most bars offered a guitarist on a stool, “banquinho e violão“. Becoming one of the first ‘theme’ bars, it dressed its staff in 30s and 40s style, displayed period photographs of Sao Paulo and used a restored 1929 Ford for its business.

Business picked up so much that it is now one of Madalena’s best-loved venues. And the name? The Campos de Piratininga is the flat plain atop the coastal wall of the Serra do Mar where Sao Paolo begins. With its happy upbeat feel, this venue can indeed claim to represent something of the spirit of the city first known as São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga.

http://www.piratiningabar.com.br/

On the south-west edge of the Sao Paulo connurbation, Embu maintains an identity distinct from the urban sprawl of its enormous neighbour. The centro histórico is a series of cobbled streets with brightly painted stuccoed houses, and shops and restaurants serving the tourist trade. Elsewhere in town there are collections of shops selling ‘arty’ furniture – heavy wooden mock-rustic chairs, kitchen and console tables, wrought iron chandeliers, gates and panels, pool-side furniture, sculptures made from scrap car parts – but in the centre the work is finer.

Picturesque houses and market stalls on every street of the old centre

The shops and stalls sell a wide array of paintings – naive, realist, Brasilian and European landscapes, abstract and op-art – and sculpture, all kinds of handcrafts, bric-a-brac, food and drink, semi-precious stones and jewellery, carpets, and antiques. The better quality antiques, some as early as eighteenth century, come from the fazendas or large farms – Marcelo Aguila has a tall library bookcase including steps and a landing wide enough to accommodate an armchair. He also has a set of four white-glazed earthenware statues of women portraying the seasons, and a pair of console tables of jacaranda wood with marquetry tops and ivory detailing.

Views across Largo dos Jesuitas …

There are lace and fabric handcrafts, wooden objets d’art and utensils, and hats and other clothing for sale, and a specialist pet market. An excellent silversmith sets a wide range of Brasilian stones. A forro duo play accordion and pandeiro – like a  tambourine – on a street corner. A clown in full costume offers to make balloon animals.

… down Rua Boa Vista …

The  covered terraces of restaurants are filled with day-trippers enjoying food, drink and live music, some even dancing in the lunch-time crowd. The sun beats down fiercely, though the dark clouds piling up bring lightning and heavy rain later. Not one, but two ‘living statues’ perform in the main square – see above and below.

… and towards Rua Nossa Senhora do Rosario

We have lunch at the excellent Emporio Sao Pedro, a business which has successfully combined food and antiques for a number of years. A James Taylor sound-alike troubador sings and plays guitar in accented English. The restaurant’s address, the steep Viela das Lavadeiras or Laundress’ Alley suggests something of the history of the town centre.

View from the verandah of the Emporio Sao Pedro, Viela das Lavadeiras

As in much of Brasil, European settlement was led by the Jesuits, who established a church here in 1554, later adding a monastery, which buildings today form the Museu de Arte Sacra dos Jesuitas. Built to a simple rectangular plan with high white walls, blue shuttered windows and a pan-tiled roof, the church is both elegant and cooly functional.

Museu de Arte Sacra dos Jesuitas, Embu das Artes

The white walls, plain wooden floor and ceiling help to focus attention on the ornately carved and painted baroque wooden altar pieces, with twisted columns framing illuminated saints, a central crucifix and a monochrome Madonna above. Clerical vestments are displayed as if kneeling, wooden candelabra are backlit on the altar. A carved balcony decorated with the monogram of the Society of Jesus juts out of the right-hand wall at first-floor level, presumably for the principal of the monastery to be able to address the lay faithful.

The view north from the Jesuit monastery

The construct is intensely theatrical, the large bare space for the audience focused on the miraculous images in the cabinet beyond the fourth wall of the altar rail, the front row reserved for the brothers now at rest beneath the polished wooden panels let into the floor, the decorated balcony ready to broadcast the devotional word of the Society. Out in the brothers’ cloistered garden, a plain cross is picked out with red flowering plants and a white gravelled border behind a low clipped hedge.

Though the museum has a rich holding of religious art, artefacts and architecture, you can sense in the simplicity of how its message is formulated that the organisation is trying to reach beyond its history to its mission – AMDG, ad maiorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God. The Google Earth satellite view below of the Society’s monogram in the garden at Embu – zoom in, right hand side – continues to broadcast its devotion.

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=embu+das+artes&ie=UTF-8&ei=NiiUUOq6C8LL0AHB0IC4Dw&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAg

I am reminded by this view, by the street-names in Embu, by the dedication of the museum volunteers, by the everyday use of expressions like “Nossa!” – for Nossa Senhora – and “Graças a Deus” – Thanks be to God – how intensely religious a culture is Brasil.

The music venue Tom Jazz is a well-known intimate jazz venue in Consolação, Sao Paulo, also catering for the up-market crowd for private parties and serving as a platform for the launch of new projects. Last night gamine Italian Brasilian chanteuse Mafalda Minnozzi was there for the second night of a two-date launch of her new CD.

Launching her new CD Spritz

She is not merely a singer but a very engaging performer with a strong stage persona, and an amusing line in monologues about the attractions of Rome and of Italy. She makes good use of what used to be called feminine wiles to flirt with and to amuse her excellent band, and her audience. They enjoy her eccentric delivery and her repartee, they are mesmerised by her singing, they sing along on demand and they volunteer enthusiastically for audience participation.

She had fun with Annibale from the audience

Minnozzi has a strong voice. She’s a ‘belter’ when she wants to be but she can use the lighter, more fey end of her register too with a sound reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper from the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun phase. Her cultural references are from La Dolce Vita of the 1950s and 60s – her dress sense, her repertoire, her musical idol Ennio Morricone. She sings Portuguese and Italian with equal ease. If you’ve seen the film of The Talented Mr Ripley with Jude Law, you’ll understand her milieu well, including her rendition of Tu Vuo’ Fa l’Americano.

Given the huge Italian influence, Brasil is a natural home-from-home for her. She has performed regularly in Brasil since the late 1990s, including for Globo’s telenovella soundtracks, and with Brasilian greats Paulo Moura, Martinho da Vila and Chico Buarque. Her audience knows her lyrics well. She can also call on more sombre repertoire, with songs in a Brecht and Weill vein. She has something of Piaf’s catch in the voice too.

Minnozzi uses face, gesture and posture with abandon in her delivery

Tom Jazz has a configuration similar to that of Sampa jazz club Bourbon Street – a long narrow space with small tables for light dining, a stage at one end, a mezzanine balcony upstairs with more tables and a bar, and a high-quality sound and lights set-up. The four-piece band is tight and sweet, the repertoire easy Italian and Brasilian MOR.

Minnozzi surprised me last night with a cover of the 1966 Dusty Springfield hit You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me; I discover it was a hit in Italian first, the previous year. Here’s the official video of her October 2011 hit Con un Sorriso (With a Smile) in Italian; she also issued a Portuguese version for her Brasilian audience. Truly an international star.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGktNG32C9k

Moon and stars ceiling light, Julio Prestes Cultural Center / Sala Sao Paulo

Concerts at the Sala Sao Paulo tend to be spoken of by venue rather than by performer or composer, and you soon see and hear why. From here, coffee from the interior of Brasil was taken by rail to Santos to be shipped to the world. This building has led many lives.

Ex-entrance hall, Estação JP

These days the acoustics of the former Julio Prestes railway station or ‘JP’ are world-famous. It is compared with the best classical music venues, which whether by ‘feel’ – Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw – or by acoustic science – Boston’s Symphony Hall – were purpose-built. All the more commendable that the happy accident of the station’s ‘shoebox’ shape was enlisted for the permanent home of the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra OSESP.

Cast iron stairway, HQ of Estrado Ferro de Sorocabana

On Sundays at 1100 am the Sala holds a regular free Matinais concert. The house rules – no eating or drinking, no wearing of shorts, no clapping between movements – suggest an educational remit for this joint State and Federal government project.

Former open-air courtyard of the Estação JP

Last Sunday the Sala hosted the Orquestra Sinfônica de Santo Andre, under the baton of Carlos Eduardo Moreno. The traditional programme – Beethoven’s Fifth, a bassoon concerto by von Weber – showed off this regional orchestra to perfection. Strong instrumental playing and a beautifully controlled ensemble responding vivaciously to the Maestro’s reading gave a capacity audience some spine-tingling moments.

Concert platform

The acoustic is indeed excellent. While the glories of the 1920s neo-classical building are preserved, the main focus of the restoration was the sound: the suspended adjustable ceiling, the sound-absorbing floor, the ‘air lock’ entrances, the thermo-acoustic roof, the placing of the seats, all were designed to optimise the flow of sound. US specialists Artec created an auditorium in 1999 which eliminated the noise of passing trains. The trains no longer run, but the acoustic is outstanding, crisp though not too dry, and the hall is a pleasure to run your eyes over as you enjoy the music.

Orquestra Sinfônica de Santo Andre in action

The enthusiasm of the 1500-strong audience confirms the wisdom of this spend, an investment in the long-term health of Sao Paulo’s musical life. Yet this miracle of a concert hall is just a few blocks away from the current Metrô station, the Estação da Luz, and the desperate and destitute who frequent the Jardim da Luz over the road.

Campanile of the Estação JP from the Estação da Luz

Searching for the Sala, we mistakenly parked alongside Luz, and asked the locals who had appeared from nowhere for directions to the Sala. They indicated the Estação da Luz, and suggested we should pay them to look after the car, to prevent it from being scratched. This being a fact of Sao Paulo life, I gave them R$10 as we got out of the car. It was then that we were told that the Sala was a few blocks walk away, in the other direction. We drove on wiser and they R$10 richer. The contrasts of life in Sao Paulo were thrown into sharp relief.

http://www.osesp.art.br/portal/paginadinamica.aspx?pagina=salasaopaulo

www2.santoandre.sp.gov.br/page/1524/34

This bar is clearly a Sao Paulo institution, and it knows it. “Founded in 1948 by German Henrique Hillebrecht” as the web site has it, the downtown bar has witnessed much of Sampa’s history, and played its part in its rise – music, food, political debate – and decline, closing in the neglect of the 1990s which seemed to afflict much of Sao Paulo’s Centro. The substantial turn-of-the-century Edificio Independencia office block of which it is the ground floor stands empty now. The landmark Copan Building around the corner experienced a similar rise and fall. See  https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/04/feijoada-copan/

The management imagines Sao Paulo’s Bohemian set “thankful” and “reverent” at its resurgence in 2001 “on the most famous corner of the city”. It claims an enticingly varied musical and gastronomic offering. Quite a reputation to live up to. Tonight the music comes from Paulistana roots sambista Carolina Soares, who appears regularly.

What we have here is a music emporium. On the Boulevard terrace, the traditional Riverboat’s Jazz Band – trumpet, banjo, washboard, euphonium – complete with straw boater hats and red or black sleeve suspenders play New Orleans tunes for the punters while the parking manobristas drive away and return cars. They are playing as we go in, and still in full swing two hours later. They’re good, even with the over-familiar tunes.

Riverboat’s Jazz Band, “considered one of the foremost traditional jazz bands in the country”

Inside, a singer-guitarist is the first sight to greet you from a high stage. As you go further in, you notice access to an upstairs area – lounge? Internet cafe? tourist information point? all three? – as you thread your way through to the Salão Principal where the main act performs. Handsome thick dark green tiling curves away down a service corridor. The main room is already crowded and, without a reservation, a table beside the service entrance is the best you can expect. Nevertheless the carpaccio salad was good and the service attentive.

Salão Principal, Bar Brahma, Sao Paulo Centro

A choro group  – cavaquinho, mandolin, guitar and pandeiro – play the familiar repertoire well, though the PA obscures their sound, and the crowded room of birthday celebrants, drinkers, diners and dancers pay scant attention. Called Choro Brejeiro – Provocative Choro – they also appear here regularly.

By the reaction of the audience, the main attraction is undoubtedly Caolina Soares. She makes a striking entrance, buoyed by an instrumental build-up from her band and setting her stamp on the evening with her presence. Tall and Juno-esque, she sways and turns gracefully in an eye-catching yellow-gold figured silk gown which she clutches and twitches as she performs.

Sambista Carolina Soares with band. Note goofus player.

She too is a Sao Paulo institution, a regular performer during carnaval and at the Sambódromo, who also tours internationally. The crowd knows the lyrics well and sings along as she praises the girls from Rio Grande do Sul, and sings of love and desire. This is MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) with a samba tinge.

The Bar is expert at giving its customers what they want: they also operate bars at the Aeroclube Sao Paulo, the capital Brasilia and now in Alphaville in Sao Paulo. They run a samba school and events such as a vinyl record collectors’ fair at the Sao Paulo Centro bar, and lest you fear they are too MOR, the cutting edge Sao Paulo jazz venue Jazz Nos Fundos programmes live music for them in the adjacent smaller Brahminha. Bar Brahma is indeed as described, “a franchise model developed by the premium new business division of Ambev”.

Paying the bill at Brahma: beer, bar and franchise

Ambev? “A subsidiary of global brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev and the biggest brewery in Latin America and the fifth in the world.” (Wikipedia). And the name? An Anheuser-Busch brand, “Brahma is a Brazilian beer, originally made by the Companhia Cervejaria Brahma which was founded in 1888.” Bar Brahma is part of a global business, not just a corner bar with good beer and a samba singer.

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

An annual street festival running since 1926, the Festa de Nossa Senhora Achiropita happens on every weekend in August in the Sao Paulo neighbourhood of Bela Vista. This area alongside the business district of Avenida Paulista is also known as Bixiga. Debates about the origin of this name (bladder? smallpox? balloon?), the exact boundaries of the district, the origin of the largest population group (Calabria? Naples?), the claim to be Sao Paulo’s best night life district (or is it Itaim Bibi? or Vila Madalena?) suggest a lively and disputatious local culture. During Festa, Rua 13 de Maio is crowded with sightseers, loudspeakers blaring Italian popular songs (“Volare – oh oh – cantare – oh oh oh oh”)

Rua 13 de Maio, any weekend in August

The street decorations glitter in the floodlights, the crowds crush into the open street between the stalls. Many are selling the legendary fogazza. It’s described as savoury stuffed pizza dough fried in oil – the stuffing may be spicy cheese or meat. There were more people queuing on the street for it than there were passers-by. Going into the church of Nossa Senhora Achiropita seemed a more inviting prospect.

“Not by bread alone”

Communal life has always been important in Bixiga. An immigrant area, Italians became the dominant group early last century. Their influence can be seen in domestic and street architecture, cuisine, local music and especially in the church and its social welfare provision.

Nossa Senhora Achiropita supports local charities with the proceeds of the Festa, organises food for the destitute, creches, an educational service, and Afro-Brasilian-style worship in the church.

The venerated Madonna hails from Rossano in Calabria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rossano_Cathedral , an area famous for its marble and alabaster. Sao Paulo was given special permission to dedicate a church to her.

Italian-style social life is thriving here too. Restaurants and bars or cantinas abound. It’s as though a slice of Italian village life  has been transported to Sao Paulo entire.

Cafe des artistes …

Some have been here longer than the Festa itself.

Named for the town near Naples, established 1907, and proud of it

Visitors to the Festa seem subdued, queueing numbly for food in lines behind barriers, pounded into submission by the exuberant sound track, its lyrics lustily sung by stall holders. Strangely, there are no musicians to be seen. At intervals along the street, security guards keep a watchful eye on the crowds from elevated platforms. Bixiga has a reputation as a safe neighbourhood, and clearly wants to keep it that way.

At the top of the street, on the edge of the Festa, young sex workers and their pimps drink a mixture of soft drink and cachaca (sugar cane spirit) around a portable music system. Past the police barriers at the bottom of the street, a slightly wilder festa can be found. Two musicians sit playing inside a makeshift structure – cage? stage? Floodlights and follow-spots on the balcony of a three-storey building opposite illuminate a group of performers beside the musicians.

Street theatre musicians

Actors, both men and women are dressed in flamboyant white gowns, and they wear radio microphones, their dialogue broadcast far and wide. They are followed by a camera-woman. What she shoots is projected onto the building opposite the floodlights.

The performers declaim, playfully stop the slow-moving traffic, and move through the crowd, disappearing and re-appearing while the camera follows them. A red balloon escapes and floats into the night. A bursting red suitcase stuffed with red clothes is carried tragically away. I’m told the target of their satire is the political class. I haven’t seen multi-media street theatre like this since the 1960s.

Their street their theatre

And in the church, another kind of theatre. It’s a riot of brightly painted colours simulating coloured marbles, a humble echo of the richly decorated Catedral da Sé de São Paulo in the same parish, of which the mosaics, the marble and even the organ are the work of Italian artisans between 1913 and 1954. Nossa Senhora Achiropita could well have been their local church.

Carved marble cartouche, one of 16 around the altar, Catedral da Sé

A pair of folk musicians sing a well-meaning but mournful-sounding duet with guitar accompaniment – some things seem the same the world over. A well-spoken priest describes Achiropita’s history and mission, moving seamlessly into a Christian service in the comfortably full church.

Interior, Nossa Senhora Achiropita, Bela Vista, Sao Paulo

And who is the miraculous Madonna, Nossa Senhora Achiropita, invoked in the service? Appropriately in this minor miracle of a painted building, she is the subject of a wall painting in the Rossano Cathedral, a Madonna and child “supposedly discovered in the cathedral plaster and not painted by human hand” (Wikipedia), hence ‘a-chiro-pita’. From this perspective, the humble Achiropita seems as impressive as the mosaics and statuary of the capital’s Cathedral close by.

The work of 20th-century Italian artisans, Catedral da Sé

In Brasilian culture, the visual sense is very strong. Street art and graffiti are everywhere, as regular readers will know. In Vila Madalena today – famous for its murals in “Batman Alley” – the annual street fair had all the usual attractions, but the striking street art is so common it goes unremarked. Why was I taking this picture? people seemed to be wondering. Why not what was going on up there on the stage?

Eyes on the stage, Rua Fidalga, Feira Madalena

One street fair attraction new to me was car customisation Brasilian style. The artist had parked this utility vehicle in the cordoned-off street, covered the windscreen with cardboard, and was concentrating on his spray cans. Was it a moving billboard, a commission, an action art piece? Not sure, but it was eye-catching.

Custom paint job, Sao Paulo style

Everyone carries cameras to record the life around them, whether it’s a choro band – the excellent Choro Blue  http://www.choroblue.org.br/ – playing on the street fair stage, or their own photogenic daughter dancing to them. A well-specified SLR camera is almost as common as a cel phone camera on these occasions.

Instituto de Música Choro Blue setting up

Visual stimulation is appreciated everywhere in this built environment. Something comes to mind: where does the graphic style – bright colours, thick black outlines, conscious interaction with architecture – come from?

Popular young choro,samba and dance musicians being filmed in action

Could it have escaped from here?

Window of the Congregação das Irmãs Passionistas church, Rua Conego Eugênio Leite

Improving literacy is (still) a concern for state education, and a politician may be elected to office literally without being able to read or write. You can imagine that in a pre-literate culture, the stained glass of the churches telling the Biblical stories provided the blueprint for today’s more secular work in this intensely religious country.

Ex shop fitting

Down towards the Marginal Pinheiros, one of Sao Paulo’s ring roads, the street is being dug up. Drainage is being renewed, curbs and surfaces relaid, traffic re-routed. It displaces the locals and confuses the visitor – it seems a sign of something afoot in this suburb.

Gentrification in action on the top floor STOP PRESS Road being re-surfaced

In  nearby areas, properties are renovated, chic boutiques open, restaurants flourish: the growing middle class is bringing prosperity to these city suburbs.  The area is mixed use – a mobile phone supplier below, rented residential above, a seamstress next door.

Judging by the sign, this has been for sale for some time.

Everyday life is disrupted by such development, and the old neighbourhood living patterns broken up.

Displaced fruit vendor still trading

The traces of earlier waves of development are evident. Against local opposition, housing was removed in the late 1960s to make way for the extension of Avenida Faria Lima. Outlines of buildings remain, street art forgotten and overgrown.

Avenida Faria Lima

Sometimes a vista is newly emphasised – a church hoves into view, the foliage of a tree is highlighted.

Waiting for the tarmac

This modern gem seems safe, being a university building.

Universidade Paulista (UNIP) law school building …

The water tower is pure War of the Worlds.

… with … is it a Martian Tripod on the roof?

Complete with green street art

It seems clear that small-scale street life is to be dwarfed by the beautiful behemoths of corporate Brasil, although gallery art is included, as in the Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake.

Torrre Faria Lima, and Torrre Pedroso de Moraes housing Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake

The corporations support local initiatives like this river water purification project and park hard by the Marginal – and if you could smell the river, you’d understand.

View from Praca Victor Civita

The decking is suspended above layered beds, where maize and bio-diesel plants grow, and rain and river water are filtered. Businesses display their CSR (corporate social responsibility) credentials with pride – there’s a sponsored ‘green school’ with an education and cultural programme run by the Sao Paulo city Prefeitura.

Verdescola and other social responsibility opportunities

The destitute and the yoga class mix warily under the gaze of the towers. Such disparity of opportunity jars. Is this truly the best that can be done?

Sao Paulo lives on the street socially. The apartment blocks, ‘vertical villages’, have meeting rooms for parties and so on, and you chat to your neighbours in the lift and the lobby, but spontaneous social intercourse is much more likely on the street. You may have exchanges at the taxi rank or ponto (if you can tear them away from their chat, their water coolers, their telephones and their TVs – yes, even at the taxi rank), at the paderia or delicatessen, even at the shop where you bought something. I shook hands warmly with la patronne at the local upholstery shop as I went by. https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/14/a-brasilian-eye/  Good to see that her advertising is bearing fruit.

Soft tree bearing fruit

Beggars ply their trade, some with crutches which are clearly props, some just as clearly physically less able. People – mostly men, but some women too – sleep on the street by day or by night. They may be destitute – it’s the habit for the better-off to give them small-denomination notes, both philosophical about their stations in life. The less destitute may use a handcart to collect cardboard, wood or metal for recycling. They tend to sleep under their carts at night, singly, in couples, or with a dog. Many of them are from the north-east, drawn to Sampa by the prospect of paying work. Prostitutes work at stretches of road where traffic jams are frequent. I’ve even seen eggs being fried in a well-used spot outside the local supermarket, and a portable stove in use on a central reservation.

View from the under-storey – folded cardboard on a handcart foreground

If you sell fruit and vegetables and there’s street renovation going on, you set up around the corner until it’s finished.

Road works and  displaced  street trader, Rua Sumidouro

Other trades work on the street too. Sellers of bottled gas make their rounds with a specific, musical fanfare, hauntingly repeated. Street traders are not restricted to markets – around a building site they sell hand tools and hardware, in the park refreshing agua de coco. At traffic intersections when the lights are red, vendors offer football club merchandise, fruit, drinks, sweet and savoury snacks, flowers, umbrellas … and if it sounds like a circus, yes, there are buskers too – jugglers, clowns, unicyclists, living statues, even one evening a pair of very amateur acrobats (if standing on your sister’s back counts) neither of whom were yet teenagers.

The knife sharpener makes his rounds regularly.

Pedal power, Avenida Pinheiros

Although Sao Paulo is overwhelmingly motorised, cyclists are active even during the death-defying rush hour, and on Sundays many make the journey in groups to the largest park, Ibiripuera, to ride around its leafy cycleways. Cycling campaigns run regular cross-town rides, or are they demonstrations? One night I stood on the corner for more than ten minutes while campaigning cyclists rode by, bells ringing insistently, LED headlamps flashing in disjointed syncopation, and ride marshals over-riding the traffic lights, stopping the cars at intersections to allow the cyclists through. There must have been hundreds of them. The city cycling club which I saw today were celebrating their fifteenth anniversary.

… and all of them with the yellow jersey, Rua Teodoro Sampaio

Traditional attractions remain. A street vendor had taken up his pitch opposite the busy local supermarket, his hurdy-gurdy cranked by hand, with a bright yellow cage on top. I asked if I could take his picture and he agreed. At the music his green parrot squawked and whistled, emerging untethered to see what it  could see. It regarded my out-stretched hand coldly and retreated to its perch. Disregarding his keeper’s warning, I whistled and stretched out my hand again, receiving a well-judged bite for my troubles. We agreed it could easily crack nuts, but its final response sent me laughing down the street. At my second overture, it went indoors, and pulled the door closed behind it in a well-practised action. Its opinion of Sao Paulo street life was clear.

Brasileiro both

P.S. What I hadn’t realised was that for two reais, this is also a form of telling your fortune. The parrot can pick a folded slip of paper from a drawer under the yellow cage, which it ‘kisses’ before it’s taken by the vendor and given to you. The drawer is divided into compartments for men and women. And your fortune includes a lucky lottery number for you. A wise old bird.

Fortune teller

Fortune teller

At the Clube Paineiras do Morumby, a large private members club in the prosperous and leafy Sao Paulo suburb of Morumbi, the Orquestra Pinheiros gave their tenth anniversary concert, a programme of jazz standards and show and film tunes. The club itself  http://www.portal.clubepaineiras.com.br/site/ is 52 years old, a large social, cultural and sports club, built on what was once a tea plantation established by Englishman John Rudge after 1808.

Roof over the restaurant

Roof over the restaurant

The club still has something of the plantation about it, set on an expansive sloping site, the open-air dining area crowded with tables under umbrellas, reminiscent of closely planted tea bushes. The lights of Sao Paulo’s ‘verticalisation’ twinkle on the horizon.

Morumby alfresco 

The club house is built with the familiar Sao Paulo raw concrete.

Ferro-concrete, tile and neon arcade, Morumby

It’s enlivened with colourful tiling and paint, and plays with the inside / outside boundary, apposite for a sports club.

Clube Paineiras Morumby: inside view from outside

The concert takes place in the Cineteatro, where the stage hosts the 35 musicians plus technical support. Later, guest vocalists will  share the stage. It’s an impressively large group which can make a big sound. Murilo Alvarenga, our genial maestro, also sings and is responsible for tonight’s orchestration too. He’s one of the few professional musicians in this group; apart from one or two sitting in, this orchestra plays for the love of it, not the money, practising twice a week. And Sr Alvarenga too is clearly here for the love of the music. His enthusiasm for it is infectious as well as educational, and the audience respond strongly.

Audience for …

As the programme unfolds, they nod in time and tap their feet to the music, occasionally voicing their enthusiastic approval.

… Orquestra Pinheiros …

By the end, they award the musicians a standing ovation and an encore for the last number, the song Sway, composed by Mexican bandleader Pablo Beltrán Luiz in 1953, and most recently popularised by Michael Bublé.

… swaying in Clube Morumby’s Cineteatro

Vocalists Ana Tagliannetti and Rita Valente have fun with their response to the lover’s scenario in the lyrics, bringing this good-natured evening to an enthusiastic close. You wonder if tackling it in Spanish might have added to the fun … here’s the composer’s version, from a 1977 performance for TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hti_DB9nyZM&feature=related

Lunch at the Bar da Dona Onça http://www.bardadonaonca.com.br/ on the ground floor of the iconic Copan building in Sao Paulo Centro. Being Saturday, lunch is feijoada, a black bean stew with various cuts of pork – rib, sausage, crackling, ear – and traditional accompaniments like farofa (toasted manioc flour to sprinkle on top), rice and pickles, as well as more unusual accompaniments like banana, mild chili and orange segments, which work well with the heavy fatty cuts of pork. The decor is a stab at period edgy (not original) which works quite well.

Interior of Bar da Dona Onca

But the star of the show is the Copan building, which you see as you approach through traffic, a wave in a sea of rectangles. It’s a huge edifice, 30 storeys at least, with room for 5,000 residents in apartments of various shapes and sizes. Undergoing refurbishment, it’s a recognised architectural landmark by a world-class architect – Oscar Niemeyer – though I have some sympathy with the Paulistano view that “like everything he did, it’s good for taking pictures, but lousy to live in.” (Regina Rheda)

The Copan Building by Oscar Niemeyer from street level

The district around it is full of architectural interest, from the circular tower of the ex-Hilton Hotel …

A hotel, once

… to detailing like this op-art tiling on the alley-way entrance of a neighbouring building.

Down the alley to the neighbours

But the Niemeyer is the Oscar-winning star turn. Gradually abandoned as a central business district and prime residential address in the 1960s, in favour of Avenida Paulista for business and the Jardims for home, it still has the presence to impress, like the Niemeyer-designed Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói in Rio de Janeiro.

Beautiful setting, startling space-age building, Niteroi

That building looks striking, but it doesn’t work well as a museum – awkward entrance, especially when raining, an exterior gallery with blinding reflected light over the water, and artificially-lit gloom in the circular interior – and you ask yourself what the sinuous shape of the Copan means for the internals of its apartments. This is bravura architecture, playing to the strong visual sense of the Brasilian culture, and able to be railroaded through without the hindrance of the cautious UK planning system. Here, function follows form. It says something for the aesthetic sense of Brasil’s elite – not to mention their social awareness – that these are iconic buildings. It’s undeniably and impressively beautiful, and a welcome change from the rectangular.

A hulking beauty

It makes a thought-provoking comparison with what was built 25 years later in Rotterdam: http://blog.padmapper.com/2010/07/28/22-futuristic-apartments-you-need-to-see-to-believe/ striking and futurisitic, but on a smaller scale, and reportedly more user-friendly. What can Brasil do in the same vein? The next few decades will be interesting …

Architect Piet Blom’s tree houses, 1982

Monday night is when working musicians have the night off – bars are closed, restaurants recover from the weekend trade – so what do working musicians do? They play music! Tonight the Movimento Elefantes collective hosted an evening of big band jazz.

They were playing at the Teatro da Vila in Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo, a venue so obscure that the taxi driver hadn’t heard of it, though he knew the names of all the streets. It’s the modest theatre space for a local public school just off Rua Rodesia, Escola Estadual Carlos Maximiliano which, threatened with closure, established a community and arts programme to maintain its viability.  http://teatrodavila.org.br/

Setting up at Teatro da Vila

Movimento Elefantes is a group of 10 big bands, dedicated to keeping big band jazz alive and appreciated. My musician informant tells me that there were well-known players from the heyday of Paulistano big bands in the 1980s in the audience. Some of them sat in with the band tonight for various numbers.

Banda Jazzco at play

Jazzco is hosted by its genial bass player Amador Bueno, who keeps the good-humoured quips coming as dependably as he drives his bass. The 12 band members – four saxes plus flutes, two trumpets and a trombone in the brass section, and keyboard, rhythm and bass guitar, drums and percussion – shape a tight and intricate music, hard-driving and adventurous in its harmonies. The drummer delights in playing not just with colour and volume, but with time signature too. The short solos each player took between his breaks were a particular delight.  http://movimentoelefantes.com/bandas/bandajazzco/

Popular bar, popular music – corner of Rua Rodesia and Rua Jerico

The band asks the audience to contribute what they think is a fair price at the end of the night – the appreciative capacity audience in this small theatre clearly thought it worth much more than the price of a beer. The customers in the Mercearia Sao Pedro across the road enjoyed the music too!

“Ton Ton Jazz and Music Bar” says the logo …

Out to see the Paulistano ‘little big band’ Patavinas Jazz Club at Ton Ton Jazz http://www.tonton.com.br/ in Moema, Sao Paulo. It’s a night-life district near Shopping Ibiripuera (not near the park of the same name), where venues like Bourbon Street Music Club also ply their trade. The moody black-and-white photographs on the walls may show acknowledged US jazz greats, but in truth, jazz becomes a broad label here. Bourbon Street hosted a very tight US funk band recently, and the second act last night at Ton Ton was Banda Funk Five. The longest line was outside the club opposite, for an 80s and 90s rock night.

Ton Ton Jazz interior

What they have in common is live music – Sao Paulo is crammed full of it. The antiques market at Praca Benedicto Calixto features a beautifully sweet choro ensemble every Saturday afternoon. Even my local supermarket (!) regularly plays host to live music – I’ve heard a guitarist and a keyboard player live there on different occasions.

Ton Ton Jazz is the long shed I’ve come to expect in Sao Paulo, with a bar at one end and a stage at the other, a loud PA plus three distracting video screens, but the food, the drink and the service are fine.

11 playing on stage – the Patavinas line-up

Patavinas Jazz Club http://www.patavinasjazzclub.com/ is led by guitarist Andre Hemsi. Along with their keyboard player, he composes much of the band’s repertoire.  They’re an entertaining spectacle, though they don’t sport the choreographed movements of a massed brass section, big band style, despite the music stand logos. The interplay of the musicians, and their evident enjoyment of their ensemble work and solos, is what lights up the stage. The keyboard player stands out, even though he’s at the back – he looks like Jack Teagarden, and he plays as sweetly. The daring of his invention can be breath-taking.

Andre Hemsi is the other half of the band’s motive force. He’s a fluent and wide-ranging stylist, stepping up to solos with assurance, and just as strong in support. With the rock-solid rhythm section behind, the front line take their solos with aplomb, whether long-time members or stand-ins. And it’s good to see a woman playing jazz, trumpet in this case.

In a sense, the most impressive factor doesn’t dawn on you until later: these are all original compositions. They range from reggae through swing to bebop, tackled with panache and vigour. The Brasilian love of music nurtures this musical culture, with little regard for the boundaries between genres. Jazz is alive and well, and living in Sao Paulo!

The art of graffiti is in rude health in Brasil, certainly in its two main cities. Nothing like an exhaustive survey follows, just a few snapshots, but the variety is astounding, as is the quality. Free street art has never looked so good!

Sometimes you just glimpse it from the car as you go past …

… and sometimes it’s built to the same scale as the skyscrapers.

Sometimes the image uses its architectural setting …

… or the setting can simply provide a bare surface …

… whether buildings or street furniture …

… or simply a wall. A cartoon style predominates, but …

… artists also use complex visual textures, and play with the setting’s colours.

P.S. Here’s the same wall five months later. Same spidery line, same integration with surrounding colour. Subject: Christmas tree?

Near Largo da Batata, December 2012

Near Largo da Batata, December 2012

This excellent piece on Rua Riacheulo in Rio uses an effective mix of styles …

… while this one in Rio’s Santa Teresa sticks with simpler graphics, and ignores setting.

Even at night under artificial light …

… and perhaps being a group effort …

… (reading right to left) …

… the impact is memorable.

It may have been there a long time but …

… when you go past again, it’s worth another look.

On the Sao Paulo Metro underground rail service the Yellow Line or Linha Amarela serves the Faria Lima station. It’s been open for two years, serving a mixture of offices on Avenida Faria Lima, and smaller businesses and residences around Rua Teodoro Sampaio. A busy station, it is designed to connect with bus services which go through the terminal nearby, though much of the development of the surrounding terrain is still to be done.

A long queue for buses; helicopters clatter overhead, afternoon rain clouds mass

It is the first Sao Paulo line to be built privately. Delays caused by accident – a tunnel collapsed – and subsequent investigation and, it’s said, by the slow process of compulsory purchase, have also affected the opening of the next station at Pinheiros, still under construction.

Police and traders share welcome shade at the Faria Lima bus terminal

The stations and trains are up-to-the-minute, with glass platform barriers (like the Jubilee Line in London). Rolling stock is supplied by Hyundai. The architecture makes good use of raw concrete and brightly coloured tilework and signage. The lighting is bright without being intrusive.

Ticket barriers, Faria Lima station

Travellers pay a flat R$3 fare, insert the ticket in the barrier and pass through the turnstile. Season tickets use RFID. A simple system which seems to work smoothly.

Platform Faria Lima

The station is cool and clean, people move quickly but without stress. The carriages are bright, with stainless steel grab rails, plastic and fabric seating, advertising screens and service announcements.

Light shafts, Paulista station

Rolling walkways connect with other lines. One stop up the line is Consolacao and Paulista, an interchange station. Here too the architecture is spacious and bright, with plenty of visual interest.

Up to street level exit onto Rua da Consolacao

At the exit looking back

Looking down the light well

If all the lines are built to this standard, Sao Paulo has reason to hope that its infrastructure problems can be addressed, before, during and after the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

Platform tunnel, Paulista

Your journey takes you not just from station to station but from the old Sao Paulo to the new, and back. Integrating the two without losing the charm of the old or the convenience of the new is the challenge to which Sampa’s planners need to rise.

Faria Lima station exit at dusk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_4_(S%C3%A3o_Paulo_Metro)

Apartment tower being prepared for repairs, Pinheiros

Walked down to the Faria Lima metro station today, to go up to Consolacao – named for the cemetery – for its lighting shops. I’m collecting images of Sao Paulo’s towers, struck by the variations on the ferro-concrete box which I discover. It’s starting to become a habit, perhaps an obsession … staring up at the buildings, or worse, photographing them, I get strange looks. Don’t mind, when the visual environment above street level is so rich. The netting they use during refurbishment puts me in mind of the ‘wrapping’ works of visual artist Christo.

Heaven knows the facades can look blank – any colour welcome! Consolacao.

Three more variations on ways to disguise the box mentioned before ….