Archives for posts with tag: Vila Madalena

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The street art may have been superceded, but something catches my eye.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.

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/

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.

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!

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