Saturday, September 22, 2012

An Homage - Chico César

Presumably the Brazilian singer/songwriter, journalist, activist and politician Chico César loves to eat, as his music, his lyrics and his writings are full of the absolute delight in sensual enjoyment in all its forms. But, in reality, he has little to do directly with Brazilian gastronomy - the nominal subject of this blog.

However, having attended a stupendous show of this remarkable artist last night in Fortaleza, it's impossible for us not to honor him with his own post here on Flavors of Brazil. Among all the flavors of this vibrant country, he is one of the richest, and certainly among the spiciest.

Chico César comes from Brazil's long-suffering northeast, from the tiny state of Paraíba, and he has long been a champion of his state and of his region. His music reflects the rhythms and dance styles of the northeast - from the frevo of Recife's Carnaval, to the endemic dance rhythm, forró, and on to the tradition of folk ballads from the harsh sertão in the interior of the northeast that punishes those that live in it and love it.

His career began as a journalist in Brazil's biggest city, São Paulo, where he learned to play guitar (marvelously) and began to compose his first tunes. From the beginning his lyrics became known for their linguistic cleverness, complexity and beauty. Unfortunately, as with all poets, his lyrics are practically impossible to translate, at least in all their richness of allusion and connotation. But take it as gospel that they can be beautiful, moving, hilarious, and ascerbic - sometimes all at once.

He was never satisfied just to be a popular musician and composer, though that he was, with success in Brazil and Europe, and in 2009 he returned to the capital of his native Paraíba, João Pessoa, where he assumed the presidency of the city's Cultural Foundation. In 2010, he took the post of Minister of Culture for the state, a position he holds today, even as he continues to write music, release CDs and DVDs and tour.

In honor of this great Brazilian, our blog will feature traditional recipes from Paraíba in the next few posts. In the meantime, do yourself the favor of searching out Chico César on the usual spots on the Internet. You won't be disappointed. To get you started, here's a video of his from YouTube that showcases just a few of the aspects of his artistry. It was filmed in his hometown and co-stars his family and neighbors. It's called Mama Africa and the lyrics are in praise of the African spirit that inhabits and inspires the poor and downtrodden of the northeast.

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