Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gilberto Gil

22 July 2010

Following the ‘Point of Culture’ debate at the Purcell Room on Wednesday, I made my way next door to the Royal Festival Hall, together with Alan Davey, Jude Kelly and my Points of Contact colleagues, to see the legendary Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil give a rare UK concert as part of the Southbank Centre’s ‘Festival Brazil’. Gil was a key figure in the Tropicália movement in the 1960s and spent time in London when exiled from Brazil by the military dictatorship. More recently, of course, he was the instigator of the Cultura Viva programme and its ‘Pontos de Cultura’ scheme which I visited Brazil in March to observe. But on Wednesday his performance was a celebration of forró – the high-tempo, rapid-fire dance music of Gil’s home territory of the North East of Brazil. He also included a few examples of something I think he called ‘shott’ – a corruption of ‘Scottish’ – which blends forró with European folk dance music to create a strange Brazilian version of Scottish country dance tunes: bizarre, surreal but still incredibly cool. Forró is infectious, toe-tapping music featuring the distinctive syncopated tinkling of a triangle, with accordion, violin, banjo, guitars and drums. Gil’s version is turbo-charged forró with electric guitars and a rock flavour but it still has that traditional rural party-music feel – a little like rockabilly. There was some jeering from fans upset at not hearing Gil’s greatest hits: imagine going to see a Paul McCartney concert only to discover that he wasn’t going to play any Beatles songs but was going to do 2 hours of skiffle (but actually, wouldn’t that be amazing?!). Gil is a bit Paul McCartney, a bit Bob Marley, a bit Chuck Berry and a bit Nelson Mandela. For all his legendary status as sixties pop icon and exiled political activist, it is hard not to keep returning to Gil’s appointment as Minister of Culture in President Lula’s first government. As Gil jigged his way across the stage, a little grandfatherly but still incredibly cool, I couldn’t decide whether it was more amusing to imagine a British rock star becoming a government minister or to picture a government minister dancing in front of a packed Festival Hall audience.

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At 5:39 pm, Anonymous Russ said...

Check out our review of Gilberto's show at the Royal Festival Hall here - it was forró-tastic!


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