February 13th, 2007

(no subject)

The music scene here is something I'd never seen before. My first impression of it was that there was a lot of music. In the evenings and at night, a street is either empty of everything or has music. Walking to dinner on a weeknight I generally pass 3 concerts. When I eat at a restaurant, there is usually a TV showing pirated DVDs of concerts.

With more time, I started to stop looking using American lenses. About half the concert seem to be spontaneous or semi-spontaneous. I witnessed one where two friends met up on the sidewalk. One had a guitar and started to show the other a song. A man walked up, looked at the musicians, went and found a stick and a box of matches, and became the drummer. Another guitar showed up later and then someone started singing. Other events are more akin to open-mike nights where people know to bring instruments.

Some other things took me much longer to notice. Gradually, I noticed that I never hear American pop music. About the closest thing I hear is the Pearl Jam cover group that performs weekly. I also, eventually, put together that the content of the music is different. Brazilians use jazz chords in everything. I had always thought that the creators of bossa nova had done an amazing feet devising how to piece those weird chords together and make something that sounds good. Apparently they were just using their musical background, since that is how a lot of music works here. Another content difference is where they put complex rhythms. American music will often have very complex vocal rhythms but our drum beats are straightforwards. Brazilian music uses much simpler vocal rhythms but will often have a full African style drum circle as backup.

So I think, 'Wow! How can they have such different music? I thought everything had been homogenized.', and start paying attention to how people get their music. People very rarely listen to the radio here and I've never seen MTV Brazil. TVs in restaurants are one of the main places that people see music. Concerts are a also a big part of the musical exposure here. This probably screws up the companies that work to influence what we get to listen to.