Monday, February 19, 2007

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

The party recipe goes like this...

Take a couple million of the poorest people on the planet. Spend 51 weeks planning the most outlandish all-out party. Let the drums begin. A week later, haggard, broke and lucky to be alive, go home and live in misery and poverty for another year. Repeat.

Why is it that the poorest of the poor own the recipe for the best party on earth?

Such color, such dancing, and the music pounds on for days.

Way back in 1975-76 I studied and absorbed what I could and put it to work for me. The Disco craze had begun to sweep the country and sound systems for DJ's began to sound respectable. My work in the gin mills demanded that I study it to stay viable in the live music tavern business.

Disco music (1976-79) virtually drowned out everything else on the air waves. It eventually led to the saying: Disco Sucks.

Disco is good and wonderful happy music and I love it. Yes I do. It died in 1979. It didn't so much die but took a break and peeks through here and there without the 'Disco' title attached.

What is Disco? It was a North American adaptation of Samba from Brazil. To a trained percussionist it is Samba reworked with Paso Doble. This is all time party music! Listened to for several hours with bright colors and certain liquid refreshments it sends you into another world which lasts until the head-throbbing headache the next day (or the next week). It is the happiest music I have ever heard in my life.

The bar owner would say: Keep 'em happy and keep 'em drinking. Disco was the perfect solution to this. 120 bpm (beats per minute) for the most part with a jump to 128 bpm the rest of the time. We never ran out of tunes to play. Any song can be rearranged to fit. The latter 70's saw a revival of standards which dated to the 1920's. Example: Baby Face.

Latin American music just keeps coming back again and again. Perez Prado did it in the 1950's with "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" and then with a tune called "Patricia". Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass did it in the '60's. Santana brought forth another twist with songs such as "Evil Ways" and "Oye Como Va". "Oye Como Va" was a remake first made popular by Tito Puente. Sergio Mendes and the Brazil '66 was another rebirth.

The death of Antonio Carlos Jobim was front page news for the Chicago Tribune in 1994. Jobim was to Brazil what John Denver was to the U.S. for many years, a national mainstream icon. Jobim's first U.S. hit (1962-63) was "The Girl from Ipanema". His music was exciting in its original format but was diluted for American easy listening formats and what is called 'elevator music'. Any dozen of Jobim's tunes would sound familiar to a U.S. citizen today.

At one point Frank Zappa saw fit to 'pimp' Disco and his "Sheik Yerbouti" (Shake Your Booty) album is still one of my all time favorites.

To take a trip to Rio tonight go to You Tube and type in: rio nesmith. See the guy who invented MTV (Michael Nesmith) in one of the first stereo-videos ever recorded. Very few of us saw it back in '80-'81 since no one had a stereo TV. No need to go to Rio. Just listen to this video.

I'm hearing the lights from the window,
I'm seeing the sound of the sea,
My feet have gone loose from their moorings,
I'm feeling quite wonderfully free.

It's only a whimsical fly down to Rio tonight...


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