Last Friday, my friend Sarah and my husband Chris went to a Gilberto Gil concert at Jones Theatre in downtown Houston. The concert was dubbed as being one of the best in the world in 2009 by NYT, and I seriously do not understand why. I am very passionate about popular Brazilian music and its cultural and political importance, but it was very disappointing to see a singer like Gil perform like an American in a concert aimed at “gringos”*. After the show I felt cheated by his performance for three important reasons.
First of all, it is important to understand that Gil, together with Caetano Veloso, led the musical Tropicália movement, which was basically a manifestation against the coup of 1964. Tropicália was the concept of “antropofagia” created by the poet Oswald de Andrade and published in 1928. It was characterized as the cultural and musical cannibalism of all societies, taking in influences from all genres and concocting something unique.
Because of that, my second reason became more intense. As a singer with political actions against the dictatorship, and for being exiled in London, I expected more Brazilian accent on his presentation, especially since he is currently my ex Minister of Culture - more for his own reasons and personal enrichment (since he became a culture minister during Lula’s government his concert has increase 100% its value) than for being a good politician (I don’t know if there is a good politician, but... anyways). In order to be an ex Minister of Culture, I expected you to “sell” my country and its culture, more than yourself and your ego, with an international performance (the concert was just him – voice and guitar, his song, and a viola cello) instead of trying to be in the international scene like so many others – while he is composing forró for Saint John parties in June - (http://oglobo.globo.com/rio/ancelmo/?palavra=gilberto+gil – post “for all”).
For the last reason, Gil did not understand that 80% of the audience was composed of Brazilians, far from home, expecting to be a part of the show and share our common culture. The singer did not bring anything that we knew and all repertoires were 6 months old. People were leaving 20 minutes after the concert started and I understood why - If it was incredibly boring for me, who can understand Portuguese, imagine what it was like for the others? Sarah liked it, but more for the whole scene than for the concert itself (and her connections to Brazil) while my husband just fell asleep. Gil was just a big disaster that cost me 75 bucks. To make matters worse, it cost me in dollars; an amount that Brazilians I know would never pay to see Gil in a Brazilian theatre (or in a tent).
For those reasons and other minor ones (very personal), I did not like the concert and felt cheated. On Friday, Gil wasted my time, my money, and especially my adoration to come from a country with such amazing musical diversity and lyricism (during that time, of course!). For all of you, remember we still have a lot to offer - much more than this. And Gil, next time try to be more respectful to the Brazilian community, which has been supporting you outside of the country and, most importantly, inside the country with our taxes.
* In Brazilian Portuguese “gringo” stands for a Foreigner (anyone outside to the country including Portuguese) and does not have anything to do with race, religion or nationality of that person.