Dancing with the Diaspora
Interview Joyce Arts Alive festival 2000 AD
Joyce is a major Brazilian musician. By the year 2000 she already had 22 individual albums. The later Astronauta 1998, ran for the Latin Grammy 2000, best Latin album. The album was a tribute to Ellis Regina. A signature album Hard Bossa was released through the British label Far Out records. Her latest album at the time was "Tudo bonito" , which means ‘All Beautiful', an album made together with Joao Donato a great Brazilian pianist and composer. Joyce's 1980 album "Feminina" was the one where the difference was made in her life and career. With music, arrangements and Joyce's own perspective, ‘Feminina' created and illustrated Joyce's unique approach and musical style.
In 1997 Joyce published her first book…
It is a book called Fotografei Você na Minha Rolleyflex which is a line from a famous Jobim song called ‘Desafinado.' It means I took your picture in my Rolyflex. It is a collection of photographs with small essays and small stories, some funny, some tragic about Brazilian musicians from the late 60's on. Stories that I saw myself and that happened right in front of me. Some of them I was part of and some of them I was watching as a spectator. It is from my point of view and most of them are actually funny. And some of the characters in these stories are called Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto , Ellis Regina, Vinicius de Moraes, Milton Nascimento, Dorival Caymmi: So, my friends and the people I have been living with during these 32 years in music. Actually by the time the book came out it was 29 years (in music). It is nothing serious, nothing like a thesis, but you can trace some history if you want through the lines because some facts are there. It is very much focused on my own experience and the story that I lived.
Was there a big community of musicians in the 60's?
Very much. I arrived a bit late because my first album dates from 1968, so all the guys were already there. In the 70's as well a lot of things were happening in the musical community. These stories, they cross the 70's and they go until 1994. The most recent story happens in 1994 but most f them happen from 1968 until 1978.
What was Tropicalismo?
Tropicalismo was not a movement that people were participating in. Tropicalismo was actually a great marketing idea. Different movements happened in Brazilian music in many different times. In the 30's for instance there was a huge samba community functioning in Rio and in the 60's, the Bossa Nova was a huge movement. All the composers including the two Tropicalismo composers Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were followers of the Bossa Nova. The Bossa Nova was indeed a big national movement. When Tropicalismo appeared it was more focused on Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and a little bit Tom Zé who didn't appear much but many years later he would be discovered. That was a different thing as it was more pop orientated and an attempt at putting Brazilian music in an international pop status. This was very different from the Bossa Nova that came more spontaneously with no marketing purposes. It was ten years before and Bossa Nova actually dates from 1958. It was something spontaneous and based on the genius of Antonio Carlo Jobim and João Gilberto who were really geniuses. They took a music that already existed and gave them a shape that is copied until today. Bossa Nova music is still being discovered and re-shaped and re-done by other musicians. Many different movements happened during the history.
Did you fall into the Bossa Nova movement?
You spoke of Ellis Regina in your performance as the musician of the 20 th century.
She was a singer and merely a singer. She never composed. She was an astonishing singer, maybe one of the greatest that crossed the country in the 29 th century. She had a huge popularity. When she died the crowd went to the streets. They had to put her coffin in the fireman's' truck, because the city of San Paulo just stopped to follow her funeral. It was incredible because she was extremely famous and popular in Brazil and s he died at 26. She had a less than 20 year career. It is amazing how many records she did and all the things she did but in terms of being a women in that scene I can definitely say if I decided to be a singer, not a musician or a composer I would have had a much easier life in my career, instead of wanting to create my own thing. That made a difference.
I think so. Last night for instance I had some musicians here in South Africa, where I had never been, saying to me that they usually play my music on a regular basis and I was absolutely proud of that and one of them was an African guitar player who works in a dup with a Yugoslavian female singer and they play my music. I made my music in Brazil and then someone from Yugoslavia meets someone from Africa and they perform my music. This is my passion. This is the best thing that can happen to me.
What social and political system did you have in the 60's?
We had a military dictatorship in Brazil that lasted from 1964 to 1985. That was 21 years under a very repressive political situation where music was censored, lyrics were censored and people had to be extra creative to overcome this situation. All the lyrics were written in a metaphoric basis to fool the censors. Sometimes you would fool them and sometimes not. Chico Buarque for instance; everything he did, was censored so he had to write his music under a false name. For a while he used a pseudonym, Julinho da Adelaide who nobody knew. He created a whole story how he had discovered this young composer and that he was recording the music of this young guy. There was this whole story and then finally he had to kill Julinho because the censors suspected it was himself. So he had to say no he just died, it was a tragedy and he was very sorry. And then there was one album by Milton Nascimento where all the lyrics were censored so he made the whole album in scat. That was the situation. Chico Buarque, Caetano Velosa, Gilbert Gil, Edu Lobo, they had to go out of the country. They were all exiled. All this was happening. That was in the early 70's.
Did this make the music more Brazilian?
These things have no explanation. What happened was the music community was massively against the government, no matter what style, people hid. Before that in a more favorable political environment already the Bossa Nova had blossomed. Also, it was a very Brazilian form of music, so we never know. These things happen when they are supposed to happen. I think the big burst of music in the 20 th century was this period, the 60's and 70's.
Is the music to do with national pride?
This is hard to tell because when you are inside the hurricane and things are happening you never have to many inclinations about that. Now, we live in a democracy and it is great because with all the problems that we had. Those that lived in a dictatorship may not be happy with the situation in the country but they are definitely happier than in the time when they had no freedom at all. Now we have a different time and a different kind of dictatorship which is no longer a military dictatorship it is an economic dictatorship and the dictators are no longer Brazilian anymore they belong to the IMF and other organisms that rule the world in this so called globalization. There is a very interesting Brazilian thinker. He is a geographer. He really is someone who thinks the country very much. His name is Milton Santos. A brilliant man. He has created this word to synthesize what is happening today in the world. He says, ‘globalitarianism.' It is like totalitarianism but it is globalitarianism. I think this is a brilliant word because that is exactly the situation we live under today. Going back to music, we live a dictatorship held by the industry because things have to be quickly consumed and thrown away. There is a massive investment, there is a huge corruption in the media like payola playing the radios to play and the TV's to let the artists appear. Those who are not involved in the huge commercial scheme from great and important powerful companies will have more difficulty to show their music and have their work appear. It is very hard to keep an independence.
Are you an independent artist?
Yes I am and I am very proud of that. I do record for big record companies. For instance, my new album is coming out worldwide by Sony. It was recorded for a Japanese company, a small label called ‘Apartment,' which has a distribution deal with Sony music so Sony is releasing the album throughout the world. In that way I have all the freedom I need to record the music in which ever way I want and with the musicians I want. This is different to if I had a long term contract with a big company because I would probably be owing them money for advances, I would probably have to compromise in the quality of the music and record whatever they want. I have seen some of the greatest Brazilian artists, people I really admire having to do this sort of thing. I will not say names but people that could be doing real creative stuff, because they are now selling a million records for the first time in their life, they have to compromise with the industry.
That is my own choice. Everyone has his or her own choice. This is a personal choice. Also, you were talking about the internet. We have many issues that we have to deal with like the Mp3 and all that and it is a very delicate situation because somewhere, a way will have to be found to give some compensation to the authors, I am talking about copy-write. This will have to be resolved in some way.
I don't think so. No matter how much it becomes globally famous and well known, it will always be Brazilian music because it will always have that special flavor. It will never disappear. I have read many books on this subject of globalization. One of them, I was in Japan, and I read in the newspaper an interview with an Italian guy. He was doing a tour in the United States. He is someone related to the Italian media. He created a movement called Slow Food. You know how much Italian people are related to food. For the Italian and the French, it is a national pride, it is something that they do, that has the status of art and culture. It is very important. This guy got offended when he saw a Macdonalds being built in Rome in front of all that ancient architecture and suddenly there was a logo of Macdonalds. Together with another writer they wrote ‘the slow food manifesto,' which can be defined as in the defense for the right to pleasure. There was a whole theory about that, how it was important to preserve local recipes, foods, culinary, so they created this institution. Among other things they tried to preserve the cooking of different regions, for instance a small town in Italy that prepares a certain dish in a very special way where they only know; or a certain dish in Greece that has a certain type of cheese that nobody else does. It is an environmental issue after all. They say it is an eco gastronomic movement. It's great. It's about having a better quality of life if you think deeply about it. When someone asked this guy because good food is always more expensive he said eat less but eat better. I think this applies perfectly to music because one has this fast food, fast living, fast way of life. Fast music that is being served to us by the industry is also very offensive to those who consider there is a form of art and not a business only. I think it is very important if you think about it as an echo art movement. The environment is everything. It is the air that you breath. It is the food that you swallow and it is the music that goes through your ears. The music that you listen to, this all is feeding you. And we are not being fed properly. I want to be better fed with music. I think this is fundamental for me. I don't want to hear crap. I want to hear good music. I want to have the pleasure of hearing good music.
What about contemporary trends, popular music of Brazil and Mangi Beat…
What happens is all those movements, when they start, have some very interesting elements and then what happens when the industry takes hold of them, they become massive and they start loosing their primary goals. This applies very well to hip-hop. The first things I heard of hip-hop in the late 80's and early 90's was very interesting indeed and then suddenly it starts getting offensive against women and the lyrics are not bright as they used to be and they start to be a bit aggressive and say nothing. That is one thing that happens. The original Mangi Beats used pop elements in their original music of Recife, which produced a very interesting result. Now there are a lot of rock and roll bands titling themselves as Mangi beat. Which is not exactly as they were making it in the beginning. It is always like that.
Where are you going as an artist to keep up with the rest of the world?
From my point of view my music relates a bit with jazz music but not with the academic jazz but with the more creative jazz. It is very funny I have followers in difference niches spots or places where people are following my music, for instance in England, a whole youth interested in electronic music, dance jazz, acid jazz. All that started to follow my music. I have been extremely successful releasing records there, like my previous album Hard Bossa which was already a name given to the style of music that I do. And in the early acid jazz scene to the people interested in electronic music in the UK or Japan for instance, I have received a great response, and from independent rock n roll groups in the US like Super Chunk and Stereo Lab. Theses guys come to Brazil and look for me. Super Chunk invited me to participate on a show. It didn't happen. It would have been funny to know what would have come out of it. It is a very young crowd interested in this sort of music. I think what happens is the music is always fresh. It is never over produced. We keep it fresh. I make my music as a craft and not as production, as in a factory.
What is the African influence in Brazil?
What about Africa?
When we hear each other we know we are relatives. It is the same family, it is the same roots. Brazil has this feeling with Africa, the continent as a whole. I will give you a funny example of what happened in the Olympic games in the finals for football which is the national sport in Brazil. Brazil was beaten in the semi finals. We did not go to the finals. The finals were between Nigeria and Argentina. And suddenly you could see Nigerian fans all over the place in Brazil. Brazil was passionately following Nigeria and not Argentina, which is our neighbor. When you asked anyone why are you hoping for the victory of Nigeria, everyone said it is Africa, it is our family. And Argentina is our neighbor and they are not family for Brazil.
Do musicians sing for economic empowerment or African unity in Brazil?
Brazil has a different way of seeing these things. In the racial issue we did not have it as intensely as South Africa which doesn't mean there isn't racism in Brazil but it is very subtle and different, people do marry between different races. This is a Brazilian tradition. We are mixed blood. We are a mixed blooded people. We are proud of that. And some of the people who were saying, ‘this is Africa,' at the World Cup, you could say to them, but this person is totally white, or this person is a Japanese, because we have a huge Japanese colony in Brazil, but there is a feeling that we are a mixed country in Brazil.
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