Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journey of the Heart

A musical journey is very similar to a physical one in that it is also a journey of the heart. My first one got a boost during my teenage years in a white clapboard farmhouse back a long lane tucked amidst the hills of southern Ohio. I had a well-to-do friend, Tommy J, whose parents raced horses, and they followed their animals south when winter came to the Midwest. That meant that my buddy often found himself at home alone during the winter months. When I’d visit on weekends, we pretty much had the farm to ourselves, but we were never lonely thanks to his stereo system and eclectic record collection.  And it was from there, amongst the Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Uriah Heap and other English rock albums, that he revealed an LP (long play) record called Transa,  and a song in particular, "It's a Long Way," that gave me, his wayward friend, a new and exciting sense of direction, one that I would never forget:

Woke up this morning 
Singing an old, old Beatles song 
We’re not that strong, my lord 
You know we ain’t that strong 
I hear my voice among others 
In the break of day 
Hey, brothers, Say, brothers 
It’s a long long long long way  

We teenage boys liked our music loud, but I remember first listening to Caetano Veloso’s uptempo ballad at low volume. It got played somewhere amongst Tommy’s stories of his year abroad in Brazil. Along with those images of a life in the far off tropics, I was captivated by Caetano Veloso’s suave voice and strong sense of melody, along with the vibrant rhythms and evocative lyrics, which were a mix of English and Portuguese. It resonated of a world distant from my rural Ohio experience.

Os olhos da cobra verde
Hoje foi que arreparei
Se arreparasse a mais tempo
Nao amava quem amei

Arrenego de quem diz
Que o nosso amor se acabou
Ele agora esta  mais firme
Do que quando comecou
It's a long road

Agua com areia brinca na beira do mar
Agua passa e a areia fica no lugar
E se nao tivesse o amor
E se nao tivesse essa dor
E se nao tivesse sofrer
E se nao tivesse chorar
E se nao tivesse o amor
No Abaeto tem uma lagoa escura
Arrodeada de areia branca

With that song in my head, I have since traveled the globe. I even spent three years living in Lisbon, Portugal, and while there, learned to love the songs of a number of fine Brazilian singers, including Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Milton Nascimento, and one of my very favorites, Caetano Veloso's sister, Maria Bethania. I also became a fan of Portuguese fado, Spanish flamenco and lots of other musical styles I'd never heard of earlier. Ironically, it was while living in Lisbon that I also started a journey of discovery of music from America, for it was there that a friend turned me on to American jazz and blues.

Ever since that experience, new horizons -- whether in the deserts of Rajastan or the mountains of the Ainu, in the tropical rain forests or the turquoise seas of Southeast Asia --  have tugged methodically at my heart strings. The soundtrack to such a journey can be rich and varied.

I invariably advise students to seek out and listen to music other than the songs played on radio or advertised on TV because generally much of what gets heavy media airplay is what is being proffered and sold by large recording companies. This is not to say that music of that sort isn't good; it's just that what the typical deejay is going to spin is what his station's (or network's) musical programmer will mandate. Often times, that's music which can easily be called mainstream. It's called such, first, because it is often made by recognizable artists, and secondly, because it usually reflects certain production values (smooth and easy, classic oldies, and the like).

Luckily, there is so much more to music than what the stations deem as popular, and there is much more being made by incredible musicians than the stuff that a station considers the sort that will make advertisers happy.

In fact, everywhere there are remarkable musicians, singers and composers with so much to say. Give that local music from anywhere a chance, and what you will discover will often be as astounding as another new vista encountered on a hike through the local hills.

Bon voyage!

Caetano Veloso - It's A Long Way
Found at abmp3 search engine


Mark said...

Nice post I haven't liked a post as much!

But Portugese sure looks much like spanish, wqords like lugar, e, que agua etc


Eunice Chew said...

Music transcends all boundaries.
Music is the soul of life.
Music should be appreciated for what it is.

I like the fact that you shared with us on how you grew to appreciate music simply from a farm in Ohio. You are right, we should appreciate the smaller artists and what they are contributing to the music industry.