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ENTREVISTA A GERALD SELIGMAN
1991 - em inglês
Gerald Seligman entrevista Joyce para falar sobre seu CD "Language and Love"
GS - Mixing of styles is characteristic of Brazilian music, and this album, with its dashes of samba, rap and jazz, ballads, waltzes and afro-Brazilian traditions is very much a part of a musical mentality that stretches back to the beginnings of Brazilian popular music.
Joyce - In Brasil we have a tradition of mixing influences from abroad, so I think that the variety of styles is the trademark of Brasilian music.
GS - Much of the genius of American music in the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s, was in the sophistication of its lyrics, and how well they fit within the melodies. But that line seems to have all but stopped. Not in Brasil.
Joyce - The great genius of Brasilian music is this composition, this melody, this harmony, this rhythmic thing -- all together. We have great authors that make both music and lyrics and they're great in both things like Chico(Buarque), Edu (Lobo), Caetano (Veloso), (Gilberto) Gil, Tom Jobim, they're all great in both areas.
I also like to do both. I work together in collaboration with other writers. For instance, sometimes I make the music and someone writes the lyrics, sometimes I make the lyrics for the music of someone. But most of the time I do both, which is what I prefer to do, which is where I feel that I express myself better.
GS - Your music has the character of Rio de Janeiro and its people, the Cariocas. What makes a Carioca?
Joyce - First in the music, the rhythm, the samba thing which is very present in what I do. And then in the lyrics, what we call here malandragem (streetwise). I think that Jon Hendricks had a Carioca surro (dash), suddenly, when he recorded with me (in the song Taxi Driver). He came up with this thing in the lyric, "artful dodging," this is completely Carioca (laughing). This is what you call malandragem. In lyrics, for instance, you always find some humor in the weirdest situations. This is very typical of Rio. Even if you talk about love, it's never what we call here sugar and water, it's always a little bittersweet. That's something that you find in our literature, too, in Machado de Asis, for instance, in the poetry of Carlos Dummond de Andrade. So, even if it's in English, I would say that the most Carioca example that you can find on this album is "Taxi Driver." This can be subtitled as a Carioca in Manhattan, because it has a lot to do with the way we have in Rio of seeing things.
GS - Artful dodging, like saying in the song that you're European instead of Brasilian. That song is based upon a true story, isn't it?
Joyce - Well, it's based upon a true story, but it's not literally true. In the final form it's mostly and adaptation of something that happened and was transformed into fiction. Let's say I had a true story and then I read a little bit of Tom Wolfe and then it went.
GS - It's a Carioca-New York mix musically as well: samba and rap.
Joyce - My idea was to mix the two black urban cultures to say that they're not so different, they almost look and sound alike. Because, what is rap? Someone comes from a certain neighborhood and talks street things and improvises on the music and even with no music at all. That's rap and it's also partido alto, which we have here in Brasil. It's a very old tradition, this thing of giving a theme and improvising upon it, to rap on something. My idea was to make a rap samba. I used the samba form with the rhythm and samba percussion instruments like the surdo, tamborine and pandeiro and the cavaquinho which is almost like a ukelele, very typical in the Brasilian samba. But at the same time I was automatically making the music with a jazz structure in the form of an 8-bar blues, which is very familiar to the American ear. So it's really a mix, and I think that samba means to Brasilians what jazz means to black music.
GS - What's interesting is that intellectually that makes perfect sense, and yet also musically. Now, that's rare.
Joyce - (laughing) Yeah, that's the best part. And it seems so logical to me. I don't know what I was the first person to think of it.
GS - The harmonies at the end remind me of those sister groups of the 1940s, the Andrew Sisters.
Joyce - Yeah. And Jon Hendricks fit so well. He rapped on that and created his own verses.
GS - He did his own partido alto on top of it.
Joyce - He did , he did. That was great. It was like having Nelson Cavaquinho or Nelson Sargento, one of those samba greats doing that, because he is a jazz great. He is one man who has this whole tradition within him.
Joyce - Caymmis is dedicated to the Caymmi family, which is one of the greatest musical dynasties in Brasil. There's the father Dorival Caymmi who wrote for Carmen Miranda and also many years later for João Gilberto and for a lot of the greatest Brasilian singers. He's from Bahia. He's in his middle-seventies now. And his two sons and daughter are also great: Dori Caymmi is very well known in the United States as an arranger and composer; Danilo Caymmi works now in the Jobim band, he is also a very good singer and composer; and Nana Caymmi, who is one of the greatest female singers in Brasil. She's our Billie Holiday, I think. She has this bitter-sweet thing too, very emotional. I wrote the song thinking about the whole family and this rhythm is an afoxe' which is a rhythm from Bahia. Bahia is the most African culture in the whole country.
LANGUAGE AND LOVE
GS - It's remarkable how well you use the four languages [in the song]. It's so finely crafted. It reminded me of when a good poet sets out to write a sonnet and must shine within a very strict metrical form. And you pull it off beautifully.
Joyce - That was like craftsmanship. What helps is that the melody is very captivating. It's very catch, sensuous. But I actually had very little time to do this, and it was originally in Portuguese and not supposed to be on the record. But we needed a couple of more songs, and so Kenny Werner was in the studio and I said let's try this one. We had no chars for that, nothing. We just played and it came like this. Kenny Werner has been a very important collaborator on my two Verve albums.I had to write the English lyrics quickly. Instead of making a literal translation, I tried to mix again different environments in each language that could all mean one thing about languages and love. I was playing with the sounds of the words.
GS - As in Taxi Driver it's another song where a fascinating idea works musically as well. This must be one of the results of being a songwriter for so many years.
Joyce - Naturally you get skilled in something after a while. I mean, after twenty years professionally, you get to know your job. But writing in English is still an adventure for me, a kind of a challenge, because it's not my native language. It's so much different if you talk about emotions and feelings. I've been learning a lot about the possibilities of the language. Here in Brasil, lyricists take this very seriously.
Joyce - Jobim is the master. I learned a lot with him and I do think that my whole generation comes from his generation.
GS - Chansong, like all of Jobim, has such melancholia. Where does it come from?
Joyce - All Brasilian music has melancholia. That happy sadness that comes also from the Portuguese and European roots. It all comes together.In this song he also mixes three languages in a different way.
TWO OR THREE THINGS [Duas ou Três Coisas]
Joyce - Two or three things is a song with a story. I wrote the song for a friend of mine ten years ago. This girl started writing to me first at the record company, then she found my address and she was always writing letters. This, in a way, is a musical letter that I wrote for her, saying that she should not expect advice from anyone that she thought was greater than other people, but that she should experience her own life and be her own idol.
GS - This song, this album, has a lot of scat singing.
Joyce - It's something that I like very much to do. I like to find the instrument in myself, my own voice.
NA CASA DO CAMPEÃO
GS - Okay, what we have hear are basically directions.
Joyce - Ihad never been to Hermeto Paschoal's house though we had known each other for years. He's a great master, a great musician. He always invited me but I never went because it's very far. So when I decided to go, I called on the phone and asked for directions. I wrote them down. When I hung up the phone, Tutty [Moreno, her husband and drummer] looked at that and said, "Wow, that's a samba." (Laughs). The lyrics are basically what he said to me on the phone.
GS - It's such an amusing idea, and it's just great to have a samba that tells you how to get to Hermeto's. Getting to his house is very important to Brasilian music.
Joyce - It's the greatest school of music nowadays in Brasil.
GS - I think of him in terms of Art Blakey or Miles Davis. They were schools for new musicians. Through their groups passed so many of the most important musicians and changes in the following generations.
Joyce - Hermeto works exactly like that.
Joyce - It's close to the traditional Brasilian waltzes, like Pixinguinha did, and Orestes Barbosa and the Brasilian composers of the '20s, who did those romantic waltzes with three parts. Desafinada would be this tradition in a modern shape. I love this song. I think it's so sentimental, so beautiful. I could never sing that without crying. Again we have Kenny on the piano, and the author of the music arranged it for string quartet. I wrote the English lyrics trying to be faithful to the original lyrics.
Joyce - Bailarina is now. That's my visit to the jazz universe in the form of a jazz waltz. I never thought of putting lyrics to it, just a jazz trio. I was also thinking of my elder daughter Clara who is a dancer.
GS - So much Brasilian music mixes with jazz in different forms, but you always add a greater proportion of, let's say, purer jazz into the equation.
Joyce - I don't like what people call fusion. I hate that. No I respectfully hate that (laughs). You should never put aside any kind of music, because all music has its own value and it would be like burning a book or breaking a record, something like that. But I can't say that I have any pleasure listening to fusion music.
GS - This song was first covered by Carmen Miranda, wasn't it?
Joyce - I wanted to put together Jobim and Carmen Miranda in the same record, because both of them have the ability to universalize Brasilian music without losing anything. They give a cosmic vision of the music that's done here and make it understandable for people all over the planet.
GS - It's interesting that you talk this way about Carmen Miranda, because outside of Brasil I don't think she's taken too seriously as a cultural figure.
Joyce - Her persona was this, never to be taken seriously. But I really think she was an interesting singer, she could swing in the fast tempos the way very few singers can. I do take her seriously.
Joyce - Arrebenta. I must find a good translation in English. It means bursting, exploding, blowing up, erupting -- nothing seems to suffice to explain this word. This is also an afoxé, a rhythm from Bahia and I'd like to especially thank Tutty Moreno who helped me with this rhythm and this language from Bahia. What I was trying to do was to use a refrain, a vamp that repeats itself many times with this chorus, and I say the names of cities and places in Brasil where either things are bursting because of violence or because of happiness. volta Redonda, for instance, is a place of social conflicts, Xapari is where Chico Mendes was murdered, Angra dos Reis has an atomic power plant...then you have Bahia and Pernambuco which are place of great conflict, but like Rio, places where great music is happening in the streets...and finally Brasil -- boom -- explodes. Arrebenta can be violent. At the same time it can be an invitation to destroy everything but it also invites you to dance.
GS - Ho is it different for you, singing English and singing Portuguese?
Joyce - Suppose I went to an analyst and I had to say my deepest, most secret emotions for him, or even if I was Catholic and went to the church to confess to my priest and he was not Brasilian. Some emotions you can only express in your native language. It's no use trying. But English is my second language. In Brasil, you go to the movies, everyone is talking in English, turn on the radio, everyone is singing in English, so it's not that difficult to get very close to this English invasion. But, for me, I think Portuguese is the greatest language for music.
GS - In your own composition do you feel yourself a part of that musical tradition that began so many decades ago?
Joyce - I do. I think I have inherited a lot of things of that line that comes from many, many years ago. You can take very different branches of this idea to try to figure it out. One of them is if you think about the songwriters of Rio de Janeiro. There is a whole branch of songwriters who write in a very Carioca way. I belong to that line because I come from the songwriters of the '30s like Noel Rosa, Assis Valente, Wilson Baptista, the old Rio songwriters, and also after them the bossa nova writers, Jobim, Carlos Lyra, Menescal, Vinicius, the songwriters of bossa nova. Ang then comes Chico Buarque, Edu Lobo, writers like that. Those last ones came a little before me, they're like my older brothers. We're all children of bossa nova and grandchildren of the writers of the '30s.
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