One morning a couple of weeks ago I was listening to The Today Programme on BBC Radio Four as I took my morning shower. The usual bunch of evasive politicians were busy ducking questions whilst simultaneously blowing their own trumpets and I had, as usual, stopped paying heed to them. Suddenly my attention was once again grabbed in a fine demonstration of that well known phenomenon known as 'cocktail party syndrome'. You know the one -you are in a room full of chattering people and all you are hearing is the general rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb of the crowd, when someone on the other side of the room whispers your name and you hear it immediately. Or, as in this case, someone mentions something that you are extremely interested in and the same thing happens. (Incidentally, to digress for a moment: I read somewhere that actors doing crowd scenes always use rhubarb rhubarb for working class crowds and sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle for upper class crowds. So, given that we're talking about a cocktail party here - which is, let's face it, not the commonest form of working class entertainment - I suppose that should have read "...all you are hearing is the general sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle of the crowd...")
The name that drew me back from my watery reverie was Gilberto Gil: currently Brazil's Minister of Culture and, since his emergence in the early sixties, one of that country's greatest singer / songwriter/ performers. He was being interviewed in his political capacity and was giving a most convincing performance. The interview was concluded with a reference to his music and they played part of a track from his most recent CD - 'Gil Luminoso' (http://www.drgrecords.com/). I had passed on tickets for his concert at The Barbican on the grounds that it was just Gil and his guitar and - much as I love his music - I really love the bands that he usually has with him. The cost of the tickets combined with the cost of travelling to London and back and the cost of overnight accommodation had made Mrs Voltarol and I decide against it. One brief scrap of song on the radio had me cursing for the rest of the week. I think that I had ordered the disc on line within two minutes of emerging from the shower. It has been played in this house at least once just about everyday since.
Gil is a fine example of what I was talking about in my last posting. He is nominally an MPB artist (Música Popular Brasileira) or 'pop' musician, yet his music is far from simplistic and his lyrics are frequently profound. He is as at home playing Reggae (he recorded with Bob Marley) as he is playing Forró (an accordion based musical form from North East Brazil) or Bob Dylan. He is great arranger who is constantly revamping his own back catalogue and he always has the absolute cream of the Brazilian musicians in his bands. But pare it all down to just Gil, his acoustic guitar and his own material and the result is sublime. It transcends all the categories and pigeon-holes. It's just music.