Last night I had an experience which shattered my stereotypes about Brazilians. It was on a par with discovering that Germans are disorganized and inefficient, Italian men shy about women and the Irish would rather stay in for a game of scrabble than go down the pub.
The shocking revelation? Millions of Brazilians are fans of really, really bad music.
It started with a chance conversation by the pool in the Pegasus. This is Guyana’s most prestigious (or at least most expensive) of hotels, and many of the volunteers have adopted it as a place to hang out and cool down, as you can get a month’s pass to use the gym and pool fairly cheaply (by our standards). I had my misgivings about getting sucked into some kind of ex-pat world populated by diplomats, servicemen and the very richest locals, but the lure of the pool quickly proved too much after a week of sweating and heat rash.
We were chatting on the sun-loungers about our options for the evening out and a local girl who was there for a swim with her children told us a little bit about some of the bars and nightclubs, and that there was a concert that evening at the National Park (Georgetown’s main bit of parkland) being given by a huge star from Brazil. She couldn’t really describe the music other than that it was ‘brazilian, uptempo, funky’. This was enough for me – when you say ‘Brazilian Music’ I think Bebel Gilberto, Chico Buarke, CSS, Bondo De Role, DJ Marky. Energetic, stylish, smooth, groovy samba vibes are the minimum level of expectation.
We rounded up a group of the volunteers to head down there, aided in our recruitment by an article in the local paper promoting the concert which described the main act, Pepe Moreno, as being ‘Brazil’s Micheal Jackson’ who regularly plays across the world to sold out 60 and 70 thousand seater stadiums. After braving the touts, the official ticket sellers who tried their best to overcharge us, and the weapons search, we got into the arena to find a DJ playing some pretty groovy house music. The crowd appeared to be a mixture of Afro and Amerindian Guyanese and a fair few Brazilians.
‘Desejo’, the support band were also from Brazil. They were made up of one guy with a couple of keyboards, three singers, and two dancing girls with a selection of increasingly astonishing outfits. They played a series of continuous medleys seemingly each structured around one pre-set rhythm on the keyboard with occasional riffs recognizable from American pop or RnB. The singers, two guys and one girl, shared out the lead singing duties between them. We were not entirely sure whether the keyboard player was actually playing anything, or whether he just pressed ‘demo’ at the start of the concert and mimed the rest. This fun but slightly baffling onslaught of music was livened up considerably by the dancers' progress through hula skirts, full on carnival feathers and skimpy rodeo outfits.
Desejo were followed by a disorganized interlude with the two comperes, one Guyanese and one Brazilian, telling us all about the various sponsors and running a dance competition between five girls plucked from the crowd. The one in the shortest skirt won easily.
After a very long ‘five minute’ break to set up, Pepe Moreno entered. The Main Man. The Brazilian Michael Jackson. The biggest artist to hit Guyana for years. To rapturous applause, announced with confetti cannons showering silver ribbons into the crowd, came . . . a slightly sweaty chubby man in a white vest, singing/shouting to a cheesy backdrop, drenched in stadium rock style echo and reverb. The overall effect was less a like Brazilian Michael Jackson, and more of a Brazilian U2 if they had their instruments stolen and replaced with a cheap keyboard stuck on the ‘latin’ preset. I tried to be as open minded as possible, and concentrate on watching the dancing girls to get me through, but the group lasted about 15 minutes before admitting defeat and heading home.
The Dutch volunteer told us this morning about how her mum eats space cakes and listens to the Grateful Dead, and she went to a nude beach when she was little. So Brazilians may like terrible music, but at least there are still some stereotypes we can rely on.