Onde os escravos eram castigados

Two years ago, Leonard Cohen died, which left me, and everyone I know who cared about him, so saddened and so overcome by the magnitude of our collective loss that only now am I starting to move on, in a way, and ask myself, "With Leonard Cohen gone, who now is the coolest person alive?"

To me the question had an obvious answer as soon as I thought to ask it.  I don't know for certain which of the two men in the dazzling white suits it is, but surely it's one of them.

This is from 25 years ago, not long after the pair released Tropicalia 2.  That record was possibly even more pointedly political than the first Tropicalia, which was a part of what got both men arrested and deported when the generals took over Brazil in the late 1960s. 

25 years ago it was safe to make a record like that in Brazil.  Today, not so much.  

Today, these are, as Caetano Veloso observed in the piece he wrote for the New York Times last year, dark times.  And they are old men - both Veloso and Gilberto Gil are 76 this year.  (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/opinion/caetano-veloso-brazil-bolsonaro.html).  

"I was forced into exile once," Veloso wrote.  "It won’t happen again."  I hope he's right.

That said, you should get your head around how cool this song is.  I mean "cool" in the sense of "remarkably interesting," but I also mean "emotionally controlled."  

A characteristic of a lot of Brazilian pop music is that it deals with extremes of passion by facing them with directness and a sense of knowing, almost fatalistic detachment.  On the topic of love, American pop music is all about the singer's longing, or in cruder iterations, what it's going to be like when I finally get you home.  Someone like Astrud Gilberto sings like her inner life is nobody's business but hers, and yours.  That coolness is a way of taking you into her confidence, and it creates a sense of intimacy that all the emo posturing in the world can't call up.

Anger, hate, despair, and grief get modulated the same way that love does.  This song is an expression of fury and sadness, outrage and disgust.  But there's no spitting and screaming.  There's not even a curling of the lip.  It's direct and almost completely unemotional.  Caetano is telling you this as though you already know the truth, and the truth is a secret that you he share.  

Which is quite a way to treat an audience of many thousands.

If like me you don't speak Portuguese, you'll need a translation: 


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