I’m back from my well-deserved yet short vacations. I had a lovely time in Southern Brazil then headed for unbelievably hot Rio de Janeiro for some beach/culture time.
But then this is Christmas week and with it comes that holiday feeling, which means less working and even more unwinding.
What shall we do? Enjoy it with some music:
The Suzan is a Japanese all-girl electronica pop group with a twist of CSS I’m delighted to listen to.
Japan has in the past produced quite a few good pop acts, such as the unforgettable Pizzicato Five. Who remembers this song?
To start the week on a happy note.
I have always believed that prejudice is caused by lack of knowledge.
Once one truly gets to know something that is different, it has a chance of becoming familiar and thus much less frightening.
I went to an exhibition on Islamic Art last weekend in Rio and it was very obvious how little people know about its multiple cultural aspects. We westerns tend to group Islam under a single mass of people – which couldn’t be farther from reality.
Not only does Islamic Art excel in its use of geometrical shapes and floral patterns, it also shows a delightful emphasis on calligraphy and the importance of handwriting in its presentation.
I love the way modern artists draw inspiration from these sources – scarcely known in western societies, I dare say.
Like Shezad Dawood:
This contemporary British artist cleverly uses elements commonly associated with the modern world with century-old artistic heritage to create art that questions general views on Islam and on religion.
Although religion may play an ambiguous role in the shaping of societies and even in the spreading of prejudices, it is undeniable that it is a reflection of culture as much as it is part of it.
Knowing its various sides can help us all build a world where people are more important than what their belief system might be.
As for the arts, as M.I.A. once said: trend-setters make things better.
With a greater concern over the latest trend rather than what History bequeathed, Brazilian cities are spaces where all kinds of architectural influences can be found.
Nowhere can this be seen more readily than in Rio. The former capital and once most important city in South America, the city is home to a myriad of styles, influences, tastes and ideas, all cramped together – sometimes side by side.
From organic shapes and historical Brazilian Baroque to monstrous concrete blocks and wholly inappropriate glass buildings, Rio is a surprising treat on the eye of the curious.
Some of my favorite :
It is so relieving when one learns to appreciate what’s not obvious – life does become more beautiful when one finds beauty where one least expects it.
Rio de Janeiro is a great school for that.
In the end, I chose going to the coast for a relaxing time.
Well, not that relaxing because I ended up in Rio, a city so vibrant one can hardly find calm – and that’s ok.
I’m sorry about not being creative, but every time I’m there I sort of hear bossa nova music everywhere, so I decided to post this song in an attempt to illustrate how it feels like being in Rio:
I’m in love (again) with the Marvellous City.
To end the special series of posts about Rio, there’s nothing more appropriate than talk about the city’s most wonderful and internationally known cultural product: its music.
There is life beyond samba and bossa nova (both of which originated in Rio) and many are those who have discovered that the mix of rhythms and cultures can be used for making good tunes.
My favorite Brazilian indie rock band comes from Rio:
Funk carioca is another type of music which has only recently gained admirors. It is a direct product of the favelas and many say it has the same impact as samba did when it first became known.
The favelas are the slums hanging from hills where most poor and black Brazilians live. Favela on Blast is a really cool initiative which explains it and shows what Funk carioca is about very well.
Anyway, is truly great for the dancefloor:
Finally, one of Brazil’s cleverest and most creative and important singers comes from Rio. Marisa Monte is unparalleled also because of the research she does on Brazilian rhythms, including them in her recordings:
As said before, Rio is all about nature. Not only because of the temperatures, but also because of the breathtakingly beautiful combination of sea, mountains and forest which is so present everywhere in the city.
In every direction you look, there will be something in the city that reminds us of mother nature, even if humanity tries to hide it by erecting such tall and unnecessary buildings.
Interestingly, this importance (ever so present) of nature and its impact on the Cariocas got me thinking about another place I know where people are truly connected to their surroundings: Iceland.
By looking at a selection of works by Icelandic artists, I couldn’t help but notice the need Icelanders have to express themselves using or showing nature.
Hrafnkell Sigurðsson is one of the Nordic contemporary photographers that really caught my attention:
from the Mirrored Landscapes series
The multitalented Ólafur Elíasson is another great example. His use of landscape and the even more famous studies using light is so inextricably connected to Icelandic nature it is impossible to miss the reference.
Lava Floor, by Elíasson
Going back to Brazil, who can ignore the impact use of color has in Brazil’s most important contemporary painter, the carioquíssima Beatriz Milhazes?
Only when one has been to Rio can one understand the source of such colorful influence.
Nature and art.
I know I have already mentioned how hot it is in Rio and I’ll do it yet again, for not knowing this can really interfere with you fun while you visit the city.
Heat will ruin your well-being if not handled well. So, how do cariocas cope with it? Simple. They just spend the hottest times of the day in the shade, most likely in wonderful city hide-aways, such as:
When there, take your time, find a nice place to seat (in the shade) and sip something ice-cold. Cariocas love mate, a type of tea made from South American herb which goes really well with Rio. A good caipirinha will also brighten your day up.
But not everything is that easy. Many fashionistas, especially those who live in tropical countries, worry about dressing stylishly when wearing little. I assure you it is possible. Another suggestion, this time by Dries van Noten:
dress (little) to impress
As a clever woman once said: “there are always ways to look good, you just have to have style”.