One of the great things about the Slipcue site is getting e-mail from people all over the world... including irate readers from Brazil. I've been wanting to do a "letters column" on the site for a while now, and finally found some free time to encode some of the more choice comments. Strangely enough, I actually like e-mails that are critical of what I write (almost) as much as the ones that tell me what a swell guy I am... I really believe in the value of critical thinking, and I figure that it should cut both ways, since taste is such a subjective thing to begin with. So let's just start with the good stuff, all people who have spotted me for the fraud I am... and this first one's a doozy!
(By the way, I also get lots of positive mail about the Brazilian section... it's not all heartache and misery!)
> My suggestion to you is learn Portuguese before you start dismissing
> any Brazilain musician, particularly Milton Nascimento. Most of
> Gilberto Gil's lyrics are total word play (Refazenda). But you
> wouldn't know that now would you?
> I really hate it when someone who knows nothing about the language,
> (and the culture I'm assuming, other than what you've read) sets
> themself up as some kind of authority about music whose soul you
> really don't understand. I appreciate all your historical info, but
> Take a few trips to the country and try to get a feel for the streets
> and the people and what it's really like. You'd have to learn
> Portuguese though first, wouldn't you.
Hi -- thanks for the feedback; it honestly is much appreciated.
However, I will stand by what I say (somewhere) in the site: good lyrics and bad music are two different things altogether. To the extent that I understand Portuguese, I appreciate the poetry involved, but I still don't like some of the music, and that's what my descriptions are based on. I am writing mainly for a North American audience which *also* doesn't speak Portuguese, but would like to learn more about Brazilian music yet avoid icky-sounding albums. Most English-language reviews of Brazilian music are written by people who unquestioningly adore it, and they are often not very critical or insightful. I personally believe that that sort of aesthetic vacuum helped make it possible for great artists such as Gilberto Gil to have drifted away from their muse for decades at a time, and for lots of "bad" music to be produced and sent up the the States.
Obviously, most of this just a matter of taste. Lots of people love the stuff that Milton, Djavan and Ivan Lins record... but I don't. I can't stand most of it, though when I hear something that I do like by Milton (for example), I'll say so. I like three or four of his albums, and I recommend them. If someone agrees with my comments about some other records or artists, then they might stand a pretty good chance of finding a Nascimento album they will also enjoy, even if they have already heard several that they hated. That's the service I provide: my personal taste, and not simply a catalog of albums that've been recorded in Brazil. I don't expect everyone to agree with what I say, I just want to contribute to a dialog about music and art, and to help other people find music they might like.
However, I strongly disagree that it's required for a music critic to immerse themselves in a culture to "appreciate" it or that having done so, they should accept it uncritically. By contrast, I also listen to a lot of American country and rock music, but I don't like country and rock music that is poorly written or soullessly produced. True, I don't have a gigantic website devoted to critiquing every awful album that Nashville or Los Angeles has ever recorded -- because that would be an endless task, and it wouldn't be nearly of as much use as a site which at least provides, as you say, "historical information" about musical styles which are an attractive mystery to the rest of the world. Still, feel free to correct me as you see fit; I'm also doing this to learn more about the music.
PS -- since you want me to visit Brazil, you wouldn't happen to know someone with a couch I could sleep on down there, would you?#8-)
From: Geoff A.
I've been listening to Brazilian music since 1964, was a big fan of
Best regards, and good site,
Subject: Hey Joe!
Baden Powell, and found your site searching for an obit (I'm down here
in San Jose, CA). I've got most of his albums, and one day I'll try to
go through them and update your records. Your site is refreshing,
because most Brazilan pop was real crap, and crap in any language is
crap, regardless of the nonsense your Brazilan critic tells you about
having to know a language to understand music. Good music is great in
any tongue, schmaltz is schmaltz. That said, there's lots of great
Brazilian stuff too, two of my faves being Powell's 'Tempo Feliz', and
Zelia Barbosa's old Monitor recording of protest songs from the sertao.
Now THAT'S hot!
I've been listening to Brazilian music since 1964, was a big fan of
Best regards, and good site,
Um... what HE said!!
(By the way, there is indeed an obituary of Baden Powell posted in the Slipcue Obituary Pages...)
From: "Luiz Reis" (email@example.com)
Subject: Brazilian Music
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 22:56:16 -0300
Dear Mr. Sixpack,
My name is Luiz Reis, I live in Recife, northeastern Brazil. I'm a part time musician in a dance band, playing all kinds of brazilian as well as international music for weddings, graduate parties, carnival, and so on. I appreciate your efforts on explaining brazilian music, it's great to see someone in USA who cares. Although, I have some criticisms: you either didn't hear or only wrote another person's opinion on some artists listed on you index of brazilian artists. Let's see:
Sure, I can't question your personal taste, but some stuff you put on the index page seems vague and based on someone else's opinion, and doesn't reflect the opinion of brazilian listeners. For the rest, that's OK, I only don't understand why people in USA still worship Carmen Miranda as the ethernal Queen of Samba. If you want to hear some interesting new sounds, try to find stuff from Leny Andrade, Leila Pinheiro, Dalva de Oliveira, Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi (as well as other artists from Recife with the MANGUEBEAT movement), Itamar Assumpcao, that is, brazilian music isn't mummified in the 60's and Bossa Nova (don't get me wrong, I like it a lot).
Don't ever listen to Pagode as it is sold nowadays as record execs swamped radio and TV, as well as Sertanejo music: it stinks! All in all, congratulations for your page and keep up the good work.
You Brazilians sure are touchy about pagode... and me (supposedly) misclassifying things!! Jeez...!
Hey, thanks again for the nice feedback... Again, with the lyric thing, I'm mostly writing about how the music sounds, and I haven't heard anything by Djavan that I like yet, although several of you have been nice enough to suggest some albums I should check out... and I will someday... honest!
As far as my descriptions of the music -- every record reviewed on Slipcue is something that I've listened to, though I have been known to make a mistake or two... and even to change my mind about something once in a while. But the dumb opinions are all mine.
PS -- what's wrong with Carmen Miranda?? She was such a cutie! Besides, even Caetano Veloso made his peace with her legacy... what do you think the opening lines of "Terra" are about?
Hi Joe Six Pack! My name is Vinicius, from Bauru, state of Sao Paulo. I was looking for info on one of my favorite rock bands, os Mutantes, and then got into your website. Well, I liked it. It's not a collection of stupid stuff coming from a narrow-minded stranger. Your opinions about brazilian music clearly demonstrate your have your own solid criteria. It's of course more "universal" and transparent try to judge music through its sound (it is, of course, what music was made for primarilly, isn't it?) and not through the lyrics, but when it comes to brazilian music, mainly the music produced between the 60's and the 70's, judging the sounds only by the universally-intended "good sound and/or pop feeling" criteria leads you to the risk of being unfair to some of very talentous brazilian artists.
I'll try to explain it: in those decades, Brazil was under dictatorial military governments (as most of latin america was at that time), and as military governments usually do, they act as censorship for art, as art itself works beyond authority and social rules. Because of this, music in Brazil had to be "split" in two main "mindsets" (can I say so?): one that developed music for commercial intents. Example: Roberto Carlos and his "Jovem Guarda" rock music TV show friends. Something similar to what internationally is understood as "commercial" music. Having in mind that the military governments in Brazil were politically aligned with liberal capitalism, you can see that every kind of music that was not primarily commercially-intended was a potential "threat" to the political stabilishment (it was a kind of "comunists-hunting" season), and so every song not primarily commercially oriented was suffering potential censorship: modern and post-modern singers and bands, folk singers, clearly communism-oriented mindset singers, no matter what were the real politic ideas of the artist (Caetano Veloso as a tropicalist was carrying the flag of art and pop music, Geraldo Vandr was creating communism anthems, and both were being equally censored). This context lead many of brazilian artists to work around lyrics that could pass through censorship agent's ears and minds without being really understood. So the art of music lyrics flourished. Chico Buarque is one of the most love brazilian artist of all-time because he only not got brazilian hearts through his melodies, he also reached a status of master in the art of "encripting" ideas inside his poetry-filled lyrics. A clear example is the song "Calice", which was a duet with Milton Nascimento. The lyrics are a transcription of a scene in the life of Jesus Christ, when he ran to the mountais solely to claim to God "if possible, get me away from this fate (he knew he would die in the hands of jewish)". The first phrases in this song are "pai, afasta de mim este calice (repeat some times) de vinho tinto de sangue" (in english, "father, take me away from this cup (repeat) full of blood wine")....for wider mindsets and intellectually-richer intelligences, it was clearly taken as a metaphor to the blood running out of many brazilians wich fought against the militar government. And this interpretation of the lyrics in this song gets clearer as it develops with more and more deeply built metaphors...for the military censorship agents, it was just a Bible quotation. For politically engaged brazilian citizens, it was a claim of deep horror, and magically, for art seekers, it was a beauty poetry piece :-) This was one of the many technics brazilian artists had to develop to let art persist despite the climate of horror and political control.
Well, I think now you may see why brazilians really get pissed off when "sound oriented" stranger listener comments get in their way and commit some unfairness to many brazilian talents, because its of course a proof of misunderstand in brazilian recent history (I don't really think strangers should know brazilian history, I just think americans should know Brazil had its own context in the '60s as we brazilians are really partially informed about the ideas that crafted american music in the 60's). That's the point: music in Brazil was an art of melodies and more for the lyrics in the 60's and the 70's. This idea got so hardly carved in brazilian art that instrumental artists are still underrated.
Well, that's my opinion. Your website is good, go on with it.
HERESY: I have probably taken more heat for my unfavorable opinions about Antonio Carlos Jobim than anything else I've written on Slipcue. Still haven't changed my mind, though. Djavan is a close runner-up, though, as seen below:
Date: 2 Jun 1999 13:37:00 +0100
Subject: Jobim Songs
>Berg Jan Erik wrote:
>> Why all this bad criticism of the Jobim songs? According to Stan Getz he his
>> one of the three most
>> important composers of the second half of this century. And one more thing.
>> died in 1994 not '95.
>> Jan Erik Berg
>Thanks for the feedback. Actually, it's his recordings I don't like, not
>his compositions... just a matter of personal preferences. Sorry about getting the date wrong.
Date: Sun, 04 Jul 1999 00:27:17 -0500
From: Ellis Windham
I love your page, even though I think Tom Jobim is God,and I loved his
stupid singing voice.
I was looking for the lyrics to "Sozinho" because my friend said I had
to sing along at the Caetano concert next week here in yummy Austin TX.
I didn't find the lyrics, but I love your page, even though you need to
find a synonym for "cheezy". Love it love it love it.
Thanks for yr help and for making me roll on the floor with your cyber smell stuff
My pleasure. As to Jobim, well, see above. As far as coming up with other words besides "cheesy"... if it ain't broken, why fix it?
(PS-- readers wondering about the fabulous world of Cyber Smell can find out more by visiting The Slipcue Fun Page.
From: "Dave D"
Subject: bravos & complaints
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 23:40:32 PDT
I found your very entertaining pages while doing a search of (pardon while I
brace for your wince) Sergio Mendes.
I enjoy intelligent writing, especially laced with sardonic humor, and you
possess this gift. Your tone (I teach high school English, where I attempt
to get their unformed ears attuned to tone) reminds me of my brother Mike,
who is brash, merciless to charlatans, incisive, irreverant, but most of
all, fun. Thus I send you a compliment, yet I disagree with your tastes, but
that is of far lesser importance.
Jobim is the end of the rainbow for me (even his Double Rainbow). Alas, I
grieve for those who cannot find joy in him; it's like finding no savor in a
mango. But I salute the yeoman's work you have done in cataloging the
Brazilian artists. Where is Ana Caram?
A final word. Is it possible that a person of your initiative and
independence and iconoclasticism is a LIBERAL? How old are you? Don't you
know that all thinking members of the 60s generation have rejected
liberalism in the wisdom of their advancing years? Please consider the true
philosophical freedom of conservatism. Read. Just a friendly suggestion to a
Thanks for the reference information you have provided. Keep up the good
The old carrot and stick routine, eh? Well, needless to say, Dave and I had a fun exchange concerning politics. I'll spare you my full reply, but I did take a moment to point out that I'm running a gigantic not-for-profit music website and also that I do live in BERKELEY, for chrissake! So, yeah, I'm a leftie. (For more of my politics, check out The Fun Page). And what is it about this Jobim fellow, anyway? Is he some kind of national hero or something?
Oh, by the way, Dave never wrote me back.
Subject: Djavan Reviews
Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 11:11:37 EDT
This note is to the person who seems intent on categorically putting down all of Djavan's music: To say you may not like some of his recordings is one thing. But to put down his music completely simply shoots down your credibility as a person qualified to critique music. Why? Because Djavan's wealth music, in and of itself, is so incredibly diverse. This gifted musician has recorded, and continues to record, nearly every style of music (barring perhaps classical) from old-school Brazilian/Bossa Nova, jazz (traditional and contemporary), blues, funk, pop, ballads, R&B, adult contemporary, and some of the most brilliant and melodic acoustic, and earthy, compositions to date. To say you don't like ANY of Djavan's music, is to say that you don't like music, period. Respectfully,
Nichell A Longtime Djavan Fan New York, NY
No... actually, it just indicates what *kind* of music I like, and what kind I don't. Art criticism isn't about liking everything, or liking things because they are popular with other people. It's about (or should be about) expressing one's own, personal taste. If I said I loved everything I heard, then how would people be able to differentiate between the records I review, or learn to either trust my reviews, or take them with a grain of salt?
Besides, I don't think I have categorically condemned everything Djavan has ever done; each album I've listened to is separately commented on. You and I just have different tastes... I don't see how that "disqualifies" me to express my opinions... it just means that (GASP!) someone out there has a different opinion than your own...
Agree to disagree?
[NOTE: this correspondence continued a while longer, and became increasingly humorless with every round (if that's even possible!) I will spare the rest of you the dismal details.]
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2002 03:17:56 -0000
From: "Miguel Saavedra" [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I came through your Djavan review. Although I like some of his musics, I'm not a fan of Djavan, and I can agree that some times he may sound "commercial" but judging by the way you've explained your disapointment, you completelly missed it. It's not as bad as you've painted it. Maybe it's because you lack the latin gene. That feeling you, North Americans, don't have and make you for instance sound square every time you try to play Bossa Nova. You won't solve it flying to Brasil but next time you get there, pay attention to the people, the cities, the countryside, the beaches, the smiles. Enjoy yourself, life is great there. Read some of the recent brasilian history (60-90) and than you will understand their music much better and realize that Djavan and others are much better than may sound to the distracted ear.
Wait a minute... I lack the "latin gene...??" Dang... NOW they tell me!! Still, I'm still not sure if the gene therapy you propose will make me like Djavan any better... or if I really want it to! Won't I also start listening to Quincy Jones and Kenny G too...? That might really suck.
Date: Thu, 09 Dec 1999 18:24:44 -0200
you know brazilian music pretty well.you only forgot the brazilian soul
music,that mix samba and american black music,it's really great.artists
like Tim Maia,Jorge Ben(jor),Cassiano and others.um abraco:Marcelo
you know brazilian music pretty well.you only forgot the brazilian soul
Well, I've always had a Jorge Ben page up, but since receiving this letter, I have added a Tim Maia discography. Other Brazilian soul music has been pretty hard to track down. Recommendations are always welcome. [Addendum: now there's a whole new section devoted to Brazilian soul & funk, that went up in 2001... thanks for all the suggestions! ]
From: Nelson Niero (email@example.com)
Subject: Are you loki?
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 21:43:57 -0300
Hey Joe, your Brazilian Music site is astonishing. But man, you got all
terribly wrong when it comes to Arnaldo Baptista. Loki? is one of the best
Brazilian rock albums ever. Forget Rita Lee, she's all marketing, no
Nelson, south of the border.
Well, maybe. I still think her early albums are pretty interesting. I'll give Loki another try sometime...
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2000 17:05:23 EST
Subject: just a point of view
Hi mr sixpack, How are you?My name is Vitor and I was surfing on the
net when I found your homepage. As a brazilian music lover I can say your
homepage is extremelly good , but in one point , I have to say I totally
disagree with you. I am talking about one of the gratest artist brasil has
ever had. Djavan is considered not just from me but from most of the
criticals as the greatest name talking about harmonies and melodies. You
might not like his style " swing" but next time try to focus on those points,
ok? If you still want to listen my opinion or even talk to me about other
brazilian artists, fell comfortable and send me a mail to
thank you one more time
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2000 19:09:09 EDT
Subject: Djavan's Not That Bad!
Just a quick note to commend you on your site. I've been listening to
Brazilian music for about three years buying about 50-100 records per year
and I have to say very little of what you say I disagree with. Your comments
are insightful and I'm looking forward to seeing what you have forthcoming.
Djavan's '80s records are better than most Brazilian records in the terrible
'80s. Granted, his records are often disappointing, but he has a good twenty
great songs. I saw him singing atop a trio electrico in Bahia and I was
Okay, okay... Several people have written to tell me to ease up on Djavan, and really - honestly - I've tried to keep an open mind about the guy. I just don't like that kind of music. Nonetheless, I've included a Djavan discography, and maybe someday I'll have an epiphany and "get" why I should like this stuff...
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 20:42:56 -0900
From: "jeff" firstname.lastname@example.org
You must be a shi**y person to have a beer with. Have you ever been to brasil? Do you know any Brasilians? probally not. Lighten up a little, maybe go rio or bahia, then maybe you would finally understand - maybe?!
Maybe. As to my beer consumption, I'm told that my long monologues on fluctuating mortgage rates and random price differentials are quite the crowd pleaser. Then everything goes hazy and I start to dance on the tables...
From: "James" (email@example.com)
Subject: Your Caetano Veloso site
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 16:02:22 -0800
I recently came across your Caetano Veloso fan site. You are obviously a
knowledgeable fan and committed to the works of Caetano Veloso. I'd like to
introduce you to a new destination featuring the legends of music and invite
All-Legends.com is developing THE fan destination for fans of music, film
and sports legends. All-Legends features artist sites built by the fans,
for the fans. We'd like to invite you to lead the All-Legends Caetano
Veloso fan site.
What's in it for you? Fame and fortune!! Fame because you are recognized
as the #1 guide to your artist. You can lead artist discussions, drive
trivia contests, report news and review albums. Fortune comes because you
share in the profits of the site. A percentage of all advertising and
product sales from your site get paid to you. Upcoming features include
artist stores, auctions, discussion boards, on-line radio, and interactive
gaming. You will share in profits from anything relating to Caetano Veloso.
There are other perks along the way (T-shirts, music, memorabilia, etc.),
but you'll be here because you are a true fan. Plus, you can link to your
existing fan page. What a great way to promote the site you have already
Interested? Simply link to www.alllegends.com/moderator.html and let us
know. We'll send you out an HTML artist template along with the details of
the program. As soon as you send in your completed artist page we'll upload
it to the web and send out an All-Legends T-shirt as a thank you for leading
your fan site.
Thanks for your time. We hope to hear from you soon.
Yeah, right. Have these guys gone out of business yet...?
From: "Gerald Seligman" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Your comments on web site
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 17:51:34 +0100
I've just read your reference to me: "Reissue producer
Gerald Seligman's tastes are, as ever, at odds with
what I (and, I suspect, most non-jazz listeners) would like to hear."
What does this mean? You've got me very curious.
With about 200 or more albums I've delivered as compilation
producer, re-issuer and actual recording producer, only a
fraction are jazz-related. Or am I just being sensitive?
Man, talk about being busted. The nice thing is that Mr. Seligman (along with his attorneys) was very nice about the whole thing... And I learned a valuable lesson about not being so mean to the other kids. Plus it turns out we like a lot of the same artists. (I still don't like most of the "A Personalidade" albums, though... sorry!)
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