Eubioticamente atraídos

moments of the movement

moments of the movement

Tropicalist verb

Rogério Duarte
Excerpted from Tropicália 20 Anos (Tropicalia 20 Years), SESC, 1987

Without questions-answers, 60 minutes of tape, with Ricardo Muniz interviewing Rogério Duarte in a “cloister” in the Lapa convent: Salvador, Bahia, August 10, 1987.

PLAY – You cannot place any movement within Brazilian culture as if it were something unconnected and indigenous. There is a basic relationship between national movements and international movements. Now and forever, there is not Brazilian History, as there is no French History, everything is overlapping themes. That song by Caetano in which he sings “Break down the shelves …it’s forbidden to forbid”, is a tribute to the French student movement. Hélio Oiticica’s flag, “Seja marginal, seja herói” (“Be an outlaw, be a hero”) is a counterculture movement identical to the American one, to the French one.

The modernist movement is linked to the whole of the European vanguard: futurism, Dadaism, surrealism, and nationalism had to be discovered in Europe so that in Brazil we could give ourselves permission to make a national art – ‘Movimento Pau-Brasil’. (The ‘Brazil-wood Movement’ of 1924)

PLAY – Music is always considered to be a late art, because it consolidates the revolutions, because it acts through form, in a very profound way. There has always been a hierarchization of greater and lesser arts, where one spoke of popular music and artistic music as if they were two almost total opposites; and the great strength of Tropicalism was to take on this contradiction that existed throughout Brazilian art. You can see this clearly in Villa-Lobos. His music was not composed in the classical European mold of theme against counter-theme.  No! He mixed hundreds of themes in a type of possessed, baroque carnival, which is one of the main characteristics of Tropicalism, this invaluable contribution of all the mistakes, the abandonment of academic and conservative criteria for good taste and bad taste. Bad taste comes into the esthetic and abolishes the predominant cold, white, good taste-ism, and this started a revolution…

PLAY – In Rio de Janeiro there was a moment of meeting, and the movement arose from that. The movement may have been planned at the uterine level in Bahia, but the birth was in Rio.  It was there that there was the maternity ward and the technology to be able to deliver the sprout… The inspiration is in Santo Amaro, but the tool is in Rio and it is Caetano who makes this journey…

PLAY – Tropicalism only takes shape when two forces meet and offer their equipment, their tools, for the elaboration of a greater project.

When Caetano arrives in Rio, he is still provincial, singing those lyrical songs, a little apollonian, childlike, João Gilberto-like. There is a certain contemplativeness, in other words, the ferment of revolt does not exist. It is his contact with Rio, with violence, the shock with modernity that is going to produce this synthesis-response, dialectically moving beyond the contradiction that up until then reigned between greater art and lesser art, which gives rise to this revolutionary proposal breaking the hierarchy.

There was a revolt against the hand-crafted and the thinking that arose was Design. ‘Cinema novo’ came along; which was, to a certain extent, trying to take over from theater as a form of broad and revolutionary social communication. Industrialized music. Records in contrast to traditional ‘pagode’ or ‘samba de roda’ … the desire to seize power

PLAY – This was the Tropicalists’ thinking: we are not here like the ‘sambistas’ of the favelas, who are going to be stuck in their place in the backyard where they’ll hold their ‘pagodes’ and drink their ‘cachaça’ (sugar cane spirit). No! We wanted to invade the main reception room and set fire to it! We, cannibal-like, were going to steal bits from Stravinsky and Schoenberg and all the vanguard of pop music, and everything else, we are going to invent this thing of universal sound. Abolish the xenophobic prejudices.

PLAY – In the elitist vision of the time, there was a series of purist pseudo-nationalisms, which was that idea of our good ‘crioulo’ (black – in the sense of Uncle Tom), our ‘authentic samba’, but all this was a sort of stagnant form, not destined for a process of transformation …

PLAY – The international moment in the era of Tropicalism seems to me basically a third world vision, a moment of anti-colonialism, a very great opening-up to black/African thinking, in other words, the official white ethnocentricity was, on an esthetic level, beginning to turn to dust…

PLAY – We wanted to invade the main reception room and set it alight!

PLAY – The manifestation of this Brazilian audacity…

PLAY – This becoming aware of oneself, of Brazilian-ness…

PLAY – In 1968-69, together with Hélio Oiticica, at the Museu de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Museum) in Rio de Janeiro, we organized some meetings. One of them was called the presentation of Brazilian culture/craziness. People who took part – Chacrinha, as well as Nuno Veloso, sophisticated intellectuals, sociologists, in the quest for a Brazilian narrative. This was greatly opposed by the traditional, colonized left, whose thinking came from Leandro Konder, Rosa Luxemburgo, that whole clan. We did not fit into that pigeon-hole and we were rejected because of this; for seeking a totality at a moment in which everything was compartmentalized. This is what Tropicalism and its strength means. It is not a movement, but a moment of a movement which had started long before.

PLAY – When I was young, I used to say that Brazil was a country that was not able to have philosophers. It is curious that Caetano, many years later, wrote that song, “Língua” (Language) where he says, “It’s been proved that it is only possible to philosophize in German”. And that’s exactly it! The samba ‘do crioulo doido’ (of the crazy negro) is the real Brazilian narrative. Contaminated by misery, suffering, unaware. Refractory to philosophic systemization, but this “discurso do crioulo doido” (“idea of the crazy negro”), as it matures, stops being merely irrational narrative. It begins to put in place a dialectic synthesis, a new way of thinking.

PLAY – It is in this sense that it became a movement that could not be absorbed, either by the left or by the right, or by any of the existing movements of the time, that were merely in sectors, incapable of understanding its identity, its idea of totality.

PLAY –This ‘samba do crioulo doido’ (crazy negro’s samba) is also in Villa-Lobos. And In Glauber Rocha, especially in ‘Idade da Terra’ (Age of the Earth); in Oscar Niemeyer and his architecture; Lina Bo Bardi, in her work that expresses a whole third world vision of culture and art; Zé Celso with his Oficina Theater movement. Afterwards these elements were called Tropicalist, but at the time no-one gave them this title, we were just getting together with each other and trying to create an esthetic revolution in Brazil. It is difficult to say that Tropicalism was a movement like the (1922) Modern Art Week There is a difference: then there was a plan, a manifesto, a particular week, in Tropicalism there were various … without systemization, and perhaps what was unique, is that at the same time as it was an avant-garde movement, it was also a mass movement. It was not a movement, but a moment of a movement which had already started long before.

PLAY – Before the 1964 coup, there had been more open debate, which at the time of the movement was no longer possible. We had to translate certain things at a different level. We could not hold a spontaneous political meeting in the street; therefore we transferred it to the concerts. The proof is that Caetano was exiled with Gil, I was imprisoned, tortured; the leading members of the movement are routed, those who represented the tail of the lizard of 1964 that were still moving. Then comes the “Ato Institucional 5” (when repression was institutionalized) shortly after Gal’s show, and then the defeat of Tropicalism is complete. Just as there was the defeat of the 1968 movement, in Paris, that was how Tropicalism ended. Godard no longer exists; there is a conservative cinema for middle class consumption. All over the world, the great adventure is over, with the fear of Aids, everyone for himself, this sort of thing …

PLAY – We were not destroyed individually, but the overall force of the movement was destroyed by Brazilian underdevelopment, by our State continuing to be dependent on imperialism and on the multinationals, which stopped us from reaching a real Brazilian consciousness.

PLAY – Tropicalism, while it goes beyond its own label, its own name, is the possibility of having our own culture and life in Brazil, because we are indeed tropical.

Many of the last Tropicalists were here in Bahia – me, Gil, Waly (Salomão). Bahia is a bit like the Paris Commune, the hope that all we did not achieve in terms of taking power nationally, we can do in Bahia, which is still a place that has the spirituality and a cultural level that allows certain things …

Here in Bahia there is something curious, dialectic. The people prostitute themselves, accepting reification for consumerism but, at the same time, they organize themselves to try to overcome this condition. There is a real popular culture here, which is not dependent; there are still the roots of popular life here, that in a big industrial city you don’t get, because a person is condemned to “middleclassify”, or “lumpenify”, there is no alternative economic option like you have here with the ‘capoeiras’ (martial arts groups), the ‘terreiros’ (Afro-Brazilian churches), vital spaces where a whole CULTURE can grow up. And there is still, let us say, the land; we were not “de-fatherlanded” like in the big cities, where you get whole ghettos totally dependent on something external …We could say, Bahia is the last redoubt of Tropicália: an experimental laboratory.

PLAY – Tropicalism, while it has grown beyond its own name, means the possibility of culture and life in Brazil, because we really are tropical, we are no longer Tropicalists, but we continue being tropical… there is no other way out for Brazil, apart from finding her own way. It’s no good us trying to implant American-style capitalism here, or Russian-style socialism. In truth, I can’t see any other way out of this world except for … we are the harbinger of the third millennium. The third millennium hasn’t started yet …

PLAY – The manifestation of this Brazilian audacity. There is a myth there. The myth of the third millennium, the idea that Brazil, because it is the most mixed-race country, is the one that can provide the most universal answer, at least in potential.

PLAY – The third millennium hasn’t started yet. As Rimbaud would say, the real life has yet to be invented. So, I’d like to finish with someone who I think is great, Rimbaud. He would say that the true Tropicalism has yet to be invented. I don’t know with what name, nor how, but I cannot see that it can be otherwise than in this direction.

+Eubioticamente atraídos
Tropicalist verb