Sunday, 15 August 2010

Touring São Paulo with Caetano Veloso

Such is the affection that people have for São Paulo that the city has its own “appelido” – or nickname – of Sampa. Among those who love São Paulo is Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso, who wrote a song about it and used its nickname as the title. I thought a link to his performance would heighten your journey through the city using my photos and notes as a guide.

Veloso himself is best known for his part in the Brazilian musical movement called Tropicália in the 1960s, a creative response to the censorship of the Brazilian military dictatorship. Both Veloso and fellow musician Gilberto Gil were arrested in 1969 and exiled from Brazil to London, where they lived for two years.
Veloso’s song about São Paulo describes his initial dislike, but also misunderstanding, of the city, one which he thought lacked charm in its concrete make-up of ugly buildings. But he came to understand it and, ultimately, love it.
I think his juxtaposition is a perfect one. A lot of people don’t like São Paulo when they first see it – I didn’t – but once you get to know it, you appreciate its rough beauty and energy.
The architecture doesn’t have the old-school, heritage-heavy look of European cities, for example. In fact, the grand mansions built by São Paulo’s coffee barons in the 1800s along Avenida Paulista were torn down by the 1960s to make way for towering office blocks for banks and finance institutions. But what São Paulo does have instead is a cool, more modern architecture in the form of the Mercado Municipal (first picture) and the city’s museum of art MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo (second picture). The latter, designed by Lina Bo Bardi in 1957, sits low among Avenida Paulista’s skyscrapers and gives the impression of floating above the street, allowing for a great view of the city through the two red posts on which it appears to be suspended.
Oscar Niemeyer, who at 103 years of ago is arguably Brazil’s most famous modern architect, is also responsible for São Paulo’s landscape, including the Copan Building. In 2003 Niemeyer was asked to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park in London.
Away from the modernist aesthetic is São Paulo’s inter-city train station Estação da Luz (pictures 4 and 5), which was built in the 19th century from materials brought from the UK.
Japan has also had a big impact on São Paulo with the city boasting the highest Japanese population outside of Japan, which settled in the Liberdade district in São Paulo (picture 6). As a result, sushi is popular across the city (picture 7).

1 comment:

  1. This song is Caetano’s first impression of São Paulo when he arrived there from Bahia, in the Northeast of Brasil during the 60s. Coming from a place close to nature he found São Paulo very strange and tries to show the conflict between innocence and science, a conflict shared by many northeastern migrants when they first came to Sao Paulo. At the end of the song, he says that he’s getting used to the ‘garoa’ – a type of drizzle that is very common in São Paulo – and hopes to enjoy what the city has to offer with his friends from Bahia.

    Eliana Lewis