finalmente, a palestra!

(see thurs, 19 april) by now you’re probably sick of me telling you i’m going to talk about the palestra. ‘what the heck is a palestra, anyway?’ i gather it’s one of those brasilian words that just can’t be translated into english, though it can loosely be defined as a talk or a lecture. as i explained before, professor josé miguel wisnik from the universidade de são paulo came to berkeley to give a palestra. (by the way, josé is not pronounced like it is in spanish. say the ‘j’ as it’s properly pronounced in ‘bonjour’ and pronounce the ‘s’ like a ‘z.’ something like ‘zho-zay.’) he was trained as a classical pianist but soon became interested in what is known in brasil as mpb (música popular brasileira). eventually he started writing music with both classical and mpb influences, some pieces for film or dance, etc. needless to say he’s quite talented.

the palestra was lovely and intimate. i loved it because it felt more like an enthusiastic brasilian reunion than a lecture. most people there were brasilian, all greeting each other with kisses and plenty of portuguese. clélia was there, as were valéria (one of the portuguese 101a instructors), carla (grad student in music, from são paulo, i love her), and ryusuke (my spanish instructor from last semester!), and several of my classmates. i really loved the strong feeling of community i got from everybody there. everyone spoke portuguese except my poor erik and some other poor souls (translation, though excellent, was sporadic), everyone had a genuine interest in everyone else and in zé miguel (josé is often shortened to zé) and his music… unfortunately i was so self-conscious about my portuguese i didn’t talk to anyone except carla and even then i only spoke in english. i need to fix that.

but anyway, this was all before the palestra even started. from what i hear, brasilians are totally un-punctual. as they say it, they will not be slaves to the clock. so here we were in the dim hallways of morrison hall, totally crowded together (everyone who passed by was totally nonplussed by us… we looked like one huge extended family), all these people meeting and greeting each other. it seemed like some people who seeing old friends. they would come in, see someone and stride over to them, ‘so-and-so! olá!’ *kisskiss* ‘rapid portuguese i couldn’t understand but it sounded very pleased’ *smiles all around* some of my more outgoing classmates were introducing themselves to the brasilians, who seemed just as pleased to meet them and talk to them. dohhhh, i thought. i really wished i could work up the nerve to talk to them like joyce was doing. they all seemed like such neat people.

anyway, when the palestra finally started we all filed in and josé miguel started talking. as i said last thursday, i really couldn’t understand very much, but it was good practice i suppose. his playing was great. he played (on the piano) several of his own songs, and sang along. his voice is really comparable to all the other brasilian greats… just wonderful. like hearing the kings of mpb, in concert. or maybe that’s just because i’ve never heard anything like this live before.

the last song he played was, of course, one of his own, called inverno (winter). it’s a samba but he took it at a fairly slow tempo, and toward the end he got the audience singing along, and it was sssssoooooo beautiful… the audience was mainly female, so there was this lovely piece being played on the piano, with a female chorus singing the refrain very softly along with the piano… i have a hard time describing it, but it was a just an unbelievable, intimate experience.

i guess the most similar thing i can show you is this: go online and download joão gilberto’s song a felicidade (happiness). i don’t know if there are any other versions out there, but get the live version. pay close attention to the last fifty-five or so seconds. unfortunately it’s mostly applause and not much singing, but the singing that you can hear… that’s the closest thing i can think of, that resembles the ambience in the elkus room that evening.

and now… i’m SO frustrated because i can’t find any of josé miguel’s cds online! i mean i can, but none of these places will ship to the united states! grrrrrrrrrrrrr. i’m going to go to clélia’s office hours tomorrow to see if she’ll lend me her cd, and if not, i’m going to josé miguel’s office hours on thurs (i don’t know exactly what his position is right now at berkeley, but he has office hours on thursday!) to ask him if he knows where i can buy his cd!

[note, 4/10/14: Imported from my old blog at]