Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Skillz to Take Brazil tour stop: Porto alegre pt 1

I promise before I leave Brazil I will have a nice little greeting for you all in Portugese. We are lounging in Porto Alegre, where this sun soaked city hás the feel of a tropic metropolis (you like the travel agent brochure lead in?). I want to backtrack though, to our last days and nights in Passo Fundo...


The day after we tore the house down (“ A Casa Caiu”), Jiba, Noleis, and crew hosted a bbq to keep the good vibes alive. With our new found brothas from anotha, we drank, and ate cooked meat, relaying stories and learning more about each other and our respective cultures. Davi, my main man hás been invaluable as an interpretater; passing the messages of respect, love and curiousity between some of us that haven’t been as quick to grasp the language. The Brazilians eat dinner around 9-10pm here, so its been interesting adjusting to the different hours (this makes since, their day generally begins around 10-11am). What happened next to this point hás been the most inspiring and powreful event of the trip.

Imagine a cipher of emcees, with musicians, guitars, and berimbau vibing, laughing and having fun. As we took turn spitting lyrics in our native tongues, Davi broke down what his crew meant to each other, they were family first and foremost. He spoke of how he learned about hip hop through listening to people like Public Enemy, N.W.A., and this being the catalyst for him to acquire “knowledge” (of self....??? Ill let pundits, and revisionist argue that one...for the true, we know what it is....). As I interacted with the group of talented emcees, and listened to Davi break down his experiences, it was so powerful how much it mirrored my own, and what my own crew’s experiences have been as we grew in the music.

What I was reminded of, that is so lacking in the states is that hip hop is community. It is how we relate, it is how we build, it is how we get sharper as artists. It is how we maintain the love, sustain it through gathering, sharing, competing. Its not always about business, sometimes its sitting down to simply chop it up about what is going on, what is happening with each other, debate, fight, share...and that energy being channeled positively and creatively into rhythms. That is what I experienced tonight...


The next day, we woke up to a late lunch, and headed to the studio. This is where we got to experience the Favelas of Passo Fundo, which Davi said was simply called “Westside” (the Brooklyn tag in part 1 is from here...). He showed us some of the local crack spots, drug houses, and places where the gun dealer lived, a place Davi admitted he’s been to before to purchase his own piece, in times when things were a little rougher. This Favela isnt of the size or notoriety of those in Salvador, or Rio but is nonetheless poor and dangerous. Davi and others in his crew have gone to jail, others have passed from the violence. You would never know it though from their easy smiles, and Davi’s bookish demeanor. The studio was literally the renovated Bedroom of one of the crew’s producers, Paulhino aka E.T. who is all of 16 years old. Egg Crates, Foam, plywood and plexiglass; complete with mic booth. The entire crew chipped in with money and monkey grease to make it happen. UR$ Fundão, literally translates to “Union of Knowledge and Respect”. Respect Due.

Again, one of the most hip hop of moments, the studio. A fruity loops set up, and E.T. on the boards, we whipped up a couple of dope tracks in a matter of hours. Noiles came through with his guitar and it was on! Drinking water, coca cola and braving the 90 degree heat in the un-air conditioned space, we listened to beats, took pictures, laughed, and began the process to put two songs together, “Não Tem Pres Yo Não” and ‘Somos Assim”, Priceless Moments/I am like. The first song is the crew shout out, while I am like’s basic concept was each emcees response to the question, “Why am I na emcee?” These two tracks along with others Rabbi and I myself have done with Zajazza, we are putting together as “The Skillz to Take Brazil” EP. When we talk about keeping it real, this is what we mean. 20 young men, from their teens to their thirties building their own enterprise, and doing it on the foundation of their shared experiences. We were presented with t-shirts that they were sellling, the “label” is called Domtalento. You can check their music and gear here UR$ Fundao. The session lasted about 10 hours, and ended once again in a feast of sausage, and deserts, courtesy of E.T.’s mom. Its dope how UR$ Fundão translated the hip hop experience into their own. It hás been as much spiritual, and conscious as it hás been entrepenuarial and enterprising. D.I.Y. is the order of the day, and they are young and coming up..with a swiftness.


Tuesday Morning, we were off and the beautiful countryside I missed on the bus ride down I was able to experience on the return. Alessio, and Zohio made the trip, to watch us rock (and Alessio actually is going to do a couple joints with us!) We rode through a huge lush valley and rolling hills. Livestock and roosters dotted the side of the road, with a river running through. Five hours later we arrived in the city of Porto Alegre. Staying with brother of one of the crew members, Sosa hás opened his home to us. We spent the night walking the streets of Porto Alegre, drinking beer and admiring the local scene. It hás a different flavor but not unlike the East Village in New York. Things are very cheap here, so the equivalent of five bucks will get you about four beers. We hung outside and watched as people went wild for a Grêmio win (one of the two teams in the Rio Grande Sul, they recently one the South American championship, their rival Internacionale hás been a source of conention in the crew, Alessio another one of my homies here is die hard for them, and he gets constant ribbing to their “secondary” status to Grêmio.).

Today hás been walking around the city center (pictures for that and the show, coming in part 2) and soaking up more sun and the city’s rhythms as we prepare for the show at Garagem Hermeeca, tonight. Before my internet craps out again..Im out for now. Part 2 coming.

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