quarta-feira, 21 de junho de 2017

Brazilliance: Personal, Global and Local Community Links

Brazilliance: Personal, Global and Local Community Links
(A Speech for Viva Portugal Day* in New Bedford, MA, USA)
Dário Borim Jr.

A Personal Snapshot
On air for fifteen and a half years, Brazilliance has always meant that a colossal personal dream of mine has come to fruition. For me, a Brazilian literature professor and author from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, sharing my passion for music through radio is like playing my favorite tunes to a gathering of friends in my very home. It is much more than that, of course, since there are no walls to radio’s endless living-room of communities. From the very beginning, Brazilliance has been a radio show dedicated to the Luso-Afro-Brazilian music and culture. On December 4, 2001, it started out as a morning show on WSMU, 91.1 FM, which, a few years later, turned into WUMD, 89.3 FM, when Brazilliance had already moved to Thursdays, 3:00-6:00PM. The first song I ever played on my own radio show brought one single bulky tear to my face, while I temporarily struggled with a gag in my throat. The tune was “Lua, Lua, Lua, Lua”, from the 1975 CD Jóia,  by Caetano Veloso. The lyrics are short, challenging to translate, and a bit enigmatic, but totally worth remembering:

Lua, lua, lua, lua 
// Moon, moon, moon, moon
Por um momento meu canto 
// For a moment my song
Contigo compactuar 
// Strikes up a pact with you
E mesmo o vento canta-se 
// And even the wind plays itself out
Compacto no tempo 
// Compressed in time
// It breaks
Branca, branca, branca, branca 
// White, white, white, white
A minha, nossa voz atua sendo silêncio 
// My voice, our voice, acts in silence
Meu canto não tem nada a ver 
// My song has nothing to do
Com a lua
// With the moon

(Veloso’s performance and his poem are available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=egb-EcydMKo.)

Global Links
I believe it was some eight or nine years ago that I heard that WUMD 89.3 FM had started broadcasting our shows live, on-line. It meant the world to me.
Soon people who had been listening to us through the web started writing to me. I had realized much earlier that the world of music was indeed fascinating for many reasons, but now I knew musicians depended on and loved building bridges, connecting one another and linking concert producers, studio managers, media folks, you name it.

There was a time when the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture had a much larger operational budget. Within a decade, Brazilliance helped me connect with and invite to perform on campus a plethora of musicians from Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, France, Israel, Mozambique and Portugal, all of them somehow developing their art under the influence of Lusophone music and culture. To cite a few, we had São Paulo renowned pianist Maria José Carrasqueira, Cape-Verdean American jazz vocalist Candida Rose, Mozambican-Canadian pianist Matsinhe, French flutist and musicologist Odette Ernest Dias, Tel Aviv-based Trio Tucan, award-winning Mozambican singer-songwriter Stewart Sukuma, and Portuguese-American brass-band leader Miguel Muniz and his electrifying and multi-cultured Farra Fanfarra, centered in Lisbon. In a nutshell, very few moments in my life have brought me the same magnitude of joy that emanates from my playing music and sharing it with listeners in the South Coast or in various corners of the US and multiple parts of the world – many of them my friends, or soon to be my friends.

A long string of stories have unwound throughout the last one and a half decades. It is actually curious how Brazilliance has had a role in international romantic relationships. The first friend I ever made in the South Coast became the greatest spokesperson and public relations for the show. Now retired, philosophy professor Rick Hogan once printed 1,000 business cards featuring Brazilliance information, so that whenever and wherever he traveled around the world – and he did much of it – he would promote the show at bars, hotels, or street events. It was, in a way, his gift back to me, since Brazilliance had numberless times helped him have a “date” with his Valencian girlfriend, Blanca Rodrigues. When she was in Spain and he in Fairhaven, they would enjoy Brazilliance together, one on FM, the other on the web. Rick and Blanca would ask me to dedicate songs to each other, thus helping them feel a bit closer through Lusophone music.

Community Links
The word community may relate to a wide variety of concepts tied to the gathering of people connected by their faith, fate, common interests or other attributes. As far as Brazilliance is concerned, “community” now is not a global construct, as it was in the previous section of this talk. It applies, instead, to different groups of people on and around UMass Dartmouth campus. My radio show has brought into the studio and onto the airwaves not only local musicians, such as mandolin player Marilynn Mair or classical guitarist Antonio Massa Viana, but also my own students, or College Now students, or cultural agents, such as Tagus Press director, Prof. Christopher Larkosh, other professors, and journalists.

I continue to have the opportunity to present thematically-oriented shows. Celebrating Women’s History Month, for instance, I once did a double show, that is, a six-hour long program, on Brazilian women singers and songwriters whose name initials covered the entire alphabet. Another show featured music by Lusophone expatriates around the globe. A third example was a mix of lecture and songs based on literary works that evoke music as a fictional theme. Beyond that, I suspect that the longest radio production ever made in the United States on one single Lusophone musician was mine. In 2003, a Brazilliance special edition on Veloso’s life and cultural legacy ran on air for five weeks. It was 13 and a half hours long.

For me, some of the most enjoyable special editions have been those in connection with my scholarship and my teaching, like the on Veloso -- that Bahian pop-star, a seminal vanguard singer-songwriter and a highly respected intellectual. As a scholar I have developed a line of research that intertwines literature and music through various lenses of the cultural studies perspectives, including gender studies. The very first literature class I ever thought, back at the University of Minnesota in 1994, was an advanced undergraduate course on Veloso’s poetic music and its dialogs with the literature written in roughly the same time-frame, the 1960s, 70s, and 80s (Clarice Lispector, Guimarães Rosa, and João Cabral de Melo Neto, for example).

I am also honored that a good number of my undergraduate and graduate students have produced or co-produced and presented with me live shows of their own. More recently, a current UMass Dartmouth graduate student, Fausta Boscacci, prepared and presented an entire show on that Bahian bard. In addition, not too long ago, another graduate student, Marina Bertollini, developed and broadcast with me a full three-hour program on Rio Grande do Sul singer Elis Regina.

No show, however good, could conceivably go on forever, said an unsettled American writer by the name of H. L. Mencken. That’s why we must be concerned with every opportunity at hand and with the legacy we leave behind, either for future generations or for those who could have but actually did not enjoy radio productions that may disappear, like Brazilliance.

On the dark side of this scenario, there looms the possible demise of WUMD as a radio station. UMass Dartmouth top administration has signed a deal with Rhode Island Public Radio which would silence our FM broadcasting forever. Brazilliance and WUMD at large would be reduced to on-line streaming only! How pathetic, if no more than 6% of the US population presently listens to Internet radio! Many of us know that our station is a Commonwealth asset of the sort that cannot be sold to a different state without proper state approval. In the meantime, the Federal Commission on Communications is examining that so-called “sale” of WUMD’s 89.3 FM license, a deal packaged as “donation” in exchange for 1,5 million dollars, broken peanuts in the large scope of the university’s budget.

On the bright side, the acclaimed Pacifica Radio has expressed serious interest in syndicating my show and sharing it nationwide. There is more: one of my beginning Portuguese language students asked me, last semester, to tutor him into the magic of radio production and broadcasting. His name is Michael Benjamin, a Portuguese-American millennial. He and I are delighted that, now, he himself has his own show on WUMD. It is called Wild World. It runs on Wednesdays 3:00-6:00PM. I am very glad to add that Mike also plays a great number of Lusophone music. On yet another bright side, librarian Sonia Pacheco tells me that Claire T. Carney University Library is willing to archive and make available on-line, for all interested, a great number of past and future Brazilliance shows.

There is a great deal of sadness in me and in many other souls out there these days, when each of us, staff and listeners alike, thinks of WUMD 89.3 FM. The muzzle or the murder, whatever metaphor we choose, will not stop us from reaching out to and sharing our passion for music and culture with our personal, global and local communities, no matter what medium we must use. We at the station are disgusted and stunned, but also proud and resilient.

*This speech has not been publicly delivered due to a scheduling conflict. In the meantime, the sale of WUMD to RIPR has been approved by the FCC (Federal Commission on Communications). On June 26, 2017, our FM radio station will pass away as such. It is time to mourn its death, but it is also time to celebrate its history of long lasting impact and achievements. We will continue to do our best while wearing another hat: WUMD.ROCKS, our new name and website already available at www.wumd.rocks.

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