The Echoing Sounds of Baile Funk

Across the road and down the hill from where we live is a comunidade or favela. On weekends the sounds can be heard thumping and echoing throughout the night. For me it’s like the Pied Piper is calling. I often feel a pull inside me to go, to just start walking down the hill, out the gate following my ears, my heart, following that sound, that siren song emerging from below, that wonderful vibrant sound that beckons, come, come home. It’s hard to explain but it feels familiar, very familiar, like this is a rhythm that part of my DNA knows and so baldy wants to dance to, to rejoin.

Tied tightly to my mast, so far, I’ve stayed put. MGFI watches, covering her ears. She shakes her head, immune to the call. Interestingly, she had loved to play cultural anthropologist in America. Driving through devastated post-strip-mined West Virginia coal country, she marveled at the formica diner tabletops, her eyes widening, amazed by the land that time and big business used and then abandoned, where only poverty, black lung, meth and oxycodine remain. She went to trailers in Appalachia with partygoers with rifles, Jack Daniels and possible KKK alliances, fearless and she strode confidently along trails where homeless men, bears, snakes and wolves roamed. In Richmond, to her ( to us both), there was no “bad” part of town, every rib joint, clam seller, bingo pallor with a man outside drinking from a bottle in a paper bag was an adventure. In Florida, she had sold t-shirts with some ethically questionable bosses and in Spain she had jumped from hostel to hostel, proudly walking down tiny streets through the dark nights in neighborhoods before they were safe, revitalized, hipster territory.

Now, here, the thought of going to the other part of her home, is unthinkable. Raised in Ipanema, the “other side of tracks” so to speak, carries it’s own aura, weight. It’s not just her. Papers here talk about how foreigners are moving into and loving the favelas, especially the ones now “pacified” by the UPPs. But, some locals still see divisions and would prefer them to remain in place. Some seem to feel threatened by the increased accessible of Rio to all, everyone. The subways bring “the others” to malls to the beaches in increasing numbers. There’s a palpable tension at times. Perhaps I would see it differently if it were my home. I don’t know. But I do know that, things are changing. I can hear it …and it’s calling me.

One night from here on my perch I wrote this:

The Echoing Sounds of Baile Funk

The sounds echoing from the favelas at night are chaotic, like a CD skipping and stuck on play, pounding, driving and plunging froward unable to be removed form the player with their banging, electric, hot, repeated thumping. They conjure images of bodies doing the same in the darkness inetmintemly interrupted by flashes of lights in buildings without window panes made of clay bricks without plaster. They burst forth and explode loudly, energetically popping with quick cuts form one song snippet to another often with several sounds overlapping in an odd frantic dissonance that encapsulate a terminal in rush hour; A voice crying out here, a horn blaring there, a vendor yelling over a display TV blaring a soccer game while an impromptu crowd has gathered around the screen cheering; The sounds of a woman in an upstairs apartment moaning in the arms of her lover as a man walks by below on cracked sidewalks obliviously yelling into his cell phone while side stepping trash and fecies, as bus brakes screech and wheeze and musicians gently strum on acoustic guitars on corners while others frantically bang drums and found objects. Passing car loud speakers announce a sale to end all sales. Everything most go, the firesale is happening during the actual fire. All of these noises rise like flames licking at the heels of those looking down upon them, crackling down to those below them, riding the wind and colliding slamming violently into one another and sonically melting in the heat generated by the newly fueled motions and sharp shifting friction filled collisions. These sounds of old, new and everything produced in between, gathered, collected, consumed and spit back out blended, as a new creation of hyper staccato sound which pulsates, swells and is unmistakably alive.


I Spy: Awilda

Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa’s work Awilda at Praia Botafogo.

20120918-223833.jpg It’s part of the ongoing OiR (Otras Ideais Para o Rio) exhibits.

I Spy: Street Art in Urca


Outside Reading: News Features on

A News feature
is now available for the community on It allows you to see the latest posts from other blogs and I think helps increase the connectivity of the expat community worldwide. It’s also great to see at a glance what’s going on worldwide.
There are also new blog listings and ways to search them.
One last thing, you can now make blog recommendations…so my dearest, beautiful readers if you want you could always throw Brasil! Pra mim…some love.

Keep Calm: How to blend in with Cariocas

You have most likely seen the posters, pictures with the words Keep Calm and underneath them more words saying to do something or other. My advice for those wanting to blend in in Rio is the same minus the doing something else. Just keep calm. Nothing sticks out more around these parts than a frenzied, frantic, neurotic, looking in every direction tensely on guard person. You might as well just hand your money and valuables over to the first person you see. Seriously.

If you don’t get robbed acting like that you will assuredly get strange looks. People are laid-back here for the most part. Maybe because there are always lines and waiting and waiting and more waiting, the population has learned to wait gracefully. They float like butterflies. Even when in a hurry there still seems to be a general ease to the movements, a sway, a leisurely strut. There’s no hurry. It’s all good. All in good time…etc. Sometimes that is absolutely, cartoon steam coming out of your ears, frustrating! If you’re American, you might be prone to just want to …erm…get er done! But here, you must learn to wait, calmly.

You will wait, I promise. You’ll wait for the point of the story your new acquaintance is telling you. You’ll wait in a labyrinthine checkout line at Lojas Americas with thoughts of no escape and impeding doom and stampedes if there were to be a fire or disaster (ok maybe that’s just my thoughts). You’ll wait for your visa to be approved, for any government documents… To speak to anyone about documents. You’ll wait in traffic. You’ll wait for the cable man to come. You’ll wait for mail. Tick tock ticky tocky…time keeps on slipping slipping…

Cultivate patience.

I’m, by nature, at times (perhaps most times) overly anxious and the opposite of calm. I’m easily overwhelmed. It’s true. That doesn’t play well here, trust me. I have yet to be robbed (knock on wood) but have had several strange, strange looks. I was told by the man at the newsstand, “calma” (meaning calm). He almost didn’t sell to me and looked at me like I was an absolute muttering sputtering bath salt using, ready to jump over his concurso books and eat him, crazy person. That day sucked. It was one of my worst not including my numerous near death experiences almost stepping out in front of taxis and motorcycles. But, you know what? In his way he was right. What’s the rush. If I finish in one place quickly, I will just make it to another with more time to wait again. If I miss the bus, there will be another one along sooner or later. If I don’t get my questionable meat on a stick first, I’ll live.

I’d also like to point out that all this waiting and laid backness should not be equated with laziness. All of the Cariocas I’ve met are workers in on way or another. They’re hustlers in the broad and most flattery sense of the term. They’re constantly doing… but they do it with a sort of ease (with the exception of driving). It’s a dance. Sometimes it’s a samba but mostly it’s a bosa nova. Nothing is jerky or crump. It’s fluid. It’s a breeze.

So, yeah my advice is to learn to float if you want to live in or around Rio. You will most likely get hit by debris from time to time and may not arrive where you had intended to go but learn to enjoy the ride. It’s probably going to be awhile….


I Spy: Rio de Janeiro


Rio de Janeiro as seen from Praia de Icaraí in Niterói.

Brazil…no goooooooooooooold

As you all know by now Brazil’s men lost the gold 2-1 to Mexico yesterday. It was a bit of a heartbreaker. I think that’s all I have to say about that. Hopefully 2016 at home will be better.

I Spy: Piratininga, Niterói


Brazil Betters New Zealand

Brazil’s march toward its first ever Olympic gold in men’s football ( that’s soccer to us American gringos) continues.

The Seleção is moving on to the quarter finals after their 3-0 win against New Zealand yesterday at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

Already through to the quarter finals, Brazil was expected to win yesterday’s game, only needing a draw to finish atop their group ( Group C). With their easy victory accomplished while Oscar rested and Alex Sandro left them a man down after second yellow card early on in the match, they played strong with no Chinese, South Korean or Indonesian badminton scandal like match throwing antics.

Brazil will next take on Honduras, Saturday at 1pm (Rio time) in their first knockout round match.

I, being in Brazil and outside of NBC’s reign of prime-time power and editing mishaps , will be watching the game live and unedited on TV.

I Spy: A Neighborhood Street in Centro Niterói


Blog at