I had a fabulous session at Bar Varal in Pinheiros with the same group of people who I met and played with in 2009 and who I managed to miss in the freakiest way last year. This group of musicians both amateur and profession gets together every Sunday in Sao Paulo to play from around 10:30 PM to 5:30 PM, has moved around the city some five to seven or so times in the last couple of years, so you have to make sure not to lose touch with them!
The first year I stumbled on the place in the Lua Nova bar and jammed all night, then last year I stumbled on the place in another bar in the same area, but had no idea that I had found it and I walked out without jamming, and this year I planned it all in advance after befriending one of the participants on Facebook.
I had an even better time this year with the musicians who played at the Varal. The bar is much better than the Lua Nova, which was a tiny hole in the wall bar. The Varal is on the second floor of a discreet building, and if you did not know it was there and you passed by at opening when there is no music in the air, you’d never know it was anything but a private residence outside.
Once inside, though, this is a very warm and cosy bar with high ceilings with wooden beams, and with photos of Brazilian musicians on the walls and other pictures, and with a long bar in the back and a drum set in the corner at the front by the windows. Tables are set up side by side to permit people to join the open jam.
This year there were three microphones, the regular guitar player, and a few more who came in to play guitar, percussion and sing. It was free, open and more amazing as the evening progressed. I was a little worried at first as there was practically no one there at 10:30 PM. By 1 AM it was kicking, both with the people playing music and the audience that sang along.
I met a lot of interesting Brazilian musicians, and made some friendships I’m sure will continue. I also had a great time playing my own song, Borderline, and some cover songs – it was such a huge contrast to the rest of the evening’s hip and cool Brazilian music, but people enjoyed what I did it seemed, and they sang along.
Speaking outside with some of the musicians I asked why there were not more such open jams in Sao Paulo, and one of them told me that it was difficult to promote such things and they kept on getting closed down because of the loudness of the music going all night long. But he said that they all keep on getting back together because it answers a need. Mostly, he said, the jams are started in discreet bars by friends, and they grow into jams of friends of friends and friends of those… no advertising as such is done, and if you don’t know people involved in them, you don’t find them very easily…. That’s for sure!