Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

An Update to My Sao Paulo Open Mic Guide

November 17, 2015

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

Just a note to say that I have updated my Sao Paulo open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I have added a new location for the Lua Nova open mic venue and I have added the new discovery of the Gênesis de Gênios open mic.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Brazil

December 8, 2014

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Sao Paulo since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Sao Paulo Edition

January 31, 2014

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

For my 22d city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Sao Paulo page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

Sao Paulo’s Hidden Open Mic/Open Jam Scene in the Middle of the Land of Bossa Nova

Brazil, as most people know, is a musical country, famous for the distinctive sounds of bossa nova and samba and many other styles. It all came very much alive in the 1960s with the Tropicália music movement that transformed traditional Brazilian music – and other arts – into a pop-rock form. One of the most influential bands was the São Paulo-founded Os Mutantes, which, over the decades, would influence many musicians – including David Byrne and Beck. And there were people like Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and even people like Stan Getz, the American jazz sax player, who helped popularize the music in the west. So you would expect that Sao Paulo would be a vibrant open mic, or especially, open jam, city. But for the foreigner to step into this capital of Brazil of 20 million people and try to find an open mic or jam, it just is not so easy. The city is, yes, very much alive with music. It is just bubbling with music everywhere, from single singers with guitars in small bars and restaurants, to venues with larger stages and play areas that put on special events and live music of all kinds. But there is soooo much live music that there is practically – and I say “practically” – no need for the open mic or jam. They do exist, but in general, they are put on at the drop of a hat, in a neighbourhood bar or restaurant, with no prior planning, and mostly among friends. As I mention in my guide, there is a Brazilian equivalent of the open mic, called the Sarau, but it is not always easy to predict where one may arise….

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other more than 20 cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

How I Missed the Lua Nova, but Found the Club Cem and Discovered “The Kid”

November 8, 2010

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Sao Paulo and I’m in a huge rush to get to the airport. But I wanted to close off, end, finish this Sao Paulo tale, especially to draw to a conclusion the story of the Hunt for the Lua Nova bar and jam session.

Yes, this is a crazy story. I have just a very short time to write it before I go to the airport. So I will be as pithy as possible. Who could believe that in five days of efforts to find the Lua Nova, I actually ended up walking right into it and not realizing I was there, so I left and continued looking for it, and then found a completely different venue.

Here’s what happened: As you know from the previous posts, I have been hunting every day since arriving in Sao Paulo for the Lua Nova bar, where I had an all-night jam on the Sunday of the Formula One race last year. I almost thought it was a figment of my imagination as it no longer seemed to exist. In the end, I found what looked like the bar, but closed down.

So I gave up, or almost. Last night I returned, however, to the Artur Azevedo street and passed Finnegan’s and continued on toward where the Lua Nova used to be. Not long after passing the closed down Finnegan’s Pub, however, on the same sidewalk, I noticed a bar/restaurant, and I heard the distinct sound of some Brazilian music coming from inside. A few people stood outside smoking cigarettes, and I entered the bar to check out the music.

The place was pretty full of clients at tables all over the place, and at one table near the back sat a guy playing a classical guitar with some pretty bouncy Brazilian rhythms and he sang along. Another person played some kind of bongo drum. My immediate thought, my instantaneous feeling was that I had found another jam session with the same vibe as the Lua Nova. I moved in a little closer to take a look to see if maybe I might even recognize the guitar player/singer as one of the people from last year. Could it be, I wondered, if some of the musicians who had played at the Lua Nova jam had moved up the street to this bar to play, since it seemed the Lua Nova was closed.

Well, I did not recognize the musician. And I was keen to see if somehow the Lua Nova might have magically re-opened only on Sunday night. And Since there seemed only to be one musician here at the moment, I felt like I might really be intruding on this situation if I approached with my guitar. So I decided I would move on and look for the Lua Nova up the street, and if I still found it closed, I would continue deep into Vila Madalena to see if I could find another Sunday night jam. After all, if I had seen Lua Nova last year, and then in this bar near Finnegan’s there were people playing around a table like that, maybe there were more jams than I thought.

Up the street, same result at the former Lua Nova bar. All closed down, soon to be a paper shop. No luck, I had to accept that I would not have my jam session at the Lua Nova. But I decided I would continue into Vila Madalena, and then return to the bar near Finnegan’s to see if that jam had developed and maybe I could take part in it.

But as I entered Vila Madalena I passed a club where I had heard some great samba music last year, and had not entered to listen. This time, the front door was open, a man stood there with a guitar case, and from within I heard some sublime guitar music. I poked my head inside to see if it was someone playing live music. There were several other people at the entrance, and they asked me if I liked the guitar music. I said I did, and I asked if it was live.

“No, he’s long dead,” they said. “It’s just a recording.”

We got to talking. They saw my guitar, they asked me about me, my music, etc., and I asked them about the club. I have to keep this short, remember, so let me conclude quickly. Brazil, as Vanessa said in the previous post, is an open mic.

Bit by bit, things pieced together, and I found myself inside this venue, which I learned was called Club CEM, and which has existed 8 years., It is owned and run by a guy named Paulo Kannec, who is also a pianist. It is only for Brazilian music, and the club was now closed for the night. But since they LOVE music, and they were curious and open, Paulo invited me in to show me around his club. It has a high-ceiling, it is a kind of loft-like place, but it has a cute little stage of wood and on it a piano, amplifiers, microphones, spotlights. I loved it, and Paulo was keen to hear my music.

So he invited me to play, and he invited the guitarist to play along with me. So that’s how I ended up playing in one of the coolest clubs in Vila Madalena last night, doing my song Borderline, doing Crazy Love and doing Just Like A Woman. And the guitar player played a seven string classical guitar along with me. Just our private concert and jam session together. He played a little of his own stuff, but we had to stop because the club was closed, after all, and they had to clean the floor.

The guitar player was Joao Nepomueceno, and I really liked his style. We exchanged contact information and will see each other when he comes to Paris in June.

But I also met a piano player named Pedro. And he is the one who made the DVD of the guitar music that had attracted me to poke my head in in the first place. We discussed that music, and he told me that it was a Brazilian guitar player from the 40s and 50s, who is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets. A genius guitar player named, Garoto, which means, “The Kid.” He was called “The Kid” as a nickname because he was playing professional since the age of 8, but he was too young of course to play in bars…and they called him “The Kid.” The music on the DVD was apparently produced by Egberto Gismonte, and the DVD has images on it that Pedro had put together. In any case, I look forward to listening to it on the flight back to Paris, as Pedro decided to give me the DVD!

I left the Club CEM feeling like I was walking on the clouds again. But that was in my head. My feet, on the other hand, were a bloodbath of blisters from all the walking I had done over the previous five nights. I decided I would walk back past that bar near Finnegan’s where I had heard the guitarist. But as I walked along and realized I had another perhaps 3 kilometers walk to go, and my feet were in a horrendous pain, I decided that I should take a cab, return to the hotel, my mission was accomplished.

It was only this morning when I awoke that I found a comment on my previous post from a woman named Vania, whom I had met at the Lua Nova last year. She had been the only person there who had really spoken any good English, and she was the one who filled me in on what was happening there that night.

Vania sent a comment to my post, and also an email to my personal email address. It turned out that I had been right about the Lua Nova. It had been closed down, and I had found it. What I did not realize, however, was that the bar I walked into last night was in fact, the new location of the Lua Nova, and the man I had seen and heard was playing in what was the beginning of the Sunday night jam. It turned out that Vania had seen me enter the bar, had recognized me, but I had left the place too soon for her to grab me. Had I passed back that way after the Club CEM, I would certainly have had my jam at the Lua Nova again, all night long.

The moral? Never give up. I should have pushed myself onwards after the Club CEM. But at least I got a good story out of it!!! And at least the jam session still exists, and at least my feelings about the open arms of Brazilian musicians has been reinforced. What a musical country! Hope I return next year, and if I do, I will play the jam at the Lua Nova, or at least contact Vania to find out where it is next year, if it has again moved. As she said, “Different location, same music!”

Playing at the Baia de Guanabara, thanks to the Urugayans – or Brazil is an Open Mic

November 7, 2010

As I was walking through Vila Madalena last night having still had no luck in finding a place to play my music after four nights in the city, I had a couple of thoughts dominating my mind. One was a phrase and an attitude that Vanessa gave me when she said, “Brazil is an open mic, all you have to do is just go into a bar and they’ll see your guitar and you start playing music.”

The other thought I had as I walked through this vibrant section of town so full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and venues of all kinds, was that it reminded me – musically – more of Istanbul than perhaps any other country on my world travels. There was must blaring from just about every public room, from the popular folk harmonies of several bars, to the sitar music in an oriental restaurant, to the rock of several other venues and the bossa nova in another bar, to the jazz in a place called piano bar, and the happy birthday song being played by a brass band across the street.

It was not quite the wall of sound of certain quarters of Istanbul, but it was a very refreshing approximation to it and like nothing else around the world in my experience. But there is a very key difference to it all, and that has been a theme of my four days here so far on this blog: the open jam, open mic, open arms mentality is not a part of this musical scene in Sao Paulo as it is in Istanbul. In Turkey, it sometimes felt that every bar I passed by the waiters or owners would stretch out their arms when they saw my guitar and they would invite me in to play. Here, each musician, group and bar owner to himself.

I did get stopped by the owner of one bar – the name of which I could not find – who had a couple of fine harmonizing musicians sing pop songs with one of them playing guitar. (I have put a recording of this below.) And he asked if I was a musician, if I was playing somewhere, etc. I decided to have a beer at this place, listen to the music, and hope that maybe I would be invited to play. I was thinking of Vanessa’s suggestion. But no, it never happened, the invitation. And I just did not ultimately feel the vibe was right to propose it.

So I moved on through the area and decided to check out every venue I could find and look for one quiet place I had discovered last year. I headed toward Wisard street, a lively part of Vila Madalena, and as I walked by the tables of the Baia de Guanabara bar spilling out into the street with all the chatter and carousing of the clients drinking and merrymaking, a man at one of the tables reached out to me and asked if he could play my guitar.

It was a table of about eight men, and they were all beseeching me to allow their friend to play. I needed little provocation. Here it was, the beginnings of what would possibly be my own chance to play a few songs, if not in an open mic, then at least…. but wait, Vanessa had said this would happen. Brazil is an open mic. “Just go to a bar and they will see your guitar and ask you to play. It will be your open mic.”

So I opened the guitar case and gave the man the guitar. He sang and played well, but the noise in the bar and the street was so loud it was difficult to hear. It turned out that the men were all in town in order to attend the Formula One race, and that they came from Uruguay, not Brazil.

So he played several songs and they asked me to sit with them, they bought me a beer and then they asked me to play some songs. I started with “Crazy Love” because I thought I could get some volume out of the vocals and guitar despite the street and bar noise. They clapped along on the chorus each time and we managed to get some people to stop by the table to listen. But mostly the event passed as a normal part of the evening at the bar, as if it was normal to play music at a bar table on the sidewalk in the Vila Madalena.

After “Crazy Love,” a bit of further surprising synchronicity occurred when the singer man asked me if I could sing any Cat Stevens, and he said, “Father and Son?” Readers of this blog will know that it is one of the songs I sing regularly, and to usually great response from my listeners. So how incredible was that?

I sang it, did one of my own, called, “Borderline,” and another one or two, and then the man played one or two more of his, and I filmed him below in the darkness and noise. And then they had to leave in order to get up early to go to the race. I finished my beer, and went on through the streets to seek out another venue, but found none – yet I did feel a huge sense of relief that I had indeed finally found a place to play in Brazil, which is, it seems, its own open mic….

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