Brazilian Diary - Friday 4th June 2010 (continued)

The sound system for the main hall (where we were performing) had been set up on Wednesday by a group of three or four engineers who, once things were working properly, had departed leaving just one man, Leon, to operate it during the festival. In theory this was fine, all that was required was someone to set the levels and keep an eye on things, but Leon did not inspire confidence. It didn't help that he spoke virtually no English and everything had to be passed through our organiser, who had excellent English but knew nothing about musical instruments or sound systems. But even allowing for this he seemed to have a very limited knowledge of the equipment and to compound things was one of nature's twiddlers - every small adjustment we requested seemed to involve changing at least four controls. He also seemed to have been told that replacing things was a good problem solver and so many, many microphones and cables were swapped in response to what seemed to me to be non-hardware problems. He was friendly and affable but at times it would have been nice to have had someone gruff, rude and competent.

The sound check was proceeding slowly but smoothly when suddenly Leon let out a yelp - never a good sign when dealing with electrical equipment. The smell of burnt plastic was another Ominous Portent and after some quick checking for flames he was on his mobile, presumably calling the rest of the crew for instruction. We awaited developments. After a long, desperate sounding Portuguese phone call and some investigation work by Leon and the band we established that the small speakers ringing the hall were all silent but that the monitors and the big speakers either side of the stage were still working. The system would be quieter and the sound less well spread through the room but it would still be workable, especially for an evening of meditation dances. The (non-technical) organiser wanted the monitors turned round to face the dancers rather than the band, presumably on the 'more is better' principle, but we were firm in stating that it would be impossible for us to play without monitors.

When we arrived back after dinner the monitors had all been turned round. This wasn't a big problem - they were quite small and we could turn them back ourselves when we needed them - but it did give an idea of how our input was being treated.

The latest plan for the evening was that there would be two meditation dances done to recorded music at the start, then there would be a small ceremony followed by another CD dance, then we would be starting. Everyone was happy.

It actually turned out to be three dances to begin - we started, as usual, with the 'theme' (which was sounding cheesier by the day) but before too long we were up on stage and playing Harsaneek which had been quickly and well taught (by one of the organisers) and which we finished to great applause. But as we prepared for our next song the same organiser appeared at the front of the stage again, asking for "A little reminder of the steps". The dance for the song we were about to play was in two parts and wasn't something that could be communicated in a minute or two, so once again I put down my instrument and took on the role of dance teacher for the whole group, plus the job of announcing the change to the second part in the middle of the sequence. I was not a happy bunny but at least I thought that I could concentrate on the music from here on in.

Before the start of the next song she was there again, this time admitting that she didn't know the dance, so once more I switched into my second role. The dance, Pomaško Širto, was not a difficult one but it was in a slow-quick-quick rhythm which the Brazilian dancers seemed to have trouble with so the teaching took a bit longer than usual. Still, in the end we were all moving more or less together so I returned to the bandstand and we played the song.

As we were getting ready for the next dance (which I was confident that the organiser knew and could teach) there was a flurry of activity on the dance floor. One of the other organisers made an announcement, music appeared from the speakers and as we looked on in confusion the group started dancing. We put down our instruments, left the stage and tried to find out what was happening.

Bill found one of the organisers and returned to tell us that they had decided to do a couple of dances to recorded music as they felt the group energy had faltered during our last song. It was a bit of an abrupt and arbitrary decision but they were the ones with overall responsibility for the evening and had presumably acted in the way that seemed best for the group from their perspective. Not letting us know what was going on was probably just a result of having to make quick decisions on the fly.

One dance led into another. And another. We sat and waited.

A change in the style of announcements gave us hop that we would be playing again, but instead it was the start of the Colour Mandala. Everyone had been asked to come to the hall that evening dressed in a single colour and they were now being organised into colour groups. This took quite a while. Each group was then arranged into a series of concentric circles (except for the small yellow contingent who could only manage a single ring of dancers) and the dance was taught - not the slow, meditative movements that I was expecting but a fun, bouncy Israeli dance. The music came on and off they went - two of the band members had joined in but the rest of us sat and looked on.

This dance was repeated, then the groups were merged into one huge collection of concentric circles and another dance was begun. At this point we were starting to wonder if we'd ever get back onto the stage - we'd still not been told anything about what was happening - so Bill went off in search of an organiser and came back to report that there would be one more dance to recorded music and then we'd be playing again. The dance came and went but straight away more music started up - what was happening? When we realised that it was just a repeat of the previous dance we calmed down a little, but when another dance started up we decided that we wouldn't be playing again that evening so we packed up and left, heading for the bar.

It was a short walk through the (from a Scottish viewpoint) warm night air to the building that housed the bar but emotions were still high as we reconvened there. The fact that not one of the organisers had taken the time to let us know what was happening as the evening's programme was changed was the most annoying, especially as we had put a lot of effort into coming up with something that would fit with their intentions for the session. Of the three pieces we'd actually played two had been instrumentals so Lucy and Jacqui had only sung one song. And I had my own upset about having to teach as well as play despite having (as I thought) made sure that there was someone else to lead the dances. We shared our pain and vented.

Eventually the emotive pressure decreased (although the wounds remained). Jacqui and Lucy started up the karaoke machine (a chance to sing!) which led Bill and myself to seek refuge in the pool (snooker, not swimming) room where I was humiliatingly beaten. After a while we came back together and decided that we could not go on without meeting with the organisers and talking through what had happened and what was expected for tomorrow's final performance. But this was something for tomorrow, now it was time for bed.


Next day