Brazilian Diary - Monday 31st May 2010

After a good, long night's sleep I awoke at 6:15 in the morning - early but not unreasonably so considering the pummelling my body clock had received over the past two days. I silently washed & dressed and headed down to breakfast, leaving the two sleeping beauties (Bill & Rory) to linger in the land of nod. The breakfast buffet was disappointingly familiar - apart from the dulce de leite I could have been anywhere in the world - but the fruit was fresh and the coffee strong and the day was off to a very good start. Over the next couple of hours I was joined by the rest of the band and after the obligatory British complaints about the quality of the tea (not by me - the coffee was perfectly functional) we were soon fed & watered and discussing the day ahead.

Today was to be a working day - for me at least. At 10:30 we bundled ourselves into two cabs and wove our way through the city to meet Renata at TRIOM, the publishing house and bookshop where she works. Having had a day to settle we could start to discuss the schedule and logistics of our visit in a bit more detail but the primary objective of the morning was to film me going through the steps of the dances I was going to teach at the festival.

I've been videoed while teaching before but never like this - alone in an empty room with a cameraman scrutinising my every move and Renata looking on impassively. I could feel the tension rising within me as the implications sunk in - this film was going to end up on the DVD given to all of the festival participants who would be pouring over it, analysing every movement and gesture as the definitive version of each dance. If I scratched my nose would this become a new part of the dance, dutifully duplicated as it was passed on? If I glanced out of the window would my eye movement be preserved and reenacted? Could I live up to this great responsibility?

Just as we were ready to go the sound system decided to stop working, sending all three of us scrabbling around checking power leads, switches and iPod settings. Ironically this added complication (would it keep working?) acted as a release for me, having the distraction of something practical to focus on cleared my worries and when all was ready to go so was I. Before I could start worrying again it was time for camera - sound - action!

Once we got going things became much easier, especially after I'd messed up a couple of times and realised that needing more than one take wasn't going to be a problem. We worked our way through the dances and in what seemed like the twinkling of an eye (but was actually closer to 45 minutes) everything was in the can and I was ready to take the rest of the day off.

Reunited with my bandmates (who'd been working on vocal harmonies) we sat down with Renata to talk about some of the plans for our time in Brazil, after which we walked around the block to our lunchtime restaurant, a stylish Italian place filled with shirt-and-tied businessmen. Here we met up with Frances who was to be our guide for the afternoon and my translator for the festival.

We'd been told that the Brazilian style of eating was to have a large midday meal with a smaller one in the evening, so to give due respect to local tradition and culture we approached the buffet with focus and determination. The food was Italian with a strong South American accent and was varied, plentiful and delicious, although surprisingly underspiced.

After lunch we crammed ourselves into Frances' car and set off to see some more of the city. First stop was a funky neighbourhood with quirky shops and some eye-catching paintwork and street art - while the rest of the band investigated some of the shops (ethnic drums and native arts & crafts) I wandered around with my camera:

At this point Frances had to leave us so we headed up over the hill (São Paulo was surprisingly hilly) on foot, back towards an interesting looking street that we'd passed earlier. But by the time we got there weariness had started to set in and despite the ominous warnings we'd been given about rush hour traffic ("It takes hours to get anywhere") we began searching for a taxi to take us back to the hotel. Fitting five of us into one cab looked like an impossible task but when we found one and, in very broken Portuguese and with many creative hand gestures, indicated what was required the driver grinned and magically reconfigured the car to produce an extra seat in the back. We collapsed into the comforting seats and, after a dishearteningly slow crawl up the first street, were whisked back home.

The tentative plan had been to discuss repertoire and set lists for the festival once we got back to the hotel but after a pause for showers & naps we decided to set off in search of a more salubrious setting, and maybe a light supper. A gentle walking tour ensued but after rejecting several neon-lit cafés and the sterile clamour of the mega-mall we ended up in a cosy little pizza place with a perfectly sized 5-person round table. Pizza and beer was ordered and we set about the process of structuring our set lists for our four festival gigs.

With our working schedule set out and agreed for the next week (JOKE!) we meandered downhill back to the hotel. Knowing we'd be packing and travelling to the festival venue next morning we headed up for an early night, although I then spent an hour catching up with email, texts and this very diary - typing quietly so as to not disturb my sleeping room mates. But finally my drooping eyelids persuaded me to turn off the light, curl up in my little bed, and slip into slumber with the promise of new vistas awaiting me in the morning.


Next day