Sunday, March 1, 2009

Skillz to Take Brazil: Paz Interior


Paz Interior

It’s March that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, right? Well, on this first day of the new month and last day of the tour, that same adage aptly describes Skillz to Take Brazil. After 8 days operating at a fever pitch, we wound down the last 7 in comfort and placidity, following a combination of plans and whims.

Last Monday, we took an overnight bus to the coastal island of Florinapolis, 7 hours north of Porto Alegre. During the night we whisked up the 101, the South American equivalent of Highway 101, coincidentally a road bearing the same numeric designation as the legendary U.S. West Coast thoroughfare. Floripa is a 70 km long island known as a Brazilian vacation destination, as well as a popular getaway spot for Argentines. The island is bent into a series of cove towns and beaches, and we headed north to Canasvarias.

Zajazza had been to this town previously, and fortunately, we ran into a hotel proprietor friend of his, who happened to have a vacant flat. We scored a lovely apartment for a mere 180 r$ pr night (less than $90) split among the 3 of us. It was steady luxury, complete with kitchen, wifi, and a block from the beach. Considering this was the only time on the trip we’d be paying for accommodations, it was well worth it.

Our casa at Solar Isla Verde very quickly became the Skillz to Take Brazil laboratory. Zajazza set up his MPD and continued his prolific production streak, churning out 2-3 new beats a day. Hired and I wrote at least 1 new song daily, some collabs, some solo, and built the catalog of possibilities for this record. It is the rainy season in Southern Brazil, which bode very well for our indoor productivity, and not so well for our beach time. But I managed to kick it outside quite a bit while, soak up some rays, chill by the ocean, take some long beach runs, and simply scorch tracks when at home.

We had planned to venture to Sao Paolo by bus from Floripa, but all of our contacts there had sketched out or fallen through. This was mainly attributed to Carnaval aftermath, when everyone is exhausted and broke at the end of summer. With no guarantees and no place to crash (not to mention a 10 hour bus ride there and 17 hour return trip to Porto Alegre) we opted to stay in Floripa an extra 2 days and keep the engine running. It was a wise decision, as I feel pretty well rested and very accomplished. After a first week of wall-to-wall madness, it was nice to have a home of our own and a schedule we defined. We ate well, stayed merry, wrote exorbitant amounts and slept in beds. We even hit the streets to record some hilarious drops for the album.

Friday we spent the day in Floripa centro, doing some digging and wandering. Friday night we hopped to overnight bus back to Porto Alegre. The big homey Edhino was kind enough to let us crash at his house one last night, which was huge. We showed up at 8:00am, weary luggage bearers, and proceeded to fall right back to sleep. I woke up a little early, wrote a bit, caught lunch, did laundry, and headed to the city centro to dig some more. Zajazza knows the record spots in Porto Alegre, and knows how to bargain. He has scored some serious Brazilian jazz/samba/afro records on this trip. I scooped a couple good finds as well, but man, this cats digs. A true craftsman.

Our ambitions to hit the town on our last night faded into freestyling at Edhino’s and into a pitcher of Pitu. All well and good by me, as I sit here at 9:00am, readying to head out to the airport 8 hours from now. This trip took a number of unexpected and magical turns, and most importantly, we made some serious friends. We didn’t get everywhere we set out to visit, but we got to know Rio Grande do Sul very well. We didn’t rock quite as many shows as we’d planned, but we wrote an entire new album. The closeness to Carnaval actually hurt our ability to book, so we know better for next time, when we come back to tour the North and release the album.

There’s so much reflecting and digesting to be done, two things which life in New York City doesn’t really allot for. Lesson plan scribing awaits me on the plane, and I will be back at Canarsie High School 4 hours after dropping my bags at home. Then it’s into throes of teaching, DJing, promoting our show with J-Live March 11 @ Mercury Lounge (see?) and hunkering down for the tail end of winter. Fortunately I will be getting into full swing with my new gig at the amazing Facing History School, and falling back into the arms of my wonderful lady.

This has been an eye-opening educating inspiring trip, filled with affirmation, human beauty and resilient spirits, coupled with sad news from home and the glimpses into favella life that are so simultaneously sad and stirring. The transformative light of Hip Hop culture is shining bright in Estados do Sul. We have managed to catch some of that light in the form of song, documenting the dichotomy of Brazilian life and the experience of being artist-tourists though writing, recording, photo and video. To call this a “learning experience” would be an understatement, for these are the experiences I learn to live for and live to learn from. It would not have been possible without the kindness of so many Brazilians, the organizational drive of Zajazza, his prolific ingenuity as a producer (and quad-lingual skills), the synergy that Hired and I share, and everyone’s general goodwill and bravery. The most wonderful thing is that we get to spend the next 3 months finishing the “Skillz to Take Brazil” album for late summer/fall release, and we can spread the kinetic energy of this tour infinitely.

Tudo bem?

Tudo beleza!

Acredito no Hip Hop, tamos juntos!