music alive

Inspirational circle of Faces

2 days ago we performed at the ceremony at the municipal Judith school where the young leaders were sworn in and made aware of their responsibilities. Today we had 2 separate 90 minute sessions with 30 of these young people at a time. I took this as opportunity to think about leadership through making music. We were hosted by the inspirational pastor from French Guiana whose job it is to keep a spiritual and ethical dimension to the school as a whole. In the IT suite a circle of chairs and 30 open and inquisitive face are ready to play. The first group is older (12-16) and we start with some simple clapping with names before moving to stickwork. Continually stopping to ask the questions – what am I doing, what makes a good leader, what are the important skills ? Moving on to voice and singing we encounter similar issues and share ideas as we sing and vocalise. The energy is very focussed and high. In pairs they discuss their thoughts on their role within the school and we create a list… a great list that becomes a very simple chant.

In four groups that becomes a lovely piece with the end word being ‘convivienca’… live / work together.. A good and vital concept for us all. The pastor returns for a performance which we develop and record (see the music player) and then asks for thank you in a Brazilian indigenous fashion. Each person comes up to me and with a double touch of the head says

Kathryn Leaves

We travel well together. So love having the time together moving from place to place, finding our way, eating together and sharing thoughts and experiences. She is loved by all the people she meets and the young people have found her modesty and gentleness a special gift. Before she left she made a speech to a few of them in beautiful Portugese sharing her thoughts and feelings and now she is now heading to the airport to make the transition over the many miles to our home in the north of a very different country. Our reflections last night of our time here were very similar and I am sure the travel will give her moments to think and reflect more. I miss her already. (written at lunchtime)

Baybeat In Cabelo Seco

And the work goes on with a workshop for young people at the Cine Marrocs. Who will be there ? No idea ? At 2pm 3 people. At 2.20 – 44 young people. Ouch.


We sing and play and then I get them organised with instruments and we play, improvise and then learn African Marketplace!!!! High energy. Great skill. Good ears. Solid rhythm. And finally I say let’s go outside and Adrianno from the centre says OK and before we know it we are out and around Cabelo Seco on a 30 minute BAKING HOT parade.


Hooray… back on the streets again.

Kathryn returns

oops – they cancelled the flight….

Reflection conversations

8 Hour Education Workshop

At the local cente for arts Cine Marrocs I am to deliver a full day workshop. We don’t know how many people and at 8am there are only 8 people. We wait patiently having set up shop on the stage with a circle of chairs and enough kit for 30 people.

Hoping for that number and by 9.15 we have 28 people in the circle (from a variety of Casa de Cultura / Music Foundations and music schools) and we start.

Three aims for the day

To share practice between cultures

To demonstrate More Music pedagogy

To create some new music and song

I have had long discussions with Dan about the processes and the rhythm of the day and we will be running it very collectively with him translating all day as we go along. I have a plan which very soon shifts… there’s a surprise! We do rhythmic play, we sing, we talk, we reflect about education and try to address some questions What is relevant from More Music pedagogy to bring/share within the local context? How do the arts work within education in Brazil ? What are the principles of the pedagogy here What are the tools that people have?

We work hard and after lunch develop a great piece using a variety of techniques that create tunes, rhythms and structures. We let them take ideas into their cultural context and samba and carimbo beats develop the tunes and songs… good musicmaking. At 4 we stop and talk and reflect for nearly 90 minutes. This is the first time that these arts educators have met and sat together. Dan hosts this and lets it run a steady course. This is not my world and I would much prefer to be active and doing… yet I know that this is important and relax and let it roll on. People are engaged and want to find out about ways of working from each other a well as from me. Very interesting and many of the questions are touched on if not totally answered.

Paulo Frere and reflection

Later we talk with Mano about Frere education pedagogy and it’s focus on reflection (25%). Need to really think this one through.

Evening Show at Cine Marrocos

And the day goes on with a collaborative improvised show for 140 people at the venue in the evening.

Amazingly it come together at the last minute with audience and performers all ready for 8pm. Band from the centre (bass/guitar/sop sax/trombone), Zequinha, the Latinhas de Quintal, me and some guests. A hilarious evening ensues!

At the end of the evening Kathryn takes a last group shot.

Birthday and Funeral

The Birthday Breakfast

Is different here… by 7.30 we have 7 of the band wandering in and out of the space waiting to great K! The night was OK though the mosquitos are fierce in their determination to bite the strangers. New blood. Lets hope none of them are carrying dengue fever. 11 of us sit around the table for coffee, cheese buns and cake. The candle is lit and the singing begins. It is very joyful even given the circumstances of the night before. The sky is clear today and the sun is very hot.

Young Leaders Presentation at the Judith School

Today the band were supposed to deliver 2 shows at the other of the 2 local municipal schools as part of the start of year celebrations. Because of the murder in the community and also the closeness of Diago to many of the young band it was inappropriate / impossible for them to play. However Dan and they felt very strongly that the death should not stop life. So me and him went to each of the assemblies and created a 25 minute show that introduced me and my music to the school (Bring me Sunshine – trumpet and voice / Irish penny whistle tunes / African songs / Chinese tune and song / Brazilian meldo on the melodica) .

Morning session was the younger age and it worked very well and we managed to keep them engaged. Dan also talked about the assassination and explained why the young people were not coming to play. Following our presentation they brought the young leaders (2 from each class) onto stage to honour them and their role within the school with certificates, oaths etc.

All very well done and with good spirit. Lunch was at home and the second show for the older group was good if a little shorter because of the heat. (Audience figures this day = 450)


Meanwhile Mano went to the funeral with 2 coaches of people from Cabelo Seco. The body was buried so fast because often in these circumstances if there is a wake the murderers return and can disrupt and cause bad things to happen in the home. Apparently there were 200 candles and red roses plaed on the grave. A powerful image.

Dinner on the Orla

We meet midevening and head for a birthday meal down the river. A great casserole of fish in coconut milk with rice. A lovely night and a good celebration of Kathryn. Hooray. And what a day…

on our toes

The Municipal School

This was a day to share and work with 200 young people (aged 9-15) at the local Municipal School where 3 of our band attend. An assembly for all and then sessions for the classes in pairs (groups of 60). Dan as translator, me fronting, Kathryn taking photos.

Very very lively all afternoon. Kids so excited and very tough to control. Big session included a variety of songs, tunes and a slide show.


It also featured Evany, AnnaPaula and Matheus who all received massive approval from their piers. It was about an hour and then we shifted chairs and moved into workshop mode. Tough three sessions followed with too many kids for the space and the excitement level so very high that to keep focus was tough indeed.


The language barrier and the high numbers meant that it was difficult to do the things I normally do but I knew that was probably going to be the case. We survived and demonstrated in some ways showed how the work takes place.


We also wrote a new song as the afternoon developed. (Later that night we spent a couple of hours in serious reflection discussing how we might have made it better. Dan’s trust that I would have a methodology for mass participation had meant that he hadn’t challenged my role and I hadn’t set up the situation in the way that I would usually do. A key thinking is about the demoncrisation of space and how we could have given the young people the space to own so that there was no need for what I call discipline – a term Dan and Mano no longer use. It requires a real change of head I believe and will take some deep thinking over the next few days and potential reformation of methodology.)

The plan changes again

It is dark. Back after a walk to the shop to buy juice, coffee and bananas. Many people were out around their doorways in the dark streets, talking and we wondered what was taking place. Arriving back and expecting a full rehearsal to be in place for the school presentations tomorrow. However there was a serious meeting with the young people. A 26 year old relative of AnnaPaula had been shot and killed 30 minutes ago – just close to where we had been walking. He lived with AnnaPaula and her grandmother and was a friend to a few of them. However he was a drug user/seller and it seems as if the community is in mixed state of sadness and also rightful retribution. He was using children to sell and deal the drugs and everyone knows that this is not acceptable. So very difficult when so many in the community are connected and there are so many interlinked families and friendships. All our plans change. The presentations will take place because they all felt that it is not right that the drugs should dominate and rule. They will change though in their feel and structure for sure. The party tomorrow night is off. Very hot here. The fan blows but the heat stays. Hard day. Expectations challenged in every way. This is a community that feels it’s community, that knows it’s families and is trying to find it’s way and struggling. The work that Dan and Mano are doing is about trying to keep a positive energy and support the young people to become new role models and leaders.

The Music Starts happening

(There are no photos of the young people or the streets of Cabelo Seco because Dan and Mano have set clear rules to avoid any suspicion of exploitation in any way. He, however, is trusted to photo the sessions and the young people and has their consent so we will have some to share on our return which we will have had approved by them and their families. There is deep suspicion of child exploitation, prostitution and abuse as Brazil is one of the worst countries in the world for this.)


Waking to run a session with Caroline and Camila to help them find their voices and start the conversation about being young singing leaders. I have brought along the Sing Up book on YSL. It is a great little document and I use it to base a session on. I will follow it up later in the week. I start to learn the songs and understand their voices and the way that they approach their singing and songs. Then the percussionists arrive and we look at a few of the other songs and wait for Zequinha to come with his guitar. He is nearly 60 and a great singer, songwriter and band leader. He has been the mentor for the Latinhas and has been a key mediator/collaborator for them here in the favela. He is getting tired and depressed by the general troubles in the community and the outside pressures that are damaging everything here. However he brings good energy and the young people love his musicality and the session grows and grows.

The Orla in the sun

After a delicious lunch at home me and Kathryn go for an extended walk in the sun along the seafront past the life going on there. So many swimmers, people playing in boats, listening to loud loud sound systems in the backs of cars and sitting in bars watching the football.

We chat and reflect and soak in the sun and then head back. I dive in on the way. The current is so strong I nearly get swept away. I swim hard back to cling onto the railings. Wah ! Danger danger !

Playing and Learning

I have a session with Zequinha to prepare for the presentation in the school but also just to have a bit of fun with him. We play Girl from Ipanema, Pretty Africa, Besame Mucho, Summertime, Guantanamera and And I love her ! Then slowly the band arrives and we work on the songs and remember them. There is a set of 10 or so songs made with him over the last year and they are beautiful and played with real feel. Then some of the dancers dance along and the movement is truly inspiring. Totally natural with body and feet. We feel privileged to be in their presence and watch and listen. To see young women in such a focussed musicmaking is really lovely and inspiring. Later we go to street side food stall and eat shrimp soup before walking home in the torrential rain.

Returning to Cabelo Seco

This is a long long day that starts with a 3.30 am wake up to get to the airport ready for the 6am flight to Maraba. However… the flight is delayed and delayed until we are finally transferred to TAM for a 1.15 flight. We take advantage of the time to catch up finally on a piece of Arts Council work before finally getting to the air. Arriving back is like coming home to this lovely house and our friends.


We catch up with news and then a great 2 hour session of singing and drumming with the young people. An open session that sees a great sharing of songs. Before going out for shrimp lasagne at a local bar we look at the week ahead and consider the packed schedule of school sessions, teachers days, evening performances, rehearsals for the Latinhas and Kathryns Birthday Party !

last day in town

Teatro Paz

The politics of culture. The Fitzcaraldo carried through the Amazon. The Opera House built from many colours of wood showing amazing craft skills and beautiful decorative features – for who? This city has history and the sense of inequality that a building like this symbolises is interesting to think about as we are taken round by a guide who speaks a little English and is helped by Agatha, a woman from San Paulo who comes round with us.

The décor gets simpler as we ascend to ‘paradise’ or as we call it n the UK, the ‘gods’. The ceilings lower and the chairs harder.

It was built in 1869, I guess at the height of the rubber boom. What Operas were heard here? How culture is forced into new surroundings.

Vinicius at lunch talks about wanting to go back to his music school and teach them Samba and Bossa and question the continual focus on Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. What relevance have those composers to a man in Belem?

The theatre is beautiful even though……

Friday night

As we walk back downtown to the river we pass the hammock store where we bought gifts 20 months ago from a lovely shopkeeper. He recognises us and calls us in for a brief chat. I wonder how many more times in our lives we will visit here and whether we will buy hammocks from him again? The market streets are very full and noisy but we don’t feel any danger. We talk intensely as we walk, through shoe shops, herb stores and a lovely restored market until we reach the river where we stop for a beer. Friday night and the place is busy with pedlars selling the usual mix of oysters, watches, chewing gum, cheap toys, barbequed meat and jewelery. Yet again after a little while we catch eyes with a man who invites us to join him for a drink. We spend some time with him and his ‘papa’.

Toca a Toninhos

Our last night in Belem is in the bar with Vinicius and friends. The music moves from bossa classics to Ella Fitzgerald and Beatles songs and I play trumpet with the band!

It is fun and we feel very much part of the place. Toninhos says as we leave that the place is never as full as when we are here. I am sure that isn’t true !


Dan and Manos Flat

The morning is very chilled as we sit, read, catch up and have a lovely breakfast bought from the deli round the corner. This is a good part of the city to live in and quite familiar from the last trip. The view over the city to the river catches all these tower blocks. The sounds from the school next door of kids playing out takes over from the cockerel that starts at 6am and goes on and on.

The walk

Gentle strolling down through the park and past the Teatro Paz. Passing great street cafes, jugglers performing in front of cars at traffic lights, market stalls, old churches and the beautiful yet very run down buildings. Such a sense of history here – of riches from the past that linger. Fresh coconut milk to cool us down before we reach the great markets of Ver o Peso.


Everything you could want is on sale and before we lunch we sit on the top level by the river and drink beer and talk and talk and talk.


It is the rainforest and every day there is a significant downpour. Today is the same and we watch it from inside the market as we eat

From the colonnades of a lovely mansion where we drink coffee and read our books.

And on the streets of the harbour where the vultures play and the carts drag coconuts, fruits, fish and all sorts of goods.

The harbour is full.

Old Friends

The evening finishes at Toninhos bar where we finally meet Vinicius and his father again. Sitting round a table with them and a group of friends we catch up, try to explain wht it is we are doing here, try to understand their lives and talk about the crisis in Europe and the lack of jobs, about the tiny chance for them to get work as journalists out of university and then about the beautiful beach where they just had 4 days holiday! Rather tired we head home for sleep.

New Friends

Chance meeting

It seems extraordinary that we have been away only seven days when I consider the power and emotion of the experience. The amount of accelerated learning. The immense coloured images now loaded in my brain. Sitting in the flat at the end of another of those days packed with experience and new friends. The fan blowing on my back, the cold beer on the table, the view over Belem from our 11th floor.. many tall buildings and in the distance I know is the river.

Woke up slow today with the intention to revisit the island of Cutijubac and spend the day on the beach. By the time we leave the flat (Dan and Manos flat / national office) it is 11 and we catch the bus to Icoraci (40 minutes). The crazy speedy bus drive runs on and on. We worry slightly and ask another passenger whether we are on the right bus. She (Raquel) says sure and that she will take us to the boat. As we walk she calls her cousin and as if by magic the cousins husband turns up in his car and takes us down there. He speaks great English and is very happy to be with us. Down the pier to the boat, which we find out goes in an hour, so he invites back to his house to meet his wife.

We spend a great time there chatting and finding out about his life as a English and chemistry teacher and also designer of iphone apps! They both have ipads and there is general internet play including the connection to the Heartbreaks. As we listen to Winter Gardens he says – wow they are like the Who (Joe would be so pleased!)

Childs Play

The boat takes 30 people. Is beautiful in it’s simplicity and very familiar from the previous trips. We set of and the couple with their 2 tiny children next to us become our smiling friends.

The sky is big. The sea calm. The islands distant. The boy (of about 4) finds our empty water bottle and over the course of the next 30 minutes discovers all the potential tricks and games he can play with it. It is wonderful to watch and so reminds me of dear John Woodward and his belief in the innocence and beauty of play. First the lid is turned, with fingers, with mouth, with me helping. On and off, on and off. Then just general experimentation with the sound as he bashes things around him. Off comes the label, wrapped round a finger, rolled in a ball, used as a flag flying in the wind. The bottle is fitted thought the railings but won’t fit through the bars of the seat so he squashes it a little. Then opens it out. The squashes and blows it out. This is good. It becomes a telescope. One eye, then the other. Looking out to sea and into the boat. The top is sucked to his mouth, suctioned.. and then the bottle the same. The bottle is wrapped in his T shirt and he bounces on his mum. Back and forth. Making noise and silent. It is all the most beautiful education.  And then we arrive and our instruction from Manouela is to go to the beach called Playa Vai Quem Quer beach.


2 moto taxis take us. Scooters with young men driving us down potholed dirt tracks for 10 minutes to a beach…. Quiet with bars and a beautiful sea.


Chill – swim – eat – get burnt – swim – walk – beer .

I meet a new friend on a walk to the next bay and he comes back for a chat before it is time to go…

Stormy return

Packed boat leaves as the rain and the storm kick in. On the journey most people put their life jackets on as the boat rocks and rolls in the lightning, thunder and torrential rain.

We make it back safe – it feels good to hit dry land. The carnival however has arrived in Itourici and there is much madness going down and police everywhere. We find a bus finally and head back home meeting a new friend – Renato – who chats to us as the bus hurtles through the rain soaked highways back to Belem. We sit with cold beers and fans trying to cool down the intensity of the day.

To Belem

Moving On

We decide to go to Belem today though we had planned a 2 night carnival stay in Tucurui. Why ? The feeling that we had tasted the feel of the town and wanted to go and have the extra day in the city we knew. Feeling that we had now had a variety of carnival experiences and it would be good to settle in their flat and have 3 days rather than 2. To party with strangers can be great but is nothing like partying with friends and the feeling we had in Maraba was the one we wanted to keep. So skype call to Juliet in Bangkok, breakfast in the hotel, a lovely interaction with a kind taxi driver and we were off on a 7 hour drive.

Having to wait for the bus gave an excuse for a great walk by the wide river

Along another prom watching these kids play with the costumes from the night before.

There is an enormous waste in spectacle. Costumes and images made for a short moment of the show. So much energy then trashed and the kids are given some stuff to play with and the street cleaners sweep away glitz, sequins and ribbons.


At the bus station as we wait a lovely man start to chat to us about football. I share information about UK sides. He talks about the Liverpool Milan match of 2005 (?) and names all the players on the Liverpool team! Then shares a great set of Zidan clips on his phone before we leave !

A picture window

This time an air con bus. We have no snacks. Buying them at stops on the way is fun. Empanadas, sweet coffee, tapioca, cheese buns, popcorn. All purchased at small town bus stations where we stop for a few moments.

The windows show us miles of palm groves, wood yards where the sawdust is mountains high and the dark wood waits for departures who knows where, rain attacks the bus on occasions and we pass a soaking carnival procession with band on a pick up and dancers stepping out.

We have smiling relationships with the people around us and as it gets dark we arrive in Belem. Taxi to the flat. Then great food down at the river and sleep.