It was a warm, Sunday morning. I heard there was going to be a 'feira,' like a public market, on the other side of town. So I packed up my guitar and headed over to check it out and perhaps do some busking. When I arrived at the feira, I was in awe by the number of people. There was a lot going on, on every turn. It was condensed to a couple square blocks and a sort of town square, and they were selling everything imaginable. I walked around and took in the sights, and sounds, for about an hour. Then I decided to set up shop and see if I could make a buck with my music.
I came to this tunnel and decided it was the perfect place. The tunnel connected the feira square with the rest of the city center by burrowing under a major roadway, and it hosted a handful of doorways to unknown rooms. It was constructed with stone, and with my back up to the wall, the echo gave a clarity and power to my voice, guitar, and harmonica that was ideal for stopping passersby with loose change. Across the way from the wall I had chosen, one of the curious tunnel doors was open to what appeared to be people playing chess; or rather, an organized group of people dedicating themselves to the practice of chess.
There was a chess club--yes, a chess club of all things-- in a room in this small tunnel. And I asked them if I could use a chair. 'They were leaving soon,' so they said I couldn't. I set up with my foot propped on the wall across from them, balancing the guitar on my knee. Then I began to play. The tunnel echoed my sound and it came across quite good, if I do say so myself. Most people walking through the tunnel gave at least a glance. It was hard not to, I presume, in a space 10 foot across with a bellowing, dreadlocked musician basically attacking you with music. I think I made the equivalent of ten dollars in a little under an hour, when I noticed other musicians entering the tunnel, older fellows. One started playing in the far corner and this ticked me off because he was drowning out my sound and putting a damper on my day's income. Isn't there some code of conduct for buskers? ..That says you must respect those already working and set up at least so far from their turf. I thought, perhaps this was his usual turf and his usual schedule. Still I was ticked. Then a very pleasant gentleman approached with a smile and stood right by me. After I finished Paint it Black, he began talking with me, and wouldn't stop. After awhile, I figured this was just as well, since the other rude musician was not about to stop. I came to find out that this gentleman I was speaking with, a chipper old chap in his Sunday's best, was also a musician. He had a guitar with him.
As we talked a new fellow approached, also with a guitar, and some nervous tendencies. He joined the conversation, still dominated by the older chap. Even more older looking men with guitars, and other instruments, kept arriving and filling the tunnel. I was bewildered. Before I could ask, my new friend expressed that there was to be a Sertaneja show, as was custom at this time every Sunday, and he asked me if I wanted to play in it, giving me distinct compliments on my guitar and harmonica playing. By this time, the second, nervous gentleman had receded to the staircase to practice. Apparently, he was playing too, as were all the musicians flooding into the tunnel. I asked my friend where they would be playing, and he said the theatre and pointed at the wall behind me. Unbeknownst to me, I had been playing with my foot perched up on the outside, stone wall of an underground theatre, in a tunnel under the streets of Curitiba. Which just happened to have a show of Sertaneja, a traditional Brazilian music genre, right at this very moment, in which I was invited to play. "But I don't know any Sertaneja.." In fact I didn't even know what Sertaneja was at that point. He said it didn't matter and beckoned me to follow him, as the announcer, head-honcho guy arrived. I was surrounded by mostly older, 60-70 y.o., Brazilian men, who play traditional Brazilian Sertaneja music, and I was going to play Rocky Raccoon and House of the Rising Sun with my travel guitar and harmonica for them. I was a little bit nervous. The honcho gave me a sticker with the number three on it to put on my shirt; I would play third. Then we all puttered into the theatre.
It was a dank little theatre, but with all the amenities. The lights and sound system were professional, and the acoustics were good. Although there were only about 12 rows of chairs, maybe eight deep, it accommodated everyone comfortably, but still felt full. Passersby wandered in occasionally to survey the commotion. The honcho began setting up the stage with a lady accomplice. And then it began. He spoke into the microphone, jubilant at the sound of his voice ringing over the speakers. He cracked jokes and told anecdotes, as everyone got settled. I understood none of it. Everyone here had heavy accents, as I presume old Sertaneja draws a particular population, from some unknown location. Then it was time for the first performance.
The first two performances were super cool. The first guy played the accordian and sang in that accent of his and it came across beautifully. There was a lot of soul in this subterranean theatre, and I felt very fortunate to have arrived at this place. The second guy took waaay too long to finish his set. I'm not just aying this because I was on deck. I mean, seven minutes on the first song fine, but 12 minutes on the second one? People were getting restless. He loved the spotlight. I think he did all of the verses 3 times and the chorus I guess 6+, but I wasn't really understanding it, and I was anxious because I was up next. He finally ended it. People clapped.
Some nice woman, the only person near my age, offered to video me when I asked. I mean come on, how could I not document this weird, fascinating spectacle, and my unlikely participation in it. The footage was lost.. Just kidding, I'll embed it below, or maybe it is lost.. but there were some complications. My phone stopped working for some reason, so she switched to her phone, catching the majority of it, although with quality sub-par. Then, she would need my whatsapp to send it to me. Was she hitting on me? No, she was married, but the videos really didn't come out that good, and I think whatsapp lowers the quality; we'll see if I can even find them. Anyways, I was up, so I walked up to the stage, instruments in hand.
The announcer guy announced my name, and I started to set myself up, as he babbled on. He was probably talking about me. So I was fidgeting on the stool and it came to our realization that I would need some sort of amplification for my guitar, which doesn't have plug-in capacity. Rather, it came to Lady Accomplice's attention and mine while ol' honcho talked up a storm taking advantage between sets. It was time to start now, and the solution--this is great--to the guitar amplification dilemma was to have Lady Accomplice stand up there the entire time with the second mic, first one being in front of my face, in hand and aiming at the hole of my instrument.. She would stand up there the whole time, while I sat, and with a half awkward yet professional grin, like the kind that you glue on when you're Miss Universe and have to make an appearance at some peculiar, sideshow event. It was fun.
I finished the first song and the audience clapped, one guy in the front row really getting into his clapping, like it was something that would pay commision, or he was drunk. I started the second song. I worked the harmonica and worked the crowd. Lady Accomplice with the mic worked her grin. She had to have been getting slightly uncomfortable, but she was a trooper, and I appreciated her. The hand never waivered with the mic. The girl videoing with my phone must've switched to her phone by now, halfway across the room. I appreciated her too. My buddy was somewhere in the back with the more nervous guy, and the theatre was brilliant. As I finished, I don't know if anybody understood my music, but I received a tremendous applause and felt welcomed. Honcho returned to the stage amd commandeered mic 2 from the gracious accomplice, and began his usual rambling. On my way back to my seat, the (drunk?) guy in the front row stopped me to give me his sincere compliments. He was funny looking, and quite old or full of life experience, and somewhat honchoey looking as well with some younger arm candy in the seat to his left, and maybe the one on the right was with them too. Anyways he was nice, and I smiled and nodded.
I stayed for a few hours, enjoying artists putting their heart and soul into their classic and original Sertaneja songs. It was a very unique experience, and decidedly different from today's popular Sertaneja music. I really had a good time. At dusk I decided to leave, and they were still going on, and the bent sounds of accordian, guitars, and Portuguese cried and followed me into the early night. It was a successful day.
My Solo Backpacking Trip through South America with stories and adventures had along the way.