If I had it to do all over again
I'd major in Portuguese. Or at least, I would have gone to a university that even taught Portuguese at all, since most of them don't. Unfortunately, my curiosity around Brazilian music and culture had not yet fully taken hold at that point. My first real exposure to Brazilian music came in my senior year of college, when my friend Melissa played me some Caetano, Marisa, and Gal. She'd been exposed to MPB and samba due to her on-again, off-again romance with a Brazilian-American guy, and had fallen in love/lust with the music and language of Brazilian Portuguese just as much as she'd fallen in love/lust with him.
She was teaching herself Portuguese, and found it pretty easy to learn due to years of studying Spanish. As I too, had studied Spanish for a long time, I agreed with her that it seemed liked it would be pretty easy, once you got the hang of the differences in pronunciation. It seemed to me (and I was correct in this assumption) that there would be "rules" as to how things changed from Spanish to Portuguese (mujer becomes mulher, just as mejor becomes melhor, etc.), and once you could wrap your brain around those differences, then, voila, you'd be speaking like a Carioca in no time.
As for the songs she played me, I really clicked with them, in just the way she did. Both she and I loved the lightness of the music, the way it could bound around, with those singers bending their tongues around the fast-flowing syllables. And the rhythms, well, let's just say I was bored with the standard 80's pop/rock that I'd grown up with and this was a whole new sound opening up to me.
But somehow, for some reason, it would take me another four years before I would purchase my first Brazilian CD. (Looking back, I blame the general haze/malaise that was my Ph.D. lit program experience at the time. Can you say, "recovering academic"?) That first CD, which turned out to be a wise choice indeed, was the magnificent Luaka Bop compilation of the golden age of 60s/70s Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB), BELEZA TROPICAL.
From Jorge, Gil, and Milton to Chico, Caetano, Gal, and Bethania, I was a woman obsessed. This spectacular compilation was my gateway drug to what would turn in to the following seven years of my life: two trips to Brazil (so far), many Brazilian concerts/shows/dance parties in NYC, learning to samba, friendships with (and occasional dating of) Brazilians and/or like-minded Brazilian music fanatics, intermittent attempts to take my self-taught Portuguese to a level beyond basic conversational skills (best accomplished by talking to HOTT non-English-speaking Brazilians), honing of a sotaque bom (good accent), etc. (Oh, and last, but certainly not least: starting this blog.)
I guess it's because New Year's is right around the corner, which tends to make me take stock of where my life's been and where's it's going. All I know is, it makes me wonder how things might have been different if I had gotten bitten by the Brazil bug sooner. Would I have done a study abroad for a semester or a whole year? And if I had, would I have wanted to move to Brazil and live there for awhile (or forever)? It's tempting to wonder about these things.
But the truth of the matter is this: I'm glad that Brazil found me when it did. Better late than never, I say. Because my interest in the music coincided with my move to the city, that curiosity for all things Brazilian helped introduce me to a whole side of New York City that I never would have found otherwise. It wasn't because of New York that I discovered Brazilian music, but it was thanks to New York that my love for that music and culture could grow and thrive and evolve. It was thanks to Brazooka band at Cafe Wha on Mondays, which led me to Greg and his classic Brazilian vinyl, and to Anderson and his photos and friendship. And it was Sunday nights at Black Betty for Brazilian Beat where I got to know Doug, Diego, and Gary, and got interviewed for Brazilian TV by Rede Globo.
And it's thanks to this blog that in the past (almost) year I've met people who love Brazil or love New York City or love both. I've made new friends who live here and made new acquaintance with people all over the world who don't think I'm crazy for being obsessed with this music.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll leave it at this for now. More on this later.