|The Globe and Mail , Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - Page A17
BRAZILIAN SUPERSTAR ENJOYS DOUBEL BILL AS
By Shawn Blore |
No stranger to political controversy, singer
relishes role of artist as outsider.
RRIO DE JANEIRO -- Gilberto Gil emerges
guitar in hand stage right, pirouettes
on the way to the microphone and begins
bossa nova version of John Lennon's
At 62 years of age and sporting slightly
shaggy dreadlocks, the Brazilian musical
superstar is simultaneously touring
of a new album and directing policy
country's Minister of Culture.
Handpicked in 2002 by President Luiz
Lula da Silva, Mr. Gil's appointment
controversial from the start, as he
been elected. His only formal political
was a single term as a city councillor
his home town of Salvador. He said
life experience as a singer and songwriter
was training enough.
"In an artist's life, you also
enemies, you also have adversity, you
have disagreements about your conduct.
also politics," he argued in an
at his office in Rio de Janeiro after
Mr. Gil is a towering figure in the
music scene, one of a small group of
who in the early 1960s gave Brazilian
new direction, a new definition, and
a new name: Tropicalismo.
The genre's political content proved
much for the ruling military junta,
Gil spent years in exile before returning.
His on-stage persona remains surrounded
Government ministers with careers in
are not unheard of, especially in Latin
In Panama, singer-actor Ruben Blades
as tourism minister. Retired soccer
Pele served as Brazil's minister of
in the 1990s.
"There are others," Mr. Gil
"The Minister of Culture of South
is a filmmaker. In Chile, we had a
as minister of culture."
The uproar over Mr. Gil's appointment
when he announced that he planned to
recording and performing while in office.
The salary he received, the equivalent
$48,000, was not enough for him to
his family, Mr. Gil said.After some
he agreed to restrict his tours to
and holidays, which has affected his
His latest CD, Eletracustica, features
Gil with a four-piece band, cut down
his usual double-digit complement of
musicians. The stripped-down sound
it easier to record, rehearse and set
Just as the controversy over Mr. Gil's
started to die down, new criticism
over a bill intended to strengthen
domestic film and television industry.The
bill proposes slapping tariffs on advertising
and foreign films in order to fund
television and film productions, but
raised hackles for a series of clauses
domestic film and television industries
encourage family values and promote
Critics, including many of the country's
major newspapers, said the clauses
a government attempt to control media
Authoritarian, bureaucratic and Stalinist
were among the terms opponents used
both the bill and Mr. Gil -- a reversal
the adulation the performer has enjoyed
more than 40 hit albums.
"I don't feel it," he said.
consider it just rhetorical, part of
rhetorical elements for the political
that's being fought."
Although he retaliated with harsh rhetoric
of his own, Mr. Gil subsequently retreated,
ordering the content clauses stricken
But he is still trying to win committee
and will then have to navigate the
through the fractious Brazilian congress,
a process that has sunk three similar
introduced by previous governments.
Mr. Gil believes his status as an outsider
may prove the critical difference this
"If you think of a bureaucrat
or a politician,
an artist is a different person --
a different view of the world, a different
considering of the relation between
and power, culture and government."
Asked how that will help the bill,
paused, shook his dreadlocks and smiled.
"I don't have a political career,"
he replied. "Power is not the
Back on stage in Rio de Janeiro, Mr.
brings a concert to a close with a
his days of political exile in London.
loco por ti, America. I'm crazy about
America. I'm crazy about you for love,"
The crowd applauds, the curtain drops
Mr. Gil departs the stage to return
Shawn Blore is a Freelance Correspondent
based in Rio de Janeiro