Where will the instruments of Brazilian artists be? – 09/23/2022 – Gustavo Alonso

Columnist Ruy Castro has already expressed his indignation in several texts here in this Sheet about the whereabouts of illustrious musical instruments by great national artists. Where would Pixinguinha’s flute and saxophone go? Where does Garoto’s guitar sound? I add: what about the violas of Tião Carreiro and Tinoco? And the guitars of Inezita Barroso, Adauto Santos, Tonico? What about the Mangabinha accordion, by Trio Parada Dura?

Perhaps not even the greatest connoisseur of bossa nova history, Ruy Castro, knows exactly how many instruments João Gilberto left in 2019. “Five or nine, depending on the version — one of them, the Tárrega that Di Giorgio made just for him, in 1969 The guitars will perhaps be the main object of the legal fight between their heirs. Whoever wins, at least we will know where they went”, wrote Castro.

The difficulty of knowing the exact whereabouts of the instruments of the great Brazilian artists illustrates how these goods are seen as merely family patrimonies. And the most that is considered is that they be nationalized, museified in public institutions.

In the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro there are some examples: Ernesto Nazareth’s piano cabinet; Waldir Azevedo’s cavaquinho; the clarinet and tenor sax by Abel Ferreira; Jacob’s mandolin; Raphael Rabello’s guitar. Is very little.

There are accordions by Gonzaga at the Cais do Sertão museum, in Recife, and at the Pátio do Forró museum, in Caruaru (PE). But where are Jackson’s tambourines? And the accordions of Abdias dos Oito Baixos? Dominguinhos’ accordions are shared between the accordionist’s family and friends as if they were private relics, not goods of Brazilian culture.

The most curious thing is that, as family goods, these instruments become mere treasures. They are at most an inheritance passed from father to son. When they are lucky, they end up in the hands of those who preserve them. But as these instruments age, they lose their value and, over time, are in danger of being forgotten in some closet by a careless relative.

In Brazil, one hardly sees a phenomenon that is very common in the United States: private museification. One of these private museums is Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, which still belongs to the singer’s family. It is the second most visited house in the country, second only to the White House.

Here in Brazil, Aza Branca Park, in Exu (PE), was Luiz Gonzaga’s last residence. It is a private museum, but it survives with many difficulties. The houses of the King of Baião in Rio de Janeiro, two in Méier and another on Ilha do Governador, could become museums.

They would help to dynamize peripheral regions of the city, little attended by museums and cultural institutions. But almost no one even considers such a possibility, neither the State nor private investors.

Why do we still not have a bossa nova museum? Only a mediocre and illiterate country like ours could not have created it yet! And here I’m not just complaining about our rulers. Why has the private sector not yet mobilized? It would be a great place to see João Gilberto’s guitars, for example. How many gringos would not visit such a museum? We’re eating flies.

While in Brazil our bourgeoisie shrugs off the potential profits of our art, the American private enterprise manages to see profit in their and others’ cultural riches. Hard Rock Café is a chain of restaurants that combines food and museum.

Anyone who has been to one of the many Hard Rock Cafés around the world has eaten alongside guitars by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Santana, guitars by David Gilmour and Keith Richards, drums by The Who, glasses by John Lennon, among thousands of other “memorabilia”.

In Brazil there are four Hard Rock Café establishments: Fortaleza, Gramado (RS), Curitiba and Ribeirão Preto (SP). As far as national rock is concerned, the gringos are appropriating our values. On the third floor of the Hard Rock Café in Curitiba, there is Rita Lee’s guitar, displayed alongside the instruments of her partner, Roberto de Carvalho, and Xandão, from Rappa.

If Brazilians don’t want to preserve it, at least multinational capital does. It’s not ideal, but it’s something. Then there’s no use crying the pitangas against “evil imperialism”.

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