I had a phone conversation with my dad last Sunday, I was feeling very low, small and useless. Distressed by my lack of ability to change things and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness in the face of our shifting political landscape here in the UK. We spoke about music and how it made both of us feel, immersing ourselves in it as a distraction but also drawing on it as a source empowerment. His advice was to listen to my emotional response to music and immerse myself in it. Use it as a cushion against the decisions made by the political elite in this country, but also as a tool for expression.
We are almost constantly listening to music, it surrounds us, just take a minute can you hear any music right now? What is it? How does it make you feel?
Stop, listen, feel.
It could become ubiquitous, but it hasn’t (well not all of it). We just need to be reminded of the deep emotional and physical reactions music can provoke. How it can be an uplifting or crushing force.
Myself I can find music incredibly freeing and distracting as I tend not to think too much (well too deeply) whilst listening. I like to be moved by music, whether emotionally or physically. What prompted our discussion was a gig at the Barbican, Martinho de Vila, and the proof that samba is good for the soul, well my soul at least.
“Do whatever you want, but move in your seat”
The Barbican could have been an ill fit for samba. Music that makes you want to move and groove. But it turned out to be incredibly liberating. It started slowly and tentatively, like good sex, with Martinho teasing the audience with naked vocals gradually building the texture as slowly ‘the kitchen’ joined him on stage. Rapidly my gentle swaying became more erratic and enthusiastic taking over my entire body in my seat. Restricted, seated, but dancing. As Martinho belted out the old favourites his audience became more enthusiastic, couples leaving their seats to dance together, others swinging their limbs wildly. We erupted out of our seats.
It was my first experience of Martinho’s music and honestly I don’t want to stop listening. I might have to have him as a constant soundtrack to stop myself slipping into deeper blue water than I already have over the state of Britain and the decision to leave the EU. Samba can save me! Samba can save us all.
I would place a hefty bet that I was one of a smattering of non-Portuguese speakers. So I was almost completely lost during the in-between song chatter, relying entirely on my Brazilian friend Carla. But my lacking language skills did not prove a barrier to enjoyment and understanding of Martinho’s music. Music is a language unto itself. Carla reminded me that we listen to music with our whole bodies, not just our ears.
Listen with your body, not just your ears.
Music taps into your emotional intelligence, through the intonation and tonal quality of vocals, the timbre of instruments or the underlying beat and even in its silences. At risk of sounding a little bonkers, in this way music is truly tactile.
At the end of the set Carla revealed she knew one of the producers of the gig and we could go back stage and meet Martinho and ‘the kitchen’, if I wanted to. Of course I did. This was a first for me at a venue like the Barbican, I had a little explore of the area, which seemed like it hadn’t really left the early noughties. Meeting Martinho was like meeting a family member, one that strikingly reminds you of a small, reliable, well-loved teddy that’s slowly loosing fluff around the edges with a raspy but soft voice. And his daughter, the pianist, had the most fantastic raspberry-red tights on and the biggest smile I think I have ever seen. I felt welcomed even though I had no idea who anyone was, but I guess the free beers helped.
My one recommendation to you. If you are feeling a bit down in the mouth pop on some Martinho de Vila and you will be grooving and beaming in no time!
Website is a little dated but the music is brill! – http://www.martinhodavila.com.br/
Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1RQWPJxWXE&list=PLm9qhWgG3f9J4tSpVCV41r3hu96EUXD0e