I probably didn’t mention it in previous posts but I received an email from the school I visited on October 11th, Lorenço Castanho. They were asking if I could fit, at least, one more visit into my schedule before leaving Brazil. Friday was a scheduled day off, a morning of snoozing, extended dreaming and breathing heavily into my pillow. Who needs that, right? I would much rather spend time with an entire school of people who openly and unashamedly tell me they love me and my work. Can you blame me?
Clara, my contact, was asking if I’d return to meet with their 7th grade classes. The 7th graders, much like the 7th graders in California, have West Africa as part of their curriculum and, in particular, griots.
I returned to the Lorenço Castanho love fest once again and was not disappointed. The 7th graders were equally as warm and endearing as their 9th grade counterparts. I loved their questions about music’s affect on the mind and body. Who would have expected 7th graders to ask such questions? Their laughter left me feeling accomplished and their focus on my words was so affirming.
After I completed the performance I made sure to spend enough time taking pictures with the students, laughing and talking. I think I disrupted the class schedule again but no one seemed to mind. There is something really special happening in that school and the entire staff and student body seem quite aware of it. I wish it was something I could manufacture and distribute.
I had to leave the school a bit earlier than the previous day, at the conclusion of my performance, because my tour manager and one of the teachers at the school had arranged a private tour for me of the Afro-Brazilian Museum.
Yes, a private tour! Me! VIP treatment? Wow!
Once at the museum my tour manager and I were greeted by our host, Renato. This young man was an exceptional docent as he escorted us through the museum. His knowledge of history, art, and religion was impressive. He freely shared legends, tales and history related to Afro-Brazilian culture. As an added benefit my tour manager, Jana, was equally knowledgeable about the art and artifacts in the museum. I could not have dreamed of a better scenario for myself, two Brazilians in love with their history and culture focused on my learning about it. Each of them was so gentle and patient in sharing their impressions throughout the exhibit that I forgot to turn on my audio recorder. I was so immersed in the tales and history that I walked around in an anticipatory haze waiting for the next tale or tidbit of information.
As Renato was explaining a section of the exhibit to me, we were interrupted by a young teenage boy. He approached me, timidly, and said, “Excuse me sir do you mind if I ask who you are?”
I wasn’t sure what had attracted his attention. Maybe it was the two piece kaftan I was wearing or the fact that I had a private guided tour. I wasn’t sure.
The young man wanted to know who I was and where I was from. He was with a school touring the museum and, apparently, I had, somehow, attracted their attention. Before I knew it the entire group were standing around me while a few of them asked questions. It was a surreal moment, if you can imagine. I told them that I was a storyteller and musician and that I was visiting schools here in São Paulo. I sang a little for them (you know I had to right?). I spoke a little about history and culture. They were listening! They were actually listening and taking it “all” in! What an absolutely amazing feeling. I was standing before a group of about 20 to 30 teenagers who were hanging on my every word and I was loving every second of it. The best part? A beautiful young girl with the most alluring Portuguese-English accent looked me in my eyes and said, “I love you.” Out of no where she just spoke here heart. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to leave Brazil.
The group was from a school in a city outside of São Paulo called “Americana (really interesting history about this city and its settlement by confederate fleeing the end of the U.S. Civil War… look it up when you get a chance).” The students were asking me if I would please come visit their school. They wanted more stories and singing. They wanted to hear the instrument I showed them a picture of, my Kora.
I don’t think I’m doing the situation justice here, it felt like a Salvador Dali painting brought to life.
It was difficult to pull away from these teens and continue the tour. The student’s chaperones and I exchanged information. I let the two women know that I wasn’t sure if, or when, I might return to Brazil but, if I did, they would definitely be contacted about my performing at their school.
What an amazing experience! An impromptu storytelling session, a little singing, some kisses to the cheek and then possession of a memory that will last a lifetime.
Renato completed our tour of the museum by offering even more enthusiastic revelations and tales. The tour of the museum was very special for me. I’ve never had a private tour of any institution such as this before. It really made me feel appreciative of all the people who have gone out of their way for me since my arrival here in Brazil.
I had to end our time with Renato so that we could get back to the hotel to rest up a bit. Why you may ask?
Well, if you must know, I have a Samba lesson in the morning and I need to be ready. I’m not in my 20’s anymore and these old-bones don’t quite follow orders as quickly as they used to.
Come back tomorrow, maybe I’ll be able to tell you a little something about my Samba adventure (or maybe misadventure depending on if I can get my legs to obey me).