Blesok no. 45, November-December, 2005
I don't play music with my mind, but with my heart and soul
Interview with Vinicius Cantuaria, musician and football fanatic
But, New York didn't exactly welcomed you with much warmth?
– With none. I came to the city with my family and we rented a small apartment in Brooklyn. Although I wasn't the outsider in the music field, I found myself in an environment that wasn't familiar to me. But I was prepared to stay jobless up to a year of time, but getting started there was very difficult to me. Fortunately, in those days of self-examination that lasted more than six months, I had a lot of support and help by my friend Arto Lindsey. He even got angry when I called him for the first time after six months in the City, he was angry why I didn't contact him earlier, and he immediately got me into the studio where he was recording his album then.
In the meantime, I started to play percussions at the club of one of mine Italian friends there, then I again switched to guitar, so it became a place where a lot of my Brazilian friends and fans where coming on regular bases, and that club soon became one of the most famous clubs in Greenwich Village.
But, anyway, you're real success there was exactly after Lindsey published his album.
– Exactly. I wrote for him one song, then another, and another, and at the end, there were six songs in whole. Then the tour followed, the promotion of Mundo Civilizado, and then Lindsey introduced me to Ryuichi Sakamoto who asked me to play on his album, and it was the real success since then.
Can you compare those two as musicians and performers?
– They both are great musicians, but completely different in energies and characters. Thy both are fantastic authors who love to experiment.
Didn't they both put a lot of energy to prepare your first international album Sol na Cara?
– Yes, they did. Sakamoto made the most of the arrangements, he played a piano on most of them, and Lindsey produced the album. What more one can expect? Sol na Cara was my grand opening to the world. After that, it was quite easy. Then, there were Vinicius, Tucuma in 1999, Horse and Fish last year and these days I started the promotion of my new album Silva, which will soon appear at the market under the “Hannibal” label.
Horce and Fish went great with the critics and audience both. Did you expect that?
– I believe that's a strong and emotionally compact and essential album. It's the result of my last four years in US. The songs were ready for some time already, and I decided to record them live in the studio. I gathered the musicians and I simply said: Here, play the music! We recorded two sessions and I decided to document the first one. There were no after-recordings or further polishing of the material.
What's the most important for you in music? What do you strive to achieve?
– The direct encounter with the audience – definitely. They are the peak of the creation for me. I'm a people's man and I want to see the light on the faces of the audience when they listen to my music. I don't spare myself at all in that aspect. I put a lot of energy in that and I expect a full feedback. And I'm exhausted after each of my concerts, because I play with my heart and soul, not with my mind. But at the same time I'm supremely content that I arouse some hidden emotions, and that I made some people happy with it.
I creating of Silva you used some different methodology.
– Yes. I recorded the material for this album in my own studio in New York and that process lasted longer than usual. I had enough time to experiment and I tried to create different music sound. To step a step beyond, you know. Guitars, drums and percussions I played by myself, Mike Leonard help me with the horns and trumpets, and some of the instruments I recorded in Brazil with Brazilian musicians. The arrangements were made by an extraordinary young instrumentalist – Eduardo Solto Neato. I plan to make a large band, something like David Byrne does, and after the New Year to start the promotional tour of this material.
– There is no reason not to be content. I have the liberty to create my own music and that's enough for me. Today, that's not that easy to achieve. I'm not much interested where I'm commercially more successful, believe me. Because, in one moment I'm more sold in Italy, then the very next moment in US, etc., etc. The most important to me is to create a good music, to play again and again great musicians as Arto Lindsey, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, Mark Ribo… And not to lose the connection with the newcomers. In that I find the pleasure of this profession.
When you speak of the newcomers, what do you think of the new wave of Brazilian musicians as Moreno Veloso, Domenico… those people that shared the stage with you here?
– The Brazilians are very different one from another. They are so often different from what's trendy in the contemporary music. Guys like those I play with, are incredibly strong in their expression. They function in different level, so different from what we were used to. They mix bossa nova and samba with the hip-hop, jazz, rock'n'rol, electro-music, etc. Look, I leave a whole decade in New York and although I travel a lot to Brazil, I don't have a full look of what's happening there. The new Brazilian music is the absolute unknown area for me, too. There are many names I've heard the people speculate, but my personal hero is one of the musicians of the older generation – Jon Donato. He's known by a few, but he had an extraordinary emerges in the 70's. After his swift and bright success he came home, and he's now almost forgotten. Although he is one excellent author and performer.
Last year you didn't appear on the Skopje Jazz Festival, although you were announced by the organizer. What happened? And, will we see you in Macedonia again?
– Well, huh, last year I had many problems. When other people plan your concerts, it sometimes has, and sometimes hasn't any geographical logic. So it happened Paul Braga who started the tour with me, because of some family matters, to go back home in Brazil, and we simply had to postpone the concert. I'm really sorry about that. I played in Skopje with Arto Lindsey, but until now I didn't have the opportunity to present my own music to audience in Macedonia. I would be very happy if I'm again summoned at this Festival. So I hope that next year I will see you again here in Macedonia.
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski
Vinicius Cantuaria was one of the great stars of the revived Belgrade Jazz Festival, side by side with the Dave Holland, All Foster, Dave Libman, World Saxophone Quartet, Charlie Hunter, Duško Gojković, Dennis Baptist… As a representative of the post-electronic acoustics, he again showed why is he called “an artist” in his area of work. This interview is made right after his concert, but only after he checked the football results of the League in his country – Brazil.
You're known as a musician who is the same time a great football fanatic. You live with Brazilian football on regular bases, although you live in New York and travel a lot. How it happened that you're not in the football, but in music?
– The football and the music are my passions. I lived with them both, as any young Brazilian. Now, I even can't tell why I'm in music and not in football. My choice was made in a very difficult times for me. I grew up in a country with great contrast, a lot of poverty and a few over-rich people. Same as my good friends, the famous Brazilian football layers Zico, Socrates, etc., I didn't belong to the rich people, although I also wasn't among the poorest. You know, the musicians and the football players both, are very close to the common people. They animate the masses. They inspire the people with their skills and imagination. The only difference between the football players and the musicians in Brazil are the fees – they earn a lot more money than we do. But that doesn't mean that they forget their past, or their origins. Here, for example, Ronaldo is directly involved in many projects helping the young strained in the street vices and criminal activities.
– Well, huh, I have absorbed so many influences from the musicians all around the world. From the Brazilian ones, it was Antonio Carlos Jobim. I learned what's music from him. My moments with him and with Vinicius Morales are unforgettable for me. We share the same name with Morales, he really liked me, and did protect me several times from many troubles. But, at the same time, I grew up with the jazz and the pop-music, also. I listened to Miles Davis, Chat Baker, Bill Evans, Beatles… This people made my music to be what it is. You know, in my country in the 60's, the radio had very liberal programs. They played Jobim, then five minutes later they would played Beatles or Stones, and after that, they would play something from the Italian music stage, and so on… That diversity determined my own music path.
You are the author and guitarist. But, at the start of your music career you played drums.
– Exactly. While I was with the Caetano Veloso Band, at first I played drums. But, soon I started to play a guitar, too. As it was the period when I started to write my own music, it's understandable that I chose the guitar to be my basic instrument. It was my most appropriate instrument for music expression.
Caetano Veloso has a certain status of God, in Latin America. You've played with him a long time, how you feel about him?
– It's really hard for me to speak about that. We are great friends. We played together for ten whole years, and even then I started solo. But, I can tell you that even today, we work together quite often. So, I even today don't have the required distance to answer this question. He is my very dear friend. I can only say that he's great artist on global level. One of those who make the feeling of the time we live in.
Did he influenced upon your personal musical vision?
– No. Musically seen, not at all… He let me to find my own music. His influence was more in the sense of building an attitudes and stands of my own, to find my own song – that was his greatest help to me.
What was the most decisive moment in your career? Maybe the decision to leave Brazil and go to USA?
– In 1994 I felt constrained in Brazil. I was at the beginning of my solo career and I had the need to play a lot of different things. At the same time, I didn't think that I must choose between playing Bossa Nova or Rock'n'Roll. It was a difficult time for Brazilian musicians to make music in their own country. It was the same for all… So I decided to go to New York. I felt it as my own great challenge.