The Brazilian Political Telenovela and Some Songs About It

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imgres-2imgres(Pictured above, left to right:  Roussef, Lula, and Collor.) There is a French expression that says, “Plus que ça change, plus c’est la meme chose” (the more things change, the more it’s the same old thing”). Remember also that Charles DeGaulle, upon returning from a trip to Brazil, told reporters that, “Brazil is not a serious country.” Both statements could apply to the unfolding political drama in our great southern neighbor, Brazil. Don’t misunderstand me – I love Brazil and Brazilian music. But the situation seems a bit like the telenovelas the country is famous for. (I’ll never forget finding and watching them on Russian TV while in St. Petersburg years ago; imagine a bunch of cariocas on Copacabana in skimpy bathing suits and “fio dental” (dental floss) bikinis, all speaking Russian.)

A recent long article in the New York Times discussed Brazil’s widespread graft. It quotes a 1978 song by Ivan Lins called “Fortune Teller,” written during the dictatorship and about the dissidents the generals were targeting. The lyrics say:

The King of Diamonds is falling,
The King of Spades is falling,
The King of Clubs is falling,
They’re all falling,
Nothing remains.

It reminds me of another song by Ivan Lins called “A Noite” (Night), which wasn’t about night time, but rather about the darkness enshrouding Brazil during the 70’s and 80’s when the dictatorship was in control. A time when artists like Gilberto Gil and Caetano were forced into exile. Here is a stanza from “A Noite.” It’s a metaphor for a troubled land:

The night has spoken
The chairs of the bars
Of drowned passions
Of rejected passions
Of misplaced passions
In other aged passions

I’m finally reminded of a third song, this time by Margareth Menezes, called “Jet Ski.” Ferdinand Collor de Mello was the first democratically-elected president of Brazil in 1985 after the military government ended.* Collor misappropriated funds (13,000 USD to be precise) to buy his mistress French negligée, among other things; the song here was about a jet ski he purchased with purloined funds. It probably wasn’t the most costly item he bought under the table. He only lasted two years in power before he was forced to resign. Here is a stanza from the song’s lyrics:

We can see
The jet ski President
Jet ski President
Nature is innocent
And this dirt is indecent.

Now it’s President Djilma Roussef and former President Lula da Silva’s turns. Maybe a singer-songwriter is penning a song about them or their cronies?

Here are the videos for “Fortune Teller” (Cartomante) and “Jet Ski”:

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