Caetano Veloso: “The most unbearable in politics, with the internet, is even more so”

  • The Brazilian musician reappears with ‘Meu coco’, his first album since 2012, where he brings together historical collaborators and young talents. The album has seen the light on digital platforms, and its physical edition will arrive on December 17.

‘Maybe’, the song he recorded last year with his son Tom (its author along with Cézar Mendes), has won a Latin Grammy. It is a smooth track, with echoes of bossa nova and American standards, which could well have been sung on his album ‘A foreign sound’ (2004).

It is true, a very beautiful and elegant song. I sang it live once. I like it a lot and I’m very happy about the Grammy, being a song by my youngest son.

The new album, ‘Meu coco’, is the first in almost ten years, although in this time we have seen him touring in different formats: with Gilberto Gil, with Teresa Cristina and with their three children, Moreno, Zeca and Tom. What kept you from recording studios?

I didn’t even feel like it had been that long. Everything followed a natural course. The tour with my children took a long time, more than two years: they came to invite us from China, Korea, Japan and Australia, but we did not go, because we were already a little tired. The ‘tour’ with Gil was also very positive: I composed a song, ‘As camélias do quilombo do Leblon’, and I asked Gil to add some part. I did other compositions, for Céu, for example. Various things. I started thinking about a new album in the summer of 2019, in Bahia, and the first song was ‘Meu coco’. He came up thinking of João Gilberto, remembering that he had told me that Brazilians are Chinese. That had stayed in my head, in my coconut.

Why do you think João Gilberto said that?

If I had known it, I would understand that it could be for a thousand reasons. The things he said were always an enigma, but they were inspiring and provocative. I had talked to him about Chet Baker, a trumpeter and singer of cool jazz, a major influence on bossa nova. When you asked him if he liked it, he would say: “Yes, Caetano, I like him, but he’s very American & mldr ;; very donkey.” That is, “American, therefore, donkey.” “We are different, we are Chinese,” he added. He spoke this way. He was like a poet. All the time like this. He told you things that were innuendo, enigmatic, suggestive things & mldr;

In the song ‘Meu coco’ he mentions the names of many composers and singers from his country, from Noel Rosa, Dorival Caymmi and Ari Barroso to Nara Leão, Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina & mldr; Declaration of Brazilian character.

Definitely. Mentioning names and remembering that they shape the Brazilian mentality is something that I have done other times and that I returned to in this song. There is the nucleus of the disk. I made an album years ago, ‘Cores, nomes’ (1982), and a friend told me that the new one could be called’ Nomes, nomes’, because I mention many names of singers and composers in it, not only in the song ‘ Meu coco ‘, but in others, like’ Sem samba não dá ‘; also of young musicians.

They said that the internet would bring a deepening of democracy. But in the end, it’s more of a threat than a conquest

Another piece, ‘Anjos tronchos’, is a bit sinister with its allusions to the algorithms that govern our lives and the “distorted angels of Silicon Valley”, although in the end it makes us notice that Billie Eilish creates her songs in her room with his brother thanks to the computer. Are you opting for hope despite everything?

Of course. I also refer to the poet Augusto de Campos, who in the 50s did avant-garde work using technology to create audiovisual poems, and the opportunity that computers and mobiles give us to listen to the music of Schönberg, Webern or Cage, before more Inaccessible. There are positive things there, but also a threat: what was most unbearable in politics has become even more unbearable with the internet. That is why the song is gloomy, because it is the answer to my friends who felt so optimistic when the Web appeared. They said that it would bring a deepening of democracy, that everyone could express themselves. But, in the end, it is more of a threat than a conquest.

In terms of sound and arrangement, ‘Meu coco’ distances itself from their 2006-12 three-album cycle. At times those avant-garde guitars sneak in, but also the echoes of samba and bossa nova, ‘afro’ percussions and dreamy orchestrations. A work of synthesis?

The truth is that I did not know what the album was going to be like. I did ‘Anjos tronchos’ with the same guitarist from those records, Pedro Sá, and that’s why it came out with a more similar sound. But the pandemic arrived, I stopped and when I saw that I had to wait too long, I started working at home, in the studio, with Lucas Nunes, who is 23 years old. We were inviting musicians and arrangers for each song, trying to give each one its own particular sound. We have Vinícius Cantuária, Marcelo Costa or Letieres Leite, a great talent from Bahia, who died shortly after; terrible news. That is why it is such a varied album, because it is the result of seeing each song and inviting someone to complete it. Like the Portuguese Carminho, who sang in ‘Você-você’, from a discussion I had with her regarding that word, ‘você’.

And Jaques Morelembaum, who signs arrangements on three songs that can make one think of the orchestrations of ‘Noites do norte’ (2000).

And from ‘Livro’ (1997), and from the songs of Hispanic America from ‘Fina Estampa’ (1994), and ‘A foreign sound’ (2004) & mldr; At the same time, on the record is an amazing young guy, singer, songwriter and arranger, Thiago Amud.

In August and September he made a tour of Europe limited to four countries, Germany, France, Belgium and Portugal. Do you plan to present ‘Meu coco’ in Spain next year?

I hope so, although we will start the ‘Meu coco’ tour in April in Brazil, which is a huge country, a Portuguese-speaking continent. Maybe later we can come.

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