|"SOTOKOTO" April 2001 Issue
I returned home yesterday from Rio in Brazil. A three-hour time change from New York. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, right now it's in the middle of the summer there. It's still another month to Carnival. Walking around you can hear the samba schools feverishly practicing, deep into the night. The temperature is 35°C every day. Since I had gone there from below-freezing New York, I had a terrible time getting my body to adjust to the hot temperature. Since I sleep without air-conditioning, I woke up a lot during the night from the heat, and went around for days without enough sleep. When I would say, "I'm in Rio" everyone would go "Oh, wow, that's so great!" but of course I wasn't there for a vacation. I was there for work. It wasn't only the temperature difference that was to blame for my sleep deprivation.
The work this time was to record the music of Jobim on the very piano Jobim had in his home, with the Morelenbaums, the couple who had made music with Jobim for 15 years when he was alive. Paolo Jobim, Jobim's eldest son, added his violao on two tracks. Jobim's spirit sighed here and there in the house. From the large window in the library, the views of Corcovado and Lagoa were exactly as they must have appeared when he had seen them. And Jobim's finger marks were still clearly there on the keyboard of the piano.
It seems that when he was alive Jobim used to say he was a bird. In his library there are some old books by (Carlos) Castaneda. As I finished my piano solo during the recording of the first track, the sharp sound of a bird calling came through the open window, and it was exactly as if Jobim was laughingly saying to me, ironically, "Hey, Sakamoto, that's my piano. Play it tenderly." When Paula Morelenbaum told this story to Jobim's widow Ana in New York, she got goose bumps. The piano that had been dead for 6 years had come back to life, and music filled the house again. Jobim's long-time servants all stopped their chores and pricked up their ears at the music. Jobim was one of the angels of the 20th century.
With the situation being like this, my emotions were on overload and my adrenaline was flowing non-stop. At night I just couldn't fall asleep. But that wasn't the only reason for my fatigue. Rio is a huge city of 8 million people. Yet throughout the city the are big, rocky mountains. On one of them, Corcovado, a giant statue of Jesus faces eastward, standing with arms outstretched. I'm just guessing, but gravity is stronger here, although I don't know whether gravity differs that much from place to place. Or, I might go so far as to say unscientifically that it feels very fertile. All the people and animals and insects and plants that are living here, contrary to this fertility, or perhaps receiving its benefits, have an extraordinarily high life energy. Even the cheap and plentiful fruits and vegetables have a high life energy. When people who normally live in a place like that come to where gravity is weaker, their bodies become extremely light and their activity increases. Come to think of it, it's the same as when Hoshi Hyuuma (Star-leaping Stallion) of Kyojin no Hoshi ("Star of Giants" manga series) puts on his "Major League Ball" training cast and afterward he has this amazing strength. Jaques Morelenbaum, when he's in Japan or Europe, moves like he's flying. But the same Jaques in Rio seems quiet. I'm sure that's normal for him in Rio.
Nine years ago the World Environment Conference was held in Rio and Jobim participated. There is no trash in the streets here, a huge difference from New York. Even on the 17 kilometers of beaches there is very little trash. I remember, from when I was first here 17 years ago, the sight of the cleaning people dressed in orange uniforms early in the morning. Lined up from side to side on the beach, they were slowly picking up trash. Brazil is indeed where Curitiba, the "Environmental Miracle City," is located. It's as if the towering mountains, pushing aside the clogged streets swollen with an ever-increasing population, are protecting Nature. Yet even now the deforestation of the Amazon continues. Jobim said at the time, "If God is letting 3 million trees get knocked down in the Amazon, then they must be getting reborn somewhere else. Undoubtedly, if there are monkeys in such a place there are also flowers, and clean water must be flowing. When I die, you know, that is where I'm going."
While we were recording, a tortoise suddenly appeared in the back yard of the Jobim house. The tortoise seemed to have a will as strong as that of the grandfather of someone I know who was born in the Meiji Period. I wonder if that was the reincarnation of Jobim's grandfather Asor, an agnostic!
Note 1: The release date for this CD has not been set yet. I hope it will be sometime this fall.
Note 2: The biography "Antonio Carlos Jobim" by Jobim's younger sister Helena's (Seido-sha) is a must-read. (Unfortunately, there is no English translation available at this time.)
reprinted from "SOTOKOTO" April 2001 Issue
© 2001 Ryuichi Sakamoto