VIDEO PREMIERE: BEN LAMAR GAY’S “A SAIDA” FROM CARNAVAL
By Piotr Orlov
February 27, 2019
Chicago bluesman Ben LaMar Gay may be a cornerstone of the Windy City’s great improvisational scene, but he’s also spent a lot of time in Rio de Janeiro, and is wise to the ways of the carioca. Which is why when his friends Ben Holman and Neirin Jones decided to make a documentary, This is Bate Bola, about the costume-dress carnival tradition of the Rio neighborhood, Guadalupe, BLG was a natural to create the film’s score. Some of this music is a wash of symphonic electronic sounds. And some of it, like “A saida,” is BLG’s noisy take on baile funk, the party music of the city’s favelas. Featuring a vocal by Flavio dos Prazeres and accompanied by a gorgeous, Holman-Jones-directed video (based on footage from This is Bate Bola), “A saida” (“exit” in Portuguese) is all thorny electronic tones and drum machines, which fits Flavio’s delivery — less rap than football chant — perfectly.
On the occasion of the video and music premiere, AFROPUNK sent Ben LaMar Gay a few questions about his relationship to Brazil, to Rio’s Carnaval and to the film, and here’s what he had to tell us.
You were born and raised in Chicago. How did you develop a relationship to Brazil and to its music?
My relationship with Brasil started on the southside of Chicago, like everything else real to me. The natural synthesis that occurred in my household between my father’s foreign vinyl sounds, mother’s Mahalia-esque improvised melodies, Prince’s groove on “Tambourine” rumbling out of my brother’s room, NWA’s “Dopeman” bleeding from my headphones, and the cackle of my younger sister erupting from me being put in check by my moms. These were the early sound-appreciation sessions. The sound of Brasil was just a part of those family sessions. To grasp a real angle on a multitude of perspectives, one has to bounce. Brasil became my first portal to the world outside of one perspective. There have been many portals since then. At times you can hear the sound of these portals proudly surfacing in the music. This is the pulsating memory of actual people I know, love and miss. The “sucka” ear would say, “oh isn’t that the rhythm from blah blah blah?” And I am like, “Nah sucka MC. That’s the sound of my friend Janaina drinking an água de coco and laughing at my gringo clumsiness.”
Tell me about “A saida” and how it fits into the film.
“A Saída” translates to “The Exit.” This is the moment in the documentary when the “Melhor Que Tem” crew displays the magic they’ve been working on creating all year. The lyrics were written and performed by a great friend, Flavio dos Prazeres, who’s the grandson of the great Rio renaissance man, Heitor dos Prazeres. In the song Flavio is basically providing a “saída,” or exit, from negative outside perspectives of what a particular community consists of. He delivers simple phrases of positive reflection of his community, similar to the light his grandfather would shine upon his beloved Carioca. Flavio’s swing is more aggressive because Rio de Janeiro is much louder than it was in the ’40s. Musically, on my end, with my admiration of juba dances and bottle trees, I’m providing a memory of what I heard in the distance on my walk home every weekend night: 10 bailes [parties] simultaneously rocking and echoing through the hills of Rio de Janeiro.
What’s your greatest Carnaval memory?
I’m still living inside of my greatest Carnaval memory.