Though growing up in a bicultural family had a few drawbacks, such as the identity crisis I often felt when people asked me where I was from (try moving as often as I did and you don’t even know what your hometown is) and the irreconcilable cultural differences that – among other things – would ultimately drive my parents apart, I must say that it was an overall positive experience, especially when it comes to music.
While I was growing up, music was often played around the house. I recall that my father was a big straight-ahead jazz fan and had all those LPs by the likes of Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Shelly Manne and Oscar Peterson. But there was plenty of Brazilian music favored by my mother – records that included Elizeth Cardoso, Joao Gilberto (The famed Getz/Gilberto LP), Jobim, Chico Buarque and Maria Bethania – all artists whose records are now part of my personal collection.
When on vacation in Fortaleza, Brazil, I listened to many of my aunts and cousins’ records, but the only ones I really remember are my aunt’s Roberto Carlos collection. But I do recall my Brazilian grandfather’s old LPs (even in the 1970s) and 78 RPM records by samba singer Aracy de Almeida – some of which ultimately came to my hands and that were donated to Fortaleza’s Museum of Image and Sound, where they are currently preserved (they recorded them so visitors can enjoy the music without damaging the very breakable shellac discs). http://www.secult.ce.gov.br/equipamentos-culturais/museu-da-imagem-e-do-som/museu-da-imagem-e-do-som
Since I was mostly raised as an only child (my sister only came along 11 years later), I didn’t have much chance to listen to ‘children’s’ music – my father had no patience for that, but my mom did get me a few discs – I remember LPs from both the American and Brazilian Sesame Street soundtracks, whose songs came back to me recently via YouTube clips that I came across in recent months.
Listening to that music through the ears of an adult, I must say that Brazil’s songs for kids were much more sophisticated than their American counterparts. Sure, there were memorable songs like “It’s Not That Easy Being Green” or “Pure Imagination,” but for every one of those there are countless others that are just silly – both lyric and music-wise.
When Globo TV created its version of Sesame Street, they commissioned no other than bossa-era icon Marcos Valle, who came up with many of the songs on the soundtrack, such as “Eu Sou o Funga Funga” (Brazil’s take on Aloysius Snuffleupagus) and the opening theme, whose lyrics were quite advanced for your average infant: Todo dia é dia/toda hora é hora, de saber que esse mundo é seu/se você for amigo e companheiro, com alegria e imaginação/vivendo e sorrindo/criando e rindo/será muito feliz e todos/serão tambem (every day and hour is the time to know that this is your world/if you are a true friend with happiness and imagination/living and smiling, creating and laughing, you will be happy and others will too).
Years later, Globo created Sitio do Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Ranch) a children’s soap opera based on the books of revered writer Monteiro Lobato. For the opening theme, they hired Tropicalia co-creator Gilberto Gil, who wrote a beloved tune that he still performs in his live show.
Listening to those songs today, one notice that while the lyrics are intended for kids, the music is not – the arrangements are quite sophisticated and highly musical – which, in my opinion, makes them timeless and enjoyable to anyone… even if you’re way past the age of watching Sesame Street