Tuesday, 10 January 2012

While Noise Noise Noise Noise Muito Noise (Pernambuco Gypsy et al, Caravan Press, 2011) has become the established work on the subject of the deafening bloody racket that is an essential part of life in modern Brazil, a number of recent developments make a further study of the topic worthwhile.

To begin, while there are many that believe the growth of the Brazilian economy is a good thing, in that it has, in theory at least, reduced poverty, meant that hundreds of thousands of Brazilians no longer go to bed hungry, and allowed increased social mobility for members of social classes C and D, Your Life Is An Impossibility does not agree. As far as YLIAI can see, the only real consequence of the improved financial status of millions of Brazilians is that every bastard in the country, glorious or otherwise, can now afford to pack their jalopies with several thousand watts worth of amplifiers, tweeters, woofers, sub woofers and super woofers. In Goiania that can only mean one thing – the blasting of weepingly awful musica sertaneja at teeth rattling, window shattering volumes, 24 hours a day. Ordem e progresso this is defiantly not.

The experience of co-habiting with Francis Begbie has provided further insight into the troubling relationship between Brazil and din. Francis Begbie is Brazilian. Francis Begbie likes to watch television. Which means YLIAI also has to like to watch television. Which is fine, except that Brazilian television is very loud. The choice of programming includes:

Sub Ant and Dec style entertainment shows, which almost always involve drag queens, midgets (chucked or otherwise), a bellowing presenter, a screaming audience and a continuous, terrible musical assault upon the ears (O Melhor Do Brasil is a fine example);

Films, generally sired by Hollywood, almost always of the action genre. Nicholas Cage, Steven Seagal and The Rock appear a great deal on Brazilian television. YLIAI imagines TV Globo executives in their content acquisition meetings, running a finger down their list of essential requirements. Deafening explosion every 30 seconds? Check! 15 tyre-squealing car chases per film? Check! Repeated use of machine gun fire? Check!

Even that staple of Brazilian television, the novela, is no exception. Aside from the endless swooping violins that tell the audience whether a scene is intended to be (a) dramatic, (b) sad, or (c) happy, there will be at least two or three characters in the novela who spend most of their time shouting, presumably for theatrical effect (Tereza Cristina in Fina Estampa is the current leader of the pack). They are, for some reason, usually the villains, which is perhaps in itself a lesson: happy people don’t shout.

YLIAI wonders what the effect of all this noise is. To be sure, it is part of that admirably vibrant, chaotic Brazilian oral culture, where everyone talks all the time, and when they talk at the same time they talk over each other, and barroom arguments are won by whoever can shout the loudest for the longest. This is not such a bad thing, really, though it can often feel like it to sensitive gringo ears.

But maybe there is a negative side too. For in the midst of such a cacophony it is hard not to feel as though someone with rather rough hands and unmanicured nails is squeezing very hard on the sides of your head. As the sertaneja and the novelas and the Michel Telós (and wherever you are in the world, prepare yourself, because it’s coming your way soon, if it hasn’t already) and the explosions and the machine gun fire and the squealing tyres and the screaming audience and the bellowing presenter all rage around YLIAI, it strikes him that of all the corners of God’s, or Bono’s (whoever’s winning these days) garden, this might not be the best spot for introspection, profound thinking, philosophical study or the writing of great works of literature.

Maybe it’s not everywhere. Maybe it's just YLIAI’s current flat in the not entirely salubrious surroundings of Vila Nova, Goiania. Rivers of seemingly formless conversation and a selection of odd knocking noises rumble down from the apartment upstairs. Packs of wild dogs howl in the street. A car roars past every 2-5 seconds. The electric gate leading into the garage whirrs open and clangs shut, whirrs open and clangs shut. Francis Begbie turns on the television.

YLIAI puts his hands over his face and opens his mouth wide in a long, silent scream.       

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