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Interview: Mika Kaurismaki - Moro No Brasil

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How did you learn Brazilian (Portuguese)?

Well, you have to. I knew some Italian and when I started going there I spoke Italian and they understood me a little bit. Then I would learn a new word in Brazilian and I would add that word. Actually, Italian and Portuguese are similar. I still don’t speak perfectly, but I do speak fluently.

So, do you live in Rio now?

No, I just moved to Salvador, in April or May. My wife is from Salvador. For the last few years I’ve moved between Rio and Salvador.

So you have your own translator. What is Bahia like?

It has a different rhythm of life. For the last ten years, Salvador played very commercial music, so the native music suffered – but now, it’s coming back. Of course, it’s because the music is so rich.

What kind of music do people listen to in Brazil?

Mostly to commercial music. Although people like choro and samba, you don’t hear so much of it because you have to pay. In radio, you have to pay to have your songs played. It’s like anywhere in the commercial world, in the States, even in Finland. You have to pay. Samba and choro, the national music, isn’t played on the radio, you hear it on the streets.

What kind of commercial music do they play?

Brazilian commercial music, pop music, romantic ballads, lambada, calypso. A lot of it is overly romantic and sentimental. And now there’s a new group mixing lambada and other music, they call it calypso. There’s some foreign music, but Brazil is one of the few countries in the world where 70% of what they play is national music. That doesn’t mean that 70% of what they play is good.

After Moro No Brazil, you made another film.

It’s a continuation, there’s one music style that I really like [choro] and I wanted to add it to Moro No Brazil, but I realized that it doesn’t really fit. So I decided to make another film about it. And then, somebody saw Moro No Brazil and asked why I didn’t have choro in it. I told him that I love choro, but you have to make another film about it. So the guy said, OK, let’s do it. The guy produced the film

That film is Brasileirinho (Little Brazilian). When I went to Brazil, I didn‘t realize that choro is actually older than samba. It’s like the basics, the school, the first urban music. In my film, you see when they start mixing European melodies and African rhythms and the melancholy of the Indians It’s a very mixed music.

Who would you recommend someone not familiar with Brazilian music listen to?

(laughter) Well, if I had to pick, it would be Carlinhos Brown. He’s from Salvador – a friend of mine. He really mixes pop and popular music with traditional music.

Are you going to make any more films about Brazilian music.

(more laughter) I’m finished.

I did another film – my third one – part of it is shot in Brazil. I made it with Billy Cobham. Although I made the film with him, it’s not about him but about his project and about what rhythm and music mean in different situations in life – it’s called Sonic Mirror.

When is Sonic Mirror going to come out?

I hope soon – I’m going to mix it in July.

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