I didn’t know much about São Paulo apart from the fact that it is massive. A six-hour bus ride from Rio, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Massive? Yes, for sure, but at the same time manageable, clean, and quite charming. Admittedly, what we saw was a small fraction of one of the world’s largest megacities. We cannot apprehend what life is like in one of the numerous favelas. Judging Sampa (as the locals call it) from visiting Pinheiros, Vila Madalena, and Butantã might be as accurate as judging Vienna based on your experiences between Stephansdom, Schottentor, and Volkstheater. Compared to Rio, the rivalling big sister is somewhat more behaved: less honking, fewer homeless people, less litter, usable sidewalks. It is said that São Paulo is envious of Rio’s natural beauty, sensuality, and joi de vivre. This is not to say, however, that Sampa is boring – far from it! It is an urban, multi-layered anthill brimming with people, music, street art, and culinary delights.
Sunday. Parque Ibirapuera. The vibes are reminiscent of Central Park, New York. Everybody is cycling, running, playing ballgames, hanging out. We meet composer Valeria Bonafé and musician Rogerio Costa – both university teachers and well connected to the international bubble of contemporary music composers, performers, and improvisers. Our kids play some football while we discuss the plan for the upcoming classes and concerts.
Both the amount and the diversity of music we experienced in our time in São Paulo was staggering. Anna got to work with a bunch of highly motivated students and tried their compositions or improvisation instructions, she joined the university choro band for a session on campus as well as a rehearsal with the infamous Orquestra Errante, an ensemble specialized in contemporary improvised music. If you have not heard of choro – this is the Brazilian style of jazz that typically features different types of guitars, flutes, clarinets and a wide range of percussion instruments. To get the vibes, check out the video below.