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From the August 2001 issue
of World Press Review, (VOL. 48, No. 8)
(VOL. 48, No. 12)Overline Overline Overline
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Nascimento and Gil: Faith in Music
Juan Arias, El País
(liberal), Madrid, Spain, May 14, 2001
musician Milton Nascimento is as happy as a child with the latest
musical creature that, together with Gilberto Gil, hes given
birth to. The 15-song CD titled Gil & MiltonMilton
& Gil has been described by critics as historic. These two
national monuments in Brazilian culture have come together after
30 years during which the two singers admired each other from a
Gil performs in Brazil (Photo: Livio Campos)
It wasnt easy to get to Milton Nascimentos chalet, hidden
in Rio de Janeiros modern Barra de Tijuca neighborhood, a
place where ocean and forest meet. The brilliant Rio de Janeiro
autumn sun is setting, offering a marvelous view from the living
room. And at the entrance to the living room, you cant help
but notice the words of St. Augustine: As for me, I confess
that it seems quite natural to give myself completely to my friends
when Im tired of the worlds scandals.
Both men are of African descent, but everyone knows that Nascimento
(Rio de Janeiro, 1942) and Gil (Salvador, Bahia, 1942) are on the
opposite ends of the spectrum in their personalities and cultural
roots; Gil, sunny and exuberant, like Bahia. And Nascimento, reserved
and shy, deep and subterranean, like his native Minas Gerais, a
land rich in gold, diamonds, and the baroque.
Why did they decide to come together in this joint musical adventure?
I had already worked with thousands of artists from Brazil
and elsewhere. So why not with Gilsomeone I had always admired
so? Nascimento responds. One day, we were both returning
from Bahia to Rio and found ourselves on the same airplane. It was
a meeting of souls.
While we talked enthusiastically, we flew over a city magnificently
lit up by the sunset: It was Belo Horizonte. And the magical triangle
came together: Bahia, Minas, Rio. It was symbolic. I found out then
that Gil had once composed a song in my honor without my knowing.
He wasnt even sure he still had it. Back in Rio, the phone
rang and it was Gil, to tell me he had found the song. It was then
that my idea to do something together was sparked.
Gil asked him to come to Bahia. I had my doubts, Nascimento
comments, laughing, since Bahia is a place for resting, not
for working. But they worked together intensely for three
weeks and created the new CD. Youd think it might have been
difficult to agree on the selection of music they would both sign
their names to. But Nascimento says that wasnt the case: We
worked together in complete harmony, and the results emerged without
They began with Gils song Bom Dia, which had never
been recorded, and then Canção do Sal.
A mutual friend, Carlos Pitta, gave them the idea to trace a path
between Minas and Bahia with the music. And thats how Ponta
de Areia and Palco came to be. Their friend reminded
them that both had started out as children playing the accordion.
And they created Duas Sanfonas. Then Gil composed a
piece about a storm, and he asked Nascimento to compose the second
part, and thus Trovoada was created. And thats
how the CD, including five songs never before recorded, took shape.
Is there a musical difference between Gil and Nascimento? I
discovered there isnt. Just like there isnt between
us and Chico [Buarque] or [Caetano] Veloso. We may all seem different,
but were not. What we all are is: Brazil.
But the Brazil-ness of the great singers and composers of this country
has not prevented their music from being completely universal. Im
convinced, Nascimento reflects, that when music, or
any work of art, is born from the most human roots of an artist,
it ends up being understood and loved by everyone, because it responds
to what everyone feels inside.
As a good Brazilian, Nascimento does not hide his religious roots
and says that all genuine music is sacred. There came a timeId
been educated in Catholicism and I realized it wasnt enoughwhen
I wanted a broader religiousness. And he adds: In Brazil
we dont have preconceptions of religion, or of anything else.
I told Gil I wanted to do a song about St. Sebastian, my citys
patron saint, and the CD opens with that song. Of the strongly
religious and sensual accent of Brazilian music, Nascimento says:
The sacred element of music is fundamental....And the path
of music is what leads me home.
Will creative Brazilian music end with these musical giants, or
are there new generations ready to take their place? For the
love of God, says Nascimento, knocking on the wood of the
sofa, of course there areand brilliant ones. And
he talks about directing a radio program in Minas, when young anonymous
musicians sent him their compositions, surprising him with their
richness and originality.
How can it be that great Brazilian singers also tend to be great
poets who contradict the current trend that only pessimism is creative?
Music is poetry, Nascimento says, just as true poetry is music.
And as to whether only pessimism is capable of creating art, he
replies emphatically: If someday I lose my faith in humanity...I
wont be able to compose music anymore, Ill disappear.
This gentle, shy, and dearly loved Brazilian singer was once given
the highest praise: If God could sing, he would do it with
the voice of Milton Nascimento. I ask him what music God would
choose to sing in this world of globalization and widespread social
All music that translates feelings with sincerity is a daughter
to God, he says when the sun has disappeared and the dark
night has fallen like a curtain over his house, protected at the
entrance with a niche illuminated by the Virgin of Miracles. His
mother said about him before she died: You filled my days
with beauty and with reasons to live.