Original art of the inner core of Fa-Tal-Gal a Todo Vapor
Original art from the inner core of "Fa-Tal: Gal a Todo Vapor". Photo: Publicity / Philips

Brazilians with a minimum of political conscience and a sense of respect for free will dedicated the last Tuesday* (31.3.2014) to, exactly 50 years later, honoring the memory of the victims of the 1964 civil-military coup and repudiating the dark legacy 21 years of dictatorship. Research announced today by R-18, the largest social database in Latin America, revealed: between March 31 and April 1, 46 million users addressed the issue on social networks. Nothing could be more fair, and I hope that number grows, year after year. After all, the dictatorship triggered by the coup that deposed President João Goulart was the darkest chapter in the country's recent history. Under the aegis of five marshals and generals, not only were the political opponents of the regime tortured, killed, exiled or subjected to clandestinity, but also the protagonists of various cultural expressions in the country, who sought to express, in their works and in their citizen activism , resistance and repudiation of the regime.

In these 21 years of obscurantism, it would be undignified to minimize the disastrous impact of the dictatorship on the lives of Brazilians, but in the last days of 1968 - the year in which a good part of the world's youth rose up against the oppression of behavioral and political values ​​- there was a dividing point, that raised the arbitrary power of the military to the height of barbarism. With the decree of Institutional Act No. 5, on December 13 of that year, the military closed Congress, hunted for mandates, suspended political rights and intensified the current censorship and the practice of torture, creating a growing atmosphere of terror in the country.

It was in this nefarious context that, two days after Christmas 1968, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were arrested in Salvador. Imprisoned for two months, the composers, who had just recently symbolically buried Tropicália in the television program Divine, Wonderful, precisely because of the awareness that they were flirting with danger, they were forced to leave the country and leave, in July of that year, for exile in London, where they lived for two years.

But it wasn't just them who left. Among thousands of ordinary Brazilians, other stars of the nascent MPB also had to hit the road. Shortly after, among others, Chico Buarque went to Italy, Nara Leão to France and Edu Lobo to the United States. Those who stayed here, in order to deal with censorship without running the risk of being the next exile or guinea pig of all kinds of torture, had to reinvent themselves.

Speculation about the atrocities of the period said, for example, that Geraldo Vandré was brainwashed and emasculated (he had his testicles removed), but he himself denies the grotesque assumption and even the hypothesis that he was tortured. True or not, after his arrest and exile in 1968, what was unquestionable was the total seclusion and productive hiatus of the composer of the protest hymn Not to Say I Didn't Talk About Flowers.

In this context of declared war, in which everyone had a common enemy, the dictatorship, then endowed with the superpowers of the AI-5, there were also those who counted on the notorious stupidity of the censors. Chico, for example, who wrote strong lyrics, such as despite you e Will pass, went so far as to create a character, the sambista Julinho da Adelaide, and, camouflaged under his pseudonym, register the pearl Jorge Maravilha, whose chorus sent a loud and insolent message to General Ernesto Geisel: “You don't like me / But your daughter does”. In the same context, Paulo César Pinheiro and Maurício Tapajós composed Nightmare, recorded by MPB-4 on the 1972 album with the suggestive title scars, which contained, among other insults, phrases such as: “You cut a verse / I write another / You arrest me alive / I escape dead”.

Fa-tal - Gal a Todo Vapor LP cover.
Cover of the LP “Fa-tal – Gal a Todo Vapor”. Photo: Publicity / Philips

But there were also those who created and defended works of extreme lyricism based on coded and subjective messages, especially young composers and lyricists who were beginning to defend their repertoires, such as Luiz Melodia, fellow countryman Jards Macalé and Waly Salomão, a Bahian poet linked to the tropicalist troupe. In this dark period, in which continuing the artistic trajectory required opening real trenches, Waly (then under the codename Waly Sailormoon) directed one of the most symbolic shows for us today to measure the terror of the Medici era.

In November 1971, under the baton of Waly, Gal Costa took the stage at the Teresa Raquel Theater to start the show. Fa-Tal: Gal at full steam. Comprised of 19 songs, the show was split into two parts; an acoustic one, with Gal and the guitar in the foreground; another, much more energetic, conducted by the Lanny Trio, a sound plant formed by the tropicalist guitar hero Lanny Gordin, the drummer Jorginho Gomes, brother of Pepeu, Baixinho, also from Novos Baianos, on the tuba, in addition to the bassist Novelli.

The title of an article by Teresa Gomes published in the magazine Breakwhen the show premiered, it summarizes the experience: “Gal Dá Um Show a Todo Vapor”. The content of the text, however, is visibly compromised to avoid the gag of censorship. What was an urgent cry against the atmosphere of terror established in the country was treated by Teresa as a lament for the end of the counterculture – which was even withering, but, as we will see, Gal's target was another.

“Gal Costa is at the Teresa Raquel Theater, in Rio, in a show where she sings, a little bitterly, that the hippie dream is over, that underground culture has gone bankrupt”, says the eye of the report, which soon after traces a profile of the public: “ A large mass of the audience was formed by crazy young people, with their exotic clothes, huge hair, necklaces, rings…”.

In Gal's dressing room, Teresa tried to delve deeper into the “decline of the udigrudi era” agenda, but was unsuccessful: “I'm not an underground singer. I am a singer and nothing more… What I am is what I absorb from life. I'm neither from the underground nor from the establishment!”, stated Gal, who also gave the Break a prophetic clue “The orientation of this show is the renewal of the repertoire”.

One of the show's strengths, the selection of songs by Fatal gathered gems of the old guard, like False Bahia, by Geraldo Pereira, Antonic, by Ismael Silva, and Gogoia fruit, a traditional theme of Bahian folklore, alongside instant classics from Gal's friends, such as take a ride, by Moraes Moreira and Luiz Galvão, from Novos Baianos, like 2 and 2, by Caetano, and Charles Angel 45, by Jorge Ben.

The historic series of shows also has the merit of having been decisive in consolidating the names of Luiz Melodia, by revealing the exquisite Black Pearl, Jards Macalé, Duda Machado and Waly Salomão, who wrote two poignant portraits of that early decade, Hotel of the Stars (Lyrics by Duda) and cheap steam (Wally's lyrics). The verses reproduced below make it clear that Gal's target was not exactly the twilight of the counterculture.

“Over an abandoned courtyard / Prophets in the corridors / Dead under the Stairs / Deep in the chest, this fruit rotting with every bite”
Excerpt from Hotel of the Stars

"Oh yes, I'm so tired / But not to say I'm leaving / Maybe I'll come back, one day I'll be back / But I want to forget you, I need to / Oh my big, oh my little, oh my big obsession"
Excerpt from cheap steam

With this combative lyricism, which dealt with the pains of permanence and exile as temporary impossibilities of a subjective love relationship, the love for our country, shortly after, not by chance, Waly was arrested for possessing a marijuana cigarette and bitter for months. in prison in the extinct Carandiru penitentiary complex, in São Paulo. An experience that only made his poetics even more incisive and mature. In the solitude of his cell, Waly wrote, still under the corruption of Sailormoon, the classic Hold Me I'll Give A Thing, published in 1972 by José Álvaro Editor.

In May 1972, months after ending the season of Fatal, Gal gave an extensive interview to the magazine the cable car, in an informal chat with reporter Myltinho Severiano. The pla, to use the slang of the time, dealt with her childhood in Bahia, her enormous desire to be a mother (a wish she never fulfilled), her reunion with her guru João Gilberto and the meaning of her stay in Brazil, when she could have the luxury of living much milder days in another country or continent. The argument comes as a chronological puzzle, starting from a key episode for Tropicália, which took place on November 13, 1968, exactly one month before AI-5 was enacted.

“I sang Divine Wonderful at the Record Festival. Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil announced and the boos began. I went in and the boo doubled. I saw the anger and I understood. When I walked to the front of the stage, the people who were booing ended up clapping. I remember there was a girl booing me and I got so angry that I looked at her and sang: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have to be alert and strong!' I went straight for her eye, with such violence that the girl stopped and sat down in her chair. It was a very strong event for me. A real thing. Then came the arrest of Caetano and Gil (six months later, exile) and I put on my show thinking about them. I couldn't do anything. What I could do was scream and sing. So I sang for them. I sang with them in mind, I sang in a very violent way. It was like I was fighting for them. I was there, along with them. It was what I could do: sing, sing, sing.”

As a result of the success of Fatal: Gal at full steam, in December 1971, out of the box, Philips decided to turn the show's records into a double album. With a bold graphic project, by Luciano Figueiredo and Oscar Ramos based on photos by Edison Santos and filmmaker Ivan Cardoso, of course, the two LPs have technical precariousness. A characteristic problem of a period when the phonographic industry in the country still did not have the experience and technology to perform live recordings with high fidelity.

But that demerit doesn't make the slightest difference. Forty-two years later, the two cookies still make the heart beat, the voice choke and the tears fall. It's like an improbable time tunnel, which takes us back, through the musicians and Gal's voice, to the deep torpor past that we would love to be able to rewrite.

As Gal's mother told Teresa, the reporter who went to approach the singer in her dressing room at the premiere of Fatal: “Gracinha gives life to the songs she sings! Is she not my daughter?!”

Truth without lies, right, very true, would say his friend Jorge Ben, Dona Maria.

Text Originally published on the website of the Brazilian magazine, in the column Quintessence, on 3.4.2014

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