Saturday, March 16, 2013

Embraer's US Air Force Contract Temporarily Suspended

In yet another bizarre development in the ongoing saga of Beechcraft vs. Embraer, the US company filed a lawsuit resulting in a bid protest by the US Government Accountability Office. Full details are available in this article from Forbes.

The bid protest led to a temporary suspension of Embraer's contract with the US Air Force.

Among other charges, Beechcraft alleges that the Embraer contract would result in the loss of US jobs, even though the Embraer Super Tucanos are scheduled to be produced in Jacksonville, Florida, presumably by US citizens. 

Beechcraft also claims that the Embraer contract would cost "40% more – over $125 million more – for....less capable aircraft."

The story illustrates the complexities involved in big contracts like this. After the Embraer contract was announced, Brazilian officials let it be known that it could improve the chances that US-based Boeing would win a $4 billion contract with the Brazilian Air Force.  

Of course, that's small comfort to Beechcraft. Stay tuned.

Sources: Brazil Portal, Forbes

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An MPB Playlist for New Listeners

A friend was over the other day and I had Brazilian music playing. She liked it very much and asked if I'd put together a playlist for her. I wasn't exactly sure what to include, because this is someone who is completely unfamiliar with most Brazilian music, so I didn't want to include anything that would be too extreme for a beginner. 

I also decided not to include anything by the great masters like Tom Jobim, Elis Regina, or João Gilberto, not because I don't love their music, but because I wanted to put together a list that includes music that is less well-known in the US. I did open with a track by Carmen Miranda, as a tribute to the roots of MPB and because it's a really good song, and I closed with Beth Carvalho's "Vou Festejar," so the list is bookended by songs with a classic Brazilian sound. 

Here's what I ended up with:

1. Carmen Miranda - "Disseram Que Eu Voltei Americanisada"
2. Los Hermanos - "Todo Carnaval Tem Seu Fim"
3. Tiê - "Só Sei Dançar Com Você"
4. Marisa Monte - "Depois"
5. Marcelo Jeneci - "Jardim do Éden"
6. Lô Borges - "O Trem Azul"
7. Tiê - "Para Alegrar O Meu Dia"
8. Titãs - "Epitáfio"
9. Los Hermanos - "Anna Júlia"
10. Thiago Pethit - "Mapa Mundi"
11. André Abujamra - "Elevador"
12. Hyldon - "Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda (Casinha De Sapê)
13. Raul Seixas - "Dentadura Postica"
14. Jorge Ben - "Chove Chuva"
15. Nara Leão - "Lindonéia"
16. Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil - "Três Caravelas"
17. Cartola - "Preciso Me Encontrar"
18. Cartola - "Alvorada"
19. Nando Reis - "No Seus Olhos"
20. João Bosco - "Kid Cavaquinho"
21. João Bosco - "O Mestre-Sal Dos Mares"
22. Tim Maia - "No Caminho Do Bem"
23. Beth Carvalho - "Vou Festejar"

So what do you think? Did I leave out anything that should be included on a playlist for newcomers to Brazilian music?

Dom La Nena: "Ela"

When I found Dom La Nena's debut album "Ela" on my list of Amazon recommendations, I had to check it out, so I found it on Spotify and have been listening to it for the past several days. I was immediately captivated by this fascinating and engaging CD. It's acoustic, unadorned, intimate, ethereal music with influences including chamber music, folk, and cabaret. It's hard to assign a particular genre to this music, but folk-pop may be as good as any label. I guess that's part of Dom La Nena's  appeal: her music defies simple categorization because it's not really quite like anything else. 

What you hear is a voice that's delicate and almost wistful, without any affectation and beautiful in its tone and clarity. On "Ela," she is accompanied by her cello, guitars, the piano, and several other instruments, not all of them present on each song. In fact, some of the songs are so sparing in their instrumental backing that they almost give the impression of having been sung a cappella. She also has vocal collaborators on several tracks, adding to the variety and interest of the album.

The songs are mostly low-keyed and reflective, without being somber or depressing. The album is not as relentlessly upbeat or fast-paced as some Brazilian music, proving once again that the phrase "Brazilian music" means much more than the stereotypes than many North Americans associate with it. This is not samba, it's not bossa nova, it's not sertanejo, and while I suppose it's technically "MPB," its truly distinctive sound makes it unique.

I do find that I'm often reminded of two other very talented Brazilian singers when I listen to Dom La Nena: they are Tiê and Thiago Pethit, both of whom have a similar musical esthetic. In fact, Pethit sings with her on track 8 of the CD, entitled "Buenos Aires":

You can find out more about Dom La Nena and sample her music at her excellent website, which is available in Portuguese, English, and French. 

So how good is this CD? Well, it is the sort of music that's not only immediately appealing, but actually gets better with repeated listenings, which I believe makes it something of an instant classic.

The album is available as a CD from Amazon, as a digital download from Amazon and iTunes, and also on Spotify.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Argentinian Cardinal Chosen As Next Pope

While there had been some speculation that the next Pope might be Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, he was not selected. Instead, the conclave chose Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who becomes the first South American to serve as spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church. 

According to an article in the New York Times, he "is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years."

The selection of a South American Pope may signal a realization among the cardinals that it's time for a change of direction. Or it may have been a political decision, driven by the reality that the Church has proportionately more members in South America, Africa, and Asia than it does in Europe.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dilma Mourns Death of Chávez, But Distances Herself From His Policies

According to an article in MercoPress, Dilma was deeply upset by the death of Hugo Chávez. She shares Chávez's compassion for the poor, but also went to some lengths to distance her government from some of Chávez's more controversial positions. 

Compared to Venezuela under Chávez, Brazil has been more friendly to private business and has been far less confrontational in its foreign policy, particularly in its relations with the US. Chávez had openly taunted and defied the US government and his death was met with a muted response from President Obama.

Dilma and former President Lula both flew to Caracas to pay their respects to President Chávez, but they left before an official funeral ceremony on Friday. The speculation is that they didn't want to be present when Iran's President Ahmadinejad arrived. 

Source: Brazil Portal, MercoPress

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You've GOT To Read This!

Tom, of, has written a great new post about two apartment towers in Rio de Janeiro, one of which is inhabited, while the other was never finished and has been unoccupied for over 40 years. 

Tom's post includes all the details, as well as photos, plans, advertisements, and links to a great website which gives even more information. 

Tom's posts are always informative and fun to read, but this is one that you really don't want to miss.