Celebrating Brazilian Vibrancy at Vida Brasiliera

8 October 2023

On the bank of Amsterdam’s IJ river, the giant SS Rotterdam moored outside, a carnival of tropical vibes unfolded on a serene October afternoon.

The event dubbed “Vida Brasileira” a voyage into the lush, vibrant, and rhythmic culture of Brazil.

Held at my home venue, Muziekgebouw, on October 7, 2023, from 14:15 to 16:30, with a brief interlude at 15:35, the event was a rich tapestry of Brazilian sounds, resplendent with live palm trees accentuating the tropical ambiance across two uniquely themed stages. I quite enjoyed schlepping live palm trees from our loading dock onto the stages. Now I kinda wonder why we don’t feature plants on stage more often.

The larger, main stage, exuded a touch of formality yet was swathed in tropical aesthetics, while the foyer stage offered an intimate setting for a more close-knit interaction between the performers and the attendees. As the melodies resonated through the hall, attendees were invited to linger post-concert, as the foyer transformed into a mini-carnival with cocktails and live music, ensuring the rhythms of Brazil continued to pulsate through the night. However, the latter is acoustically quite a challenge. Not only is the space drowning in reverb, the audience is often quite chatty, at times drowning out the music. Quite the opposite from our Grote Zaal.

The ensemble was carefully curated, bringing the effervescence of Brazilian music to the fore. The program featured classics such as Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas No. 5, Egberto Gismonti’s Água e Vinho, and Zeca Pagodinho’s Sambou Sambou, alongside works from Lucas Santana, Heitor Pereira, Dorival Caymmi among others.

The concert was not merely a passive experience but a collaborative venture. Under the meticulous direction of Johan van Iersel, a maestro with a cello, and the vibrant leadership of Breno Virícimo on guitar, they along with Laura Polence lending her voice and piano chords, created an ephemeral bridge between the cultures of Brazil and the Netherlands. Olaiá Music, accompanied by musicians from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, wove a rich sonic narrative that immersed the audience in a journey through the heart of Brazil’s musical tradition.

Michael Gieler, the artistic leader of IJ-Salon, extolled the virtues of Olaiá Music, as a “source of joy and captivating musicianship” over the years. He encouraged attendees not just to watch the countless videos online but to experience firsthand the exhilarating live performance, as the musicians create an ambiance akin to a lively Brazilian festa.