Raul de Souza
Brazilian premier trombonist
Raul de Souza
Raul De Souza is without a doubt
one of the greatest artists Brazil has produced ever.
His technique, creativity, and original style in which he plays his instrument (trombone) has taken him to over 50 countries around the world, where not only he enchanted the public and critics, but received dozens of prizes and distinctions, as the one of the citizen merit of Atlanta in the U.S.
Mr. Souza conversed with Mr. Samba
in november of 1995 in Rio de Janeiro.
Q - Raul, how do you view the Brazilian music presently?
A - Brazilian, in this sense, I'm not seeing anything. I see things that are similar with the Jamaican music, in the portuguese idiom, but with a jamacain rythm. And Rock. But the Samba, after the Bossa Nova, a modern Samba of the year 2000... Because the Bossa Nova came, stayed and then it was gone, and there wasn't anyone doing anything new, and that's what I'm seeing in Brasil presently.
Q - Why do you think this is?
A - Lack of support to the musician and to the composer, lack of an opportunity and a chance for the good composers to record things with a Brazilian musical sense. So they can represent Brazil. On the contrary, the media exploits the foreign rythms, with brazilian voices, in which, in most cases, didn't have the opportunityto work in a nightclub, or in a "gafieira", or in a taxi dancing, something that existed before, which gave a chance and origen to a singer, composer, and a musician which was exposed to playing all kinds of music. So somebody would leave this, and recorded an album, wich only few had the opportunity to do so, to record an album. But in my opinion, it gives a chance and the opportuinity of people to show a Brazilian oriented work.
Q - Why do you think the producers and the Brazilian recording industries don't invest and don't produce the brazilian artists who are making brazilian music?
A - I don't know if it's an American order, or of any other First-World countries, in the sense of eliminating the good things of a Third-World country. But in the other hand, I've been watching through the NET, which are new channels in the Brazilian television, and in the latin music, the puerto-rican, the mexican, have that music of their own origin, for both dancing and for shows. So it's not an order, it's something...about people being in the wrong places. A person who has some kind of value, and who could be a good producer, it's not in that place. And the one who hasn't got that same value, it's in the place of a producer. So what does he do? He puts the things that he thinks are good for him, on t.v. and in the radio, as if that's what's good for the public. So the public accepts anything that are of the worst quality. And with that, the Brazilian music have been ending. The Brazilian Music is going to end soon. We are gonna have music of any other part of the world, with the portuguese language, which is the Brazilian idiom, and not the Portuguese. But I've hoped that this would change someday.
Q - Do you think with this Internt movement, in which all the independent labels and artists are having the opportunity to show their work internationally, can help things to change?
A - It can change, Because it already is a big inniciative. There has to be someone pro-artists, because on the contrary it would end. Thank God there are people involved in this Internet thing, I'm only getting aqcuanited with it now, and believe that it will be wonderful. The future. I mean, the year 2000 is coming soon, and I believe things will change in different way. It's what I hope as well.
Q-How Many years have you been working as a professional musician?
A - It's been 41 years.
Q - Do you, being a brazilian artist, still dream?
A - Of course! Because I've already recorded 14 records and up until now nothing has happened. I mean, there are alot of people that enjoy good music, good solos, good interpretations, consequently my work has been admired, but they aren't the majority. Because the majority don't have the chance or the opportunity to know what a trombonist is, what sound is, what technique is, what the difficulty is, of studying... with the time, the person acquires his own style of playing. It's not only playing trombone. There has to be a style. Someone will hear ten trombone players, and will be able to know who is playing. Differenciate one from another. But what they are offering to me now, is a proposal to record a rap album, with a guy speaking something in portuguese, and me playing some solos with a flugelhorn and a sax. But what I want is to record an album with strings. Balads, something well written, very beautiful melodies, this to be played so the world can hear. But I'm realizing that this dream won't come true.
Q - What about your Symphony?
A - The only thing missing is to add the dynamics. For me it was a surprise, something that I recieved, it wasn't in my conscious, to write a symphony. But I wrote it.
Q - You are famous for being a big performer of Samba and Chorinho, was it like that how you started your career? How is your relation with the Samba?
A - The samba is always. The Samba doesn't stop. It's in the pulsation, it's in the blood.
Q - What would you say to the young generation, say the 15,16 year olds who are trying to be Brazilian musicians?
A - You got to insist. A lot of perseverance in their studies, technically improoving, and making a point in order to have opportunities of in getting groups together and play. Because only accompanying singers, they'll never be good musicians. They can turn to be good readers, but never virtuosos, someone who could stand out from the others, play music right, interpret it right, because a sing will never give the musician a chance. So by forming a quartet, or a quintet they'll have the chance that tomorrow they'll stand out. A month ago, I went to Brasilia to give a workshop for 59 brazilian trombone players. I was very surprised with the invitation. On that say it was the opening forThe Association for the Brazilian Trombonist. I did the workshop, then played at night. And I was very surprised after watching them play together at a church, being conducted by a man from Washington. It was very good. It started with four trombones and it ended with 59. And these guys, numerous of them, started to study the trombone because of me, for having listened to me play in the albums in which I've recorded, the majority in the United States. The last album recorded in Brazil was five years ago. Lots of them told me that.
Q - Who were your idols, or examples when you were a youngster aspiring to be a professional musician?
A - The first one that I heard play the "valvula" trombone, which was my instrument at first, was Leonel, who accompanied singers, and played Carnaval music, and played some interesting introductions, and another guy from Sao Paulo, I think his name was Salvador. After, Norato, Nelsinho, Astor. Manuel Araujo, and another one in which I met in Sao Paulo in '66, was Maciel. Edson Maciel. I thought the way he played was extraordinarily interesting, the way he interpreted. A very nice sound, with class different from all these others I mentioned before. Modern. He was a person who thought ahead of his time, and a good friend eventually.
Q - How come your known as Raul, considering your real name is Jo„o?
A - That happened way before I turned professional. When I met Pixinguinha, in Bangu, where I was born, he told to get away from Bangu and go to the city and look for the Continental recording studio, in Copacabana. And it was good, because I met Altamiro Carrilho, Canhoto, and had the opportunity to play, accompanying singers, in the Tupi radio station. I met Sivuca, at this time, and played in lots of amateurs competition shows, and like so I ended up in Ary Barroso's hands, which was the most complicated amateur talent show. It wasn't any one who scored a three or a five. I scored three fives. So I was expelled from the program. So the last time in which I scored a five he told me that the Joao thing for me wasn't working, that a trombone player named Joao wasn't fit. So he changed to Raulito. So after I changed to Raulzinho. Until now some people from the older crowds call me Raulzinho.
Q - How was Ary Barroso?
A - He was a fantastic guy. A critic. Besides being an amazing composer and pianist, he was very funny. There wasn't any funny business with him. He didn't care for not being too harsh. For him you're either a good singer, or you're not a good singer. So the people who weren't good didn't pass on his program, nor in the tests beforehand, so it was great. It was a party.
Q - And besides trombone players, who did you listen to, who touched you as a performer?
A - Lupicinio Rodrigues, Noel Rosa, Ary Barroso, who had an orchestra with great musicians...So at that time it worked like that, an amateur radio show, by a great pianist composer and who had an Orchestra...Now a days there isn't such a thing as an orchestra. I mean it's a shame! A city like Rio de Janeior not having an orchestra. If there is one is a Ball Orchestra, who are not a instrumental hit so to speak, they are musician who get together and play a little ball type thing. The majority are retired or formed in some kind of a Nilitary background, or in the Marines, or they are firemen, I mean something kind of surreal...Sao Paulo doesn't have an Orchestra as well. THe country has been on this phase for a while, poor. With excellent musicians but without a direction. It's a ship without a captain, do you know what I mean?
Q - Do you think the Military revolution in'64 had anything to do with that?
A - I think they finalized it. And it ended in a way in which who bosses around here in the American. Musically speaking. If it isn't American it's not worth anything. Including clothing. All the sayings on the t-shirts are in english. There are people who wear the t-shirts for the motive of wearing something to look at it backwards. Because a person who can barely speak or write his own idiom, how is it that he's gonna understand anything written in english? He'll buy because is something interesting. They are backwards letters, for someone who can't read english or french or any other langauge, it's turning into a country without roots. So it's difficult. If it was taken farther as a nation, the country would be in first rate, or tied with the japanese. In richness, values as well as culture. That's my view.
Q - What's your understanding of Brazil's future?
A - It's a country who hasn't got a future. The thing now is to fabricate people to play soccer, and sellthem to foreign countries. So soccer in Brazil, is presently its culture. A guy scores high and is immeadiatelly signed up by countries such as: England, France, Holland...
Q - Who are "good" now?
A - As far as singers, Emilio Santiago is an excellent one. As far as musicians, Bidinho who plays hte trumpet, an excellent musician, Proveta, a great calrinetist and composer, Alaor, a trumpet player from Sao Paulo...
Q - And what are they doing?
A - Accompannying singers. They play and introduction, a little solo in the middle, and that's basically it. So the musician is not allowed to have a musical evolution, they can't creat a style of their own. I think they should all get together and do a kind of a musical revolution. Start associations like the Trombonists one. Reorganize the union, because now a days no musicians recieve any royalty monies.
Q - Are you thinking of retiring?
A - Me? Not a chance...I'm here. I'm studying like crazy, writing my little arrangments, and I hope to travel to Eurpe and to the U.S. and Japan giving workshops and such.
Q - Thank you Raul, and I hope all your aspirations come true.
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