Tuesday, September 16, 2008

California Brazil Camp 2008

This summer Miguel and I had the chance to immerse ourselves—I’m talking deep, Baptismal immersion—into the musical soul of Brazil. We didn’t go to Brazil, though. Actually, there’s no place like this anywhere in Brazil… or the world. Only in this very special campsite nestled in the shade of ancient Redwoods in Cazaderos, California. What is it? BRAZIL CAMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I struggle to explain this mystical place. For someone who is as in love with Brazilian music and culture as I am, it was the next best thing (maybe even better than) going to Brazil. There are none of the illusion-crushing realities of Brazil’s social troubles—only beautiful Brazilian energy, the country’s best musicians as accessible as your favorite relatives, generous and patient in sharing their knowledge with anyone with the desire to learn. For the 200 or so American Brazilophiles who show up each week of camp, it’s like dying and going to heaven!

Imagine… you dance and play music from 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the morning! I never regretted more my body’s necessity for rest. Caixa rolls, tamborim accents, surdos keeping time… all day long these sounds blend with the wind and the birds. There were Choro ensembles led by the legendary Mike Marshall and Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro (below). Baterias for beginners and advanced players led by the likes of Jorge Alabe. Michael Spiro’s Bata Ketu class, which combined Afro-Cuban rhythms and Brazilian rhythms into a mind-blowing sonic shower of syncopation! My personal favorite was the Advanced Guitar ensemble with Chico Pinheiro (above right)… adjectives can’t even approach this guitarist from Sao Paulo who has played with everyone, including my musical heroine, Rosa Passos! At night, there were bonfires next to the jazz tent and underneath a trillion stars. It was hard to pull yourself away to check out the pagode jam sessions, where there was dancing and Bola was inevitably cooking delicious barbequed meat and vegetables.

Ja sinto MUITAS saudades do Brazil Camp! Geral tem que ir em 2009!!!!!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Banda Larga and Bandinha

Gilberto Gil is beautiful! One of Brazil’s great songwriters and cultural icons, macrobiotic, yogi, poet, revolutionary imprisoned and exiled under the military dictatorship in the ‘70s… Now he is cultural minister within Lula’s very progressive, inspired administration. To meet him in person was a privilege beyond measure!

Ann Arbor, MI was the first stop on Gil’s US tour with his group Banda Larga (or, “Broadband”). His flight from Spain was delayed, and so he showed up at the Ann Arbor public library about half an hour into the panel discussion on digital technology and new paradigms for intellectual copyright (or “copyleft”). Gil says that laws that should exist to facilitate artist compensation are too often focused primarily on stifling the free exchange of content among fans. He's a strong advocate of Creative Commons, a nonprofit that provides new copyright language that millions of artists are using to register their works with some (as opposed to “all”) rights reserved.

Listening to Gil’s “digital age” concert in Michigan and the next day in Chicago, I started to draw a Tiny Band/Banda Larga connection.  Tiny Band wouldn’t exist without the internet… great sites like Loronix and Um Que Tenha have provided an endless supply of musical material for our repertoire. When I think of how quickly we’ve developed this musicality in Brazilian styles, I can’t help but be amazed. Never in history was it possible that music-lovers a hemisphere away could delve so deeply into the musical heritage of another culture… without even leaving home!

Then I think of Youtube. Mercedes was the first to make her mark there, and by now we’ve all done our share of performing for the icam. How many transglobal musical collaborations have resulted, with people we’ve never even met in person!

In my mind, the warm, inviting nature of Brazilian musical culture in general, speaks to a universal impulse towards meaningful human connection. Tiny Band is part of the cultural force of artists that are humanizing technology through spontaneous transmission of our musical values—fun, inclusiveness, genre-bending, sharing. And in this age, where differences can be divisive, and technology can isolate us, that's pretty cool.

Brazilian music, more than any other music I know of, lends itself to an interplay that satisfies insiders AND outsiders (i.e. those who know the repertoire and those who don’t, those who play instruments and those who don’t, virtuosic musicians and beginners). If Tiny Band ever manufactured a tchotsky, I'd make it an egg shaker. A symbol of musical inclusiveness, it's the most immediate way for non-musicians to begin to participate and feel the rhythms of this music. Then everyone could join Tiny Band!

By the way, I have a new website. Check it out!!!!! It has some of my original music for free download. Licensed through Creative Commons, of course!

Here are some additional links to check out:

Gilberto Gil Hears the Future, Some Rights Reserved (NY Times)

From Legal Commons to Social Commons: Brazil and the Cultural Industry in the 21st Century


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Marylee met Gilberto Gil!!!  Holy shit, right?!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another good one...

I recently watched this excellent DVD series on Brazilian history and culture, featuring Chico Buarque and Tom Ze, among others. It's based on the book by one of Brazil's preeminent intellectuals, Darcy Ribeiro, which took his whole life to complete, and which he finished just before his death about 10 years ago. Am reading the book now... it's delicious! The book and DVD explore all regions of Brazil and the indio-afro-euro-gringo cultural mash-ups that are uniquely Brazilian... often rooted in tragedy, but always persevering and adapting. He says Brazil's greatest asset is cultural... how much the rest of the world has to learn from Brazil about embracing cultural diversity. But we knew that...

Monday, May 12, 2008


This is the funniest thing I've seen all year.  Courtesy of Tiny Band's pal Elizabeth.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

ukulele safari

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Australian uke sensations, Bosko & Honey. They are traveling around the world, interviewing uke players and posting their adventures on youtube. Here is the interview they did with me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

more manlove

Adam's work took him back to Austin again where he apparently met up with Paul Sonnenberg.  Prompted by pub quiz vixen Elizabeth Holst they recorded a wonderful version of "Brandy."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

my machadinho is finished!!!

A few months ago a fellow named Tho X. Bui started making this guitar for me.  It's going to be tuned like my banjo (D-G-B-D).  I've anxiously been watching his progress online since December.  It should be here in Chicago sometime next week.  I'm really, really excited about it and just know it's going to sound fantastic.  As you can see, it has two output jacks -- one for the humbucker and one with a dynamic mic to pick up the acoustic sound.

Tho is a violinist and makes and sells a lot of interesting instruments.  You can see some of them on his homepage, thoxbui.com.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Hey, all. Another band I play in got a write-up in the Chicago Reader today. Here's the link to the article...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

bromance is in the air

Word on the street is that Adamzinho met up with Paul Sonnenberg last night in Austin. Can we expect to see a "men of tiny band" video up soon?

Friday, March 14, 2008

the blue team wins!

Tom Jobim's love song for Candace Bergen has won the poll! Look for Tiny Band's new video of "Bonita" soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tiny Band Book Affairs

I can't really call them "crushes," because getting through an entire book takes a commitment. I'm a notorious commitment-phobe in this respect, but the following books kept me satisfied until the end, and have made the rounds through Tiny Band. I highly recommend each one, if you want a deeper understanding of the historical, social, and musical underpinnings of Latin music.

Bossa Nova by Ruy Castro is a fascinating overview of the emergence of Bossa Nova movement. I understand the quirky personalities who made up this cultural movement so much better. Castro also does a great job contextualizing Bossa Nova historically and musically. I couldn't put this book down. Absolutely required reading for any Bossa Nova enthusiast.

Tropical Truth by Caetano Veloso is a much denser, more difficult read, but equally rewarding if you stick with it. Kind of picks up where Castro's book leaves off, in that it delves into the Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) movement and the revolutionary musical reaction to it, called Tropicalia. A great peek into Caetano's cultural and intellectual influences as well. A must-read if you want to understand Brazilian music from the mid-sixties on.

The Brazilian Sound by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha is just a great survey of Brazilian music in general. They go region by region examining the extremely varied musical traditions of Brazil. I first read it a couple of years ago when I was just learning about Bossa Nova and Samba, and I often refer to it now as my curiosity grows about other types of Brazilian music, such as Choro, Forro, Axe, Frevo, and my most current obsession, Milton Nascimento and the Clube da Esquina movement. Am waiting for a book about these guys!

Cuba and its Music by Ned Sublette is my current read. I bought it for Janet for Christmas, but then discovered that not only had she read it, it was her favorite book. She told me to keep it and read it. "It will change your life," she said, and it already has! How can I explain it? I feel like my eyes (and ears) are opening for the first time to the tremendous legacy of African musical culture. I now see how the history of virtually any music in the New World can't be fully understood without facing up to the horrible truth of slavery on the one hand, and being humbled by the astounding resilience and genius of the human spirit (as evidenced through music) on the other. Sublette threads together histories of cultural minglings and powerplays that date back thousands of years and point out how the African influence was always there... ignored and underplayed, but vitally important, nonetheless. And if you look at uniquely "American" styles of music, like Rock-n-Roll, the same can be said about the influence from Cuba. Most people just have no idea how culturally important that little island is. This is a book I'll want to read over and over again. And he's due to come out with a 2nd Volume as well.

NEXT ON THE LIST is Music is the Weapon of the Future by Frank Tenaille, which documents the modern history of African Popular Music. This is a subject I know virtually nothing about, but I can't wait to learn more! It's a good thing musical passions don't have to be monogomous. I don't even want to think about life would be like if they were!!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

crush's crush crushed

Justin's secret celeb crush, Samantha Power (aka the Genocide Vixen), has resigned as an adviser to Barry O.  Apparently she was talking smack about Hillary Clinton.  Here's the article I heard him read over the phone today, broken.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

artist crush

My current artist crush is Nina Simone.  I was blown away by her piano chops!  Subsequently,  who votes for Bossa Saravah covering "Pronta pra Cantar", the duet she did with Maria Bethania?  

the Tiger of Cremona

What I wouldn't give to walk like this.  If I walked like that I could be a star.

My latest song crushes

It's much easier having a crush on a song than another person: you can spend just as much time obsessing, but there's no danger of rejection/complication/divorce from your current spouse/etc.

I usually have to learn/perform my song crushes before I can push them to the side of my brain; otherwise they play on endless loop. That's surprisingly similar to a crush on a person, isn't it?

Yeah, I've got a a touch of the autism, but on the other hand, the songs ARE great, and this forces me to learn more songs.

Desesperar, Jamais (Ivan Lins/Vitor Martins)

Welcome to TinyBlog

Hi, all!  We decided at our gig last night that we were going to start a blog for our band.  Let us know what you think!