Chico César: “Love has been severely abused in recent years”

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Brazilian singer and poet Chico César will offer on Sunday in Toulouse the Rio Loco festival a fine salvo of sensual rhythms and universalist messages, peace and love. Perfect to close out a unique 2022 edition. Meeting.

How to read the title of your new album, “Vestido de Amor”?
“Clothed with love” on the outside as well as on the inside: a kind of weapon, but not a weapon that defends or rejects another; but trying to approach it. Love through music is the best example. This love has been very difficult lately, not only in Brazil, but also all over the world …
How was the meeting between Salif Keita and Ray Lema?
Salif and Ray are both experts in African music, this music has influenced and inspired me immensely. They work with great energy, with no clichés. Ray is an erudite jazz musician, familiar with traditional, ancestral music. As for Salif, after hearing him I decided to form a group. I write, play, sing mostly solo and acoustic. When I heard Salif Keita, with guitar, keyboard, drums, electric bass, I said to myself: “Wow, I want to do this! Keep up the tradition and keep my wings free to fly around the world! Releasing an album with these two great masters was a huge joy!
Poetry is always at the center of your work, your life …
More than poetry, the word is very important. The spoken word is what brings me into the world, but I don’t want it to be just a voice, I want it to bring meaning, feeling and since my childhood, I know thanks to the word I have a place in the world. My father would buy small tracts at the fair and bring them home for me to read with the enthusiasm my family loved … I couldn’t think of music that was separate from language and speech … As a child, no I understand Bob Dylan’s lyrics, but I listened and I cried when Joan Baez sang Bob Dylan’s songs …
This album has great power: where can you find optimism in today’s world?
In my own life, in meetings … I see smiles, almost a cliché, children from India, Nepal, Pakistan, these people who sometimes live very hard lives and in photos, i see the most beautiful smiles in the world. My brother works in São Paulo for the homeless who live a very difficult life and I have observed that my brother smiles all the time: it is not an isolated smile but joy, which can give and hope of the people. Denying sorrow is not another sorrow: it is joy. What denies the violence of the world is dance, art, music. Our instruments must carry the vital energy associated with the joy of living.
We who love Brazil are saddened by what he went through. How can he get rid of it?
The solution is politics. And art is politics. I can see that this dark time that Brazil is going through is coming to an end. Apparently, the damage has already been done, but it is possible to recover in eight or fifteen years what has been done in the past six years: loss of rights, people living in situations of semi-slavery, violence against women, against the LGBTQI+ community… A conservative group that is less comfortable with the appearance of people is now in power in Brazil through the Bolsonaro government, manipulating this discontent, this desire to be excluded. Brazilian society has to go through this, to see in the mirror its worst face, intolerance. I hope and I believe that by the end of this year, Brazil will be able to look at itself with more self-esteem and in two to four years we will be walking with our heads raised.

What will your Rio Loco show look like?
I love the name of this festival, “Rio Loco”. This river brings so many different manifestations and a sense of joy, because happiness is nothing but a kind of folly, and what folly is if not a radicalized happiness, a joys of power express themselves in different ways? I think my music has a lot to do with a festival like this. I love playing in France and I’m so happy to be back here playing songs from all stages of my career and the new album-hits like ‘Mama Africa’ and ‘À Primeria Vista’ and new songs like ‘Pedrada’ which is a confrontation with neo-fascism.

Rio Loco, until Sunday June 19, from 5 pm (4:30 pm Sunday afternoon) at Prairie des Filtres., Toulouse. Price: € 10 per day (5-day pass: € 30). Chico César will play on stage at Pont-Neuf on Sunday June 19 at 9:45 p.m.

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