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  • Writer's picturegerpictus

Rhythm for Wellbeing?

[Without YouTube and Wikipedia none of this would have been possible, so many thanks to both services]

Music can be interesting, uplifting, boring, jangle the nerves or make you feel down. But what all music has is a rhythm and research has shown that rhythm may change brain function and so be used to treat a number of neurological conditions. The findings of this research state that music with a strong beat stimulates the brain and ultimately causes brainwaves to resonate in time with the rhythm. It’s rather obvious, but they then go on to say that slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats may encourage more alert and concentrated thinking. And so on. I’m taking these findings as a given because I, like millions of others, already know this and make regular use of music to help with wellbeing; music therapy has been around for years.

However I must say I don’t use classical music much as a tool, although it did help me through routine tasks like translations when I was at university. A lot of it goes straight over my head, which is a shame. My tastes have always veered instead towards music with simpler and regular rhythms as well as a good melody, so pop music and world music have been there for a long time. Hypnotic sensations too: I like a lot of synthetic music and noises eg the Ipcress brainwashing noise ( I’d give a you a clip of that remarkable beast, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find one). And then New Age came along and while I couldn’t get on with shamanic drumming — too repetitive — the gentle hypnotic impressions provided by meditation music have really helped.

I thought I’d share with you some examples of music that have helped me. I’ve been revisiting Brazilian music for some months now and enjoying the way it makes me feel with its different rhythms. Actually I feel a bit embarrassed about this sharing: I’ve been subjected in the past to someone slapping on track after track with an accompanying commentary and expecting you to listen. I’m sure you have too. I’ve done it myself. This collection is not meant to be like that at all; dip in and out and ignore as much as you want.

I’ve found my surfing in search of tracks fascinating. There is a wealth of types of music to choose from, and within them tracks I found excellent and those that were frankly awful. And, doubtless tediously for the rest of humanity, from a linguist’s point of view the search was also very interesting. The Brazilian Portuguese accent has changed significantly since the 1950’s. If you feel like it you can listen for the change from (Spanish) front ‘r’ to (French) back ‘r’(or ‘h’) and ‘t’/’d’ changing to ‘tch’/’dj’.

I’ll start where I started as a child, with a Walt Disney cartoon called Brazil. Fortunately in this version most of Donald Duck’s voice has been cut, so don’t be alarmed by the credit. The first song is a samba called Aquarela do Brasil, which is now by and large Brazil’s unofficial national anthem and which featured as the theme music to ITV’s coverage of the World Cup 2014. Second comes Tico Tico no Fubá, a lively tune which is an example of a genre called ‘choro‘.

Carmen Miranda features in the next example, a samba called O que é que a Baiana tem?. The sound and visual quality on this one are poor, but it’s the only fragment left of a 1939 film that is said to have launched Carmen’s career in the US. For a difference in accent on a later version click here.

Ȇ Baiana is a traditional samba of the Carnival sung by Clara Nunes, perhaps Brazil’s most popular samba singer. It’s interesting to hear the clear echoes of African music here.

Tacacá (a kind of soup) by Luiz Gonzaga is one I’ve included as an early example of the genre called ‘forró’, where the main instruments are the accordeon – very popular in Brazilian music – a drum called the zabumba, and a triangle. Another example of this traditional and cheerful music is Petrolina Juazeiro, here sung by the Trio Nordestino.

One of the things I have noticed during this search for songs is that many apparently of the same genre bear little relation to each other. This applies to the next couple of songs. An ‘accordeon favourite’ and another example of forró is the famous song by Glória Gadelha and Sivuca called Feira de Mangaio – a particular favourite of mine. This version is by Clara Nunes (yes, there is a pattern here). I prefer the live version from her tour of Japan because you can hear the drum better. I usually play it too loud. The triangle is there in both versions if you listen hard!

A recent discovery, which I’m not yet sure is for me, is ‘sertanejo’. This originally seems to have more of a gaucho (South American cowboy) style with guitars and accordeons. Here’s an example. A newer and more souped-up style known as ‘sertanejo universitário’ is seen in Michel Teló’s Ai se eu te pego. This was originally by Cangaia de Jegue, a more traditional sertanejo group. Teló’s version is very popular among young Brazilians today, as you will see.

And finally, completely unrelated to the items listed so far, is a song by Queen, which is non-PC and may contain triggers. However I’m putting it in because it made me feel good when I was going through a bad patch. I actually laughed out loud, which is a good thing to do.


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