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"Caetano Veloso equates Bin Laden with Condoleezza Rice"

Caetano Veloso, the Brazilian singer with a mind like a steel trap and a voice like a velvet glove, is accused of the blood libel of false moral equivalency in an article from today's Folha de São Paulo. "Nos EUA, Caetano Veloso iguala Bin Laden e Rice" shouts the headline, but it's based on one line from a song:

Diferentemente de Osama e Condoleezza, eu não acredito em Deus

Unlike Osama and Condoleeza, I don't believe in God

Sounds like a legitimate comparison to me, as far as it goes, and quite a bit short of an "equation". After the inflammatory lead, the article is more nuanced:

A letra fala da impossibilidade de uma identidade individual completa, fechada, definitiva, tema caro ao tropicalista Caetano, mas estrangeiro a muitos ouvidos norte-americanos --para os quais, como ele já disse, branco é branco, preto é preto, e a mulata não é a tal--, bem representados na Casa Branca de George W. Bush pós-11 de Setembro.

The lyrics speak of the impossibility of an individual identity which is complete, closed, definitive, a theme dear to the tropicalist Caetano, but strange to many North American ears -- for whom, as he has said, white is white, black is black, and the mulatto doesn't exist -- ears well represented in the White House of George W. Bush since September 11th.

Caetano delivered the line, notably without the careful explanation he usually gives his gringo audiences, in New York. He is touring behind A Foreign Sound, an album of songs in English, and so thinking about language and politics:

"Com 'Fina Estampa' [disco de músicas latinas], estava enfrentando essa questão de poder da língua", afirmou. "E, quando você pensa na língua inglesa, você realmente pensa em poder." Os instrumentos para resolver esse problema político --que se agrava pelo fato de o português ser, como disse, "uma língua de gueto"-- foram a "sofisticação" da bossa nova e a mistura de "sagacidade" e "ironia" do tropicalismo.

"With 'Fina Estampa' [an album of songs in Spanish], I was confronting this question of power and language," he said. "And when you think of the English language, you really think of power." The instruments to resolve this political problem -- which becomes serious in the light of the fact that Portuguese is, as they say, a "ghetto language" -- were the sophistication of bossa nova and the mixture of shrewdness and irony of tropicalismo.

So now I'm eager to hear this mysterious unnamed song in full. Maybe if there's a diplomatic incident he'll get around to recording it.

causes 2004.04.18 link

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