Friday, July 10, 2009

Brazil's Daniela Mercury

Camille Paglia:
Daniela, now 42, has been called Brazil's Madonna, but her work as a singer and dancer is far broader and more eclectic than Madonna's. Her folkloric aesthetic was shaped by Salvador's colossal Carnival celebration, where the entire city turns out to sing and dance around huge amplified trucks (trio élétricos). A typical performance on the elevated platforms can last seven hours straight. (Here's Daniela in full carnival drag getting charmingly teary on the catwalk before singing "Swing Da Cor" to the vast crowd below.)

Though her professional career began in nightclubs, Daniela achieved stardom in the 1990s as "Queen of Axé," a Salvador-based Afro-Brazilian fusion pop sometimes called samba-reggae. Her extensive repertoire ranges from torch songs to Portuguese rap. Through it all runs her attunement to deep emotion as well as her fascination with the infinitely complex rhythms of Africanized Bahia. Her stated master principle is "alegria" (joy), which she calls the essence of life and which she visibly transmits to her surging sea of fans.

Watching Daniela Mercury in action, I realized just how bored and disillusioned I have become by American popular entertainment over the past 15 years....
I heartily recommend Daniela Mercury's DVD, "Eletrodoméstico," to every aspiring young performer or to anyone who longs to see the performing arts in magnificent full flower. (That bewitching cover image
gives a taste of Daniela's staggering variety of swirling, cutaway leather costumes, intricate jewelry and raffish gaucho armbands.) "Eletrodoméstico" is a marathon, high-octane 2003 performance for Brazilian MTV where Daniela tirelessly sings and dances through 25 songs. There are also several spirited song-and-dance duets with guest stars. One can't imagine Madonna graciously sharing the stage with anyone (as Judy Garland did with the young Barbra Streisand, for example, when the variety-show format was still thriving in the U.S.).

Similarly, one can't imagine Daniela, with her relaxed, fluid body language and sleek, golden silhouette, cultivating the grotesquely sinewy arms and sallow, claw-like hands that have to be minutely erased from workaholic Madonna's magazine photos. Stressed-out, wired, over-conceptualized Anglo-American womanhood, currently on display in the hit film of "Sex and the City," is causing cultural dyspepsia. Is it any wonder that so many interesting, talented young men are reluctant to marry or have turned gay in droves? Exactly what do young professional women have to offer these days, aside from hyper office talk over a business lunch?

Reconnection to nature would obviously be easier in lushly tropical Bahia than in the stony grid of Manhattan. But this is where art comes in -- the medium of expanded imagination, which dissolves time and space. Full circle to feminism: Sexism, where it exists, is a political barrier that must be removed. But life is an organic principle and a cosmic skyscape, far vaster and more eternal than politics.
I recommend this Paglia column, which gives a flavor of Daniela's hometown of Salvador, Brazil, with its African inspired culture, it's overflow of 365 churches, it's beach culture, and it's open air Carnaval celebration which draws approx 1 million revelers.

Video of Salvador Carnaval: Daniela's performance truck, "Crocodilo" approaches at approx 1:45. Paglia says it takes up to 7 hours for Daniela's truck to move along the entire Carnaval route. Daniela tirelessly performs along the entire route. Bruce Springsteen is a punk. Daniela is the woman.


Notorious Daniela nod to Madonna and Britney Spears.

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