Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today I moved up a notch - perhaps a small one - in my street art career.  An interview with me was published on the 'A Arte Na Rua' (The Art in the Street) website, which chronicles the graffiti/street art scene here in Salvador.  The Arte Na Rua site is a project of José F. Paranaguá, who can be found at any street art event or related gallery opening with his camera, he knows everyone, and he is what every city should have - an historian for an ephemeral art form.  There are pictures in the article that I didn't even know that he took.  If you read Portuguese, have a read, if you don't, there are some nice pictures.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

DJ Markuza's Matar Saudades Tour

I've been involved with an arts event for a while here in Salvador, and have been moving gradually from spectator to participant.  A couple weeks ago I did a 'live paint' at one of the events, here's the result:

It was fun, and challenging.  Being someone who loves nothing so much as to lock himself away in his house away from other human, I'm not sure why I offer to put myself on display doing anything, but I guess that was one thing all those years of Capoeira were good for.

A friend of mine told me he wasn't going to participate in these events anymore, because they didn't offer him anything.  By that I mean food and/or beverage, although maybe there were other things he wanted as well.  He alluded to the fact that clearly there was money involved in putting the things on, they had a couple big sponsors including some governmental cash.  They are put on by a person who is a whiz at writing grants and maneuvering through bureaucracies, something I am absolutely hopeless at.  Me personally?  I could care less if I'm getting paid - I played in rock bands where we didn't earn a penny for most of gigs,  we even drove hours to play music and not get paid for it.  For the above painting, I at least didn't have to bring my own paint, so I was happy.

A little over a week ago, I was asked if I'd be interested in doing a DJ set at the next event.  It didn't take me long to decide that I really, really did want to.  My silly nickname was actually originally my DJ name: DJ Markuza, the Somnambulist - and I diligently put my listeners to sleep in the fine metropolis of Brattleboro, Vermont on a weekly basis.  Before that, I did college radio for five years.  Of course, all of that was before I moved to Brazil, which makes it over ten years ago, but what the hell.  All I had to do was play all my favorite songs, it was only a one-time deal after all.

And then she tells me that I'll be getting paid.

More than I ever got paid for any gig I did back in my rock and roll days.

Even adjusted for inflation.

So yeah, I was interested, and I spent the last week putting together a playlist in iTunes and listening to it over and over - if there's one thing I'm good at, it's listening to the same thing over and over.  Not as much as my neighbors, who will listen to the same song eight or ten times in an evening until I want to firebomb their sound systems, but I can get pretty repetitive.  I had three whole hours to play music, and I crafted the first hour pretty much song for song, with the idea that I would improvise from the rest of the list when I was there.  I had an iPod and my MacBook, and what are pretty primitive notions about how to DJ in the digital age - I probably just should have downloaded some program and used that.  Back in the day, we didn't even have CD's in the radio station, and I'll tell ya, it's pretty fun dropping a needle on a record and finding the beginning of a beat.  But I was prepared to improvise with these new-fangled MP3 thingies.

Improvise I did.  I guess I should have specified that I wanted a mixing deck, because there wasn't one - there wasn't even a CD player, which I was kind of counting on as well.  But there was a nice sound system, and they had a mixing board, and the guys in charge were very helpful getting me set up with a couple channels on the board, even if it meant doing my thing in a cramped corner rather than on the nice big empty table I had at my disposal.  This is fun, right?

The set went pretty well.  I played Beethoven and Toots and the Maytals, but mostly it was older electronica tracks from back in my post-stoner period - again, over ten years ago now.  I made some mistakes, including a couple big ones, but there weren't a lot of people there and it seemed like those that were were enjoying it pretty well.  In fact, if you watch the silly little video I made, you'll see some random dude getting right into the air drums in time with the music, which I have to consider high praise.

Truth be told, I was feeling pretty good about myself, until about the last half hour, when I started to lose my edge and began making stupid mistakes.  And then the next DJ showed up.  He didn't have to ask for a mixing deck, he brought his own.  And not one laptop, but two.  And an iPad.  With a fancy DJ program installed.  Several to many thousands of reais in equipment.  Watching him set up, I began to feel very out of date with my little improvised setup.  He did have an absurd ironic tattoo on the back of his neck (2+2=5) so I did have something to feel superior about, but it felt hollow.

When I finally wrapped it up, which was something of a relief at that point, I got another surprise.  Another of the organizers asked me if I had a 10 real note on me, which I did.  She traded me for a 50 real note, explaining that as a DJ, I got 40 reais ($20 US) for food.

Well, shit.  Remember my friend who wasn't going to these things anymore?  That's all he would have wanted.  In fact, he probably would have been satisfied with ten reais - enough to buy a snack and a soda.  Or a whole meal with beverage in one of the humbler restaurants in the city.  As it was, this was going to pay for my expressos and the dry chicken-dough-wrapped thingie that I ate at the café, plus a full-size sub at Subway on my way home, a severely overpriced splurge that I almost never indulge in.  With something left over.

I've been hearing more of these stories about how those who are on the in with the cash do well, while most everyone else gets screwed, kinda like the haves and the have-nots kinda thing.  Well, this is the first time I've been on the better side of that deal, and I gotta say it's pretty nice.  But I must confess it doesn't seem very fair.  And I'm sure that in terms of actually being on the 'haves' team, I am not even scratching the surface.

After mentally spending my food allowance, I moved to my next (unpaid) activity for the evening, hosting a second round of Exquisite Corpse, during which fun was had by all involved.  As I listened to Ironic Tattoo's set, I decided it may have been better than mine- but not thousands of reais better.