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Gilberto Gil To Steer Brazil's Cultural Policy

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  • Walter Lippmann <walterlx@earthlink.net>
    WALL STREET JOURNAL January 1, 2003 2:10 a.m. EST Grammy-Winning Pop Star To Steer Brazil s Cultural Policy DOW JONES NEWSWIRES RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2003
      WALL STREET JOURNAL
      January 1, 2003 2:10 a.m. EST
      Grammy-Winning Pop Star To Steer Brazil's Cultural Policy
      DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

      RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP)--Just before Luiz Inacio da
      Silva was elected president, Brazilian music star Gilberto
      Gil strutted onto a Copacabana beach concert stage dressed
      in the red and white colors of the Worker's Party.

      "I've been surfing on Lula's wave for a long time," Gil
      said, using the populist candidate's nickname, "and this
      time, we're going to surf until the shore."

      Gil, the quintessential symbol of Brazilian pop music, will
      surf even further, becoming Brazil's cultural minister
      Wednesday after Silva's inauguration as president.

      Brazilians hope the singer and songwriter, a 1998 Grammy
      World Music Award winner, won't forget the lyrics of one his
      most popular songs, "Novidade," or "Novelty" in English.

      "Oh, the world is so unequal," Gil sings in the 1986 song.
      "On the one side all this Carnival, on the other, total
      hunger."

      Gil's appointment is seen as demonstration of Silva's
      closeness to Brazilian cultural roots and its large, poor
      black population. Before Gil, the only black appointed as a
      cabinet minister was soccer star Pele, by outgoing president
      Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

      Sandwich shop worker Iara Sales, 21, who saw Gil perform
      Christmas Day in Rocinha, a hillside Rio shantytown of
      160,000, believes his appointment is a good sign.

      "I hope the government will promote many events in poor
      communities like this one," Sales said. "It's what we needed
      all along. We're poor, but we have our dignity."

      Others are less convinced Gil is still in touch with the
      ideals of equality and social justice he espoused after
      bursting upon the Brazilian pop scene in the late 1960s. At
      the time, he helped create the rebellious "Tropicalismo"
      movement that advocated individual liberties, sex and a
      permissive attitude toward drugs.

      "Nothing against Gil, but everything is against this type of
      arrangement, where culture is treated as an ornament,"
      Brazilian filmmaker Joao Batista de Andrade told the Rio
      newspaper O Globo.

      Gil's mix of traditional Bossa Nova with rock 'n' roll and
      reggae was a revolution for Brazilian music, and he has sold
      millions of records and compact discs in his career.

      He has been criticized in the Brazilian media for grumbling
      it could be difficult to support his lifestyle on the
      cultural minister's $2,500 monthly salary. But Gil has
      Silva's blessing to do concerts when he's not performing his
      ministerial duties.

      "I can work from Monday through Friday at the ministry and
      do shows on Saturday and Sunday," he told reporters.

      Gil wants to increase tax breaks for companies who invest in
      cultural projects, boosting the relief from 4 to 6 percent.
      He has also said he may donate money from future
      performances to the cultural ministry because its budget is
      scheduled to shrink 25% in 2003.

      And the 60-year-old musician is no stranger to politics.

      After helping found Tropicalismo with other musicians
      resisting the dictatorship that ruled Brazil until 1985, Gil
      was jailed for several months in 1968 after he and his
      friend Caetano Veloso angered the right-wing regime with
      their music.

      Gil went into exile in London in 1969, and stayed there
      until 1972.

      He became culture secretary in his hometown of Salvador in
      northeastern Brazil from 1987 to 1988, and was a city
      councilor from 1989 to 1992.

      He also is a prominent member of the Green Party that gained
      five seats in Brazil's Lower House elections in October and
      is allied to Silva's party.

      In the 1990's, Gil also chaired the "Blue Wave"
      environmental education group that promotes the preservation
      of Brazil's rivers.

      Like Silva, Gil seems to have softened his radical views in
      recent years, trading them for ideas more reminiscent of
      European-style social democracy. He also took up yoga,
      intensely studied Zen Buddhism and stopped drinking, smoking
      and eating meat.

      Some of his contemporary music draws heavily from
      traditional composers from the backlands of his home state
      Bahia, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. Just last week,
      Gil showed up for a meeting of Silva's future Cabinet
      wearing the white T-shirt and white trousers favored by
      Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian religion he admires.

      Gil is scheduled to sing live in Brasilia after the
      inauguration, but he will attend the ceremony in a suit.
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