The Slovenia Times

Chico César in Ljubljana: When Heavy Grey Turned to Colour


A mass of people got their tickets checked and entered all at once, each quickly finding their respective seat. After everyone had sat down, a few minutes of waiting followed, enveloped by the neon lights, massive cream coloured walls, various greyscale shades of winter coats and jackets, discreet chatter and square greyish-brown seatbacks. Slowly the lights turned off. A bright pink-red blazer appeared out of the darkness and was greeted by a polite round of applause that did not quite know what to expect. 

Chico César came up to the front of the stage and stopped right in the middle in front of a microphone. His appearance was so strikingly picturesque it immediately drew all the attention of the room to itself. Inside the red blazer, pink shirt and ripped jeans was a brown man with a kind round face, a big dream-catcher necklace and funky shoes. The magnificent unrestrained Afro hair style only added to his already magnetic charm. Without any further introduction, his incredibly strong yet at the same time warmly soothing voice filled every little corner of the massive room. It was amazing how incredibly powerful and impressive the sole still-standing presence of this man was as his whole body was interpreting the song. Looking at him felt like he was telling us all a story of his life while drawing us in with his engaging gestures and expressive facial mimics. Brazilian Portuguese was not a language familiar to most people that were looking at him from the initially reserved audience seated in two levels, but the welcoming gentleness of the poetic singer was so inviting that it made it impossible to decline the gracious invitation into his magical world.

Joined by three other musicians from his home state Paraiba, the 51 year-old internationally admired and magnetically likeable Brazilian musician soon took the whole place to another dimension - one governed by the dynamic language of imagination, playful sunny melodies,soulful poetry and seductive, sensual folk rhythms characteristic of his native Brazilian Northwest. He sang of love at first sight, Nelson Mandela, life in his beloved Paraiba, the rainbow-coloured soul, Africa, a hardworking single mother, flowers and Rio de Janeiro, while all along perfectly embodying that contagious zest for life that his music radiates as he danced and smiled with elation. According to Chico César himself, all his songs regardless of their specific content are love songs since love is what inspires them. Despite having experienced social injustices, the brutality of racism and police violence, the vibrant singer deeply believes that it is love and joy that liberate and empower.

The energetically enchanting performance was overflowing with musical creativity, humour and unquenchable passion for life, which efficiently melted away any possible previous tension or reservations on the part of the audience. Watching Chico César perform brought a smile to my face that would not go away throughout the show and made me understand the reason he is known as "Little Giant" in Brazil. There is immense talent and so much soul in what he does that it is extremely easy to get carried away, while not so easy to remain seated. The rhythms that make his music wonderfully addictive and irresistible are a fusion of the animated forro, African beats, reggae, avant-garde, Brazilian folk, frevoand more. The improvisation added an extra dimension to the already high-spirited show and made the songs come alive in a brilliantly entertaining way. The bright lights shining from the stage in different colours tuned in with the melodies that brought the sensation of a spontaneous Brazilian small-town carnival and found a way to light you up from the inside, which felt fantastic. Chico often engaged us with singing the choruses and so the atmosphere lit up and grew more and more relaxed with every song - to the point where the whole venue was vibrating to the same frequency and Chico took off his shoes and blazer to dance for the rest of the evening barefoot and free.

Chico César, a singer vocal about social issues and a former state minister of culture, often says that there is subversive and transformative power in staying positive and refusing to succumb to destructive thinking, which is also the idea behind his music. Coming from one of the poorest regions of Brazil the singer knows that this mind-set is essential to survive the struggle and create a better reality. Seeing how that misty winter night in Ljubljana his band and him embraced us with colours, made our spirits dance and painted genuine smiles on the faces of so many people makes one wonder at the power of music and the beauty of those who bring hope and inspire love wherever they go."Chico, Obrigada pela sua magia.Até a próxima." 


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