A conversation with Toronto-based radio artist Andrew O’Connor [Instagram] and Todd Lanier Lester one of the founders of Lanchonete.org, an urban research and artist project based around a neighbourhood lunch counter in Conjunto Santos Dumont in central São Paulo.
Late in September 2022, Andrew installed a site-specific radio artwork in the laneway of Conjunto Santos Dumont, based around a series of interviews he conducted with the residents with the assistance of local architect, urbanist and interpreter Gabi Ushida.
On the first weekend of October we collaborated on ‘Rádio Santos Dumont’; a day of workshops, events and performances alongside Merien Rodrigues of Itinero Grapho [Instagram] who runs a mobile printmaking studio and workshops from her Kombi van, and with journalist Amber Cortes, and illustrator Carl Nelson who had traveled from the US to be in Brazil during the presidential elections (2 October). Local musicians Gabriel Edé [Instagram] and Vitor Wutzki [Instagram] contributed a very successful songwriting workshop. Carol Godefroid [Instagram] and Gabriel Carnelós [Instagram] provided live translations (and photodocumentation) and their voices feature in this episode alongside those of Francisco Josepha de Castro AKA Chico and Nadija.
Woven through this episode are excerpts from Andrew O’Connor’s radio installation and edits of a recording of São Paulo-based musician Felinto [Bandcamp] whose performance closed the first day of the event.
Special mention must go to the people of Conjunto Santos Dumont who welcomed us: notably Liduina whose fruit shop was a base for our activities and Tarcisio, whose bar is the base for Lanchonete.org.
fugitive radio landed in São Paulo, Brazil in the midst of the 2022 presidential election, taking up residence in the Bixiga neighbourhood where it is being hosted by Lanchonete.org at Conjuntos Santos Dumont. This episode of fugitive frequency is a collage of sounds collected around central São Paulo in the days leading up to the October 2 election, which was inconclusive. A run off election is scheduled for 30 October between the two remaining presidential candidates — the incumbent ultra-nationalist Jair Bolsonaro and former-president representing the workers party (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as Lula.
Music is what first piqued my interest in Brazil when I was teenager. When I was last here, during the 2018 presidential elections, my language tutors would often emphasise that the folk and popular music of Brazil kept a social history of the country that had been a dictatorship for much of its existence and in which illiteracy was still relatively high. As I was making these recordings, I sought to tease out the musicality of the everyday, however listening back I recognised a familiar melody threaded through most of my recordings. “Olé olé-olé olé…” As Marina Marchesan [Instagram] pointed out to me, it is a familiar football chant re-purposed for the iconic statesman Lula. I wonder if any other politician has a catchy jingle, and one that is so readily incorporated into any number of genres? (Out walking one morning I found myself among a Lula blocco in Bixiga where this anthem was impressed into my conscience. Also, kudos to Clarissa Aidar [Instagram] for inviting me to the Pensante Monde blocco carnaval rehearsal soon after where this melody was once again played.)
Melody, and in particular catchy jingles, are a recurring motif of this podcast that captures some of the soundscape/soundclash of this Latin American megacity. Device notifications, arguably jingles of sorts, disrupt the playback of regional pop songs in local bars. Noise—traffic, alarms and the distortion of audio equipment— textures these recordings, sometimes punctuating the sound in amusing ways. In a networked world where we are all ‘prosumers’, people’s reactions to my microphone reveals something about our relationship to audio/media culture, for example when a group of boys break our conversation to speak directly into my microphone.
Language (and translation) emerges as another theme, as at times speakers of português and english overlap. As a português language-learner I certainly don’t understand all that is being discussed, and I’ve found that different strands of information and meaning emerge by listening between languages, sounds and music (I think of discussions around noise/signal/information). For example, early in the podcast is a recording of Marina Silva (main image) addressing a climate justice rally on Friday 23 September via a troublesome sound system. Silva is a politician with Rede Sustentabilidade (Sustainability Network) REDE. She was formerly Environment Minister in Lula’s government (2003–2008), a presidential candidate (2014) and is world renown for her environmental activism. When editing, I often find myself listening to the sound of the recording rather than what is being said; for its musicality or ‘charisma’.
Another section documents a songwriting workshop led Gabriel Edé [Instagram] and Vitor Wutzki [Instagram] for Rádio Santos Dumont, 1 October. Sheltering from the rain in Luduina’s fruit and vegetable shop as other activities, conversations and exchanges continued on around them, Edé and Wutzki’s workshop culminated in the performance of ‘carro e água’ (circa 36 mins) with the local youth: Pitter, Thiago and Gabriel.
Towards the end of the podcast is a recording of Cicero D. Silva and his band busking on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of Avenida Paulista. With the major corridor free of car traffic for some hours, I drifted into this trio of elderly men performing hypnotic music on drum, triangle and piano accordion.
Many thanks to the residents of Conjunto Santos Dumont for their hospitality and a special mention to Todd Lanier Lester [Instagram] and Andrew O’Conner [Instagram], the architects of Rádio Santos Dumont.
fugitive radio: rádio em fuga in Brazil is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.
fugitive radio has arrived in São Paulo where it will be based for the following months. Hitting the ground running, it is currently working with Lanchonete.org and notably its founder Todd Lanier Lester, who is pictured above putting up a poster for our upcoming event, Radio Santos Dumont.
Lanchonete.org is an artist-led cultural platform concerned with Conjunto Santos Dumont, and enclave of three buildings and their occupants that oversee a narrow alley way off Rua Paim in central São Paulo. Designed by engineer Aaron Kogan, construction of the buildings began in 1956. Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) was an aeronaut and inventor. A contemporary of the Wright brothers, the buildings that comprise the Conjunto are named after aeroplanes he designed: Desmoiselle, 14 Bis and Caravelle. The 4000 or so occupants of the 1097 apartments have a link to the North-East of Brazil, and Todd describes it as the largest group of North-Easterners living together in São Paulo.
Toronto-based artist Andrew O’Conner has been developing a radio installation here in recent months. Based around interviews with locals he will present an oral history of the community. Now together with Lanchonete.org and its partners, notably Tarcisios’ bar and also Merien Rodrigues of Itinero Grapho and Publication Studio São Paulo, fugitive radio is working towards an event I’m describing as a mini festa do rádio. Radio Santos Dumont will occur on Saturday 1 October with broadcasts spilling over into the following day with. More details to follow.
fugitive radio’s programme in Brazil, rádio em fuga, is generously supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Muito obrigados a Kadija de Paula for introducing me to Lanchonete.org.