How I joined a Brazilian Band

Nick Cleveland-Stout - Brazil


October 26, 2017

It was getting kind of late.

I was ready to head home.

I checked the bus schedule to see if I could still catch the last bus.

“We could go back to my house.” Artur offered.

Artur was a funny guy. I had just met him and didn't know much about him, but he had a gift for making people laugh. What I did know was that he was a guy in his mid-20’s, had his hair back in a ridiculous ponytail, and had been kicked out of his band for “being too talented.”

Sure, why not?

We starting walking back to Artur’s house.

“What type of music do you like?” He spoke in English, and I spoke in Portuguese.

It's always a broad question, but I told him my favorite band.

“The Beach Boys.”

He stared at me blankly.

“Uhh, the Beach-y Boys.”

“OHHH The Beach-y Boys!!!” Brazilians will add a Y to the end of just about anything they can.

It turned out that we had a mutual love for the Beach Boys. We started singing popular tunes such as “Good Vibrations,” and “I Get Around,” as we arrived to his house.

He pulled out a guitar, and now there was some traction behind the words. I don't know if it was the reason he got kicked out of his band, but he certainly was talented. I was surprised to hear the sound we made as we harmonized to “Don't Worry Baby.”

A car pulled up.

Five guys about my age came bounding out, each with more energy than the last. They saw that we were jamming out a bit, and immediately joined in. One of them told me he was going to cook me the best omelette in the world. I laughed. Everyone got very serious, insisting that he makes the best omelettes and that they are not to be taken lightly.

One by one, new instruments began to appear. We were now playing exclusively Beatles songs. A tambourine appeared for “I Feel Fine.” Another guy had a bongo drum for “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” By the time we started playing “A Hard Day’s Night,” the omelette-maker had taken a break to play the accordion. Soon there was a violin. A ukelele.

As we belted out “Hey Jude,” I looked around at the symphony we had created and was so incredibly happy to be right there and nowhere else. It was just us and the music. It didn't matter that I didn’t know any of these people. It didn't matter that there was still a language barrier between us. It especially didn't matter that the other half of the omelette was getting cold.

I thought about how I never would have experienced this if I hadn’t said yes. Yes to going to Artur’s house. Yes to Garopaba. Yes to Brazil.

The ukelele-player stopped plucking away. The-tambourine player stopped shaking his wrist. The bongo-player stopped banging on the drums. Artur continued strumming on the guitar as the rest of us locked arms and released our own un-cut edition of “Hey Jude,” where the outro of “Na-na-na-na’s” is longer than the actual song.

As the music winded down, Artur and I were smiling and laughing.

“Where do you want to travel?” I asked him.

“Huh?”

I explained to him how I had been thinking about how I wouldn't have ended up here if I hadn't said yes to the opportunity to travel to Brazil, to Garopaba, to his house, and how everything had been leading up to this moment.

“I don’t want to travel,” he told me.

I was confused. What did he mean? Why wouldn't he want to visit the Colosseum, or Machu Picchu, or London or Paris or even Rio? He speaks decent English; why wouldn't he want to put that into practice? Didn’t he want to see other cultures and experience nights like these in an entirely different world?

“I'm afraid of planes.”

Suddenly, I felt so dumb. Here was this young, talented, charismatic man, and he had never left the state of Santa Catarina. Travelling the world doesn’t make you a better person. Seeing new cultures doesn’t make you smarter. Tasting new foods doesn’t make you worldly. You can have incredible new experiences in your own backyard, or in your hometown, or in your home state.

It's almost like I'm cheating.

I use my privilege to have easier access to new experiences. I am in Brazil meeting new people, learning about an entirely different culture, living a unique life. How many people have access to this kind of exposure? To me, I don’t see what I am doing is “brave,” as so many family members and friends have told me. It only makes sense for me to take advantage of opportunities based on my priviledge.

As I finished the rest of the omelette, said goodbyes and left Artur’s house, I thought about my own experiences close to home. The time that I went on a roadtrip with my best friend to a Native American reservation and witnessed the annual Salmon Ceremony. Watching the sunset from on top of the dune at Pacific City. Homemade pasta dates with friends while listening to the Italian Dinner playlist on Spotify. Exploring Oregon’s waterfalls on hot summer days. Movie nights with my family. None of these experiences are discredited because they happened so close to what I call “home.”


Nick Cleveland-Stout