Hejira world music radio host Jeff Spitzer-Resnick recently had an opportunity to interview Ane Heibeisen and Mariana da Cruz from the band Da Cruz. They are currently living in Bern, Switzerland and have a new album out, Baladas da Luta (Ballads for the Fight.) We discussed Brazilian politics and how it affects their music. Following is a lightly edited (for clarity) transcript of the interview.
JSR: I have Ane Heibeisen and Maria da Cruz from the band Da Cruz with me, and they are currently in Bern, Switzerland. Well, welcome, and you have a new album out! First of all, and I’ll let you take it one at a time, tell me what each of you do on this album.
AH: Yeah, actually I do a lot. I’m the driver of the band. I’m the producer of the band. I do the electronic stuff. I’m the label. So, you have to know that that Da Cruz is a real independent thing. We make everything ourselves.
JSR: That’s great. You are from Switzerland, correct?
JSR: And Mariana?
MDC: Yeah, I am the singer. And I make the lyrics. I compose the music, but we make this together.
JSR: And you are from Brazil?
MDC: Yes, I’m from Brazil from a small city near São Paolo.
JSR: I was in Brazil a while ago, but I did not get to São Paolo.
AH: The culture is interesting, but it’s not the most beautiful city.
JSR: Right, I was in some beautiful places in Brazil and hopefully I will get back there one day. I love the music and I love your music. One thing I noticed from the video that you shared with me is that your music has a lot of politics in it. So maybe you can tell us what the roots are of the political message you’re trying to get through in your music.
AH: I can say that the purpose of this album was when Bolsonaro in Brazil, the right-wing extremist, won the elections. Then we started with our first songs, and it was a dark time for us. So first we’ve been like paralyzed and I think the whole album talks about this time, I think four years with Bolsonaro, it’s been one of the most obscure times because the society is split in two halves now, and we talk a lot about that.
MDC: I think for me this time it was a shock, and I see my people don’t smile anymore. They lost this power to fight, to smile and to have hope. I like to talk about politics. I don’t need to be afraid what they think, but I need to talk.
AH: What we also found out in Brazil, the musicians, for a long time they didn’t have the courage to talk about or to sing about politics because it was quite dangerous.
MDC: They live in Brazil. To play, to make politics and to sing something like this…this is really, for them, this is dangerous. I have so many friends in São Paulo, like Linca, and she cannot walk in the street alone. You know?
JSR: That’s very sad. So, the good news is your country used the ballot box. We’re voting now, and you voted last week, and you defeated Bolsonaro. So, congratulations.
AH: Yeah. We hope for you as well.
MDC: This work, we started like Bolsonaro in 2018. A little bit stronger with a black woman’s movement. Now I think the people are stronger together and talk about politics – what we want, what we need.
AH: Yeah. I think we artists stand together more than before. Bolsonaro really wanted to establish a nationalist culture and what he supported in that culture was really, it had to be evangelic. It had to be about family and the other culture didn’t have a chance anymore in this time. I think on the other side, that the black community, the women, they really stood together and this solidarity is bigger and stronger than before. This gives a little bit of hope. But after this election, it’s not easier. It will be a very hard and complicated process to bring the people together.
JSR: Yes, I understand. It was a very close election, and you have a very divided country, much like ours. We’re seeing that all around the world, unfortunately. So, tell me if there are any particular songs on your album that maybe have a message that because you’re singing in Portuguese, our listeners may not understand it. Are there any particular songs that you would like our listeners to have a particular understanding of?
AH: So perhaps Lembro Meu Irmão is one of these?
MDC: Yeah, Lembro Meu Irmão is about my brother in São Paulo. He got sick and he was living in the street for seven years, not in São Paulo, but in another city in the northwest. During this time, I look for the family, the people who live off the street, how these people live there, how the society closes their eyes to them, you know, they don’t help. They are like invisible. I think for me it was a really strong feeling. How the society can work like this, so cold that it doesn’t help anyone.
AH: I think Brazil is a very hot country, but the society is getting colder and colder, and she really found her brother on the street, as it was difficult to find him at first.
MDC: I searched for seven years.
AH: She had to search seven years to find him and then got (saw) an article in a newspaper about him. Then she went there.
MDC: Then I went to the northwest like Fortaleza and asked, “Is this the way?” I discover these people. These people have hearts. They help him. They talk with me – “Hey, this guy, we know he’s not from here, but we care about him.” For me, these are really amazing people. It is not like São Paulo or Rio.
AH: Another song probably is Ninguém Solta.
JSR: What’s that about?
AH: It’s about when a president wins an election, they all say the same thing. They say, “I want to be a president for all the people in Brazil.” And Lula also told us, “Guys, we are too tired to fight now” (sounds a little bit mawkish), but “We have to take each other by the hands and have to find a vision for the future, a common vision.” Actually, this song we wrote before the election, and we didn’t know that Lula would win. Now there is a new era starting and we have to try to find a way. So, it’s funny because in America, as Trump told, we have to “make America great again.” Bolsonaro told us, “Brazil first.” It’s funny to make a country great but for all it’s not possible to make a country great if you divide the people. So, I think Brazil has really has to find this unity again.
JSR: So do you have more hope now after the election?
MDC: Hope? Yeah. But I think for years, I know he’s a little bit old (Lula) but we don’t have another to fight against Bolsonaro and we understand. But he told us he would stay only for four years, then after comes the young, the new ones. But I think, I hope four years, I think this is not so much. But I think that’s his start.
AH: I always ask Mariana if an 80-year-old guy can be the future of Brazil. She says that for her generation, that he gave the possibility for black people, for the black community, for poor people to go to university. He opened doors. I think this is why a lot of young people still have hope in this older man, which is very charismatic. But he also made a lot of mistakes, ecological, he didn’t do almost anything, so we have to see what happens.
MDC: But I have hope now. For me the important base is education for all, because now we see after the election how the people were so crazy in the streets. I think we need this base of education and health care, and of course jobs for all.
JSR: Do you think Lula’s victory will affect your music in the future?
AH: Hmm. A good question. It’s difficult. I think the time will not change to brightness in Brazil. This is really a good question. What will happen? I think the problems are still the same. We didn’t start talking about what’s going wrong in Brazil with this album. So, this is our sixth album, and we never had the intention to show a postcard of Brazil in our music. Our music is on the dark corners of Brazil.
JSR: So, let me ask you one more kind of personal question. How does a man from Switzerland and a woman from Brazil end up forming together as a musical duo?
AH: It was the old “producer” trick. I saw her singing in an Irish pub in Lisbon, and she sang bossa nova and I saw her, and I fell in love with this voice. Then I told her, “Hey, I’m a producer from Switzerland. Let’s try to make something together.”
JSR: When was it?
JSR: Oh, so you’ve been together a long time.
MDC: Yes, but I lived in Lisbon, Portugal, I sang in a pub, and I tried to make the music there, but not the cliche (kind), you know. I don’t want to take with me the souvenir from Brazil. I want to try something new. Then when I met Ane there, we tried to make something more experimental.
AH: Not experimental, something modern, but timeless in the same way. I think this was because since the eighties I worked with electronics, so I make electronic music and the problem there is that it’s difficult to do something timeless because normally you hear “Okay, this snare is from the eighties, this bass rub is from the nineties.” For me, the intention is to mix acoustic with electronic music and always to add the electronic part as a timeless element. This is quite difficult, I hope sometimes I get it, sometimes no, but I try.
JSR: So, do you have anything else I haven’t asked about that you would like our listeners to know?
AH: Hmm. Yeah. I hope that they can see us live one time. We only had one concert in the USA until now at the Brazil Summer Fest in New York. I hope Joe Biden will open the doors for musicians a little bit because it’s very difficult if you come from outside of USA to play concerts because you need the artist visa. And for a band with 6-7 people, it’s quite expensive. But I hope it’ll be possible. We played in Canada a lot because I think live is another energy.
JSR: I would love to see you live and I’m sure the people here in Madison would also love to see you live. We have quite a few summer festivals that attract a lot of world musicians, but I am aware that some of them have had to cancel because of the visa problem. So perhaps you can come entertain and educate fans in Madison. Yeah, that would be great. All right, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and now let’s listen to some more music from Da Cruz.
Here’s a great video of Da Cruz‘s song O Corpo from their new album. Click here to watch.
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