A sound description of São Paulo

There is nothing to hear on this post, not on your headphones. But there is an incredible imaginary while I try to learn this place through sound.

I have been in São Paulo, Brazil, for 7 days now and although I brought my upgraded gear, I have just recorded a few times, at least for this first week.

Perhaps it sounds non-sense that I had rarely pull out the gear and register the moment. It is a little bit for me as well, but I have been practicing active listening in a way I had not tried before. First the foreigner condition came into play heavily. Then there is a question of safety.

Why São Paulo has caused such impact on my impression, more than other towns I visited, has to do with the immense contrast in almost every aspect one could think of. My condition of (almost) white-european living in one of the wealthiest countries, landing now on an incredible diverse state, has caused a permanent observational amusement not only visual but very much auditory; mostly auditory, I would say.

To start of, São Paulo is a very loud place. If you are near the road or riding a bus, you know you will have to yell to be understood, if only you don’t have to wait to pass the the very bumpy road or tunnel which makes intelligibly of the spoken word… impossible. When you hop into a bus in Sao Paulo, you validate or buy your ticket not by the driver but by the ticket collector which sits in the middle of the bus. These transports have no sonorous signals at all (neither have the traffic lights, by the way…). So, when the passengers leave on their stop, the ticket collector hits the iron gatemoney twice with some keys so the driver knows it can shut the doors and continuing driving. When the somewhat old doors open, you are likely to hop off and hear some music nearby coming either from a bar or a house. Naturally if the temperatures are higher (lucky me), a lot of people will be outside, just chillin’, having some beers, kids skating in the park, a couple of ladies trying to convert you to one of their dozens of christian churches. Churches… almost as many as bars. Not infrequently I walk even if just to buy a couple of groceries and I hear the masses or singing hymns. But not church bells, whether in Sweden, for example, that is the sign of a church somewhere nearby. The traffic is immense, close to chaos, so keep that in mind in this soundscape: mostly noisy motorbikes and busses. Curiously, I think most people here, despite this sound chaos, talk in very tender manner. Not the sellers on the underground though!: they have a very rehearsed way of selling their goods, and they need to be sure their message goes through.

And then, Brazil currently is going through a tough politic crises. I was not here already, but my friend told me that a way people had of protesting form their windows was to stick their kitchen cooking pots outside and hit them hard with utensils. Now, imagine high buildings, planes flying constantly very low, and dozens of people hitting their cooking pots. So yes, the planes form a scary roar up here, crossing the foggy sky. And I am yet to hear the thunders: I’ve heard they are truly powerful, but I am waiting for the summer to break.

Almost all day, a lot of children are just playing outside, sometimes screaming, crying or laughing. The neighbours talk to each other from their doors or windows, even if tender, it can get loud, and no wonder, since is over all this cacophony:

the mornings here have been the most amusing (or annoying, depending how late you sleep). People come door to door selling eggs, milk, gas, bread and even tofu! Many come on cars or trucks with sound announcements, music, pass the street a couple of times while we hear the doppler effect on the music as they pass. At night, a security guard walks or rides a bike blowing a whistle every 5 seconds or so, with the mission to keep burglars away.

And over all this, the birds communicate extremely loud. Even with so much pollution and houses built on top of other houses, the suburbs have lots of area with trees, with huge parks surrounding certain areas. Speaking of which, it just felt like I entered another planet. It has been a wonderful experience to walk in the Cantareira Park! And that would be a lot more developed in the next weeks.

So yes, São Paulo is known for being a very violent place, violent in many ways. Once I am in the city center, there would be musicians playing in the main avenue, young people discussing politics and whatnot, toasting and just being joyful or occasionally even crying; someone might pop up asking for money, or help in more ways. This would be a way to recognise people who need to be helped, since for example, homeless people are pretty much in a place of silence, sleeping under structures or corners, etc….

As told just above, one of the reasons for which I decided to keep my gear away for the moment is to first study the security situation. And this is also something one doesn’t really listen to. You see tons of security, from private companies, with machine guns. Not so much with police sirens, but this presence all around.

And am starting to record tomorrow for real!






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