11:16 pm - Monday January 22, 2018

Paulo Padilha and the Songs of a Dollar Store Millionaire

It’s morning in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. A door opens and a man emerges to join all the others walking along the street. But in the midst of the urban bustle, he goes slowly, taking time to look in the shop windows and stare at everyone passing by. The place, the people, the stores of his hometown: they’re the inspiration for Paulo Padilha’s new album, At the Dollar Store, I Feel Like a Millionaire (released October 28, 2014 on Borandá Records)

“I wanted to look at São Paulo, at the ordinary things that happen, the day-to-day life,” Padilha says. “Everything looks so simple, so run-of-the-mill, but when you go a little deeper, there are all kinds of complexities happening behind it all. And often it’s funny, it can be so ironic.”

That’s perfectly illustrated on “Lojinha de Um Real,” where the narrator wanders the aisles of a dollar store, and, as he sings, “choosing kitchenware, plastic silverware… pick a toy son, please. I buy, therefore I am.” It’s a sharp, acerbic comment on the state of today’s world, where to exist is to consume. And behind the simplicity of spending his dollar lies a whole philosophy of modern existence.

It’s all done with good humor. On the opener, the reggae-inflected “Eu E Minhas Ideias Geniais,” Padilha is full of genial self-deprecation, singing about “me and my genius ideas that the world needs to know… we open our eyes at 11 and turn the TV on.”

He even pokes kindly fun at his mother-in-law on “Eu Sou Ela Amanhã,” with visions of the way his wife seems to be turning into her mother.

“At the end, my mother-in-law appears nude with an apple singing to me: ‘I am her tomorrow!’,” Padilha recalls. “I actually get along very well with her. At first she was a little upset by the song. Then she saw me play it live and now she wants to hear my “homage” to her at every concert!” Nor was his wife thrilled when she first heard it: “I didn’t show it to her, the first time she heard it was at a gig. In the beginning she thought I was trying to tell her things through my music.”

Throughout, like the ideas in the songs, the music is deceptively simple, a mix of samba and Brazilian pop. But there’s much more happening underneath, the core of two guitars and bass layered with contributions from guests as well as subtle programming. Traditional samba it’s definitely not.

“I’m not really a samba player,” Padilha points out. “We have a very strong independent music scene here in São Paulo, I hear all kinds of music.”

And music has been part of Paulo Padilha’s life since he was young. His mother would sing popular songs around the house, while his father was a classical violinist. One of his seminal memories is from when he was six years old and the family took a car trip to Bahia.

“My mother was singing in the car, and my father used his wedding ring to tap out the rhythms on the steering wheel. That’s still very clear in my mind.”

After taking a degree in music composition, Padilha was the bassist in the celebrated band Aquilo del Nisso, before branching out with his solo debut, Cara Legal, in 1997. Two more solo albums followed, the last in 2006, and Padilha became famous as a songwriter when his composition “Love” was part of the soundtrack to the telenovela Insensato Coração.

Now, with At the Dollar Store, I Feel Like a Millionaire, Padilha has the chance to showcase both his serious and playful sides, and in a few cases they occur at the same time. “Si Mi Ré Lá” (“If You Touch Me”) is about a woman threatening the man following her. It’s a serious subject, but his approach shows more beneath the surface.

“The title also comes from the notes of the scale,” Padilha notes, “and the lyrics are sung and spoken in the embolada rhythm, so (which?) it’s almost a type of Brazilian rap.”

If that seems slightly strange, then his cover of the standard, “Summetime,” is a trip into the bizarre.

“I love the song,” Padilha explains, “but the way I do it is meant as a joke; Gershwin would tremble if he heard it. I used Portuguese words that sound like the English lyrics, but they create a completely different story in which a guy is upset because he suspects his girlfriend is kind of betraying him, wearing very low-necked dresses…That’s the funny part, because it just sounds like the original until you listen more closely.”

To coincide with the release of At the Dollar Store. I Feel Like a Millionaire, Padilha will be making his first trip to the US as part of the Arts Midwest World Fest.

The Brazilian record label and music agency Borandá Produções is partnering with Paulo on this, following five other releases on the label in the past 12 months in the US. Fernando Grecco, the label´s founder and artistic director, notes: “Paulo´s is the one that best incorporates humor in the musical language, and also one of the most accessible, in line with the current independent music scenario trends in Brazil, bringing groovy and easy to listen arrangements and melodies, that will please international audiences even without the understanding of the lyrics.”

“Arts Midwest have a great idea,” Padilha says. “It’s not just concerts, but also workshops where I’ll be able to talk about Brazil and its culture. There will be about a dozen shows and around 50 workshops while I’m there. It’s the perfect chance to show people more about my music, and my country.”

And, of course, to spend time in the dollar stores.

Tour Dates Include

·         Minneapolis, September 27th: http://www.thecedar.org/events/2014/09/27/paulo-padilha-and-group

·         Sisseton, October 4th: http://www.sissetonarts.com/events-and-activities.php

·         Orange City, October 10th: http://orangecityarts.net/event/paulo-padilha-group-from-brazil-oct-5-10/

·         Grand Forks, October 17th: http://www.novac.org/world-fest.html

·         Bemidji, October 25th: http://hwschool.org/headwaters-concert-series/

·         Rice Lake/Cumberland/Barron/Shell Lake, WI, November 1st:  http://barron.uwc.edu/community/continuing-ed



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