Rio’s International Song Festival
BY “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN BRAZIL
LOTS of sunshine, beautiful, inviting beaches, a spectacular bay with background of lofty mountains—here is something that would inspire many persons to sing! Whether the climate and scenery have anything to do with it or not, a world music festival has come into existence in Rio de Janeiro. Its purpose? To promote a better understanding among peoples of all nations through music. What is it like?
The International Popular Song Festival, founded some five years ago, follows the general lines of other selected festivals, such as San Remo’s, in Italy. However, the idea was to make it, not a “closed-in” festival, but one with as many people present as would be feasible—people who would be not just observers but sharers, singing freely the songs they liked best.
But, where to hold the Fifth Festival? An ideal place was the Maracanãzinho Gymnasium, under the shadow of its colossal namesake, the Maracanã Stadium, the world’s largest. The gymnasium can comfortably seat over 30,000 persons. And all seats would be needed, as the popularity of this festival has increased with each passing year. To hold it last year, though, the festival had to face the problem of the diminishing quality of music throughout the world. Was the festival able to cope with this challenge?
The festival has two parts, the national and the international. The national part was held October 15-18, 1970, and in it a song was chosen to represent Brazil in the international part, which took place a few days later, October 22-25. Some thirty-five nations were represented last year, covering a large spectrum, from the Argentine to Yugoslavia, including Hungary, Japan, Sweden, the United States and so forth.
Last year the festival was telecast in color directly to several countries by satellite. It was supposed to reach some 350 million persons. But, would that many people really want to see it? David Raskin, president of the American Association of Composers and Lyricists, expressed his viewpoint, saying: “Possibly, the highest commendation of Rio’s Song Festival that one could make is to say that a large number of American composers would like to have seen it in the United States.”
Selecting the Best Songs
For Rio’s Song Festival there is a previous selection of music. Then on two different nights, a group of some twenty songs is presented, one for each country represented. Among the thirty-five songs presented in 1970, twenty were chosen for the final presentation. Of these, ten are selected as being the best. Prizes in money and trophies are given, the main trophy being a “Golden Rooster,” the symbol of the festival. Before, in between and after the presentation of the songs there is a show, presenting in general beautiful music by invited singers and conductors who are often judges in the contest.
The selection of the best songs is entrusted to an international jury that includes conductors, musicians, singers, music critics and so forth. The jury’s choice, however, does not always coincide with the people’s choice. So another jury was organized last year by lot, a “popular” jury that chooses songs according to the people’s general liking.
In 1970 the two juries came quite close in their selection, although the opinion of the official jury is the prevailing one. As desired by many, the winning songs were of the romantic type. A ballad from Argentina about a poor peasant unexpectedly won the “Golden Rooster,” followed by a romantic melody from Yugoslavia. Brazil was third, with a ‘soul’ waltz, a piece full of contrasts and much screaming. Trophies were also given for the best singer, composer, lyricist, conductor, orchestrator and combo.
Coping with the Music Downtrend
There is no doubt that music has a deep hold on people, especially young people. The tendency now is to prefer loud, ‘hot’ music with a heavy beat. Provided they like the sound or rhythm, some youths are not likely to be concerned with whether the lyrics express their own ideas and beliefs. Christian youths, however, should remember that popular music has its dangers. First, there is danger of “hero worship.” Singers and players are not heroes, but inexperienced youths tend to make them so. Thus, when famous singers Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin recently died, allegedly from drug abuse, the suggestion was made to name two festival trophies after them. However, several judges in charge of minors, meeting in a symposium at festival time, called this “the glorification of deplorable examples.”
Second, what do the lyrics say? Do they express lascivious, immoral thoughts? Do they have any connection with false religion, like some “bossa nova” and other Brazilian music? “Aquarius,” a very popular song some time ago, glorified astrology, a form of divination rooted in pagan Babylonian religion and a practice condemned in the Bible. (Isa. 47:13, 14; Rev. 18:21-23) Thus, songs of this kind are not fitting for a true Christian.
Youths should also remember that music is not the most important thing in life. So, what about the time and money spent in swapping records, listening to all the “newest and hottest releases”? A true Christian needs to be balanced in this matter of music also.
The Fifth International Popular Song Festival itself did not escape the general downtrend in music. Thus, Wilson Simonal, a very popular Brazilian singer who presided over the former festival, said: “The Fifth Song Festival is so bad, so bad, that I don’t believe the Sixth will be held.”
Many persons thought he had overstated the matter, but he was obviously referring to some songs presented both in the national and in the international part. Despite the downtrend in music, we as individuals can be selective and still enjoy beautiful music.