Mardi Gras

I went to a school where Shrove Tuesday was marked with an odd ceremony called The Greaze. The head cook tossed a super thick pancake over a bar which stretched across the school assembly hall, and a representative from each class waited underneath to fight for the largest share. One year our class won it through someone who was soon to become well known, Gordon Waller. Gordon together with Peter Asher had a number one hit, World Without Love, written by Lennon / McCartney, about three years after he won The Greaze.

But it is the Brazilians who do it best, and the Mardi Gras Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the world’s biggest party. A riot of colour, noise and music, and held together by the unceasing and unceasingly changing rhythms of the samba. A heaving ocean of sound.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova compositions, based on the samba, and popularised in the US by Stan Getz, Joao and Astrud Gilberto, still haunt the popular imagination. Their dreamy arrangements are very different from the flamboyance of the Carnival, but they too are interwoven with the samba beat. My personal favourite is One Note Samba. It uses the idea that one is not only the first number, but the undivided one that precedes all number. Repetition becomes sincerity becomes love. Wonderful! Here follows my own small tribute to the vitality of Brazil. Let us hope the full brilliance of the festival returns in 2022, after its cancellation in 2021.

(Remembering Tom Jobim’s One Note Samba)

now a crimson note is sounding 
petal falling through the breeze

remembrance of a single plucked note - 
other notes will swiftly follow

dancers touch and sway together 
steady themselves against the one note -

passionate energetic couples 
spinning in each other's orbit 

electric through the hours past midnight
caressing as the dawn approaches

leave the dance still slowly dancing
night and day poured into one note -
essence of the unending samba 
love distilled in just one note

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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