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Rock Tales #444-Jay Vaquer

In 1973 I was working as a musician in Rio de Janeiro. After releasing my first recording at CBS by house producer Raul Seixas, and having recently released my self- produced solo LP on RCA Victor, life was good. I had a new baby boy named Djae who at this time was my parents first and only grandchild. I could never have imagined that a visit by my father would profoundly affect the artistic sensibilities of a Raul Seixas, but, as life played its way out, that is exactly what happened in this worthy Rock Tale.

My mother Ida, retired army officer father Larry, and younger brother Patrick, caught, for free, a military air transport jet from the USA to Rio de Janeiro and met the newest family member.  I was living in a spacious apartment close to the beach in Leblon and had a rehearsal studio in a converted bedroom. When I left CBS for RCA, I brought Raul the producer to RCA, with the underlying intentions of actually making a Raul Seixas solo LP. His job description at CBS was producer and song writer and his boss and friend Evandro Ribeiro made a personal restriction that because of his earlier failure with his group The Panthers, Raul was strictly forbidden to seek a career as a solo artist. When free time presented itself, we worked on Raulís music in my studio and we generally hung out every night anyway. When my parents arrived, Raul and my Dad found an instant bond for a lifelong friendship- they both liked country music and they both liked to drink beer. Raul was making 4 thousand cruzeiros a month, twice his CBS salary, as a producer at RCA and had just bought a new car, a 1973 Corcel. Raul, being his typically gracious self, decided to treat my Dad, me, Raulís wife Edith and their daughter Simone, to a weeklong visit of his hometown Salvador, Bahia, which was several hundred miles to the north of Rio. Raul did all the driving as we took turns riding in the front seat and enjoyed the trip up there. Upon arrival we went to Raulís parentsí apartment and everyone stayed there except me. Raul took me to his Auntís house where the guestroom was built under the house. It was fully furnished and very private. The next morning Raul took us sightseeing. First we went to downtown Salvador, which was built on a bluff overlooking a large bay and the Atlantic Ocean. A large public elevater took us down to the lower city, which was at sea level. We walked through the sidewalk flea market to a large 3- story building called the Mercado Modelo. Since cruise ships with lots of tourists frequently ported in Salvador, many artists, sculptors and painters from around the world, lived in Salvador and sold their creations on the ground floor. I bought a wood carving in Jacaranda (a two-toned dark wood) of a headhunter holding a knife in one hand and his preyís head in the other. My Dad bought a two-foot tall wooden sculpture of the bell-ringing hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimoto. It was carved with meticulous detail and worth a lot more than its modest price tag of $30. The second story had more shops and a restaurant with a beautiful view of the bay and the large elevator going between the upper and lower cities. The third story had even more booths with venders but the majority of the floor space was dedicated to black magic ritualistic paraphernalia. Raul introduced me to an old black man selling some herbs, who, according to Raul, was ď TheĒ Macumba black magic high priest in the state of Bahia.  The strong African influence in Salvador makes their sect the strongest form of ritualistic magic in Brazil. This old man had the power to summon one of Satanís most powerful demons, Exu. I was intrigued and wanted to witness one of their ceremonies. I had seen a Macumba ceremony in the Amazons where some of the participants were taken over by spirits while dancing and chanting. When I began questioning the old man, Raul interrupted advising me to be discrete since I was delving into a matter revered as sacred by people who would just as soon kill me as look at me. I told Raul I was ready to leave and go to the beach. We went to a small beach town north of the city. We rented hammocks and stretched them between the coconut trees on the beach. Local venders would come to you with fresh cold coconut milk and shrimp seasoned with Dende sauce. All the while a cool breeze from the warm Atlantic Ocean made this a natural paradise. I kept thinking of the man at the Mercado Modelo and asking if he was for real. Raul told me some stories involving the old manís power, so I decided to go back early the next morning to check it out. The old man was there and I told him I wanted to summon Exu. He said the stars and moon would revolve to the proper ceremonial position the following week. Since we were staying for a week I had the time to go for it. He gave me an extensive list of all the items necessary to attract Exu. One of them being the preparation of an altar at the ceremonial site with all the items for worship displayed. After purchasing all the available items in his shop, he gave me his phone number and the number of his assistant who would help me find the rest of the items.  Some of which would require maintenance. Like the seven -day candles, which are half-black and half-red, and would have to remain lit, as well as the special incense, six days before and on the ritual date. I bought a metal statue of Exu, it was about eight inches high and looked like a demon with two horns, a tail, and a large penis. The old man said if I bought the statue of Exuís wife, Exua, she would encourage Exu to show up. And when Exu arrives he uses all the things on the list. Hand rolled cigars dipped in rum, specific foods and alcoholic drinks were some of the easier to find items. Exu would also use a series of tools to direct his energy. They were welded into a sculpture piece. The five-inch metal base held a four-inch rod rising with what appeared to be crossed spears, tridents, and other such tools geometrically attached to the top. Another esoteric item was the Pemba Stick. It came packaged like a bar of soap in a box. Inside however, the Pemba was a dried brick of black mud. The writing on the box guaranteed the purity stating that the Pemba was taken from a sacred river in Africa, scooped, formed, baked, packaged, and touched only by the hands of Virgin woman from a powerful cult. The old man said he and the rest of his ďMacumbeirosĒ (associates who would come to the ceremony to play percussion instruments, dance, chant and party) would design magical symbols and write power words directed to Exu on their skin, the walls, and the floors using the sacred Pemba stick.  I took the basic items and a taxi back to my secluded room, which turned out to be the ideal place to hold the ceremony. I set up an altar, lit the candles, and went to Raulís parentís apartment where we weíre going to party all day and stay for dinner. After lunch I told Raul that I had gone back to the Mercado Modelo that morning and that I was going to call Exu. Raul acted like, ďcool manĒ, but he told everyone there what I was planning. Throughout the day someone would pull me to the side to tell me a story about Exu, which always ended tragically. After the anecdote there was always the friendly warning to ďstay away from ExuĒ. The more stories and warnings I heard, the more excited I became, and the more I wanted to experience the ritual. Raulís brother Plinio told me about a patron, who, not unlike myself, wished to summon Exu. When Exu arrived at the ritual he took control of the patronís mind and body. In a swift and fatal act, the man ran from the ritual and into an oncoming bus. Raulís mother told me about an American who came to Salvador. One night he was walking down the street and saw an offering to Exu on the corner. When he was told what it was, he said he did not believe in that, and that it was a lot of bullshit. To prove it, he kicked the offering into the street. All the items went flying into the air except for a piece of glass contaminated with the venom of a yellow poisonous toad, which was lodged deep into the foreignerís leg.   Within minutes the highly toxic venom had the gringoís vital signs fluctuating. Before reaching the hospital, the doubting and arrogant American was dead. She said she was a Christian and believed in Jesus Christ but all the same she did not question the beliefs of the Macumbeiros. She warned it would be wise for me to avoid any contact with something dangerous I did not fully understand.  Raulís mother was very convincing as she was a robust woman full of energy and laughter. Quite the opposite of Raulís father, whose presence appeared as meek and subdued but starred at you over his glasses with a profoundly intellectual glare. Raul told me how his father had worked for the government railroad before the 1964 revolution and how the new regime confiscated all private property from employees of the overthrown government. He had to buy his apartment back from the new government and then continue working for the railroad. Raul showed me his Dadsí library, which contained the great classics and more contemporary philosophical and psychological works censored by the old government. Raul said that he was able to connect to the U.S.A. through Edithís parents who lived in Salvador as missionaries. The American Consulate became Raulís lifeline to American culture through accessibility to good books, movies, and some great rock and roll records. I believe these two influences, his fatherís culture and the American culture, became the foundation of Raulís life.  Spending the after dinner hours in Raulís parents home gave me a clear blueprint of Raul.

The next morning we were all going to one of the places Raul enjoyed the most as a child, Dias Davila. It was a recreational park several miles into the countryside with a spring fed lake safe for swimming and picnic areas. We left early the next morning and arrived just as the sun had began to heat up. As we headed to the water, Raulís parents left some supplies and went back to town to bring the servants who would prepare our lunch at the park. Raulís brother Plinio had brought his new wife to party with us. We had been playing around in the water and drinking beer for few hours when Raulís parents returned. My dad went to the car to get his movie camera to film the festivities at the beautiful spring. On his way back to the water the trail leads through some bushes where came upon Plinioís wife who was urinating.  My Dad automatically hit the start button on his camera and captured the act in the raw.  My Dad was feeling no pain and began laughing and thanking the girl for adding natural color to his film. The girl was embarassed and ran to Plinio crying that Larry had caught her on film with her pants down. Raul and I thought it was funny and began laughing.  Then Plinio came to the defense of his embarassed bride, and got really hot - all that Latin American machismo was pretty strong as he protested in a high voice. When he saw we were not intimidated and definitely not sympathetic, he took the sobbing girl to the patio where Raulís parents were coordinating lunch. Raulís mother, Dona Maria Eugenia, came down to the water and told us we were insensitive for not trying to comfort Plinio. My Dad got out of the water and went to the patio where he apologized to Plinio and his wife and removed the film from the camera destroying all the images. Even after this gesture Plinio would not stop whining, so after lunch, we returned to the city and went to the Barro Ventro- a seaside bar with great atmosphere, hot chicks, and cold beer. Raul told us stories of how he and Plinio were playmates growing up and how Raul dominated him always making Plinio the fall guy. I was very much into finding the rest of the items on my list for the ritual and was more interested in that than Raul making excuses for Plinioís behavior.  Whenever I brought up the subject someone would always warn me to avoid Exu. The next morning I went back to the Mercado Modelo to find the old manís friend. The final item on the list was a black goat, which the old man would sacrifice with a special dagger during the ceremony. The old manís friend was there and said he would take me into the country the day before the ritual to buy the goat so everything was hooked Ėup. Two days before the ritual, Raulís wife Edith, who was a very good friend of mine, cornered me and pleaded for me not to hold the ritual. She said she had lived in Bahia long enough to know that Exu was for real. She feared that something would happen to her daughter Simone. She said Exu could follow us back to Rio and cause a car accident, which could possibly decapitate Simone. I would not call off the ritual for Raul or anyone else, but for Edith I made the exception. The next morning I went back to the Mercado Modelo and told the old man that out of respect for my good friend I had to call off the ritual. I gave him most of the items on my list, the money for the goat, and told him the next time I came to Salvador I would try again.  I kept the statues of Exu and Exua, his tools, and some of the seven- day candles as souveniers. On the trip back to Rio Raul was very animated and talked about cinematography non- stop. He had an extensive knowledge of filmmaking. He was familiar with the works of the great directors Felini, Hitchcock, Corman, and Orson Wells.  He said aside from seeing some Elvis films over thirty times each, his favorite film was Caligula and he aspired to someday direct a great film. We arrived in Rio without incident. In a few days my family would return to the USA and my Dad had given Raul his movie camera in appreciation for all the time Raul had spent showing him a good time. Several weeks had gone by when one day Raul invited us to his apartment for the premier of his first film. Raulís apartment was on the beach in Ipanema at the Jardim de Alah. It was a small two- bedroom with a long and narrow living room where Raul projected the image on the wall. We all sat on the floor as Raul started the film. The image looked all white with a small dark circle in the very center. This image remained for at least a full minute with no motion. Everyone was guessing at what we were looking at and wondering if there was some defect in the projector when suddenly the small circle began to grow. As the circle got larger, a darker circle seemed to be emerging from the center. Raul was totally delighted by the fact that we were all perplexed by the image and no one seemed to have a clue as to what was going on. Suddenly there was jump cut edit and we were looking down at the image from an upper perspective. It became abundantly clear that we were looking at feces on a glass table as the steam rose into the air. The image faded out and that was the end of the film. Only Raul could have come up with such an avant-garde film. To shoot the first image he laid on the floor under the glass table while someone defecated. The lighting was perfect and in retrospect the image was very Salvador Dali. At the end of the film everyone was laughing and applauded Raulís cinematic efforts. Raul admitted that he was influenced by my Dadís non-film at Dias Davila in Salvador. Raul logically went from number one to number two.

Rock Lesson # 444- Sometimes your best intentions turn into shit.





 

 

 

 

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