I remember hearing the very first songs in Portuguese way back in 2002 when I also became interested in the language. Some songs were brega (cheesy) but others were a lot less so (though I couldn’t discern one from the other at the time).
Among the lucky ones that lured me into a world I have yet to leave were the very catchy Já Sei Namorar by the group Tribalistas, Clima de Rodeio by Dallas Company, Coração Radiante by Grupo Revelação, and a Proibido Pra Mim cover sung by Zeca Baleiro. It was all a lot different than the styles I grew up with (oldies, classical, country, and rap) but the melodies in the music and in those foreign words hooked me quickly.
From then on, and for the next few years, I scoured the radio station websites in Brazil with my non-existent Portuguese, looking for their Top 10 lists. I downloaded everything I could find and made my own CD mixes, which I eagerly showed off to any of the few Brazilians I met. Those few people came out of the woodworks as if they had been there all along (they had), waiting for me to discover their existence and the strange but alluring language they must have, up until then, only spoken in private. What cruelty, for the world to keep something so seemingly necessary from me. I imagined them hoarding their words and culture, holding on to them like invaluable emblems.
“Mine, mine! I must have the precious!”
The reality was, of course, that those Brazilians I met were some of the nicest people and quite eager to share their culture and language with me.
I ended up in online chatrooms using ICQ, bugging Brazilian strangers to talk to me, but only if they knew some English. The local Brazilian markets became regular destinations for me. Eventually, I became part of a big group of slightly older Brazilians who took me in and invited me to things like São João parties, where we danced through strange tunnels and drank hot wine.
Brazil was such an infectious thing that, like the joke of adding “in bed” to any fortune cookie phrase, I pretty much added “in Brazil” to every sentence I uttered. I was fortunate to have it be my filter through which I began to see the world and it helped me look at other Latin American cultures with similar enthusiasm.
In fact, I might have first gone to live in Brazil in 2005, returning to the States several months later but, ever since my first forays into Brazilian culture, I’ve never really found a way back, nor have I been in search of it.