‘I’ve lied to you,’ the bitter sweet music of Karina Buhr
By Gabriela G. Antunes
"Patti Smith with eyeliner," is how American MTV defines the Brazil rock 'n' roll scene's new phenomenon Karina Buhr. Seen as the heiress of legendary Brazilian rocker Rita Lee, who emerged in the midst of the Tropicalistic movement in the 1970’s – the artistic faction which also gave birth to names such as Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil and so many other Brazilian music titans – Buhr is the newest sensation on the country’s alternative scene.
With a distinctive accent from the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco and a contrasting soft voice, Buhr sings “I am bad person. I’ve lied to you. It’s a shame I am not what wished for,” making her music a bitter-sweet symphony that can sound both subtle and confrontational.
Musically brought in the effervescent streets of Recife, a place known for its carnival rhythms, shark infested Boa Viagem beach and flamboyant underground scene, Buhr makes her day view in Buenos Aires City at Niceto Club's stage on Friday night.
Lady Gagaish and a “perform beast,” as an Argentine newspaper once called her, the singer is one of the women ahead of the new generation of Brazilian musicians who are bringing an innovative beat to the nation’s music scene also making an impact internationally.
A multi-task artist –working as an actress, composer and designer– since 2003, Buhr took characteristic sounds from Northern Brazil, marked by African drums, carnival blow instruments and European influences, to Sao Paulo, a city known as the Mecca of syncretism where the old and traditional meet the contemporary and modern.
You have come from Brazil’s most important music powerhouses (Karina Buhr was born in Bahía, raised in Pernambuco and later based in Sao Paulo). How did it influence your music?
I started playing drums back in 1994. I then played in several ‘maracatu’ (Brazilian drums) groups such as ‘Mestre Salustiano’ and then played for over five years in a group called ‘Estrela Brilhante.’
At the same time, I started venturing out in another musical universe with limited or no relation to the carnival rhythms. Since I was very eclectic, I circulated on different musical venues.
I don’t have an academic background, so I preferred to learn out on the streets. Singing came organically, everywhere I went I played and sung at the same time. That’s how I ended up playing with big contemporary names such as Eddie, Dj Dolores, Bonsucesso Samba Clube, Zabumba Véia do Badalo, Erasto Vasconcelos, Antônio Nóbrega, and recording with Mundo Livre and Mestre Ambrósio.
Then, finally, in 1997, I started a band with friends where I began laying down my first ideas on musical arrangements and lyrics.
The media has called you Rita Lee’s heiress, a celebrated woman rocker. Is that a valid comparison to you?
I think it is absolutely wonderful! Rita Lee is a goddess, not only to me, but to the entire country. But I believe that it’s just a reference because, as you said, she is a woman, a composer and a rocker.
I can’t say, however, I am her heiress. She is still rocking and very active. As far as I know, she will be releasing a new album. I see no other way for that comparison to be. It is a mere link based on creating a mere reference.
An international comparison was also made when MTV compared you to the legendary Patti Smith. What, in your opinion, led to this assessment? What does Karina Buhr have in common with Patti Smith?
Patti Smith is the ultimate goddess. I feel nothing but flattered. It is humbling but, at the same time, I hope people are not in a “let’s see if she is all that” mood. I’d rather have my own sound to be whatever I want it to be, make my music, shows and lyrics without worrying with such comparisons, though they can make wonders to one’s ego.
Your lyrics are intriguing, sometimes unexpected and mostly very feminine. You say you lied and can’t handle too much love. Was it just a poetic input?
At the exact time I lend a piece of my story or anyone’s story to the lyrics, I am taking ownership and it is fiction. I am ruling over those stories and I mix everything, creating happy or sad endings. I have no obligation to the truth or reality over that matter. What I really like is poetry and to go around creating fiction in a parallel universe, a science fiction kind of thing. When it becomes lyrics, it transforms itself in a delirium that transports you to another place.
As for being feminine, I don’t consider myself a feminist. I write intuitively what I feel and think. I never say “I am going to be feminist now” for a feminist is everything a man and woman should be, in some form, until the world changes and evolves.
I simply exist as a woman. But sometimes you have to say it, reaffirm it. The good thing would be if we wouldn’t have to talk about it. But, as long as it is needed it, I will say it.
I am a free spirit and so are my songs. But I don’t impose limits to my songs. I like partying and I am also up for the political debate. If I feel the need to approach the bombs USA is throwing on other peoples’ head, I will do it.
You are known as a show woman. What can Buenos Aires' public expect from your first performance here?
I wanted to do this show for so long! Having a South American tour is a dream fulfilled. I have toured in Europe but South America was a dream I kept to myself, so close and yet so far. Now, the time has come.
I am looking forward to talk, sing and have fun. My musicians can hardly wait too. As for being a show woman, I can only say I am very sincere. Whatever I do on stage is true and it is what I feel in that moment. I have no intention to put on an acting performance, but if it happens, it is blissful!
Karina Buhr plays at Niceto Club (Niceto Vega 5510) on Friday, September 21th, at 8.45 pm. Tickets cost $50 at the venue or can be purchased online www.ticketek.com.ar