Zjakki Willems has worked for Belgian public radio since 1975 and he started the weekly broadcast “Club Tropical” (world music) in 1984 and “Cucamonga” (magazine about rock, blues and world music) in 1993. He was co-founder of the EBU World Music Workshop in 1987 and is a panel member of the World Music Charts Europe. His broadcasts have won several Belgian and European awards and he has been specializing in Brazilian music since he interviewed Chico Science in 1994. He made five series on Brazilian music: Radio Brasil (2000), Radio Mangue (2002), Sintonize Pernambuco (2003), SamPa Beats (2006), Radio Mauritsstad (2009) and Radio Mauritsstad (French version) (2011).
Currently he is making “Closing Time World” for Radio 1 in Belgium and Brazilian mixtapes for Multicult.fm in Berlin. He was the Belgian music curator (for rock, traditional music and encontros) for the Europalia Brasil festival (2011-2012).
Read below his impressions about europalia.brasil:
europalia.brasil is over… It lasted from 4 October 2011 till 15 January 2012 and attracted thousands of people. The biggest share of them went to one of the exhibitions: Brazil.Brasil, Art in Brazil (1950 -2011), Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Extremes, Indios no Brasil, Terra Brasilis, A Rua, Pearls of freedom – Afro-Brazilian jewelry, Incorporations, Gravura extrema, Bispo do Rosário, Copacabana, Rio in Panorama, Design Brasil, Lina Bo Bardi, Sérgio Bernardes, Brasília, Of gold and feathers, Samba etc. Brazilian carnival, Circuito dos Diamantes, Travelogues, Tintin et Milou chez les Arumbayas, Rua na Rua, Retratos Brasileiros, Repórter Sem Beiras and Faixas aqui. Undoubtedly most exhibitions were a success, as well for their artistic content as for the numbers of visitors they attracted. But, remarkably, the main exhibition, Brazil.Brasil, only attracted 50.000 visitors, which is not much compared with the previous editions of Europalia (China, Russia etc.). On the other hand Indios no Brasil has been prolonged till April 15th because it was such a big success.
So europalia.brasil was a success? Yes and no. Most exhibitions were a success, as I wrote, but Brazilian culture is also music! And for the music part of the festival the results are very mixed. The good thing is that there have been many Brazilian concerts and that the media paid more attention to Brazilian music. The bad thing is that the music programme of europalia.brasil didn’t give a complete view of the Brazilian music scene. There was no bossa nova, no hip-hop, no aparelhagem, no maracatu, no funk carioca, … Moreover several concerts have been cancelled: Nação Zumbi, Banda Eddie, Marcelo D2, Renata Rosa… Take for instance Nação Zumbi: they were part of a night of Recife Beat scheduled in three main venues: Handelsbeurs in Gent, Warande in Turnhout and Melkweg in Amsterdam. The line-up of these nights included Banda Eddie, DJ Dolores & band and Nação Zumbi. Everything was confirmed and the Warande even started selling tickets. Then came the news that Recife Beat was cancelled “because there was too much of Recife”. Cancelations are not good signals towards music professionals and consequently this can have a negative impact on future Brazilian concerts in Belgium and the Netherlands.
What about the artistic level and the attendance of the concerts? I haven’t seen a bad concert; on the contrary, I have seen many good and even excellent concerts. The attendance though was not always good. I was very satisfied with the sold-out or nearly sold-out concerts of CéU, Samba Chula de São Braz, Tom Zé etcetera. And of course with the tremendous success of Brazilian Underground. On the other hand some concerts have been poorly attended, mainly because of a lack of knowledge of the Belgian music scene, resulting in programming good bands in the wrong places or in a wrong combination. Take for instance the concert of Siba in the Brussels Palace of Fine Arts: it was fantastic, but it not even attracted 150 people in a hall with 470 seats. The evening before Renato Borghetti, Olivinho and Lulinha Alencar attracted less than 500 people in a hall with 2000 seats. It’s a pity; all those artists deserved a more professional programming.
What about Brazilian music in Belgium and the Netherlands now that europalia.brasil is over? Hundreds of people discovered Brazilian artists that they didn’t know, clichés about Brazilian music have been broken down and concert organizers who had a positive experience became more open to Brazilian music. All that is very positive. But europalia.brasil could have been a good opportunity for building structures for more Brazilian concerts in the future. In that sense it failed. For instance the Botanique, one of the main concert halls in Belgium, wanted to start a series of Brazilian nights. The first night would have been a Europalia event: a Noite São Paulo with Hurtmold, Lurdez da Luz and Soukast. Like Recife Beat it was confirmed and then cancelled.
Something will remain of europalia.brasil though: the Retratos Brasileiros. It is a project of ten portrait pictures and ten videos on the theme: “What is Brazilian culture?”. Retratos Brasileiros is also part of a social and artistic project by the Belgian filmmaker John Erbuer, in collaboration with CCJ Recife, a centre for youngsters from the favelas, who produce themselves the films and pictures in workshops. Have a look at the Retratos Brasileiros here.