Thursday, 13 March 2008

Radio Ubiquity

Like people, every rig is a beautiful and unique individual, with so much to give to the world, and with so much we can learn from and be enriched. And, of course, loud and unsubtle, pumping out fumes, and from which we can’t wait to get away from. One of the quirks of the rig I’m on now – which is spacious, clean and with two-man rooms – is the speaker in the ceiling of every room including some corridors blaring out the radio. On the wall somewhere is a volume control, ranging from “silent” to “uncomfortably loud”. This being Brazil, a nation not known for peaceful reflection, “uncomfortably loud” is usually favoured.

Why it is that the Brazilian must live his life surrounded by din and chaos, I’m not sure. Whether I’m eating in the mess room, checking email in the third party office, or pumping heavy iron in the gym, I seem to be followed by this radio cacophony. Mercifully, in rooms with no-one else present I will dive to the volume dial and enjoy some relative silence, but frequently I am forced to endure the constant numbing stimuli of pointless sound. From an extensive study of the last five days, I have discovered that there are two songs currently popular in Brazil.

The first is Spears, i.e. Britney. The song she’s singing goes on about “Do you wanna piece of me?” and has a lot of processed vocals to an edgy rhythm. “Do you wanna piece of me,” her robot voice squeals. After much thinking – five days’ worth in fact – I have to say, “Sorry Spears, not any more.” Spears was quite lovely as a 17-year-old in skimpy schoolgirl’s clothing, but ever since she had two children, shaved her head and went completely crazy, I’ve gone off her a bit. Mind you, after a couple of drinks...

The next song is infinitely more inane than the Spears effort. The Spears effort, to be fair, has some production values and a pertinent message, something about her soul being devoured for the press and public’s gratification, as though a trafficked prostitute crudely exposing herself. But the other song flying high in the Brazilian consciousness is about a rainbow. A rainbow “so high” to be more precise. The singer of the song, if he is to be believed (which I think he is, as he sounds so desperately earnest) wants to fly, to this rainbow so high. Hence the lyrics: “Oh I, wanna fly, to a rainbow, so high.”

These nine words constitute the entire lyrical content to the song, and are heavily repeated, sometimes with urgency, sometimes with anxious reflection, always with great earnestness. The song renders me helpless with astonishment. Astonishment at the painful sincerity of it, and at the strong feeling that in this country of 150 million people I am the first person to actually listen to the words of the song and wonder just quite what the hell is going on. There are no other lyrics, nothing to give context to this earnest and fantastical desire, just the heavy repetiton sing in a variety of tempos.

I was trying to imagine who the target audience for this song is. It’s not clubby enough for clubs, not boyband enough for teen girls and it’s nowhere near “urban” enough for cool kids. But it occured to me: it is precisely inane enough for proles. In Orwell’s 1984, a book that acquires a finer vintage with every passing year, music is generated automatically by a machine and finely balanced to fit and tweak the mind of the proletarian majorty. This song, with its cheerful yet utterly hopeless and inane message, and inoffensively bland Euro bounce, seems safe enough to pump through the favellas that swamp Brazilian cities and keep the inhabitants placated, despite the rampant inequality, sub-standard conditions, drug and gun epidemics and profound hopelessness in the face of police corruption.

I suspect I’ve given more thought than is strictly warranted for this three minute wonder.

Fortunately, the radio in my room appears either not to work or to be deliberately disabled. Unfortunately, my Brazlian room-mate compensates for this by switching the TV on at all possible opportunities. He walks into the room, turns on the TV, and walks straight out again. If he’s in the room at all, for any purpose, the TV will be on, regardless of whether he’s paying any attention to it at all. Usually he seems to be making a pretence of watching it, but I suspect it’s going right through him, as light will travel through a vacuum. It’s just anonymous stimuli to keep the darkness of the mind at bay. He would certainly be sleeping with the TV on, but on the first night, when I heard his curtains draw and the TV still on, I made sure he switched it off, and since then he’s been very well-behaved.

It looks likely I’ll soon be moved from this over-stimulated rig to the sterility of a hotel room anyway. Yesterday was my day of work, and now my job is done for the next week or two. This job is a particularly straightforward affair – easy, you might call it – so there’s no use for me until my equipment returns from whence it came, that is kilometres underground. So, for reasons of bedspace I may be shunted to a beach-side hotel in Vitoria, where my TV and radio will be kept firmly off, and all thought of Spears and rainbows put aside. And in their place? Well, a beer of course!


swishfish said...

I have just listened to the 30-second preview of the rainbow track (by Yves Larock, by the way) on iTunes. Oh my goodness. I would be considering killing myself if I had to hear that more than once a day. Bad luck, mate.

Jenny said...

I have not heard either song.

I do wish to comment, though, that my dad has a similar style in that he will be sleeping on the couch with the TV incredibly loud. The second you even attempt to touch the remote control to turn it down or (gasp) change the channel, he stirs and resumes "interest" in watching the show that's on.