Gilberto Gil, a Brazilian guitarist and pop musician, performed at Memorial Hall Monday night. Gil’s music is noted for its African roots and eclectic style.
Staff writer James Smith sat down with Gil to discuss his songwriting, his role in Brazilian politics and advice for aspiring musicians and activists.
Daily Tar Heel: What inspires you?
Gilberto Gil: Different things. Life. Life itself. All the colors of life, all the shades of the motions and intelligence and belonging, social commitment, belonging to a society and being exposed to the spectacle of life and its complexity.
I write songs about myself, my doubts, my inner ground where my consciousness and my sentiment lies.
And I write about my environment, in terms of social environment, and all the social things, the social divides, and about science, technology, my admiration for the achievements that science is capable of producing for mankind.
DTH: Why did you become involved in Brazilian politics and social activism?
GG: We all belong to a society, so we all have responsibilities. So political commitment comes from that, from being socially responsible for your environment.
And (I had) a certain idea that I could — from being who I am, and having what I have, and from seeing things the way I see — that my going into public service and politics would be contributive somehow to the society.
DTH: You were held as a political prisoner at one point. Did this experience influence your music?
GG: Yeah, I think so … I was jailed for three months in Rio. During that period I was allowed by a soldier, in one of the army headquarters where I was held in prison, he brought me a guitar.
I wrote four songs during that period that I was in prison, and of course lots of ideas and sentiments and feelings of that specific experience might have given me elements for lots of other songs that came later.
DTH: What brought you to UNC?
GG: When I was a boy and I had a feeling that I was going to be a musician, I had always in mind the horizons, beyond.
I like the experience of sharing different colors with different people, experiences from a culture that is not their own culture but, at the same time, how curious they are, more and more, about foreign cultures.
This lateral exchanging that we have today in this global society — that’s what brings me to a tour like this one.
DTH: What advice can you offer to aspiring musicians or people who want to bring about change in their own countries?
GG: Be attentive. Pay attention to everything. Trust your feelings about solidarity and social commitment. Trust your dreams about more balanced societies. Trust your dreams about justice, and all of that will necessarily bring you into commitment for change, a commitment with change.
And as far as music and being an artist, my advice is just to keep on going, keep on trying.
Consider yourself as the first person in the audience. Make music for yourself, and then you will be doing it, you will be making it for millions, if life gives you the opportunity to expand, to promote.
But never forget … it’s for you. In your living room or your home studio, it’s always you, maybe some friends, some neighbors, in your garage. And that’s it. From your garage to the big world, no difference.
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