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Lucas Santtana, paradise (it’s here)

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Lucas Santtana, paradise (it’s here)

In a moving journey to his native land, the Brazilian singer Lucas Santtana reflects, on the eve of historic elections, on the state of his country and our planet, which subjugates the weakest in the name of “progress”, massacring the only paradise we have, the earth.

Directed by Vladimir Cagnolari and produced by Oléo films & No Format, Lucas Santtana, paradise (it’s here) is an exploration of the Brazilian singer’s homeland through the prism of his latest album The Paradise, published last January. This 10 tracks released on the label No Format! invites listeners to rethink their vision of paradise by becoming aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us and which is gradually disappearing. Now living in Montpellier, Lucas is making this trip on the eve of historic presidential elections in Brazil, those which opposed Jair Bolsonaro Luis Inàcio Lula da Silva in October 2022. During Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential term, from January 2019 to December 2022, the regressive measures of the former military captain attacked social aid and environmental protection. Backdrop of the documentary, the election is a strong turning point for democracy, the environment, and the way we choose to preserve and protect our paradise, the only one we have: the Earth.

Lucas Santtana was born in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia located in the northeast of the country. This beautiful coastal city, known internationally for its legendary carnivals, has a complex and charged history. Built on the sufferings of slaves taken away by Portuguese colonists, the reality of this legacy echoes in the present: in politics, in music and in conversation. Following Lucas around his home state, these discussions take many forms. Sometimes they are written under the sprawling skyscrapers that dominate homeless encampments and whose graffiti read “Bolsonaro killed my daughter”. Other times it’s with old friends, like Quito Ribeiro, who was the only black student at Lucas’ school as a child. Both walk around the Pelourinho district and see the changes. When they were children, the place which had a bad reputation had seduced them, thanks to the blocos afros, the black carnival groups, who rehearsed there. Today, this same district has become one of the tourist attractions of Bahia for its baroque facades and its percussion groups that make its soundtrack.

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But some things haven’t changed. Like the Castro Alves theatre, a sumptuous modernist building where Lucas’ mother gave dance lessons, and where twelve-year-old Lucas saw a concert by Fafa de Belem and discovered the charms of the transverse flute for the first time. But it was in the streets of Bahia that he understood the importance of the sounds and percussions inherited from Africa, which, he recalls, “are at the heart of the Bahian identity”. A feeling that is nowhere more evident than in the workshop of Alberto Pita, stylist and designer, founder and artistic director of Cortejo Afro – an original collective rich in songs and symbols. Perpetuating the tradition by preserving the heritage of Candomblé on the costumes he creates, Alberto Pita likes to say that his work is a “meeting of illiterates”: it is aimed at those who have not received an education “formal” and can neither read nor write, who can read the signs and symbols drawn on fabrics, but also to scholars who can read but cannot decipher these designs inherited from a popular, ancient and complex tradition.

Alberto Pita intelligently comments on our hasty judgments and the dominant value system. What Lucas also does in his music, reminding us that paradise is not in a distant ether, in an esoteric second life that awaits us after death. Rather, he is here, on Earth. It is in the trees and under the concrete that smothers nature in the name of progress. Lucas refers to Ailton Krenak, who was instrumental in raising his own awareness. Political activist and spokesperson for the Union of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, Krenak wrote in his book life is not useful : « Life is a fertilization, it’s a dance, but it’s a cosmic dance, and we want to reduce it to a ridiculous and utilitarian choreography “. Who is wild and who is holy? What is progress and what is madness?

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From the city, we travel by boat to Ilha da Maré, the “blackest community” in Salvador according to Eliette Paraguassu, a local activist. It is a place where escaped and rebellious slaves lived and formed communities called quilombos. Today, the island and its surroundings are home to many petrochemical plants. While acetone, butane and various other industrial wastes seep into the water that is their source of life, the inhabitants receive no compensation in return and do not benefit from any public services. Tourist pressure does not help matters. For those who live from fishing, agriculture and crafts, pollution is a health and economic disaster. But not only. Eliette Paraguassu, who is running in the local elections held at the same time as the presidential one, goes around the island distributing flyers and trying to collect votes. She evokes the high rate of cancer in the local population, the destruction of natural resources, but also the spiritual impact. “The mangrove is a woman”, explains Paraguassu, “it protects, heals, carries history and guarantees us a future”. Leaving the island, Lucas makes a chilling observation: ” the first victims of the consumer society are those who consume the least ».

In a final stop, Lucas goes to the church of São Lázaro, a Catholic patron saint, but also a candomblé figure named Obaluaie. Obaluaie is the son of the goddess of the sea, a force of nature, like the other orishas of Africa. The Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé is a syncretism between the traditional religions of West Africa and the Catholicism imposed by European settlers. As Lucas says of Obaluaie, ” it can heal, but it can also kill “. An apt metaphor for the natural order and the world around us. Or, on a lighter note, “no leaves, no life”. In front of the bright yellow church, Lucas is blessed with Obaluie’s favorite snack, popcorn.

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In the epilogue, Lucas returns home to Montpellier to await the results of the election. Lula defeats Bolsonaro with 50.9% of the vote. A “victory for democracy” announces the winner on the radio… It’s a sigh of relief. A win, so far. In the meantime, as Lucas sings on “The Biosphere”: “ Don’t dry up your fountain, listen to the shamans… nature is our only paradise. »

The Paradise by Lucas Santtana is available here via Nø Format!

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