Gilberto Gil and the quarantine imposed by coronavirus

With the suspension of concerts in Europe because of coronavirus, the singer came back to Brazil and talked about the isolation and political developments of the post-pandemic.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Roni Filgueiras, journalist and researcher

Documentary about the cancellation of the Ok, Ok, Ok tour by Gilberto Gil in Denmark due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

It was during the tour for the OK OK OK concert in Europe that Gil became aware of the existence of coronavirus.

“I started to feel the quarantine when I was still in Denmark. I didn’t get to do the concert. The theater was closed, and all the employees were going home. There was nothing more to do.” Back to Brazil with wife Flora, children Nara, José, and Bem, and granddaughter Flor, as well as the Conspiração filming crew, who would record the tour’s last concert, he and his wife first went to their Copacabana apartment. Next, the family retreated to their house in Araras, in the Cascatinha neighborhood, in the district of Petrópolis, where he gave some interviews.

Gilberto Gil em seu apartamento durante pandemia do Coronavírus (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil talks about the first moments of the pandemic
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Gilberto Gil em entrevista coletiva virtual para Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo e Ricardo Schott, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-28)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“We all are busy, but nowadays we have this extraordinary tool that are computers, online connections, and all of which has allowed us to be free of a life in complete isolation,” he considered, at the time.

Gilberto Gil com Russo Passapusso e Roberto Barreto, vocalista e guitarrista do BaianaSystem, em live sobre o lançamento do álbum da banda com o cantor e compositor durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-30)Instituto Gilberto Gil

And precisely to give light and warmth to confinement, the BaianaSystem group decided to release their new album, in partnership with Gil: “This work has a continuity effect in a timeless sense, because Gil is what is in us…

Gilberto Gil na casa de campo da família em Araras, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-28)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… It has a lot to do with our political moment, for sure. Also with quarantine, the fact that we can teleport people to this feeling of a sunny concert with 40,000 people.”

Gilberto Gil com Russo Passapusso e Roberto Barreto, vocalista e guitarrista do BaianaSystem, em live sobre o lançamento do álbum da banda com o cantor e compositor durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-30)Instituto Gilberto Gil

With these words, Russo Passapusso, singer and songwriter for the band from Bahia, summed up the mission behind the release of Gil Baiana ao Vivo em Salvador, in an interview to newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.

The work wasn’t supposed to come out yet, but, as Russo explained, releasing it still a little raw was a political act, which Gil agreed to, by choosing some tracks like “Pessoa nefasta,” “Nos barracos da cidade,” and “Extra.”

Gilberto Gil durante palestra em vídeo para Natura em sua quarentena em casa (2020-05-21)Instituto Gilberto Gil

What was apparently a moment of withdrawal became, in Gil’s opinion, a paradoxical accumulation of demands:

Gilberto Gil corta o cabelo do neto Dom em casa de férias na região serrana do Rio de Janeiro, durante pandemia do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

from cutting grandson Dom’s hair to watching the Covid-19 coverage in specialized websites and newscasts.

Gilberto Gil descansa no jardim de sua casa na região serrana do Rio de Janeiro, durante pandemia do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“We never had so many people asking to do things, to answer this, to do lives, like now. We’ve been spending many hours of our day connected to this ample field of electronic connectivity…

Gilberto Gil e sua família acompanham o noticiário durante pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… I watch a lot of television to keep up with the news in Brazilian and international networks, specialized magazines, science and technology websites that are reporting on this broad issue of coronavirus,” he said, at the time.

Entrevista de Gilberto Gil para o jornal O Globo à época da pandemia do coronavírus (2020-04-29)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In fact, it was possible to follow Gil over several platforms, from interviews he gave to printed newspapers to real time via videoconference for Brazilian and international TV channels, including performances made from his living room at the Araras house.

Gilberto Gil com Flor Gil Demasi durante quarentena da pandemia do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

There, surrounded by greenery, he sang and played guitar with granddaughter Flor, by himself or just practiced the chords to his classics.

Also with his granddaughter, he payed homage to the Italian people who, at that time, were suffering with the pandemic.

Gilberto Gil lê em sua casa na região serrana do Rio de Janeiro, durante pandemia do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gil got a book from daughter Bela Gil, with whom he talked about space and time.

Gilberto Gil na casa de campo da família em Araras, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (Abril de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Contemplation is what gives power to thought.

Gilberto Gil na casa de campo da família em Araras, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (Abril de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Wisely, Gil never fought with time. He holds its hand and takes it up on its invitation for a ride, attentively observing what the landscape offers along the way.

Gilberto Gil em seu apartamento durante pandemia do Coronavírus (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

And, of course, the singer did Facebook lives, for instance, when he announced a discovery: the audio of an interview made by USP students, when he came back from exile, had been found after decades missing.

Gilberto Gil em sua quarentena em casa com a filha Preta Gil (2020-05-21)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In the middle of all this, he was paying attention to the recovery of daughter Preta Gil, a victim of Covid-19.

Gilberto Gil during an interview with journalist Zeca Camargo during the period of quarantine due to the coronavirus (2020-04-18)Instituto Gilberto Gil

And he payed homage to Moraes Moreira.

Gilberto Gil e sua família acompanham o noticiário durante pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

To Gil, the battle of the old Cold War hasn’t ended, just taken on a new shape. And he promised to delineate the tableau of geopolitical disputes with the pandemic.

Gilberto Gil na casa de campo da família em Araras, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-28)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“The battle between China and United States for the supremacy in international capital is in part connected to lots of the democratic western world, and in another part it is connected to a world inherited by communism,” he observed.

Gilberto Gil na casa de campo da família em Araras, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (Abril de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

About what the future holds for the post-pandemic, the singer was cautious. “Everything is in standby. It is a suspended suspense. One of the most important tasks in this whole scenario is health care itself,” he warned.

Gilberto Gil acompanha noticiário em casa, durante pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

But from empirical data he suggested that state control, which was intensifying, was something to watch for. “What I have given most importance to, in the sense of holding on to impressions that can be tools further on, are the issues of vigilance throughout the world…

Gilberto Gil em sua casa de campo em Araras, durante a pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… All of this I won’t say has been worrying me, but I have been keeping it in boxes here and there so I can later express myself about it. Maybe in song, maybe in speech, however it may be.”

Gilberto Gil toca violão em sua casa de campo em Araras, durante pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Despite everything Gil believes the difficult coronavirus experience can teach us something. “The whole art world was affected very seriously, and this led artists to search for protection in their withdrawal, recording at home…

Gilberto Gil em sua casa de campo em Araras, durante a pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… The great museums in Europe and the United States have had to open their collections via internet, remotely. This will leave a mark and new ways of being after the pandemic,” he bet.

Gilberto Gil faz live com rádio italiana em sua casa em Araras, durante quarentena de pandemia mundial do Covid-19 (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

An optimist, Gil goes beyond what could be a new social arrangement for the serious problem of exclusion in neo-liberalist times. “Of the greatest problems for government, there is the first, sanitary, and the second, protecting communities,” he said to Rádio França Internacional.

“With all the activities compromised, there has been a general sync, a solidary way of dealing with the drastic loss of occupation. Governments have acted immediately, and a new Keynesianism has emerged in force, with more welfare to compensate for losses…

Gilberto Gil contemplativo em seu apartamento durante pandemia do Coronavírus (Março de 2020)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… It is a change that will stay after the pandemic, contrary to neo-liberalism. We are coming back a bit to the social welfare State.”
So be it, Gil!

Credits: Story

Exhibit credits

Text and research: Roni Filgueiras
Editing: Chris Fuscaldo
Assembly: Patrícia Sá Rêgo
Copyediting: Laura Zandonadi

General credits

Editing and curating: Chris Fuscaldo / Garota FM
Musical content research: Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, and Ricardo Schott
MinC content research: Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, and Laura Zandonadi
Photo subtitles: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Daniel Malafaia, Gilberto Porcidonio, Kamille Viola, Laura Zandonadi, Lucas Vieira, Luciana Azevedo, Patrícia Sá Rêgo, Pedro Felitte, Ricardo Schott, Roni Filgueiras, and Tito Guedes
Subtitle copyediting: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Laura Zandonadi, and Patrícia Sá Rêgo
Data editing: Isabela Marinho
Acknowledgments: Gege Produções, Gilberto Gil, Flora Gil, Gilda Mattoso, Fafá Giordano, Maria Gil, Meny Lopes, Nelci Frangipani, Cristina Doria, Daniella Bartolini, and all photographers and characters in the stories
All media: Instituto Gilberto Gil

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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