Jorge Mautner: “Gil and Caetano determined democratization”

Singer, songwriter and creator of the Kaos Movement, he met Gil during exile, gave him the role of the Pan god in his movie O Demiurgo [The Demiurge], and became his partner in politics.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Interview: Chris Fuscaldo, journalist and music researcher

What are your memories of Gilberto Gil and what was your first contact with him?

Gilberto Gil durante o exílio em Londres (1971)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

I went to exile in 1965 and stayed in New York for seven years. For two years I was at the United Nations and, for the rest of it, I was a secretary to poet Robert Lowell. I would only get to know Gil in exile, when a friend of mine, Arthur de Mello Guimarães, married to Marilena Guimarães, lived in London.

Cetano Veloso e Gilberto Gil no exílio em Londres (Década de 1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

They called me saying: “Caetano and Gil have arrived here; they really want to meet you. Come over.” I, at the time, was living at the Chelsea Hotel, with my wife, Ruth, and my father.

Gilberto Gil em Londres durante seu exílio com Gal Costa (1971)Instituto Gilberto Gil

We went off, then, to London, and there I met them for the very first time. My father came along and we had a lot of fun. 

There, you filmed O Demiurgo, a movie in which they both have roles. How did you come up with the idea of having they both in this project?

Gilberto Gil no filme O Demiurgo, gravado durante seu exílio em Londres (1972)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

We turned into good friends, Gil turned into a brother. Using money I had saved in the United States, I shot O Demiurgo. In the movie, Gil is the Pan god, Caetano is the Demiurge, and I play Mephistopheles. Péricles Cavalcante also appears, in addition to all of the folks who were there.

From then on, how was the relationship between you?

Gilberto Gil em ensaio fotográfico durante o exílio (1972)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

Our relationship is eternal, he is my brother. At that time, in London, Gil recorded two songs for which I wrote lyrics: “Three Mushrooms” and “Babylon.”

Talk about “O rouxinol,” a partnership of you two. How was it to compose with Gil? How did you feel about the path the song had taken?

Gilberto Gil autografa para uma fã o livro Gilberto Gil Expresso 2222, ao lado de Antonio Risério e Jorge Mautner (1989)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

This song was written after we were back in Brazil, many years later. First, I wrote the lyrics and he, then, added melody. “O rouxinol” is a permanent symbol of joy, of resurrection, of mystery. Because a nightingale sings. It all happened in Bahia, in our long conversations in Bahia.

In 1987, you and Gil launched the [political] movement Figa Brasil in the concert O Poeta e o Esfomeado. I would like you to talk about it; I know it is linked to your Kaos movement.

Rascunhos de shows de Gilberto Gil Esboço do show O Poeta e O Esfomeado, de Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner (1987)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

In 1958, I, José Roberto Aguilar, and Arthur de Mello Guimarães created the Kaos Party, and I wrote “A bandeira do meu partido”. Kaos has four different definitions: Kamaradas Anarquistas Organizando-se Socialmente [Socially Organized Anarchists Comrades]; Kristo Ama Ondas Sonoras [“Khrist” Loves Sound Waves]; Kolofé Axé Oxóssi Saravá [expressions from Candomblé].

Rascunhos de shows de Gilberto Gil Esboço 2 do show O Poeta e O Esfomeado, de Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner (1987)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Everyone was free to come up with their own forth definition. Our Kaos [chaos] is written with a “K.” We had a headquarters already and Mario Schenberg, who had worked with Albert Einstein, went to visit it by the time we already had 7,000 supporters. He came inside and said: “You people are right, everything is a myth.” The deepest depth of mythology.

Gilberto Gil, à época vereador, em evento com Mário Kertész, Jorge Mautner, Antonio Risério e José Carlos Capinan (1989)Instituto Gilberto Gil

He invited us and I went, then, to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, along with Aguilar, Dulce Maia, the most tortured woman during dictatorship, and an Israeli communist.

Waly Salomão, Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner durante ensaio para o álbum Dia Dorim Noite Neon (1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Our conversations with Schenberg were about philosophy, mythology, science, and everything in between. Umberto Eco paid us a visit and so did Luiz Carlos Prestes. We were a cultural cell.

What was Figa Brasil?

Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner no show O Poeta e o Esfomeado (1987)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

Figa Brasil came way later on. It was a concert featuring me, Gilberto Gil, and ingenious percussionist Reppolho. On their way out, people would receive forms to they could join up Figa Brasil Movement. A lot of people did.

Silhuetas de Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner durante show (Década de 1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

There were dozens of concerts, the last one being in Cuba, but I did not make it because I was sick. Flora Gil, who had met Gil a short while before, exquisitely made the stage lights. Gil was madly happy for having found Flora.

Cartão de aniversário de Jorge Mautner enviado a Gilberto Gil VersoInstituto Gilberto Gil

The values of Figa Brasil were the importance of blackness and a sort of socialist anarchism.

Gil had already gone through a hard time being exiled due to dictatorship in Brazil, right?

Gilberto Gil e Sandra Gadelha durante o exílio do artista baiano (1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

During exile, we were in Catalonia, me, Gil, Sandra, Caetano, Dedé, Ruth, and Violeta Arraes. Violeta then invited me for a walk away from the “boys,” as she used to call Gil and Caetano.

Gilberto Gil ao telefone no exílio (Década de 1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

She showed a document from the military stating that armed guerrilla had to stop so dictatorship would come to an end. It also said Gil and Caetano had to head back. She asked for my opinion, but my opinion was the opinion of a supporter of the Communist Party.

Gilberto Gil pelas ruas de Paris na época de seu exílio (1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

She thought they should not head back to dramatize dictatorship, but I said otherwise and she agreed. They did not hear any of it. To me, it was the return of Gil and Caetano that determined democratization.

Gilberto Gil no aeroporto, voltando do exílio em Londres (1972)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Brazil, which is a continental country, is the only one democratized by the popular music of full mythological, philosophical, and literary depth.

In multiple pictures of Gil as minister of Culture, you are with him. You have always taken an interest on politics and been an activist for culture. Tell me about your encounters with Gilberto Gil as minister of Culture of Brazil; about your feelings on his term in office; and how you had engaged in it.

Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner durante cerimônia de inauguração da Sala Debates do Ipea (2005-09-20)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Jorge Mautner:

The ministry of culture under Gilberto Gil was the most important, depth, and amazing ministry of culture. I seldom went to Brasília to meet him. I would stay in the field, performing concerts across Brazil, irradiating this culture, and I got to see astounding things.

Ministro da Cultura Gilberto Gil e Jorge Mautner na abertura do evento Teia de Cultura e Cidadania, Mostra de Cultura do Brasil e Economia Solidária (2006-04-05)Instituto Gilberto Gil

For instance, a place of vulnerable small children transformed into a space to “learn how to play rebec.” A greatest regret I feel up to this day is that, after Gil left the chair, Ana de Hollanda terminated all of what he did.

Gilberto Gil, à época de vereador, ladeado por Waly Salomão, Mário Kertész, Jorge Mautner, Antonio Risério e José Carlos Capinan (1989)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Before all of it, Gil was elected councilman in Salvador and I was given the role of chief of staff. I lived in Pelourinho neighborhood, talked a lot to artist Rogério Duarte. All I had to do was climb down the Pelourinho to get to the City Council. One of the most interest things I recall is:

Ministro da Cultura Gilberto Gil e Mãe Stella de Oxóssi em visita ao terreiro Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá (2006-07-13)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Attacks of Pentecostals against Candomblé were already happening back then. Gil, on a huge stage, gathered several priests and priestess and a large audience, also comprised of Pentecostals.

Gilberto Gil com Mãe Stella de OxóssiInstituto Gilberto Gil

It was interesting because the deep and mythological language of Candomblé was such that they could not care less for the shallow political debate. Bahia is Bahia.

Credits: Story


Exhibit credits

Interview: Chris Fuscaldo
Assembly: Isabela Marinho 
Copyediting: Laura Zandonadi
Acknowledgments: Jorge Mautner e João Paulo Reys 

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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