Luciana Lage, the Street Smart Brazilian

Luciana Lage, Street Smart Brazil teacher and founder

2 years ago I had the pleasure to meet Luciana Lage, Street Smart Brazil  founder. She is passionate about Brazilian Portuguese language and Brazilian Culture. Besides providing original lessons for those who want to speak like a Brazilian, her lessons include Brazilian music, and updated info about Brazilian culture. She just released  her first book, 51 Portuguese Idioms – Speak like a Brazilian which is available online.

Luciana seems to be one of these people who combine generosity and playfulness with a grounded sense of responsibility and ethics. Upon the creation of this blog I felt curious about her experiences with Brazilian music. In this interview she talks a bit about the origin of Brazilian musical style Frevo and its medicinal properties. Also she speaks about the role of music in her life and in her classes.  Music is magic, she says, and I definitely agree with her. Get ready for an interview with a warm, intelligent, and sensitive woman.

1) What sounds Brazilian to you?

Laughter sounds Brazilian. Friends talking so loud that foreigners might think they are having an argument – definitely Brazilian. This actually has happened to me quite a few times. Often the first notes of a song will sound Brazilian and immediately take me home. There is something deliciously familiar in our musical rhythms that I can’t put words to.

2) Tell us a bit about your story. How did you leave Brazil and found Street Smart Brazil in the SF Bay Area?

Teaching Portuguese was a gift that came into my life by chance. When I moved to San Francisco my career was in leadership development. I taught Portuguese as a gig and a hobby for many years before I realized that I wanted to do it full time. There just wasn’t anything else that I wanted to do. I loved creating class material, sharing the Brazilian culture, and watching my students’ progress with the language bringing them deeper relationships with Brazil. By 2008 I had my own approach and program, original class material, and a clientele that was growing fast. That is when I launched Street Smart
Brazil and my first web site. Now I have eight wonderful teachers in the team.
I would like to invite your readers to visit our blog and watch our free video
lessons there. Then we can all sing with you in your beautiful concerts.

3) You come from a very culturally rich town in Brazil, Recife,
famous for its carnival and musical rhythm,
frevo. Do you know anything about frevo that you could share with us? If frevo would be a medicine, what
psychological condition would it be for?

The state of Pernambuco – to which Recife is the capital – has a number of rhythms & dances that are native to the region. Frevo is one of them. The music is joyful, energetic and fast-paced. The dance consists of acrobatic steps and the dancer is always holding a colorful small umbrella that is part of the acrobatic movements. Frevo as a dance comes from capoeira. The fight movements became dance steps as the capoeiristas would parade in front of their frevo band dancing and at the same time protecting their group. I very much recommend that your readers google Frevo. It is gorgeous to watch the dancers
performing their incredible steps in their colorful outfits. If I were to prescribe Frevo as a health solution, I would use it to combat the blues. The word Frevo comes from ferver, which means to boil. Frevo can bring energy and fire to anyone who moves to its sounds.

4) You are passionate about the Brazilian Portuguese language.
What is your evaluation of Brazilian lyrics in general?

They are beautiful, passionate, and meaningful. Brazilian music is
often a poem. It takes me to wonderful places.

5) What is the reason you use Brazilian music in your classes? How
important are they in the learning process?

I see language as much more than a gateway to every-day communication. It is part of our human experience and is intimately related to social identity and to how we interpret the world. At Street Smart Brazil we teach the language and share the culture. Music is an important part of this culture. Songs talk about social, political, and cultural aspects of Brazil, and they change as our values change. On a more practical perspective, music makes it easier to memorize vocabulary and grammar. Listening to a song over and over
again is the type of repetition exercise that students love to have as homework.

6) What are the criteria in choosing songs for the classes? Could
you tell us some of the songs you have used?

The songs are chosen according to the students’ language ability and the topics that they are learning. Just to give you a few examples: We use “Velha Infância” by Tribalistas to practice the present tense of verbs, the use of “gostar de”, and the placement of certain pronouns. I love using “Ao Meu Redor” by Marisa Monte to teach the use of prepositions of place and tons of vocabulary. “Alegria” by Vanessa da Mata inspires meaningful conversations about the use of music and dance to deal with problems. “Apesar de Você” by Chico Buarque is indispensable when we discuss Brazil’s years under a dictatorial government. You get the picture.

7) What are your favorite songwriters of Brazilian music?

Marisa Monte is one of Luciana's favorite singers

It is a very long list! Just to mention a few past and present artists: Chico Buarque, Renato Russo, Cazuza, Céu, Marisa Monte, Vanessa da  Mata, Chico Science, and Lenine. In the past couple of years I have been going through my Vanessa da Mata phase.

8)What role has Brazilian music played in your life?

It has played several different roles over the years (and still  does), from the romantic fantasies of my teenage years to the quiet observation of social values in Brazil  and their change through time. While living in the US, Brazilian music has also been a  way to both keep me connected with my roots and to look to the beauty of  Brazilian culture with fresh eyes.

9) Have you ever had a powerful experience with Brazilian music?
Could you share it with us?

These powerful experiences happen all the time. Sometimes I  experience peace because of the music that I am listening to. Some songs simply have to be sung out loud, and I really mean loud, and in the end they help exorcise my inner demons. There are songs that give me hope and strength. I  often choose a specific song to nourish what my mind or my soul needs at that particular moment. Music is magic.

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