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Arnaldo Dias Baptista: Biography

Arnaldo Dias Baptista returned to the stage in October 2011 for the Sarau o Benedito? (What’s Going On?) Tour when he played piano and laughed with the audience as a big screen displayed his paintings. Arnaldo’s logic-defying humour and capacity to extract poetry from the improbable has been his trademark since his adolescent years at the end of the 60s as the Os Mutantes leader.

Arnaldo speaks directly to the hearts of young people of all the generations he’s passed through, and today 81% of his followers remain between 17 and 34 years old. Often discovering Arnaldo’s work on the internet they are in awe when they see him perform.

The same fans also enjoy a trip back in time, listening to Arnaldo’s music as part of Os Mutantes, and also his solo career productions including the albums Loki? (1974), Singin’ Alone (1982), Elo Perdido and Faremos Uma Noitada Excelente (1977-78 and released in 1988).

Kurt Cobain, Sean Lennon, Stereolab, Torloise, High Llamas, the Wondermints and dozens of great Brazilian musicians that are big names in rock are almost certainly Arnaldo fans. In fact, his name has become synonymous with the term ‘genius artist’.

Arnaldo was born in São Paulo in 1948 to a pianist mother (composer Clarisse Leite Dias Baptista) and a poet and journalist father (César Dias Baptista). In 1982 he suffered cranial traumatism and since then has been dedicated to fine arts, supported by his wife, Lucinha Barbosa.

In 1987 Arnaldo released the cult album Disco Voador - a result of musical imaginings of that period.

Arnaldo continued to paint, participating in art exhibitions and musical projects, such as the compilation Give Peace a Chance (2001), a tribute to John Lennon.

In 2004, he released the album Let it Bed, produced by John Ulhoa. Listed by Mojo Magazine as one of the ten best releases of the year, the album also received prizes and praise from critics in Brazil.

Between 2006 and 2007 Arnaldo was at the reunion of Os Mutantes in London, playing at the wonderful event dedicated to Tropicália at the Barbican Centre. He performed across Europe, the USA and Brazil to audiences of up to 80,000.

The life and work of Arnaldo was then told in the exciting documentary Loki! Arnaldo Baptista (2008). Produced by Canal Brasil and directed by Paulo Henrique Fontenelle, the movie received 14 prizes in Brazil and abroad. In the same year the publishing company, Rocco, released Arnaldo’s romance novel Rebelde entre os Rebeldes (Rebel Among Rebels), written in the 80s.

In 2012, Arnaldo’s first great individual exhibition, Lentes Magnéticas (Magnetic Lenses) at the Emma Thomas Gallery in São Paulo achieved some of the greatest media coverage ever seen for a solo exhibition by Brazilian artists. Juliana Freire, partner and owner of the gallery, remarks, “Similar to artists in the CoBra movement, Arnaldo works in a spontaneous and experimental way, with a focus on the fantastic world of imagination. His expression through the use of colours and textures permeates the psychedelic universe as well as contemporary art.”

Arnaldo’s canvases and drawings also served as digital scenery for his Sarau o Benedito? shows that moved across the most eminent stages and events in Brazil between 2011 and 2012. The tour visited the Virada Cultural/ Theatro Municipal de São Paulo, MIMO/ Teatro de Santa Isabel (Recife city) and classic locations such as SESC Pompeia, Vila Mariana, Belenzinho, Santos and Sorocaba. Arnaldo also took on the famous Salão de Atos at UFRGS.

The next generation awaits him….

By Sônia Maia.

The geniality inside a valve

Rogerio Duprat, in his interview for the documentary `Popular Bad Boy: Arnaldo Dias Baptista`, by Patricia Moran, was very emphatic: “The Mutantes were the most important thing in Tropicalismo. And none has made that clear. But I know this only too well, and I know that the brain of it all, the brain of Mutantes was that of Arnaldo Baptista. I insist and I resume: Arnaldo is responsible for all that happened from 1976 onwards.” Kurt Cobain, in his travel to Brazil, sent Arnaldo a note of praise.

But which is the bridge between the archaeological opinion of Rogerio Duprat (the maestro responsible for the Tropicalista’s albums arrangements) and Kurt Cobain’s note? Is there a mystification of a mad artist? Or is this another version of an old history?

Arnaldo, as well as Rita Lee and Sergio Dias had their life and work cut into two phases: the glories of Tropicalia and Mutantes times and, in Arnaldo’s case, the further madness. But what to say about his five solo albums? And how could an artist be called mad just because he rather plays in amplifiers run by valves, especially nowadays when a lot of people praise their supremacy over the disposable transistors? Could it be called madness Arnaldo’s choise for Gibson guitars instead of Fenders, preferred by his brother Sergio? How could Arnaldo write two science fiction books being mad? And painted hundreds of paintings?

The true is that the geniality of Arnaldo could only be called madness by the Brazilian mediocrity. Even a possible death, announced various times, would not be adequate. If so, we would have had our Syd Barret, our Arthur Rimbaud, our Antonin Artaud. But against this stigma, just listen to Arnaldo’s work.

His first album solo `Lóki?` is, without doubt, the master piece of Brazilian pop-rock. `Lóki?` was launched in 1974 with the participation of The Mutantes Rita, Liminha and Dinho; arranged by Rogerio Duprat; and came with a stamp: ‘this album is to be listened in highest volume’. It brings songs such as ‘Am I turning into mildew? (Será que eu vou virar bolor?)’, ‘One only-lonely person’ (`Uma pessoa só`, which implies double meanings in Portuguese: ‘a lonely person’ and ‘one person only’ - both songs from the last breathe of Mutantes. This double meaning exercise is recurrent in Arnaldo’s lyrics and humour). There is also ‘I don’t care’ (Não estou nem aí); ‘I will dive into the lingerie’ (Vou me afundar na lingerie); ‘Do you think I am mad?’ (Cê tá pensando que eu sou lóki?); ‘Believe me: I love you’ (‘Te amo, podes crer’ being podes crer the equivalent to ‘believe me’, but actually sort of a slang and therefore funnier in its meaning). There are more. After recording `Lóki?`, Arnaldo moved from São Paulo city to Rio de Janeiro to shape the band Unzioutros, with Lulu Santos, a successful Brazilian pop star nowadays.

In 1976 Arnaldo joined Patrulha do Espaço (Space Patrol) with John Flavin (guitar); Osvaldo Gennari (bass) and Rolando Castello Junior (Drums). In the next year, Arnaldo recorded an album in Vice-Versa Studio, which was not released until 1988, when Osvaldo and Rolando remasterised the original tape and launched the LP `Lost Link` (Elo Perdido) with songs such as ‘Sunshine’; ‘Sexy Yours’; ‘Corta Jaca’ (Cut Jaca – being jaca a Brazilian fruit); ‘Trem’ (train); ‘Emergindo da Ciência’ (Emerging from the science); ‘Raio de Sol’ (Sumbeams); ‘ Um Pouco Assustador’ (A Bit Frightening) and ‘ Fique Comigo (Stay with Me).

In 1980, Arnaldo launched the album ‘Singing Alone`. It was the first record of the independent label Baratos Afins, owned by Luiz Calanca. Arnaldo played all instruments. There are songs such as ‘I fell in love one day’; ‘O Sol’ (The Sun); ‘Hoje de Manhã eu Acordei’ (This Morning I woke up); ‘Sitting on the Road Side’; ‘Ciborg’ (Cyber); ‘Young Blood’, among others.

In the beginning of 1982 he is admitted in a psychiatric clinic and suffers an accident. Arnaldo’s reputation of madness and suicidal tendency was back to the spot lights.

In 1987, Rolando Castello launched new songs from Patrulha do Espaço with a few live tracks from shows they toured in 1978. The album ‘Faremos uma Noitada Excelente’ (We will have a great night out) brings, basically, songs from ‘Elo Perdido’ and ‘Singing Alone’, being Singing a piano solo by Arnaldo. In the same year, tBaratos Afins’s label launched a limited edition of Arnaldo’s home made album `Disco Voador` (UFO). It was originally recorded in two channels by Arnaldo and masterised in Vice-Versa studio. The album brings two versions, one in English and another in French, of the classic Balada do Louco ‘Balad of the Mad’ totalising eight songs.

In 1989, Eldorado’s label launched the album-homage ‘Sanguinho Novo – Arnaldo Baptista Revisitado’ (Youth Blood – Arnaldo Baptista Revisited). Produced by Alex Antunes and Akira S, two independent musicians, the album featured versions by the most important independent bands of the Brazilian rock-pop scenario of that time, such as Sexo Explicito (Explicit Sex); 3 Hombres (3 Man); Vzyadoc Moe (a name by a ballot of letters); the internationally acclaimed Sepultura; Último Número (Last Act); Akira S e as Garotas que Erraram (Akira S and the girls that went wrong); Ratos de Porão (Rats from the basement); Fellini; Atahualpa Y Us Panquis, Maria Angélica, Scowa and Paulo Miklos.

From this day, Arnaldo Baptista’s coin went back to circulation in various versions by various Brazilians pop stars and bands, such as Kid Abelha, Lobão, João Penca & Os Miquinhos Amestrados (João Penca and the domesticated little monkeys); Paula Morelembaum, Pato Fu among others. They showed the monumental and so far unknown work of the Gepetto run by a valve living in the small city of Juiz de Fora.

Marcello Dolabela.

Translation by José Eduardo Mendonça and Sonia Maia (recent updates)

My special thanks to Lucinha Barbosa, for having invited me to write this text and for her untiring determination to search and to provide me with information without which I wouldn’t be able to complete this honoured task. I also thank Marcelo Lopes for his invaluable contribution in all moments of this work.




Arnaldo Dias Baptista

Data de Nascimento: 06 de julho de 1948

Local de Nascimento: São Paulo - SP

Filiação: César Dias Baptista e Clarisse Leite Dias Baptista

Signo: Câncer


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