The wonderful divine voice of Gal Costa was silent and silenced the heart of the country. It was a reverent silence, but full of music. It muted spirits convulsed by the political scene and made the sound of the affective memories of each one to be heard, crystal clear. It silenced discordant voices from these polarized times and steered us (for a brief, magical time) back to what matters.
What we fans feel when a beloved artist dies has personal meanings and also a higher, collective dimension. When the loss is unexpected, the feeling of surprise can come along with the indignation. For current longevity standards, Gal Costa’s death, aged 77, was very early. We are watching their peers turn 80 in full vigor and artistic activity. Is it just her, our honey baby, saying goodbye so soon? Death, however, does not obey the chronology of our will.
We have arrived a little over the first week of the departure of the greatest singer in Brazil and the emotional catharsis of the first day is slowly fading away, as was to be expected. Collective grief works something like this: a bomb with the news, a giant commotion amplified by media coverage. We delve into the memories she planted in each of us through a retrospective of her career and testimonials from friends, partners in life and music. And then we experience a quick (and natural) accommodation.
I was stuck in São Paulo traffic while listening to the emotional declarations of journalists, friends and admirers on the radio. I cried with many of them. They all shared a personal story that Gal’s songs packed at some point. Stories of love, sadness, joy, strength, courage. I remembered mine and cried more.
Grief shared with people of many generations has a cathartic function. In the particular case of Gal Costa and everything she meant and still means to national art, there is one more element: the loss of the symbol of an imagined country. Many people mentioned, in their elegies, the longing for the country we learned to love with people like her.
The country of partying, baianity, tropicalism, the sweet and irreverent barbarians who crossed, with many of us, years of light and lead. Today, in the homeland devastated by the lack of love, delicacy and poetry, the loss of Gal is the loss of the known world that we miss so much. And look, this world wasn’t even good, it was actually quite cruel and we had to be alert and strong and not fear death. But, in the wake of its trail, there was hope that we would find something better around every corner.
Collective grief is cathartic and I dare say, in a very selfish way, that it does us good. Unlike personal grief, the loss of an idol allows us to surrender to tears and memories, without experiencing the same devastating pain that it will cause your child, your wife, your family and close friends. The fan’s place allows us to look at their loves with empathy, but without despair.
As master José Saramago said, it is necessary to leave the island to see the island, we do not see each other if we do not leave ourselves. Collective mourning reminds us, without despair, of our own finitude, inspires compassion, gratitude for life, ours and that of those who died, respect for our history, our people, our true heroes.
The world is sadder without its crystal voice and maybe we feel a little more distant from this imagined country that we learned to love. But his life is greater than his absence (and how much easier it is to see that when we don’t drown in the blind pain of personal grief).
Just over a week away from the departure of this reference of artist and woman, I leave here this message of love and thanks beautifully illustrated by Rita Almeida on her profile @ritzdoodle: Gal, we will never forget your name.