After hearing her mother, Belina Aguiar, repeat herself so much, Nara Gil, 56, tells the story as if the memory were her own: listening to the record player, she, then 3 years old, recognized her father’s voice singing “That hug” and then amended an “êÊ êÊ êÊ”, which is how he ended “Domingo no Parque”. At that moment, the needle of the device licking the groove of the records produced one of the few points of contact with Gilberto Gil, exiled in London during the military dictatorship, while she was about to be taken from Rio to Vitória da Conquista (BA) to live with paternal grandparents.
Today, Gil’s eldest daughter is the person the family turns to in search of memory. In sister Bela Gil, for example, she perceives a similarity with her grandmother’s speech. Even so, there are no stories to remember before your great-grandfather “Black Brazilians don’t know anything about their origins. To go back to old things today, stories from the past, only if you have a family that kept a record… It’s a lot of things eliminated and hidden. . This lack of identity ended up becoming a national trait, a Brazilian trait.”
Manumitted, Graduated and Exiled
Although with blurred details, some of these stories reached Nara’s ears. One of them, told by one, said that her great-grandfather – or great-grandfather – was a slave who bought his own manumission. Literate and able to do math, he ran the business of the merchant who owned him. With the money earned working, he bought his freedom and bought the establishment.
Having a business allowed the family to have access to education. So much so that Gil’s father was a doctor and his mother was a teacher.
“That’s why they left Salvador. Imagine! Compete with white doctors in the capital? Very difficult. They went to live in the countryside, because they needed doctors and teachers there, and they were an ideal couple.”
To rescue the distant past, Nara accepted the invitation of ECOA to perform a DNA test that maps genetic ancestry and indicates the likely places where your ancestors came from. Their reports can be seen in the video “Origens: A Música no ADN da Família Gil”, produced by MOV.doc, the documentary label of the UOLin partnership with ECOAthe platform for a better world than UOL, and the Diversity Center. Regarding the African regions that he painted in his test, he called it “a good mix”: Benin (22.7%), North Africa (12.6%), Uganda (4.8%), The Gambia (4.1 %) and Angola (3.5%). Of the European (51%) and American (1.3%) share, little surprise.
“It’s cool to do this test because it gives precisely this notion that we all came from a source, but that it spread. Africa was all colonized and sliced. The separated people become a country with one name, then with another name, but it’s all one big salad.”
But beyond a point on the map, Nara really wanted to know how the trajectory took place. “Blood, actually, we know. Now, history and knowing exactly what happened is harder to trace. That path has been erased.”
Stories that became music
Back in the more recent past, in the interior of Bahia, it was with their grandparents that Nara and her sister Marília lived while their father was in exile and their mother studying in Rio. During this period, she only knew him from magazine and television pictures. As a teenager, she moved in with her father and took a liking to music. So much so that she was the first to follow in her father’s footsteps and make a career out of backing vocals in his band. From the stage to the small screen, she played DJ Black Boy, in the Globo series “Armação Ilimitada”, between 1985 and 1988.
“There are families of doctors, dentists, writers, actors. We are a family of musicians.” If, when she was young, she heard the chords of her father’s guitar cutting through the silence of the house, when she became a mother, she saw her son João take his grandfather’s place.
Naturally, some of Nara’s memories crucial to retelling her family’s history are cut through by music. She was with her father in 1979 during the Novos Baianos show at the Vila Velha Theater, where he met Flora Nair Giordano, who would become his wife the following year. By that time, Gil had already separated from Belina and his second wife, Sandra.
In 2017, she was singing with Gilberto Gil when, during a show in São Paulo, he recognized a couple in the audience: He was the boss of the times when Gilberto Gil was an employee of Gessy Lever (future Unilever) and his wife, his former secretary . Between 1965 and 1966, Gil was torn between his administrative career in the office and the attempt to be a musician.
“Later, in the dressing room, the ex-secretary recalled: she said: ‘I remember a lot about her mother, Belina, because she would call the office and I would cover for her father. let him sleep a little under the table. He needed to rest’.”
Gilberto Gil’s family tree
every bahian girl
Nara tells all these stories with a smile on her face, but she is really proud of being the inspiration her father had in his head when he composed “Toda Menina Baiana”. Not only because it’s one of Gil’s biggest hits, but because she loves being from Bahia. “Very lucky to have been born in this place. You get down here on the street, and blacks and whites have a swing.”
For her, Bahia is the most representative place of Brazilian origin, “which is precisely when the Indians lived here, the Portuguese whites arrived and brought the African blacks”.
“Bahia is exactly that in essence. With all the sadness that we inherit from this devaluation, erasure and invisibility of the cultures of the original peoples and those peoples brought from Africa, but with all the joy that this causes in us and makes us essentially . I always say this: in Bahia, we are happy”
At this point in the conversation with Ecoa, Nara takes the opportunity to confide another family secret, this time with the vanity of a proud granddaughter. “My grandmother Claudiana loved ‘Every Bahian Girl’. It was the one she liked the most. Mostly because of this part of the song that talks about Pelourinho, where black people were killed during the slavery era”, she says, imitating the gesture that her mother de Gil did, as if someone were cutting his neck.
“That’s it. We have this memory inside us. Despite not having studied African culture at school, it is there in our blood, on the street, in our music, in African-based religions, in candomblés, samba circles, caboclo wheels. The memory of black people was officially erased, banned and criminalized. All of this is much more difficult for us to access, but my father brought this to our center, especially to our family.”