Ben Paris is a fiction writer who has been living here in Salvador for the last quarter century. He’s married to a baiana and lives in the neighborhood of Itapuã.
Randy Roberts has run Cana Brava Records — a specialty record shop devoted to authentic Brazilian music — in Salvador’s Centro Histórico for the past thirteen years. He’s been living in Salvador for twenty-five years, is married to a baiana, and lives in the neighborhood of Barris.
Before moving south he (okay, I) lived in New York City and had a business probably unique in the world: I “rescued” unpaid royalties for composers and performers who were being ripped off by record companies. My clients included Mongo Santamaria, Barbra Streisand, Philip Glass, Led Zeppelin, Airto Moreira, Astrud Gilberto, Wah Wah Watson (Melvin Ragin), Jim Hall, Robb Royer (Bread), The Cadillacs (Earl Carroll), The Flamingos (Jake and Zeke Carey), Aretha Franklin… Aretha called me pissed off thinking I had her money; but it was Atlantic Records sitting on it and keeping quiet (I had an inside track to the ways and means of Atlantic’s business practices; one of my silent partners had been director of royalties at both Atlantic and PolyGram). Allen Klein called me about royalties for the estate of Sam Cooke…but didn’t want to pay me for my work in their recovery! To the best of my knowledge he never found out where they were. We got money for Cat Stevens (can’t be bothered to google his current name) who stiffed us (either he or his royalty accountant).
I got to meet a lot of great people and had a great time. And I discovered that the major labels are criminals. Now I live in Brazil, a wonderful people and amazing civilization in a county likewise run by criminals who want to keep it all for themselves.
It’s been this way since the beginning here…and I believe that’s why music is so important in Brazil. It’s a protective pearl created by an abrasive world, a diamond created under immense pressure. Were the average Brazilian to live like the average Swiss there’s a good chance the music would to a great extent stop, but there’s no chance of this happening for many, many years. The solace continues…