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Saturday 8 May 2010

Sertanejo Saturday

Can I extend a special welcome to our first ever visitor from French Guiana. I spent ten days there in 2002 and very enjoyable it was too.

Cayenne was expensive but fun, and I got to hang out with the Haitian ambassador (or at least she claimed she was the Haitian ambassador - who knows). But the two stand-outs were my visits to Devil's Island and Saint-Georges.

Devil's Island is actually three islands - the one with the main prison, which still has many of the original buildings and now has a restaurant and campsites; the one where Dreyfuss was held - his bench is still there - which is inaccessible by boat; and the one where the hard case prisoners were held in solitary confinement. This island has been allowed to go back to nature, apart from a path round the island and the small graveyard where the prison wardens and their families are buried, and it was incredibly atmospheric to find a ruined prison in the middle of the rampant vegetation.

Saint-Georges (or Saint Georges-de-l'Oyapock to give its full name) is a small town on the banks of the Oiapoque River, which forms the eastern border with Brazil. You have the river on one side and the jungle on the other and you really feel you are cut off from the world.

Of course you are not that remote really. If you hanker after excitement you can take a piroque taxi downriver to Oiapoque on the Brazilan side. That is a real cowboy town, and fittingly it was where I discovered Sertanejo - Brazilian country music. I picked up several bootleg Sertanejo CDs while I was there, together with a lacquered piranha.

In place of our scheduled post - sorry, Pat Shange fans - here are a couple of the highlights from those CDs:

"Sapatio, Sapatio" - Rio Negro & Solimoes

"Rodeio E Vaquejada" - Rick & Renner

I have a 2007 Rick & Renner album which an exasperating mixture of decent sertanejo and mushy pap (which is still closer to country than most recent Nashville albums I suppose). Rio Negro & Solimoes still seem to be sticking to their roots and, judging by the size of the crowd in this clip, are doing OK out of it.

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