The story of Yonlu has many angles. Yes, it is a story about music – of the continuing heart-spilling tradition of lo-fi troubadours, of post-rock's melodic imprints, of an ancient sadness lurking in the new-century and manifesting itself as modern Bossa Nova. But it's more than that. It is a story about how such music comes to be in a world where technology and communication hide feelings and emotion, but songs can't. It is about how the Internet can change an idea of what music means, of whom its creators are, and of what its creators can and can not do. More than anything, it is a story of a single young man, who lived all those angles and found it increasingly hard to do so -- but whose music transcended mere angles.
16 year-old Vinicius Gageiro Marques lived in the Southwestern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, the only son of university professor and psychoanalyst Ana Maria Gageiro and second child of Luiz Marques, doctor of Political Science and Secretary of Culture of the state of Rio Grande do Sul between 1999 and 2002. He was a bright inquisitive young man, a polyglot adolescent who spoke French (he lived with his family in Paris from 3 until 7 years old), and wrote and spoke English without ever taking classes (he learned by watching TV). He began reading Kafka at 12, and at 13 dedicated himself to recording daily life using a photo camera. Vinicius also had an impressive musical aptitude. He demonstrated a knowledge and a critical sense in his analysis of pop music, always written in English and available on various websites. And he recorded hundreds of songs, playing guitars, bass, drums and sound effects in one of the rooms in his house he transformed into a studio.
But his focus had a dark side. "He was serious, maybe too serious," remembers his mother Ana Maria. "Very early on, I understood that his sensitivity to the world was also his weakness."
On the afternoon of July 26th of 2006, 36 days before turning 17, Vinicius locked himself inside the bathroom of his apartment, and took his own life via carbon monoxide intoxication. An avid Internet user with the screen-name Yoñlu, Vinicius stayed on-line until the very last moments, and members of the suicide forum he frequented accompanied his every last step. Before locking himself in the bathroom, Vinicius wrote a letter freeing his family members from any guilt, explaining that his suicide could not have been stopped or imagined. He asked that his wishes be respected because his life was unbearable, he indicated the web address for his blog, thanked his parents for their support and recommended they listen to his music whenever they were sad, exactly as he would do. Even though he didn't suggest they listen to the music he composed, he left them a CD with some of his songs.
On Vinicius'computer (which was being searched by Police investigators), his father discovered some of the precious sounds he had stored away -- the majority were his own songs. The music came with enthusiastic commentary made by Internet fans from around the world. Yoñlu, the Brazilian from Gay Harbour (that's how he would refer to Porto Alegre), almost without any real friends in real life, was a popular virtual artist with fans from England, Scotland, Belgium, Canada and North Africa.
His recordings revealed just a fraction of his potential, his talent for experimentalism, and a capacity to create delicate melancholy melodies, something between Badly Drawn Boy, Radiohead, Tortoise and Nick Drake.
The music of "gringo" artists weren't the influences on a kid contaminated by the universal conscience promoted through the Internet. Yonlu's sound was enriched by his passion for bossa nova, his attention to the ruptures in Tropicalia (he considered Gilberto Gil the genius of the movement) and the influences of gaucho artists such as Vitor Ramil, his favorite, whose song "Estrela" he covers here.
Between a poetic lyricism and general nonsense, the lyrics, written in English, help uncover who Viñicius really was. Topics like depression, inadequacy and suicide are scattered among the tracks selected for the disc. "Katie Don't Be Depressed," a musical pearl with steamy guitars and popular lyrics, is somber: "Katie don't get depressed/it's serious, I want to say, what the hell is that? / a thought across your mind/ and I see you twist and scream/ even though you have a hand to hold onto/ even though you were cast aside."
In "Humiliation," vocals, guitar and the incapacity to declare a passion, is pungent: "Why does this always end in humiliation for me? / I'm going to say why/ I'm going to die"; the sad ballad of carefully chosen lyrics "Suicide Song," written one month before the fatal date, is haunting: "Now she has gone like everyone else I knew/ now my suicide is illuminated by the sunset/ if you want to know my opinion, it's very sad/ I don't think I will be/ present to see your face."
Yoñlu is a disc that should have been a post card, but transformed itself into a testament. It's the celebration of a life with the talent for a banquet that stopped at the appetizer. It's a showcase of sound and poetry of the kisses that Vinicius never gave, the dreams he never realized, the anguishes he couldn't get over, his passion for art and especially for music, like he expressed in the letter he wrote to his parents: "I believe that the right cadence and harmony at the right moments can awaken any sentiment, including happiness in the most somber moments."
released February 17, 2009
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