It has always been a quest of mine, whilst traveling in Brazil, to find the Wailing Wall of Brazilian record stores. You know? The ones that have no problem digging through a crate of vinyl to pluck out two examples of Os Mutantes solo projects or hip me to the eternal quirk of Ney Matagrosso or sell me lovingly worn copies of Raul Seixas for a little under $10. After four visits, and endless research, I finally found that place in Baratos Afins. Fodor’s put a little star by it in my guide, so I knew it was legit. What I didn’t know is the scale of my journey to find it. Arriving at the American Consulate in sprawling Sao Paulo on a rainy Friday morning, I was unaware the lengths involved to locate my destination. Good thing even in a city of 18 million, even in an concrete jungle that seemingly goes on forever, the cabs are cheap and the drivers surprisingly friendly – even chatting up spots for lunch once I finish scouring (if of course my goose hunt turned out to be worth it). Though dumped upon one of the skuzzier neighborhoods in old downtown, flanked on both sides by ominous porn theaters and sleeping vagrants (reminded me of something out of Children of Men), our search turned out to bear fruit.
Baratos Afins was started in 1978 as both an independent store and label, created in part by Arnaldo Baptista of Mutantes to outlet his solo records (follow the link for the full story). Remarkably the store, which probably saw a heyday in the midst of the early ‘80s post-punk scene (many of those records, including the first Nao Sao Paulo comp. were released by BA), is still intact though it’s surrounded by what is the equivalent of a four-story, open-air, punk mall – a massive Hot Topic/Ron Jon’s for urban bohemian youth. Most of the place was somewhat bombed out and covered in soot, crawling with the occasional weirdo, but up on the third floor, tucked away in a tiny rectangle, was a room stuffed to the rafters with vinyl. I doubt they could cram in any more – so I politely informed my wife that this was Shangri-La and I would be here for a while. I spent a good two hours in the racks, went home with R$200 of (in my eyes) priceless vinyl, and made friends with the clerk who kept shoving gifts into my bag (complete with an interesting story about the “blood” paper). Thanks for everything. I will return.
This was what I’ve been waiting all my life for, I kind of wish I went back another day – I’d likely be broke though. Stay tuned as I intend on going through my stash, one by one, and divulge about my treasure.