After a 26-hour journey to Brasilia (via Amsterdam and Rio), I found myself with the luxury of a day to recuperate before my meetings and research work began.

I’ve not been to Brasilia before. It’s beautiful, but it’s strange. Its strangeness lies not only in the fact that the entire city is just a shade over 50 years old, but also that it is divided into districts that meet a specific purpose.

My hotel, like all the other hotels, is in the hotel district. Every building around here is another hotel. Which, I suppose, is great if you’re a taxi driver, but not so great if you’re a visitor who wants to explore on foot – and especially if you’re one who likes to (or needs to) keep costs down.

The reason to travel is to go shopping


Other than a small park with a large fountain and a tall TV broadcast tower, the only thing to do near here seems to be to go shopping. And not in a cool way.

The shopping that you can do around here takes place in one of the three massive malls that are strategically placed 10 minutes stroll in three different directions from the hotel district.


Whichever way you walk, you’ll hit an upmarket clothing shop, a food court and a high-end electrical appliances outlet, but very little in the way of local colour – and nothing in the way of groceries.

As a result, much of yesterday was spent in the hotel room catching up on sleep and email.

I did visit all three of the malls, in the hope that I could find some food that didn’t cost £12 or so for a main course. I was broadly successful (small calzone for about £2 each was as close to ‘street food’ as I could find).


The fresh juices were the discovery of the day. Açai berries with banana and orange juice, blended with granola, guarana, linseed and crushed ice in what appeared to be a plastic pint glass… all for about £2.50. That’s a meal in itself. Though I accompanied it with a triangular chicken and cheese thing for another handful of coins.

I also picked up a couple of fantastic bargain bin DVDs of televised Brazilian music concerts from the late 70s and early 80s, featuring Jobim, Vinicius & Toquinho. I don’t tend to buy DVDs, but these were incredibly cheap, virtually unobtainable elsewhere – and a better option for the evening’s entertainment than the hotel room TV.

I think I’ll be coming back to these over and over again. Incredible performances of wonderful music.

The reason to travel is to meet people

I’m over here for several reasons – recruitment to our PhD programme is one of them, and I’m meeting with academics in Sao Paulo later in the week – but the Brasilia part of the trip is to take part in a meeting of cultural networks from across South and Central America.

The Brazilian network of independent music collectives that I’m studying is going to be represented at this meeting in large numbers, and that will give me an opportunity to do a bunch of interviews – as well as catch up with the people that Jake has been working with for the past few months.

Essentially though – this first part of the trip is, ultimately, all prep work for the next couple of years of my research. Or at least – for the research proposal that will determine whether or not this is what I get to spend the next couple of years researching. There’s kind of a lot riding on the next week or so, and the writing that comes out of it…

I’m also going to be connecting with people that I met from Tiuna el Fuerte in Venezuela to discuss more opportunities to work with them around independent music online, prison radio, community youth music activities and so on.

The reason to travel is to get some work done


But that all kicks off much later this afternoon, and until then, I have the rest of the day today to do more mundane tasks – like the last of the marking, a bit of writing, and some admin stuff.

Not exactly exciting stuff, but frankly – until the interesting people turn up, it’s either that or the mall again.

And to be honest – once they do turn up, I don’t expect to have much time to do that sort of thing again for a few days… so I should make the most of a hotel room, a desk, and a slow, but workable internet connection.