Don GK’s Flight to Brazil Wows over Parents Weekend

Matthew Sprung, Staff Writer

“Vamos Ya!” College senior Gabe Kanengiser exclaimed with an anticipatory grin, as he and his band, Don GK’s Flight to Brazil, played a jam-packed Parents Weekend show at the Slow Train Cafe last Saturday. The request, which loosely translates to “Come on, let’s go” in Portuguese, indicated that the seven-piece Brazilian band was going to take the audience on a figurative trip to Latin America.


The crowd readily granted their request, swaying to the samba melodies of the Brazilian singer-songwriter and musician Antônio “Tom” Jobim, known for composing “The Girl from Ipanema,” one of the most frequently recorded songs ever. While abroad in Brazil, Kanengiser fell hard for the smooth wave vibes of Bossa Nova, a fusion of samba and jazz from the mid 20th century. He picked up the language and began thinking of performing a show entirely in Portuguese. “To be able to bring Rio back with me was really special,” Kanengiser explained, saying he had been trying to recapture the music he experienced abroad since returning to Oberlin.


Besides Kanengiser, the band consisted of College senior Regina Larre Campuzano on vocals, double-degree junior Stephen Becker on guitar, double-degree senior Nathan Swedlow on bass, Conservatory sophomore Patrick Graney and double-degree junior Ben Rempel on percussion and double-degree senior Carl Mitchell on the saxophone and flute. Double-degree senior Nate Mendelsohn, who is also in the band, was absent due to illness.


Opening with “Aquarela Do Brasil” by Ary Barroso, the audience was transported back to 1939 through the timeless rhythm of the music. The song, which translates to “Watercolor of Brazil,” was fitting, as the music painted a picture of Brazil that melted in the listener’s head. The music was so contagious that it made the audience of parents and students alike turn their tables into drums, smiling as they tapped away on the surfaces. During one song a glass fell and shattered; however, in the warmth of the room, the crowd cheered as the band continued to smile and play without missing a beat.


After a girl in the audience standing near the stage began dancing a convincing samba number, the rest of the crowd was implored to follow her example. “You don’t have to dance but you should dance,” Kanengiser and Campuzano both agreed.


Of the remaining six songs of the set, the majority were pieces by Jobim, who is often considered to be one of the 20th century’s most important songwriters.


Continuing in a conversational tone, Kanengiser addressed the crowd with “Gente lindo”, which means “beautiful people,” as he paused for a short commentary in between songs. Even though most people probably did not speak or understand Portuguese, the important message was conveyed by the music: enjoy.

Yet their music was not all wistful sand and sunsets, and toward the later part of the performance, the tempo was lifted, and the pace of the music quickened. Drums took the lead over the vocals, and as the dancing continued, the band dared the crowd to take a sip of wine or coffee without spilling as they moved. Passersby stopped and put their faces to the glass to see and hear what the commotion was all about. With its upbeat end and an audience both inside and outside of Slow Train, its safe to say the performance ended on a high note.