Martyn Joseph is a performer like no other: Shades of Springsteen, John Mayer, Bruce Cockburn and Dave Matthews there may be - but he stands in his own right, built on a reputation for giving what thousands have described as the best live music experience of their lives delivering his "songs of lyrical intelligence" according to BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris.


March 24, 2002 12:48 pm

Thunderstorms and 17yr old Martyrs

A huge thunderstorm hit Rio tonight. With temperatures hitting 45 today it should not have been a surprise, but it was amazing to watch from the roof of the hotel. What a day this has been and I’m not sure if I can capture it in words. I stayed up late to get the song into shape for the gig.

Managed to get to a point where I felt I could perform it and left it at that. We set off for a Church service at an Ecumenical Church in the city and I enjoyed much of the time there despite the heat and the fact that I didn’t understand much of what was being said (maybe that’s why it was enjoyable!). Nice mixture of music including a choir that sounded so Welsh they could have been singing in Merthyr. I sang ‘Precious’ and publicly apologised (through our ever present interpreter Myra) for shocking a female church member earlier on, when searching for the toilets, and with my Portuguese not being up to scratch, I guessed wrong and entered the ladies toilet! After the service I interview Roberto for BBC Wales and at the end, I ask him what his dream is for Brazil? He starts to speak but then wells up and a tear runs down his face as he struggles to tell me of a land where children don’t have to sleep on streets, where he wont here the sound of gunfire every night from the Favela, where health care.’ and he breaks off because he cant speak anymore. After lunch we go to the University for the concert. I’m told that they want me to sing three songs but then come back a little later and sing the song I have written which deals with, amongst other things, the murder of nineteen MST members by the Police in April 97. I am very humbled by this gesture and slip away on my own to think this through and gather my thoughts. Osiel Alves was amongst those cut down in 97. Military policemen put a gun to his head and asked him if he was going to chant the MST slogan again. He bravely did and was shot dead; he was 17 years old. I sing ‘The Good In Me Is Dead’ and ‘Please Sir’ as I want to place a link again with Wales. I tell these amazing people how they have touched my soul and that I will do all I can to tell people of their struggle. MST flags wave in the auditorium as I play. That’s my main spot done and that’s been emotional enough. Shortly I return with an icon to honour. I tell them (always through Myra’s beautiful sounding translation) of my trip to the encampment, of their smiles and warmth and of gazing across the road to their promised land, how Joleson came up to me and spoke, of how I didn’t know what he was saying, yet I did, I understood his gestures and knew he was talking of the land that was theirs, of how I’m invited back to a barbeque on the other side of the road, and with applause ringing out for almost every sentence I say ‘I’m not a vegetarian, and I’m coming back for that BBQ one day’. Myra reads out some of the key translation of the song and then I sing with the MST flag draped on the headstock of my guitar of a brave, seventeen year old boy, who had his life stolen from him by cowards. It’s my turn to choke but I get through and at the end they rise and cheer and I’m lost in emotions of sadness, but with great purpose and honour. The emotion is far from over though as Martin Nichols joins me and we play John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, everyone stands and moves together, banners are unfurled and children in costumes and others in all sorts of magical imagery move around the hall and on stage. How creative the poor are in their struggle, how they enrich our lives with beautiful and painful art. And then a moment I will always remember, a young man holds up a banner with a drawing of Osiel, their young hero. The beautiful young face that holds up the banner is seventeen years old and he cries our ‘Viva la MST! Viva la MST!’ The moment is huge in symbolism and will stay in the minds of many for a long time. The gathering disperses with hugs and good wishes, old and young embrace me, brothers and sisters I don’t know place their hands on my chest and hold my hand to their hearts. They gather outside to climb back onto buses that will take them back to the encampments and for some who have won through, settlements. I’m drained but as I stand there a young girl with eyes on fire comes up and tells me (via Myra) that not only does the MST need me to tell their story, but Brazil does as well. Always, always, it is never about the individual, it is about each other, their communities, their country. She hugs me and climbs aboard a bus for a 16-hour journey back to a bamboo and plastic covered shack; she is 14 years old, alive and vibrant with a thirst for justice. How absolutely wonderful, how amazing. If I could I would bring every teenager in the UK to listen and live a while in these peoples shoes, to learn the value of community, inter dependence and support for each other. We would have a revolution on our hands. What a privilege and how fortunate I have been to been to learn huge lessons in the presence of these people. I should not be surprised. For a long time I have known that to sit with the poor brings extraordinary blessing and insight. I learned that first 14 years ago in the slums of Thailand. Oh for the wisdom to run with that in the face of all that entices me in other places. I will keep my promise and use a piece of wood and six pieces of steel to tell of what is happening in this great land, but, some of the motive is selfish, for in their freedom and liberation comes my own, and that’s the place in which I wish to be found.

Till The End

Till the end, till the end
You can count me in,
I will stand with you
Till the end,till the end

And we cross this road,
I will stand with you

It’s raining in Rio, and God’s on the hill
Seems like he’s waiting, waiting there still
And the scarred and the beautiful, leather and smooth
The cry of the landless for sickle in groove

Till the end, till the end
You can count me in,
I will stand with you
Till the end, till the end
And we cross this road, I will stand with you

And there in this hot land, the government ignores
The rites of its people, her very own laws
So bamboo and bin bags they live in to fight
To cross the road someday and take up their rite

Till the end, till the end
You can count me in, I will stand with you
Till the end, till the end
And we cross this road,
I will stand with you

And in April 97, El Dorado, Para State
Nineteen brothers murdered and justice is too late
Josiel Alves, with a gun to his head
Asked to deny his calling, died as he said

Till the end, till the end You can count me in,
I will stand with you
Till the end, till the end
And we cross this road,
I will stand with you

It’s raining in Rio and God’s on the hill
Seems like he’s waiting, waiting there stil


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