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Wearing sandals, an untucked T-shirt and carrying a small handbag, samba musician Martinho da Vila, 80, slowly walked onto the stage, where Abilio Diniz, 81, and the event’s master of ceremony Marcelo Cardoso, already awaited him. In good spirits, he talked in a rhythm that follows his steps. Martinho is never in a hurry not even to talk, but he’s known for a very productive life. “Whoever goes slow, gets there. And gets there rested. Whoever runs, trips and falls”. My wife says I’m no longer at an age to be falling down,” says Martinho.

Below is a summary of the conversation between the three on stage.

Marcelo Cardoso: Martinho, you and Abilio have several points in common. Age, curiosity about life…

Martinho da Vila: He (Abilio) is older than I am. A lot older, almost a year. Lovely!

MC: You recently got a college degree. Tell us a bit about that.

MV: People who are continuously seeking to learn live better, including learning how to live better. I have traveled the world and become Ambassador of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. My peers in this area are all from the Diplomatic sector. On the other hand, I’ve been practicing International Relations for a long time. When Angola became independent, I was the most well-known figure in the country. The country didn’t have an embassy in Brazil. Whenever people came here, business executive or director, they would contact me to open doors for them. They called me ambassador. A lot of them slept at my house. When they finally set up an embassy in Brazil, they gave me the title of Honorary Cultural Ambassador. But I wanted to learn about the history of International Relations, its importance, its theory…

MC: Is this when you decided to get a college degree?

MV: Yes. I took the college entrance exam for Universidade Veiga de Almeida. When I went to enroll, they said they didn’t have enough students to form a class. I then found out that there was a course at Estácio (Universidade Estácio de Sá). I visited the school and made my case. I had to take another entrance exam. I was 76 years old and had classmates who were 18. It was interesting. When I was in my last year, somebody took a picture of me in the classroom. It went totally viral on the Internet. Everybody would say: “You got into school!” But I had already been there for a long time. The most important is that I learned that only diplomacy (not weapons) can save the world from a third world war.

MC: Martinho’s humility is very cool. He is known for having changed the history of samba. The way people listen to samba in Brazil is because of him.

Abilio Diniz: Martinho, how do you cope with all this fame?

MV: I’m already used to it. I’m never alone, anywhere. At times I arrive at an airport in a hurry. And there’s always someone there to ask for an autograph. But I already have my strategy. I walk slow, really slow, but when somebody approaches me, I pick up the pace. It works.

MC: How do you deal with so many children?
AD: I have children of all ages and with a big age difference between them. My oldest child, Ana, is 56, and the youngest is 8 years old. I’m their friend.

MV: To be a father is to be a friend. People like Abilio and I can’t say we were a good father. A good father is someone who helps the mother, goes to parent meetings at school and helps with the children’s homework. We don’t have time for this. So, the solution is to be a friend. I know how to deal with the younger ones. I was closer in their upbringing than with the older ones. The younger ones are 18 and 23 years old.

MC: From Rio de Janeiro to Barra Mansa, you, Martinho, tend to say that it can take two hours or five hours…

MV: My philosophy of life is to do everything slowly. So, people ask how I do so many things. I do everything slowly and do not give up my free time. Going slowly is good. Who goes slowly, gets there, and gets there rested. Who runs, trips and falls. My wife says I’m no longer at an age to be falling down.

AD: How do you envision your life in the future? For example, I want to have as much time as possible to do the things I like: to work the way I work, do my sports, etc. What would you like to?

(Martinho’s phone rings)
MV: It’s Happiness (his youngest daughter) calling. I know I have to turn off the phone. Sorry (turns off his phone). Dreaming is always good. I have dreams of doing a lot of things, but I still don’t know what exactly. But I have time. Medicine is working in our favor. They say that people our age will reach 100. So, I’m planning a party. Let’s do it together, Abilio?