July 5, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith
The territory in this last respect is familiar: gangs talking about how they are the top dogs in town and how they´ve got the best women, women talking about how they want to be f*cked, general rants about drugs, crime, f*ck the police, come on and party….
I´m told here is also a lot of lyrical depth to some of it, but you don´t get to hear that side of it unless you know where to get the tunes. I´m going to trawl through the bootleg CDs I bought in the city – 500 tunes for two pounds fifty!!! – and check it out a bit more.
At a party in the Lapa district I stop and join in. There is a sound system knocking out pure funk carioca sounds and everyone is getting on down. It´s like a festival here, with bootleg bars and hotdog stands everywhere, DJs and their crews looking menacing and lots of dirty dancing.
One thing you notice about Brazilians…they come in all sorts of colours and shades. The sheer vibrancy of this comes over as soon as you step out onto the streets. They are descended from Portuguese, Africans, Germans, Italians, Dutch, Lebanese and Japanese. There are 8 million Lebanese descendents, more than there are Lebanese people in Lebanon.
Before the Portuguese came, there were estimated to be 6 million Indians living in the country. There are now around one million, between 1 and 2 percent of the population. 50 out of the 70 remaining tribes hae not even been contacted. When contact does happen, many Indians in the contacted tribe get ill from common diseases such as flu and die.
This is Brazil´s holocaust.
They will tell you that there is no race problem here. I´ve been informed that there are literally no incidents of overt, name-calling racism here. They see colour in a totally different way and I don´t really understand it.
African-descended Brazilians used to make up 70% of the population and there were attempts by the goverment to introduce a white-only immigration policy earlier last century. Ironically this was reversed by the proto-fascist dictator Getulio Vargas. Drawing on the work of the sociologist Gilberto Freyre, he embraced the idea of a Brazilian race fed into by many different genetic strands. This separated him sharply from the European dictators such as Hitler at the time who were going for racial purity. But like Hitler, Vargas was using the flag of nationalism as a way of regulating labour disputes and dealing with the left.
In many ways Brazil is renouned for its unique take on race, but in other ways the visible reality is that white people hold the power and most favela-dwellers are black. But then what I understand as the term black is not what a Brazilian understands it as…..if someone is mixed black and white then they aren´t considered black, they´re mixed……so confusing….
The first race equality march happened in 1995. The second ten years later last year. Hmmmmm…..
But the fact is everyone gets down and paries together….HARD!! I find myself in a bar listening to a group of mixed musicians knocking out samba dance beats on percussion, with a cabaquinho (an instrument that sounds like a twangy small guitar, bass and vocals. One percussionist gets an beat going and another comes in in syncopated double-time, like a man-made drum and bass frenzy. The whole place kicks, everyone inside and outside the cafe gets down and the place is flying.
This is like the primal roots of drum and bass and it goes back…way back…..