by Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo,
intern in Belo horizonte, Brazil
Brazil’s unique musical heritage has always embodied the lavishness of its population’s cultural tapestry. Indeed disparities in cultural and economic backgrounds among today’s Brazilians is reflected in the country’s modern musical output. The 90’s ushered the rise of samba-reggae acts like Olodum and O Rappa reach the mainstream with their messages of Afro- Brazilian pride. And today, new generations of favela Hip-Hop acts are taking the art form in a new social direction.
Hip Hop’s original four elements (MCing, DJing, dancing, and graffiti) are at the forefront of various community development projects put forward by Rio rap groups in their favelas. In fact, rapper MV Bill and the Afro-Reggae collective use these elements to keep favela children out of the drug trade while bringing attention to the social struggles they face. Afro-Reggae started out as an afro-samba music group giving back to their community by organising youth percussion classes. The project evolved to become a major Brazilian NGO that has opened centers in three of Rio’s toughest neighbourhoods. MV Bill had always rapped about the crisis in the favelas but tookhis musical efforts much further by launching the book “Cabeca de Porco” that he co-authored with Luis Eduardo Soares, one of Brazil’s foremost social anthropologists. Published in 2005, the book revolves around the issue of social injustice and violence in Brazil and discusses what must be done to solve the problem. A documentary is currently in the making.
Brazilian music has always adapted itself to universal musical trends while maintaining its distinctive flavour. Brazilian brand of rap has gone farther then its American counterpart dominated by the gangster image. Brazil’s hip-hop follows the footsteps of the original art form, dedicated to street culture and community development through the arts.