Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship

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Covering more than one hundred years of history, this multidisciplinary collection of essays explores the vital connections between popular music and citizenship in Brazil. While popular music has served as an effective resource for communities to stake claims to political, social, and cultural rights in Brazil, it has also been appropriated by the state in its efforts to manage and control a socially, racially, and geographically diverse nation. The question of citizenship has also been a recurrent theme in the work of many of Brazil’s most important musicians. These essays explore popular music in relation to national identity, social class, racial formations, community organizing, political protest, and emergent forms of distribution and consumption. Contributors examine the cultural politics of samba in the 1930s, the trajectory of middle-class musical sensibility associated with Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), rock and re-democratization in the 1980s, music and black identity in Bahia, hip hop and community organizing in São Paulo, and the repression of baile funk in Rio in the 1990s. Among other topics, they consider the use of music by the Landless Workers’ Movement, the performance of identity by Japanese Brazilian musicians, the mangue beat movement of Recife, and the emergence of new regional styles, such as lambadão and tecnobrega, that circulate outside of conventional distribution channels. Taken together, the essays reveal the important connections between citizenship, national belonging, and Brazilian popular music.

Contributors. Idelber Avelar, Christopher Dunn, João Freire Filho, Goli Guerreiro, Micael Herschmann, Ari Lima, Aaron Lorenz, Shanna Lorenz, Angélica Madeira, Malcolm K. McNee, Frederick Moehn, Flávio Oliveira, Adalberto Paranhos, Derek Pardue, Marco Aurélio Paz Tella, Osmundo Pinho, Carlos Sandroni, Daniel Sharp, Hermano Vianna, Wivian Weller

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Idelber Avelar’s and Christopher Dunn’s book is not only an invaluable aid in understanding the complex relationship between culture and politics in Brazil. It also helps us to understand how culture and politics act together in forming our common future, and even suggests ways in which we as citizens might have a hand in determining how things turn out.”—Arto Lindsay, musician and artist

“This book is quite important for understanding the significance of music in Brazil. It shows that music—as a complex social, cultural, artistic, and even political phenomenon—was part and parcel of the constitution of citizenship. Music has been a crucial constitutive factor in Brazilians’ sense of belonging.”—George Yúdice, author of The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era

The Americas - Darien Lamen

Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship is a significant contribution to the discussions of the Latin American social movements, cultural politics, and participatory democracy that have been taking place in the academy, policy circles, and among grassroots movements over the last 20 years. The international currency of cultural citizenship discourses, together with the present proliferation of musical expressions from Brazil’s peripheries, make this a timely publication, and its rich case studies will be of interest to scholars in cultural studies, anthropology, ethnomusicology, and related disciplines.”
The Wire - Clive Bell

“[T]hought-provoking. . . .”
Anthropology Review Database - Jack David Eller

“Since ethnomusicologists have noticed and bemoaned the neglect of music in introductory anthropology courses and texts (which is all that most students will ever see of the subject), this powerful anthology will hopefully encourage anthropologists to take more seriously the place of music in contemporary politics and identity and to integrate that topic—surely one that students would enjoy hearing—into their teaching and writing.”
Hispanic American Historical Review - Kavin Paulraj

“[A] fascinating book…. the crucial role that Brazilian music plays in the social and political sphere makes this book relevant for a variety of academic disciplines and important beyond any scholarly trend.”
Music and Letters - Rogerio Budasz

"[A]n excellent source for anyone interested in Brazilian popular music in relation to power, identity, race, and the cultural industry.” 
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822348849
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2011
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Idelber Avelar is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University. He is the author of The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and Politics and The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning, also published by Duke University Press.

Christopher Dunn is Associate Professor of Brazilian literary and cultural studies at Tulane University. He is the author of Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture and a co-editor of Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization.

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Table of Contents


Introduction. Music as Practice of Citizenship in Brazil Idelber Avelar and Christopher Dunn....................1
Dissonant Voices under a Regime of Order–Unity: Popular Music and Work in the Estado Novo Adalberto Paranhos....................28
Orpheonic Chant and the Construction of Childhood in Brazilian Elementary Education Flávio Oliveira....................44
Farewell to MPB Carlos Sandroni....................64
From Mr. Citizen to Defective Android: Tom Zé and Citizenship in Brazil Christopher Dunn....................74
Rude Poetics of the 1980s: The Politics and Aesthetics of Os Titãs Angélica Madeira....................96
"We Live Daily in Two Countries": Audiotopias of Postdictatorship Brazil Frederick Moehn....................109
Soundtracking Landlessness: Music and Rurality in the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra Malcolm K. McNee....................131
Zhen Brasil's Japanese Brazilian Groove Shanna Lorenz....................155
Embodying the Favela: Representation, Mediation, and Citizenship in the Music of Bezerra da Silva Aaron Lorenz....................172
Hip-Hop in São Paulo: Identity, Community Formation, and Social Action Wivian Weller and Marco Aurélio Paz Tella....................188
"Conquistando Espaço": Hip-Hop Occupations of São Paulo Derek Pardue....................205
Funk Music Made in Brazil: Media and Moral Panic João Freire Filho and Micael Herschmann....................223
Technobrega, Forró, Lambadão: The Parallel Music of Brazil Hermano Vianna....................240
"Tradition as Adventure": Black Music, New Afro-Descendant Subjects, and Pluralization of Modernity in Salvador da Bahia Osmundo Pinho....................250
Modernity, Agency, and Sexuality in the Pagode Baiano Ari Lima....................267
Candeal and Carlinhos Brown: Social and Musical Contexts of an Afro-Brazilian Community Goli Guerreiro....................278
Of Mud Huts and Modernity: The Performance of Civic Progress at Arcoverde's São João Festival Daniel Sharp....................291
Mangue Beat Music and the Coding of Citizenship in Sound Idelber Avelar....................313
Works Cited....................331
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First Chapter

Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2011 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4906-8

Chapter One

: : : Dissonant Voices under a Regime of Order–Unity Popular Music and Work in the Estado Novo Adalberto Paranhos

The cadaver / of the indigent It's clear / he died And still / He moves As proves / Galileo —Chico Buarque, Ópera do malandro, 1978

In the 1930s, the Brazilian state emerged as a great agent of historical transformation. It is as if the spotlight of national thought had been projected onto a dominant protagonist who condemned other social actors to supporting roles. Resigned to the condition of mere extras, the working masses filled the ranks of the chorus, a place reserved in the Greek tragedy for slaves, women, children, the old, the homeless, and the sick. It may seem surprising, at first glance, that the Brazilian tradition to which I refer is sufficiently broad to harbor contributions of the most distinct origins, both from the Right and the Left of the nation's politicoideological spectrum. In this analytical framework, the brilliance of the state obscures the presence of other social actors. The audience enters the stage—when it enters at all—either disfigured or without a face.

We see this pattern emerge in the relations between authoritarian Estado Novo under Getúlio Vargas and the working classes. The ring of silence built around practices and discourses that deviated from institutionalized norms has led many, for quite a long time, to believe in the triumph of a supposed "chorus of national unanimity" under a regime of order and unity (Paoli 1987: 87–90, 1989: 57–65; Paranhos 1999a: 201–14). It would be as if Brazilian society had been a mere echo chamber for a state ideology that employed countless means of coercion and of consensus production in order to impose itself. The musical realm could obviously not deviate from the rule. Judging from most studies of the industrialized popular music of the Estado Novo period, the popular composers were duly framed within new codes of behavior, sidelining the traditional praise of street smarts (or "street hustling"), known as malandragem and embodied by the figure of the malandro. In other words, they allowed themselves to be caught up in the populist cult of labor.

Working against this analytical current, this chapter seeks to lift the veil that covers manifestations outside the harmony of the "chorus of the contented" during the Estado Novo. Supported initially by the DIP (Departamento de Imprensa e Propaganda; Department of Press and Propaganda), the dictatorship sought to inaugurate a new type of disciplinary society, while simultaneously constructing a certain identity profile of the Brazilian worker as someone docile to capitalist domination. Its action, via the ideology of laborism, based on the co-optation of workers, was far, however, from attaining the claimed unanimity. Once we delve beneath the superficiality of the facts that inflate appearances and undertake an empirical investigation of the phonographic production of the period, the situation shifts dramatically. Despite the tight censorship of the DIP, there is a strong presence of "struggles of representations" revolving around opposing definitions of "labor" and of "the worker."

On the one hand, there was a high number of popular compositions and composers in tune with the Estado Novo regime and the valuing of work. On the other hand, in alternative discourses, there emerged songs (sambas, in the majority) which sketched lines of flight away from state ideology. At least until 1943 or 1944 open contestation of official ideological dogmas was not immediately audible, but images and concepts that deployed other values continued to circulate socially. By intervening in the set of discourses around labor, the field of industrialized popular music was not reduced to a mouthpiece of hegemonic discourse. There is a broad consensus with regard to relations between the state and popular music under the Estado Novo. I distance myself from a consensus in order to explore a more nuanced view of capitalist society marked by conflicts (Chartier 1990: 17).

: : : History's Side B

One of the primary goals of the Estado Novo was the model citizen, adjusted to the principles of citizenship encouraged by the state (Gomes 1982). It became imperative to exorcise once and for all the ghosts of unproductive leisure or opposition to the reigning labor system. Attuned to this standard, Article 136 of the Constitution promulgated on 10 November 1937 prescribed that "work is a social duty." Article 139 categorized the strike as an "antisocial measure," a criminal act punishable by three to eighteen months of prison, in addition to other punishments stipulated by Article 165 of the Penal Code. Disciplined work was the rule by which social responsibility of citizens was measured, particularly for the popular classes. Furthermore, it also suggested that workers should cultivate a feeling of gratitude in recognition of the "gift" of social legislation mandated by the "statesman genius" who governed Brazil. As one of the main ideologues of the administration claimed, "With the labor laws of Getúlio Vargas, the Brazilian worker felt for the first time in our history true citizenship" (Amaral 1941: 116).

The DIP from 1940 onward, intended to disrupt the relationship that historically linked samba with malandragem, that refused regimented work. The DIP's anti-malandragem campaign embraced certain discourses available in the very realm of popular Brazilian music in the 1930s. Various defenders of "the poetic hygiene of samba," or "the healthy and thematic rehabilitation" of popular song made themselves heard at the time (Paranhos 1999b). The intervention of the DIP tightened the straitjacket imposed on composers, under siege by conservative forces in the Vargas administration. These forces, operating either through clientelism or censorship, sought to attract composers to official ideology. This led to a shift in samba-exaltação (i.e., samba in praise of the nation) toward "paraphrase," a trope that fundamentally acted to support and celebrate collective identity. As a consequence, paraphrase should be distinguished from parody, since parodic approaches emphasize difference, when not outright inversion.

The governmental strategy was seemingly successful. One of the most cited studies on the period claims that "the DIP had absolute control over all that was related to popular music" (Gomes 1982: 159), blocking all channels through which a counterdiscourse could develop. Did things effectively happen that way? After hearing hundreds of original recordings of 78 RPM records released between 1940 and 1945, I concluded that these notions about the monopoly of state power needed to be revised. It became a question of listening to the "B sides" of the history of the Estado Novo. Without denying that many popular composers, either coerced or self-interested, adhered to the monotony of state-sponsored themes, dozens of phonographic recordings reveal a diversity of perspectives.

A preliminary observation is necessary. Since I don't limit myself to working within the binary of conformity and resistance, the sambas examined here are not necessarily characterized as counterdiscourses. The majority of the recordings deviate, in part or entirely, from the chorus of Estado Novo, and are concrete expressions of alternative modes of thought and action. They do not directly confront the established disciplinary order, but convey instead alternative values rooted in the lived experiences of the samba composers. There is a broader range of options between conformity and resistance.

For example, subtlety is not missing from the recording of "Onde o Céu Azul É Mais Azul" (Where the Blue Sky is Bluer; 1940), a samba-exaltação by João de Barro, Alberto Ribeiro, and Alcir Pires Vermelho that proclaims "my Brazil, so great and happy" where one "works a lot in order to dream later." What is remarkable are the metalinguistic possibilities of sound in this recording. The master arranger Radamés Gnattali sketches a notable critical counterpoint to a patriotic conception in the literal message of the song. The introduction recalls North American big bands in their gathering of brass, bass, and drums. With a harmonization that makes strong use of brass instruments, the arrangement moves the listener towards a rhythm and timbre beyond the borders of Brazil, notably at the end of the song, which foreshadows the Tropicalist approach nearly three decades later.

While working with musical expression, we will see that it is important not to become enthralled with the literal meaning of song lyrics. Instead, we must take into account that lyrics do not have autonomous status within a song, and that it's important to pay attention to musical discourse articulated in a nonliteral manner (Paranhos, 2004). "O Amor Regenera o Malandro" (Love Rehabilitates the Malandro; 1940) serves as another example. Similar to so many other sambas from this period, this song claims that

Sou de opinião I am of the opinion de que todo malandro that all malandros tem que se regenerar must rehabilitate themselves se compenetrar convince themselves e ainda mais [breque] and furthermore [break] que todo mundo deve ter that everyone should have o seu trabalho para o amor merecer a job in order to be worthy of love

The first impression, nevertheless, is undone once we accompany the performance of singers Joel and Gaúcho at the end of the second stanza:

Regenerado Rehabilitated ele pensa no amor he thinks of love mas pra merecer carinho but to be worthy of affection tem que ser trabalhador he must be a worker que horror! [breque] how awful! [break]

The use of the rhythmic break in both instances announces a critical distance and undermines the Estado Novo jargon that appeared, at first glance, to have informed the recording. We can understand their interpretation as another form of composition, as the performer reconfigures the piece, dismantles and puts back together the composition, thereby investing it with meanings not imagined by its author. It is not enough to take a composition abstractly, reduced to the verses of the lyrics or the sheet music. Its sound, from the arrangement to the vocal interpretation, is also a vehicle for meaning.

By only examining the lyrics or researching the magazines of the time, in which lyrics of popular songs were published, one would not capture the main thrust of the recording. To restrict the analysis of a song exclusively to its lyrics results in the reduction of it to a mere written document, narrowing its field of meanings and emptying it of its sonority. In this particular case, not even sheet music would register the essential fact of the breaks that were later incorporated. Naturally, the final verse was not part of the text submitted to the approval of the censors. Joel's and Gaúcho's syncopated performance interrupts the seemingly harmonious feel established by the lyrics, thereby subverting their original content. In a typically malandro attitude, there is a seemingly accepting position vis-à-vis institutionalized rules, but it is a strategy of survival (Vasconcellos and Suzuki 1984: 520).

Another composer who adeptly used malandragem in his music was Assis Valente, a mulato of humble origin who split his time between the arts of making dentures and composing. His song "Recenseamento" (Census; 1940) illustrates ways of subverting official censors. As a musical chronicler of daily life, Assis Valente tackled a prominent issue, the 1940 Census. The song narrates the climbing up of the hillside ghetto by a nosy census agent who wants to probe into the lives of an unmarried couple. Among other things, the agent "asked if my moreno was decent / and if he was a worker / or if he was a bohemian [da folia]." Faced with this interpellation, the woman— who declares herself to be "obedient to all that is the law"—responds:

O meu moreno é brasileiro My moreno is Brazilian é fuzileiro is a marksman e é quem sai com a bandeira he is the flag bearer too do seu batalhão ... in his battalion ... A nossa casa não tem nada de grandeza Our house is not grand mas vivemos na pobreza but we live in poverty sem dever tostão without owing a dime Tem um pandeiro, We have a pandeiro, tem cuíca e um tamborim a cuica and a tamborim, um reco-reco, um cavaquinho a reco-reco, a cavaquinho, e um violão and a guitar Fiquei pensando I was thinking e comecei a descrever and began to describe tudo, tudo de valor everything, everything of value que meu Brasil me deu ... that my Brazil has given me ... Um céu azul A blue sky um Pão de Açúcar sem farelo a Sugarloaf without crumbs um pano verde-amarelo a green and yellow rag Tudo isso é meu! All this is mine! Tem feriado There are holidays que pra mim vale fortuna ... that are worth fortunes to me ...

While seemingly reproducing the dominant discourse of the "great and industrious Brazil" by the Estado Novo apologists, the piece perceptively deconstructs official arguments, ironically spicing up the woman's speech in her response to the Census agent. Her words point to the fact that her moreno could not be included in the regular army of the "workers of Brazil." Rather, he was probably the flag bearer or even the lead dancer of a samba school. In contrast with the "New Brazil" produced by government propaganda, their shack lacks everything except, of course, samba instruments. After all, what had Estado Novo given them?

At first glance the woman is quite happy. As we have seen, however, within the codes of malandragem the art of dissimulation is a matter of honor. For that reason, it is not a sign of intelligence to offer oneself as prey to the hunter. Noel Rosa and Ismael Silva, who understood this, had already declared in "Escola de Malandro" (School for the Malandro; 1933) that "by faking, you gain an advantage / yes that / is what malandragem is." Another important detail is that "Recenseamento" is a samba-choro and the accompaniment creates musical atmosphere typical of the gafieiras (samba dance halls). Assis Valente subtly demonstrated how a discourse and counterdis-course became intertwined, creating a song that subtly conflicted with the Vargas government's propaganda.

There were also those who went straight to the bitter world of the worker. Without glamorizing his daily life, Ciro de Souza, a samba composer from Vila Isabel, describes the "Vida Apertada (Tough Life; 1940) of a longshoreman:

Meu Deus, que vida apertada My God, what a tough life trabalho, não tenho nada work, I have none vivo num martírio sem igual I live in unequaled martyrdom A vida não tem encanto Life has no enchantment para quem padece tanto for the one who suffers so desse jeito eu acabo mal this way, I'll end badly Ser pobre não é defeito To be poor is not a defect mas é infelicidade but unhappiness nem sequer tenho direito without a single right de gozar a mocidade to enjoy youth Saio tarde do trabalho I leave work late chego em casa semimorto and get home half-dead pois enfrento uma estiva because I'm a stevedore todo dia lá no 2 everyday there on number 2 no cais do porto on the docks of the port tadinho de mim [breque] poor me [break]

Like in other compositions from the period, we are far from the exaltation of labor (Paranhos 1999b: 141–67). Nothing appeals to the greatness and the grandiloquence trumpeted by the regime. Even in the strictly musical aspects of the song, it is possible find these registers. The accompaniment is entrusted to a regional band, in contrast to the orchestral adornments which embellished the sambas-exaltação. It swings and is punctuated by breaks, a pattern established by the piano at the beginning. The colloquial tone of the singer, Ciro Monteiro, can be clearly distinguished from the more imposing, grandiose interpretations by, for example, Francisco Alves in "Onde o Céu Azul É Mais Azul."


Excerpted from Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship Copyright © 2011 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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