Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Black Rio: Exposition, documentary and book recover the history of the ‘bailes black’ (black soul dances) of 1970s Rio de Janeiro


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Rio youth display their style in the streets in the 1970s (Photo: Almir Veiga)

Note from BW of Brazil: It was a fascinating era in Brazilian history. . Thousands of black teens and young adults donning the best 1970s fashion and spending their night dancing the night away to latest Soul sounds coming out of the United States or indeed, Soul music created by black Brazilian artists. It is one of this writer’s favorite topics. Perhaps because for 40 years, this piece of history continues to be unknown except to those who were there and actually experienced it. In a number of previous articles, this blog has presented bits and pieces of this movement and the details involved, from the influence of the United States Black Power/Soul eras to the political repression that arose out of a fear of a black revolution happening in Brazil. Fortunately, this story is slowly beginning to take its deserved place in official history with two books, a documentary and an exhibition presenting this untold story to everyday people. In the piece below, we take you back to a time of afros, multi-colored clothing and Soul Train-inspired dancing in which black Brazilians looked to their brothers and sisters in the United States and took a new pride in being black that Brazil had never seen in such a widespread manner.  

Black Rio: Exhibition, documentary and book recover the history of the movement

Phenomenon put the North Zone of Rio to dance to James Brown in the 1970s

By Silvio Essinger

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A Rio de Janeiro youth, black and suburban, in tune with the US black power movement, and that came to join more than 10,000 people spending the night dancing to James Brown funk, resurfaces on Thursday in the exhibition “1976: Movimento Black Rio 40 anos” (1976: Black Rio Movement 40 years,” starting at 7pm at the Teatro Odisseia (Odyssey Theatre) in Lapa. The night is just the beginning of a belated but necessary historical review of Black Rio, one of the great (and poorly documented) mass cultural events of the city, which will also result in two books and a documentary (produced by one of the movement’s protagonists).

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1970s Rio de Janeiro ‘bailes black’ is the focus of two books and a documentary

“The project was in the drawer for 17 years until we got an edict last year and managed to take the idea further,” says the exhibition curator, DJ and researcher Zé Octavio Sebadelhe, whose father was a frequenter of the bailes black (black dances). “I’ve always been a fan of this history, this time. It was really a contagious cough from the suburb, the option for those who didn’t identify with Ed Lincoln (organist, whose dances were celebrated in Rio’s North Zone in the 1960s). A youth of thousands of blacks appeared who would go to the baile to dance to that sound, that they really wanted to enjoy.

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Although the dances have mobilized the city since the early 1970s (the trigger was the Bailed a Pesada, of DJs Big Boy and Ademir Lemos, that took place in Canecão), the choice of 1976 as the framework of movement is due to the fact it’s the year that brought visibility to the movement beyond the scene. It was when journalist Frias Lena and photographer Almir Veiga published a report in the Jornal do Brasil (newspaper) documenting the phenomenon of the bailes black of Rio’s suburbs with hundreds of sound teams and DJs like Mister Funky Santos, Luizinho Disc Jockey Soul and Paulão Black Power. The photos of Almir Veiga (as you see above) are brought together in the exhibition, which will follow a path to other locations to be defined.

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“Black Rio happened spontaneously. Big Boy and Ademir didn’t initially think about playing black music, it was a reject of the music industry that came to them,” notes Zé Octavio, who wrote with Felipe Gaoners Lima a book about the movement, to be released on September 6th at a Banda Black Rio show (formed in the heat of publication of the Lena Frias story and that was a success with their debut LP in 1977), in the Sesi Center (along with the exhibition, the shows continue until the end of year in other Sesi units).

Musician, filmmaker, researcher, novelist, psychologist and psychiatrist, Marcelo Gularte also plunged into the history of Black Rio, but as part of research for a large “Enciclopédia do Funk” (Encyclopedia of the Funk). Obsessed, he scoured the history of strong teams, such as the Soul Grand Prix, Furacão 2000, Modelo, Sua Mente numa Boa, Rick, Revolução na Mente  (Revolution in the Mind) – and so many others, more obscure. He speaks enthusiastically of Irajá (“large team storehouse”) and the discovery that the first team of the suburbs was Mr. Pinguim, created in Colégio at the turn of the 1960s to the 70s.

“I thought I was going to do one book, with all the history of funk in Brazil, but I ended up becoming thrilled. I spent an entire year devoting myself to thus, disturbing everyone,” confesses he that himself edited a copy of the first volume of the encyclopedia, covering the 1970s, with 320 pages. “The book has more than 500 images, it’s the largest collection of images (mostly fliers and album covers) on the funk of Rio and São Paulo. I hope to get someone to publish it.”

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Styles, sounds and vibe of 1970s Rio ‘bailes black’ was recently on display in an exhibit

One of Gularte’s book’s fans (and seen by Zé Octavio as “the great articulator of Black Rio”) is Asfilofio de Oliveira Filho, better known as Dom Filó, who took black music to the Renascença club and later was one of the founders of the Soul Grand Prix team in which he served as a kind of MC, taking the microphone to preach ideasof black affirmation. Filó is ahead of the production of the documentary Black Rio, por onde andas? (whatever happened to Black Rio), due out next year, compiling rare pictures and testimonials.

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Asfilofio de Oliveira Filho, aka Dom Filó, an important cultural figure in the development of the ‘Black Soul’ movement in 1970s Rio as well as its 40 year anniversary

“The DJs, dancers and audience of the balls, each one has a story. The team JB Soul, for example, was set up by a former locksmith – illustrates Filó, who is also preparing a memoir, which will talk about the agents of the Departamento Geral de Investigações Especiais (DGIE or General Department of Special Investigations) that infiltrated the parties pretending to be and a fictional J. Black (that he invented three journalists), a dance columnist of the newspaper Última Hora. “That started as a column and came to be a full page. There were people who thought that J. Black was white, because a black couldn’t write in that way. And also those who would believe that it could be someone from the samba, trying to turn it into a subject that he didn’t know.”

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“Assume your mind, brother”  – Gerson King Combo in “Mandamentos Black” (black commandments)

For Zé Octavio, Black Rio phenomenon suffered greatly from prejudice, since, on the one hand were the reactionaries with fear that the blacks would invade the South Zone; and on the other, the leftist black university students left who saw Americanization.

“The blacks took a beating from all sides,” summarizes Zé. “The frustration of this crowd is not having been understood.”

Filó, however, points out that 2015 was a kind of apex year of the revival of Black Rio. It was when, among other dances, there was the recreation of Soul Grand Prix.

“There was even a duel of teams with Cashbox. And the most important thing is that last year there were activities in the North Zone and the Baixada, which have always been the focus of Black Rio,” says the founder of Soul Grand Prix. “The new generation has to understand that what is there today began there. We were there raising a flag so that we could live without racism. And it’s as if we hadn’t existed.”

A reference for funk carioca, the Black Rio movement renews itself at 40

By Guilherme Bryan

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1970s ‘bailes de soul’ (soul dances) are in the exhibition “1976 – Movimento Black Rio 40 anos”

If it weren’t for Black Rio there would be no funk carioca (Rio-based funk) or hip-hop Paulistano (São Paulo Hip Hop). “It was the first great black manifestation originating  from Brazilian peripheries,” says Gilberto Yoshinaga, author of the biography Nelson Triunfo: Do Sertão ao Hip-Hop. The 40 years of this cultural movement that had singers Tim Maia, Hyldon and Sandra de Sá among its exponents are now coming out renewed in the form of reissues, an exhibition and a book.

The Polysom label is re-releasing on vinyl some classics of the movement, like the homonymous album of Tim Maia, 1970, 1971 and 1973; Cuban Soul: 18 Kilates by Cassiano; and Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda by Hyldon. The Discobertas label has put on the market a box with the first four albums of Sandra de Sá.

“The Black Rio movement was the assimilation on the part of young people of the suburbs and the favelas (slums), of the funk of James Brown and the culture of black power. The same happened in São Paulo, Salvador and other cities, but Rio had more visibility,” evaluates Silvio Essinger, author of  Batidão: Uma História do Funk (Batidão: A History of Funk). “The legacy was thousands of sound teams and artists like Banda Black Rio, created by WEA Records and their first album released in 1977, and Gerson King Combo, which gave a Brazilian face to the funk.”

In the mid-1970s, the movement had already attracted attention as a mass phenomenon, but the term was recognized in 1976 when the journalist Lena Frias wrote an article for Jornal do Brasil, entitled “O Orgulho (Importado) de ser Negro no Brasil” (The (Imported) Pride of being Black in Brazil). There, she baptized the Black Rio movement which brought together thousands of young people in the Rio suburbs.

For Yoshinaga, the movement was very important because it conquered space and respect spontaneously. “It happened without paying ‘jabá’ (payola) nor being imposed by the mainstream media. This was an injection of self-esteem for this public, made black Brazilians realize the value of their culture, of their existence and their resistance. It also had fundamental importance for creating the embryos of Brazilian hip-hop culture, which would emerge a few years later.”

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Flyer from the era promoting a ‘baile black’

Yoshinaga says that bailes black similar to those started in the 1970s still exist today. “Over the years they stopped being a novelty and lost strength, its audience was demolished and part of it went on to migrate to other cultural niches, such as hip-hop itself or what is currently called funk” (1), he says. He emphasizes as exponents that emerged over the years, sound teams of the dances such as Soul Grand Prix and Furacão 2000 in Rio de Janeiro, and Tranza Negra, Os Carlos, Zimbabwe and Black Mad in São Paulo. “There were similar manifestations and icons throughout Brazil. It is impossible to mention all because we’re dealing with an alternative movement, that made a path from the bottom up,” he adds.

 

Black is Beautiful

The racial issue transcended the boundaries of music to the point that the singer Sandra de Sá prefers to call it Música Preta Brasileira (Brazilian Black Music) (2). “I understand that maybe Sandra de Sá had had the intention of showing the importance of this movement for Brazilian culture in general, and not just restrict it to black culture. I think she wanted to remove música preta (black music) from the confinement of ethnic ghetto, to condition musicaladjunct,” says Yoshinaga.

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Brazilian Soul singer Gerson King Combo with Stevie Wonder in Rio de Janeiro, 1972

“It was agreed to associate the MPB label to pessoas brancas (white people) playing guitar in a behaved manner on a stool and talking about mild issues, with other ciphers, something a bit elitist. If the P in MPB refers to Popular, why don’t we look at the true musical expression of the people?” said Yoshinaga, who remembers that other names associated with MPB drank from the source of black rhythms, such as Roberto Carlos, Erasmo Carlos, Eduardo Araújo, Elis Regina, Jorge Ben Jor, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, among others. (3)

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“Coming soon, the untold story of Black Rio” – “Exhibition, seminar, Soul Dance (40 years of Shaft Night)

For Hyldon, music always overcomes racial inequalities. “Music transcends prejudice. It’s undeniable that blacks have the suingue, balanço (both meaning swing), but many whites also have. I hate classifications. Music is feeling and has no color. No human being will get something if victimizing himself with self-pity. There is racism in Brazil yes, but there is prejudice against poor white as well. A great weapon for inclusion is education.”

Icons of the movement

The Black Rio movement has hit the mass. It is what executives João Augusto and Rafael Ramos, being at the forefront of reissues on vinyl, highlighting the role of Hyldon, Tim Maia and Cassiano, that took songs sung in Portuguese to the dances, guarantee. “They were seeded in a movement that proved to be of major importance for a real mass movement,” says João Augusto.

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From left to right, Tim Maia, Cassiano and Hyldon: Three icons of Brazilian Black Music

“We’re talking about true classics of black/soul Brazilian music. But they surpass any barrier or division. It’s a handful of Brazilian Popular Music. They are true classes of production and interpretation. All of these re-released discs carry songs that are unquestionable successes of our music. They’re creative works that resist time for quality and eternal value,” says Rafael.

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No wonder that there are classics today such as “Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda” and “As Dores do Mundo”, by Hyldon; “Coleção” and “A Lua e Eu” by Cassiano; and “A Festa de Santo Reis”, “Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar)”, “Não Vou Ficar”, “Você” and “Eu Gostava Tanto de Você”, successes in the voice of Tim Maia.

Producer and researcher Marcelo Fróes, owner of the Discobertas label, included Sandra de Sá in this team. “She was the first great diva and raised to national fame singing in a beautiful MPB festival on TV,” he says. She drew attention when she ranked among the ten finalists with the song “Demônio Colorido” in the MPB 80 festival, of Rede Globo (TV). From there, she spawned hits like “Olhos Coloridos” e “Enredo do Meu Samba”, all present in the box set Sandra de Sá Anos 80.

“The music now played in bailes funk and black is already something else,” says João Augusto. “It’s more modern electronics. But we know many dances that don’t abandon this style, parties for which these discs are full plates, clubs where there is a nostalgic programming of Brazilian, black, soul, MPB music.” (4)

Sandra de Sá – Olhos coloridos

Gerson King Combo – Mandamentos Black

Hyldon – Na Rua Na Chuva Na Fazenda

Tim Maia – Lábios de Mel

Banda Black Rio “Casa Forte”

Cassiano – A Lua e Eu

Gilberto Gil & Earth, Wind and Fire – “Realce” (Maracanãzinho 1980)

Copa 7 – Sabado Eu vou a festa em Madureira

Source: CEN Brasil, UOL

Notes

1. The sound of what is called funk in Brazil has completely evolved. In the 90s and early years of the 21st century, the sound of Rio-based funk was much more similar to the Miami-based bass music in the US of the 1980s and 1990s.

2. The abbreviation MPB actually means Música Popular Brasileira, or Brazilian Popular Music, but increasingly, Afro-Brazilian militants have used the same letters to define a specifically black genre of Brazilian music, thus the re-fashioning as Música Preta Brasileira, or Brazilian Black Music.

3. With the exceptions of Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil, all of the aforementioned artists are white.

4. For example, Bailes of Madureira – The “charme” of cultura negra in Rio de Janeiro: where black America meets black Brazil or the Quarteirão do Soul dances in Belo Horizonte.

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