Crossover appeal: How racially stigmatized music is accepted when the face is white – The case of singer Anitta

Caption: "Get ready because now is the time of the Show das Poderosas (Show of the Powerful)": MC Anitta, a young, conscious citizen, in a true protest anthem releases this worthy song as a true anthem to re-enforce the protests that happened in Brazil, the true "show of the powerful", where the powerful are the minority, the oppressed people, however when united, (are) powerful. "My army is heavy and we have power", reaffirms the revolutionary character of the song, consecrating the artist as a true icon of this revolution."
Caption: “Get ready because now is the time of the Show das Poderosas (Show of the Powerful)”: MC Anitta, a young, conscious citizen, in a true protest anthem releases this worthy song as a true anthem to re-enforce the protests that happened in Brazil, the true “show of the powerful”, where the powerful are the minority, the oppressed people, however when united, (are) powerful. “My army is heavy and we have power”, reaffirms the revolutionary character of the song, consecrating the artist as a true icon of this revolution.” – Taken from the Facebook page “Analisando MPB”

Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so there’s a lot going on here in this post. The posts touches on many of the topics that are regularly discussed on this blog. But to understand it you should first refer to two other articles, here and here. The debate is once again about Brazilian funk music, race and representation. For those of you who remember the beginnings of American rap music in the late 70s and early 80s, how society reacted, the images associated with the genre and the subsequent crossover to a mainstream audience, the points articulated here are very similar. The same crossover technique was used for American Rock and Roll in the 1950s and 60s and also with the genre known as Axé music in the heavily Afro-Brazilian region of Bahia (in Brazil’s northeast). Check out the piece below; BW of Brazil will chime in with comments later on….

Get ready, because now it’s time for veiled racism (title of original article)

by Joceline Gomes

Children, teenagers and adults can no longer hear the word “prepara (get ready)” that’s already amended: now, it’s time, for the “show of the poderosas (powerful)” – which is the name of the song by MC Anitta (yes, with two Ts) that “exploded on the charts throughout Brazil.” But this post is not about the music, it’s not about Anitta, nor about funk. It’s about something else.

Singer Anitta in the video for the song "Show das Poderosas"
Singer Anitta in the video for the song “Show das Poderosas”

I know that the image above is a joke, people, (so) let’s not focus on that, ok? Open your mind and let’s talk. What I mean is that this girl blew up in the media and is respected by it because she is white, “went to college”, and her videos have a superior quality than the other funk singers (after all, recording a video involves a lot of money, something that people in the favela don’t have). To me, she is an icon of veiled racism.

A white person singing funk is a pop icon, a black person singing funk is a gangster. Indeed, let’s make the due markings of the genre, OK? A white person singing funk is on the cover of Capricho (teen magazine), a black person singing funk is a “vagabunda (vagabound)”, “is dying to get pregnant,” or don’t you remember the Bonde das Maravilhas case?

Anitta on the cover of the teen magazine Capricho
Anitta on the cover of the teen magazine Capricho

Moreover, the “pop celebrity (Anitta)” talked about the great success of Bonde: the “quadradinho de oito (little square of eight)” dance. “I invented the conventional, in which you have to move your hips and stop. Here come the girls from Bonde das Maravilhas and they created the ‘quadradinho de oito’ in which they are upside down and form a 8 with their legs. I know how to do it, but I have to pretend I’m refined (sophisticated),” she joked.

She is sexy without being vulgar. She invented the step. But she didn’t. Because she is fina (refined/sophisticated). After all, whoever does the “quadradinho de oito” upside down is not fina, but whoever invented it is. So, okay. The white girl invented it. The “non-refined” black girls copied the step and “worsened” it. It is the story of humanity, blacks always doing everything wrong, and whites telling their version of the fact, of how everything was pure and beautiful before the blacks came along.

Anitta with two of her dancers
Anitta with two of her dancers

I don’t know if you remember, but funk was invented by blacks. So, the steps were as well. Thus, Anitta, you didn’t “create” a step; it has always existed. The maximum you could have done is to get it “discovered” as Cabral “discovered” Brazil (1). The only thing missing is you saying that you invented the battle of the “passinhos (little steps)”…(2)

Before you ask me why I defend funk, or the dancers, or why I don’t like Anitta, please stop to think: how many rock bands do you know whose vocalists are black? How many pagode groups are there? How many boy bands have the participation of blacks? How many groups of funk? (3) Which of these groups are more discriminated against and have their songs depreciated in the mainstream media? Which of them are considered “high culture”?

And please do not come to me with the exception. Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, O Rappa (4), Broz (anyone remember them?) They are exceptions. I want more than one name. Anitta is a popular example of something that was absorbed by the bourgeoisie and became a “cult”. Favela funk parties are “dangerous”; dances in middle class nightclubs are “baladas (dances)” (5). Axé music on popular radio is tacky (6). Axé in the camarote VIP (private area) open bar of the micarê (7) is a “party” (8).

Funk is going through this process. People like it, people dance it, but nobody wants to be associated with something that is not “fina”. Anitta, a white girl, made-up, perfumed, full of designer clothes brought from trips to the United States, was, by a twist of fate, identified by the music industry as the person who would allow this embranquecimento (whitening) (9) of funk.

Let’s start calling things by their name? Do you know the name of the process that takes the funk to success in Anitta’s voice and a joke with Bonde das Maravilha? Racism. Let’s go there, I know that you don’t like that word (10), it is on the same level of a horrible curse word, something almost imaginary, but we must say it, and I know you can: RACISM.

It’s not easy to come to that conclusion when you don’t like funk, when you’re not black and when you don’t even know who Anitta is. But it’s easy if you turn on the TV and begin to count how many blacks you see, in commercials, talk shows, variety shows, presenting news journals, being producers and not victims of jokes and/or dubious journalistic processes.

“Show das Poderosas” video by Anitta

It’s not Anitta’s fault. Neither is it her music’s fault. Or funk. We live in an extremely racist society (it’s a shock to you, I know), that doesn’t consider good anything genuinely done by blacks. Rap, funk, axé, pagode: it’s all “subculture”. That is, until someone comes and does a majestic videoclip and comes out on the cover of Capricho. The coincidence is that Capricho also doesn’t put blacks on their covers (11). Or have you never noticed that?

Racism is really scary, and few people realize these nuances. The truly “powerful” don’t care or worry about it, because they are traveling the world to spend the money they made with funk, all being very “fina”, of course. One is Anitta, who expels the envious and is “fina”. She’s on another level.

Joceline Gomes
Joceline Gomes

Comment by Felipe Machado (posted in response to article on July 31, 2013)

In my opinion it’s the journalist who is being racist. And even contradicts herself all the time trying to prove her “agenda”, ie ignite the flag of racism. I will cite only one contradiction: “And please do not come to me with the exception. Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, O Rappa, Broz (anyone remember them?) They are exceptions. I want more than one name.” Don’t you know how  to count? Is there not more than one name there?

Still one wonders why is funk being depreciated in the mainstream media, suggesting that the blame is on the singers being poor and black … How so? Such a lack of critical evaluation! Funk is depreciated because it’s horrible as a musical expression, no quality, no depth, no respect for others and totally racist and sexist in itself, chulo (in bad taste) in its vast majority without the finesse of our satirical singer/songwriters who can sing “mischievously” without it being pornography…(As) when it was at the height of this genre winning over Brazil, (like singers) Claudinho and Bochecha (12) …

Also lack a bit of knowledge of what is subculture or alternative music. If the author does not know much subculture it’s the music of the upper middle class like Alternative and Garage Rock, Surf Music (such subculture that I doubt that the author knows a Brazilian band of the genre, and there are several), Hardcore, among other genres that have no media exposure, even being infinitely intellectual and qualitatively superior to any FUNK. And no, this is not my discrimination, it’s just a musicological analysis. As a rule, funk has “singers” who are off key all the time, do not know how to keep the melody, nor do they have the syncopated and hallucinated rhythms of rappers like MC Marechal and company.

It’s worth remembering also that popular music in the world, is not seen as quality music, but mass produced just for money without real musical inspiration behind it. Singers like Katy Perry, Rihanna and company who need to use equipment like auto-tune sing on key, and don’t compose their own music, are venerated in the pop world, and not even because of this considered “fine” music or high-level music. This same effect occurs with the mass music in Brazil, and funk is mass music (or music for the masses)!

Racist, in my opinion, is that the author thinks that if someone with a better life, that doesn’t come from the favela (slum) and being white cannot be successful on their own merits. If she sang MPB this text would never have been written…MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) is a thing of the white middle class, isn’t it?

By the way: I COMPLETELY ABHOR ANITTA

PS.: Sorry for any error in Portuguese, I wrote this in a rush because I’m at work … It’s OK, I’m the boss, but even so I must lead by example

Response to Felipe by the writer of the article Joceline Gomes

Felipe, thanks for your comment. But I suggest that you read the text again, more calmly, without the rush of a work environment (I know how it is, lol). You’re judging funk with the same prejudice that you judged the text – appealing to the personal side. You don’t like funk, see no musical quality (in it) and didn’t manage to dissociate the rhythm from the text. I’m not talking about funk, nor Anitta and I left this clear here: But this post is not about the music, it’s not about Anitta, nor about funk. It’s about something else. And here: “It’s not Anitta’s fault. Neither is it her music’s fault. Or funk. We live in an extremely racist society (it’s a shock to you, I know), that doesn’t consider good anything genuinely done by blacks.”

Whether or not you like funk, or Anitta, is not important to the debate. We’re talking about a process, as you yourself said, of the market, of the mass market. And the market, the mass market, also consists of blacks, but blacks are discriminated against and marginalized by the same mass media, even when they are doing exactly the same thing, as Anitta and Bonde das Maravilhas – in this case, funk.

Funk is more than music, rhythm, lyrics or choreography, is a popular movement of the favela, of the communities, of the periphery. Some funk from São Paulo present today, in their lyrics, what they want from life: woman and ostentation. There are other styles that discuss structural problems of our country, as is the case of funk (song), “Isso é Brasil (This is Brazil),” by MC Garden. It’s more than being on key or not, having choreography or not, or being done by black or white.

Another detail: “subculture” is different from counterculture. Surf music, Rock, are countercultural movements that have been absorbed by the culture. Subculture, in the sense that I meant in the text (inclusive in quotation marks) is a culture of lesser value in a society (see funk, axé, pagode, rap – products of cultural processes perpetrated mostly by blacks).

On your claim that I’m being racist, Zulu Araújo, director of the Casa de Cultura da América Latina (UnB) (House of Culture of Latin America (University of Brasilia) and former president of the Fundação Cultural Palmares (Palmares Cultural Foundation), says that racism involves a power relationship, and blacks in our Brazilian society, have no power. So you cannot say that I’m doing “racism in reverse”, because between me and Anitta, she has much more power than me, as she herself sings in her music.

I suggest you read more about it. For starters, this interview with Zulu Araújo can be quite enlightening: www.almanaquebrasil.com.br/personalidades-cultura/10332-zulu-araujo.html

The text is not an end in itself. The intention is to actually generate a debate and reflection. I’m glad you have started the process. And always check back!

Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so in reality, the writer of the article, Joceline Gomes, broke it all the way down and there’s really no need to even expound more on her points. But there are a few things necessary to explain/comment on.

1) The photo at the top of this article was taken from a Facebook page called “Analisando MPB“, meaning “Analyzing MPB (Brazilian Popular Music)” in which the creators of the page analyze lyrics of certain Brazilian songs and re-interpret them often in a satirical way. In the Anitta example in the photo, they took her hit song “Show das Poderosas” and satirically re-interpreted it as a song that represents the revolutionary aspirations of an oppressed people (LOL).

2) Many of the issues that Joceline brings to fore in the above article (racism, cultural appropriation, representation) are themes that be applied to countless examples around the world in which a style is denigrated, “cleaned up” or “whitened” and re-presented in a more “acceptable” manner.

3) The response to the article by the Felipe guy is so typical when dealing with the issue of race in Brazil: denial and accusations of “reverse racism”. Take his question to Joceline about the three artists Joceline referred to: “Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, O Rappa”. He asks, “don’t you know how to count?”, but the point that Joceline was making is that one can count on a hand or two how many black artists that have found huge mainstream success on Brazil’s pop charts. In general, most black artists are sequestered into the genres of Samba or Pagode while the more lucrative pop music market is overwhelmingly white (For more on this, please see the article “The meaning of Whitney Houston and the obstruction of a black female pop superstar in Brazil”).

4) One other thing that one can note from looking at the Anitta video and one of the promo photos posted above is the visibility of the black dancers. This is another popular mainstream music crossover trick. While the origins of the image is associated with blackness, by featuring a white/whiter face, the image is “de-blackened” while the usage of black people in the video gives the video a certain level of “authenticity”. Although black women who look like the dancers in the video would most likely never find the mainstream appeal that Anitta receives, their presence in the video, in a backing role, allows Anitta to promote the idea that she is “keeping it real”. See video above.

The bottom here is that, if you are not Brazilian, you may or may not ever become familiar with Brazilian Popular Music, but if you do, understand this. Brazil’s music industry contributes heavily to the national mythology of a “racial democracy” and “embranquecimento (whitening)”, which means a few things: 1) “We don’t have a racial problem because our blacks know their place (and if they don’t, we know how to keep them there)”, and 2) Everything is better if is white.

Source: Favela Potente

Notes

1. In reference to the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral who is regarded as having discovered Brazil in 1500. The point here is that Native peoples already inhabited the land that would be come known as Brazil. See more on Cabral here.

2. In reference to the dance craze that appeared in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. See more on the “passinho” here.

3. While most Rock and “boy bands” in Brazil are predominantly/overwhelmingly white, Pagode and Funk groups, while having significant participation of white performers, is primarily black and associated with lower income Afro-Brazilians in Brazil’s favela slums.

4. Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Jorge Ben and Djavan are some of the most successful black Brazilian Popular Music singer/musicians. Although all of them are extremely successful, they represent a minority in Brazil’s more lucrative Popular Music genre. O Rappa is a reggae/rock band from Rio de Janeiro that combines many styles such as rock, reggae, funk, hip hop and samba. Afro-Brazilian artists generally perform Samba, Pagode, Funk and Hip Hop.  Non-Samba singing black female artists are also very rare. Many artists have spoken out on the Brazilian music industry’s practice of automatically placing black artists into the category of Samba. See more on this here.

5. For a discussion of the favela, funk and blacks as dangerous, see the discussion on the 2012 TV series Subúrbia here.

6. Similar to Gomes’ argument in this text, northeast Axé music is also a style created and associated with Afro-Brazilians that was appropriated and given a whiter face. More on that here.

7. Micareta, or micarê, is the name given to the “off-season of carnival” in Brazil; a kind of “second Carnival”, which happens after Easter .

8. Carnaval season in Salvador, Bahia is a prime example of what many call “Brazilian/Bahian apartheid”. While the city is considered the African center of Brazil due to a population that is 80% Afro-Brazilian and strong African cultural influences, the divisions of class and race during this event can be blatantly noted year and year. See the report here.

9. Embranquecimento, or whitening, refers to Brazil’s long time policy of whitening the population physically, culturally and through the invisibility of blacks in nearly all areas of power, wealth and visibility in the country. A number of articles on the blog discuss this ideology.

10. Despite the overwhelming evidence to contrary, many Brazilians, whites as well as blacks, continue to believe that race/racism is not an issue in Brazil.

11. Capricho is a Brazilian teen magazine distributed by Editora Abril. Capricho, like another teen magazine, Atrevida, rarely if ever features young black women on its cover or in its pages. See an analysis about Atrevida here.

12. A popular pop/funk duo (two young black men) that was active between the years 1995 and 2002. The group ended in 2002 when one of the members was killed in car accident. Source

Previous translated comments in the original Portuguese

Original comment by Felipe Machado
Original comment by Felipe Machado
Felipe Machado comment (2)
Felipe Machado comment (continued)
Joceline Gomes response to comment
Original Joceline Gomes response to comment
Joceline Gomes response to comment (continued)
Joceline Gomes response to comment (continued)
About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

8 Comments

  1. What Black Brazil needs is for a Afro-Brazilian to crossover into the American music scene.

    More White people buy Rap/R&B in America than Black People do and the biggest artist are still Black.

    White Voyeurism is the issue here, enjoying all things “black” without the penalty of having black skin.

    What you’re talking about is; If its Black music done by Black people its not that great, but if its White people doing Black music, its wonderfully diverse….

    Afro Brazilians do not need to repeat the mistake of Afro-Americans where we don’t know anything.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2VuCGzhLC0

  2. Adele in England, Lisa Stansfield in USA, and this girl in Brazil. It is the SAME thing all over the world where Black & White interact: Black WOMEN create/are the main face of a type music/dance, and it is hated, marginalized, ignored, scorned, etc by Whites, and merely tolerated by Blacks. Then Whites and their Black male lovers of White femininity allies come together to put a White FEMALE face on the the music/dance, and then it is LOVED by Whites AND Blacks and becomes mainstream. It really, really makes me sick and is another example of the disgusting hatred Black women & girls have to deal with in this world.

      • really? first beyonce for us is only a mixed race lady – a morena…She dies her hair blonde made a nose job and she as anitta – has black dancers with her.

        we ativistas negras laugh of how black Americans dare to feel (completely miss) represented by this mixed race lady…completely whitened by the mass cultural industry who insist in portrait her face as a black women.

        the difference is very little. the end is the real black women – is lost when musical midia portrait us. but we can see endless black man…with a very black nose…with their own hair. ..so don’t sit in a position of colonialist – you don’t know what is worse…both are bad.

      • Mary DOES have a point. The acceptance of black beauty is also set according to European standards in the US. Analyzing the situation in the US I DO see a danger of black Americans losing their identity as the push for more racial mixing continues to emerge. Black Americans and black Brazilians have many of the same issues at the root. The difference is that the result has already played out in Brazil while it seems to be a work in progress in the US. On both sides, anti-blackness is that root.

  3. All I know is that no matter where I see/examine Blacks in this world, I see the same disgusting problem: A sick, twisted, hatred of Black women & girls and a desire to either try to hide them, make them invisible, and/or make them look more White. It is disgusting, truly disgusting.

  4. I agree Phoenix and while I like Lisa Stansfield I know and she acknowledged the people that influenced her, its too easy to blame the victim/product and not the system that created it.

    This goes back to lack of Black ownership of the media in both the US and UK. Like I said what should be happening in Brazil is Black ownership of its culture including how its made and distributed.

    @USA we are not ahead, we don’t own anything of significance and we shout down each other when the truth is told about our behavior. If we are the world standard on which Black Communities are to be modeled after, we have failed that and continue to fail.

  5. Black-owned media contributes to this problem. Black-owned media LEADS the way in this sick, twisted hiding/erasing /Whitening of Black women & girls. It is blatantly misogynistic and above all else, COLORIST IN THE WORST WAY towards dark-skinned Black women & girls, which in turn creates problems amongst Black women & girls themselves based on skin tone, facial features, and hair type.
    Unity amongst dark-skinned, African featured, kinky-haired Black women /girls and their light-skinned/straighter-haired sisters is constantly undermined by this colorist nonsense in Black media & Black SOCIETY at large, and that is the REAL problem, because Black women & girls of ALL shades/skin tones/hair types NEED to stick together and support each other. That is extremely hard however when you have someone who SHOULD KNOW BETTER constantly telling Black girls/women she is “better” the lighter her skin is, the straighter her hair is, and the closer to White/non-Black her facial features are.

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