Speaking on an issue we have covered in past articles here at BW of Brazil, the president of popular bloco afro Olodum criticizes the dominance of white Bahian artists such as Ivete Sangalo at the expense of black-oriented groups. As Salvador councilman Sílvio Humberto recently said, “Carnaval is a reflection of what we have in society. Whites are on top…and the blacks remain below.” For more insight on the music and Carnaval situation in Salvador, Bahia, a black majority city in a black majority state, see our articles here, here and here.
For the president of Olodum, Bahia has become the land of Ivete Sangalo
by Nelson Barros Neto
It’s Carnival time in Salvador, and João Jorge Rodrigues, 57, president of Olodum, gets right to the point: there is a monopoly on the division of resources in the revelry of Bahia, which is the “land of a single artist”- Ivete Sangalo. On the strength of the singer, the leader of the “most acclaimed and well known bloco on the planet”, in his words, sees an ethnic character: she is white.
The arrival to Salvador of attractions like the South Korean artist Psy, he says, is another portrait of a Bahia that does not value its artists, its blackness. João Jorge spoke with the Folha newspaper at the headquarters of Olodum, in a beautiful townhouse located in the historic Pelourinho area. Then he had another interview, with Spike Lee, 55, who is filming Go Brazil Go!, A documentary about the country’s economic rise, which will also address the racial perspective of Brazil.
About this, he says: Bahia’s capital “is world champion of apartheid.” Especially in the days of revelry. With a Master’s in Public Law from the University of Brasília (UNB), João Jorge goes against the dominant discourse among those involved in Salvador’s Carnival.
João Jorge, president of Olodum, says that unequal division of resources in Bahia’s Carnival impoverishes Bahia
Folha – While growing popular participation in street blocos in the Southeast, Carnival is criticized in academia and for references of Samba and Axé (music) itself.
João Jorge – The Carnival of the country is a portrait of contemporary Brazil. It is a discriminatory, segregated Carnival, with mechanisms that replicate Brazilian capitalism: the great exclusion of the majority in benefit of a minority.
It would be naive to expect in the Carnival of Salvador, São Paulo, Recife or Rio we would have democracy, opportunity and equality. You spend 359 days in the year practicing all forms of institutional violence, of institutional racism, and you want a six-day Carnival to be democratic?
Is the situation worse in Bahia?
Here, it’s even more. You have a segment that has the best sponsorship, greatest visibility, all the resources. There are ropes separating blocos from people.
We are talking about the possibility of Carnival being more generous. Besides being a festival of joy, also provide for those who make the culture have support as generous as the four groups. But it’s an illusion that this will change in the short term. The actors who could fight about it are sometimes more concerned with being part of the game.
Does the so-called Afródromo help or hinder the scenario? (The initiative of Carlinhos Brown and six other entities to create a new circuit, exclusive to blocos afros, debuted this year but was delayed by the new management at City Hall)
Olodum has fought hard to get out there early and be seen on television. For companies that sponsor equitably blocos afros. At the same time, they decided to do something separate. What society wants is that blacks choose a ghetto to go to and back away from disputing with them. It’s as if we knew the place where we should be, rather than appear in the Barra area in Campo Grande. Moreover, require the public power to have to spend (money) with another circuit, when the resources could be distributed in a better way.
To what extent does the monopoly affect the party, the local music scene?
The diversity, that was formerly a wealth of Carnival, was decreased, and today Ilê Aiyê, the Filhos de Gandhy, Timbalada and Olodum (1) run a little in the middle of this. But in the rest of the places you don’t have any news (about them). Bahia became the land of a single artist. It seems that the others are all dead.
This kills emerging artists, kills those who are working and instead of strengthening the artist his/herself, it destroys the artist, because she is the chicken that lays golden eggs open to catch eggs. The party pretends it is enriching a person, but is actually impoverishing a city, a state.
The person is Ivete Sangalo?
Singer Ivete Sangalo
And how do you see the coming of celebrities like the South Korean Psy, to share advertising, with the discourse of bringing prestige to Carnival?
South Korean artist Psy
This change, of the people needs elements such as these, it’s a recent thing, it’s 20 years old. Before, people came to participate, to learn about the Carnival of Salvador. Over time, it became, ‘I want for you to come so that you can be important for Carnival’. It’s reversed. Carnival is what was important to these people.
The personal question: what is the attraction of this year’s Olodum? And the Olodum band. The most international band of Bahia: 37 countries, four World Cups, played with the last 30 great names of the music world. In view of other groups, other artists, they are not attractions in Salvador’s Carnival, the attraction is Korean, it is the Globo (TV) actress.
The novelty of Olodum is Samba-Reggae, it’s the biological force of music that we have, the protest song …
And are there new songs from Olodum like this?
There are, and current. Now, which radio stations that play Pagode, Sertanejo and Funk (2) will play protest music? I’ll give you a simple example: You can’t change the order of the parade in Salvador because it was imposed by the capital. The order is: who has the most money.
But what mayor or governor will say: “We bank Carnival, provide safety, health, infrastructure, spend R$84 million, and everybody will have to fulfill the following guideline – there will be an alternative – parade, with bloco afro, then an afoxé and a trio bloco (3). A transvestite bloco and an independent trio. In the hours that all parade they can appear on TV.” I want to see what authority of Bahia will do that.
And Claudia Leitte (4)? Part of the public and critics say she tries to repeat Ivete, who would have no identity …
I can’t talk about it, because this is a problem with these singers, this personality type whose strength is the ethnic character. Their strength is that they are white singers. If they imitate or not, I can’t say anything, it’s the market they chose. Being white singers who dominate the entire advertising market, the whole market of shows, and that one competes with the other.
Recently, one of them put her son on stage, and the other did the same.
And there’s the pregnancy of each one, everything is done to generate news. I am concerned, including Spike Lee, for him not to get someone pregnant here in this period [laughs], to create news, you understand?
Now, one fact is important: they play an important role in Brazilian music and they knew how to give a professional air to it which is also a response to the demands of the black community itself. You, with great black singers here, in a predominantly black city, not capitalizing it is a strategic error. For you see the force of racism and alienation. The black singers from Bahia would be millionaires in the US.
And the parades of Samba schools in Rio and Sao Paulo?
Look, they were important in the 1910s and 20s of the past century to form a culture of Samba. Then, the model was put in the parade, at the Sambódromo and they continue to be a wonderful spectacle…To see. But without broad participation, and this differs from Recife, Olinda and Salvador.
Because of this, Rio is having this explosion of street blocos, showing that people got tired of that style of fantasy, wings, drumbeat, 90-minute parade. Not to mention the ad war, the sponsored storylines.
At some point was Carnival a popular festival?
Never, it’s still not and maybe won’t be. It’s a party of the multitudes, but it has very big repression on everything. Carnival is extremely limited, where one parades, takes photos, it’s necessary to pay fees. And this is not what is sold to the world.
You see, one of the most interesting phenomena of the Carnival is the visibility of homosexuality. But it is also at Carnival in which homosexuals are attacked more. While it seems that the city is liberal, receptive to the other, it is extremely conservative.
Carnival is moving to have the dances again, the camarotes (grandstand viewing areas), a structure even more separated than one could have in the trio blocos in the parade timeslots.
But Olodum follows it…
Carnival is not salvation, is not the end of the world. It’s something important for the civility that needs to emerge, but the problems of cities are not resolved without confrontation. Carnival is the face of society. Just for one moment the Brazilian shows himself as he is. It’s in Carnival.
1. For more on blocos afros see our article here.
2. Pagode, Sertanejo and Funk are all genres of Brazilian music. Pagode is an off spring of Brazilian Samba, Música sertaneja or Sertanejo is a music style that had its origins in the countryside of Brazil in the 1920s and is somewhat similar to US Country Music (Source: Wikipedia). Funk (pronounced “foon-ky”) music in Brazil, is a style highly influenced by the graphic sexual lyrics and fast beats of the 80s/90s Miami Bass sound coming out of Florida in the United States.
3. For a discussion on these terms and types of groups, see here.
4. Another socially “white” singer who is known for making music highly influenced by Afro-Brazilian styles. As in note number 2, see more on her here.