In Brazilian Carnaval Everything Goes. But Listening to Rap Can Get You in Jail

Funk ball During these four days of Carnaval Brazil gives an image that everything goes and nothing is forbidden. Not in the little town of São Lourenço, in the south of Minas, a state in the Brazilian Southeast. A decree by the mayor there prohibits the execution of funk and rap during the Carnaval celebration. Ignoring the law can land you in jail.

The measure adopted by the city forbids anyone to play and listen not only to rap and funk but any other musical genres that incite violence or encourages disrespect for authority. The decree also determines that parties in the city must end at 3 am and that no excuses will be accepted for late enders.

Whoever is caught listening to funk or rap during the days of revelry will have to turn off the sound or make a visit to the police station for the crime of disobedience, which can mean up to six months in jail.

The decree came into force January 20 and will last until Monday, January 22, the last day of Carnaval in the city. The rest of Brazil will have another full day of Carnaval and other places will still be celebrating on Wednesday morning.

José Neto, São Lourenço’s mayor, from the opposition Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy  (PSDB) told reporters that the decision was taken by the city in conjunction with the Military Police and the Judiciary, which also believe that funk and rap can promote violence and lack of respect towards police and other authorities. José Neto is also owner Guanabara Hotel of one of the biggest hotels in town.

“Funk parties are mass movements very condensed, which require a better structure for coordination, control and security, that a public festival like Carnaval doesn’t allow us to adopt,” explains the mayor.

As expected, the mayoral decision has caused quite a controversy in the city and outside of it. The town itself is divided between those who agree with the mayor and those who don’t. Fátima Sueli Vieira, 49, who works in an office, for example, was quoted by local press approving the measure: “These songs help bring the violence, as some have very heavy lyrics, especially funk. I prefer Carnaval with marches.”

On the other side, there are people like saleswoman Sarwe Matar, 22, who thinks the problem of violence cannot be solved by banning musical genres. “I think there are other ways to fight violence. I think this is more a question of personal taste and not for the community to decide. Prohibiting is completely wrong.”

For Mano Teko, who is vice-president of the Association of Professionals and Friends of Funk (APAfunk), the censorship against funk comes from the negative image linked to the musical genre, which he sees as unjustified:

“They are always showing on TV a distorted image of funk as something violent, which is not true. What has to be fought is the excess not funk as a whole. I have 15 years of funk and we have already started to change this image since it was recognized as a cultural and educational movement.”

In Três Corações, the hometown of soccer legend Pelé, also in Minas Gerais, the ban of funk and rap will happen for the second year in a row. The prohibition there is for balls, blocos (Carnaval troupes) and sound cars that play loud sound. The military police say that without funk there is less violence.

Still in Perdões, another town in the south of Minas, the ban is even more restrict: all electronic music is forbidden there. The decree signed by mayor Hamilton Resende, on February 1st, determines that anyone who disrespects the determination will have the sound car audio towed away. The offender will still need to pay a fine of undetermined amount.

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