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Mud and Chaos in Brazilian Music

 Mud and Chaos in Brazilian 
  Music

Brazil’s Mangue Beat
musical movement shows us that the
dividing line between the public and the private is broken. In an
absolute way. In the conditions of poverty and misery of these
great urban peripheries in Brazil, where private life is absolutely
invaded by the public dimension, or rather by its absence.
by: Maria
Rita Kehl

In order to look at the relation between public and private spaces in popular
Brazilian music I chose the Mangue Beat movement, created by Chico Science
and other young, poor musicians from the periphery of Recife.

Mangue Beat is a musical
movement that is very contemporary, ideological and a little confused. Its
appearance, in the nineties, is one of the cultural expressions that are produced
from this no man’s land that is the space between public and private in Brazil.

There has not yet been
time for critical thinking concerning the entrance of these dwellers of the
margins into the cultural industry, especially as far as musical creation
is concerned.

We are talking, perhaps,
about the third generation of the expansion of the cultural industry
in Brazil. We had a first generation, the era of radio, and a second, the
era of television, particularly from the seventies onward.

The third generation would
thus be that of the nineties, marked by a drop in the cost of recording, that
is the drop in the cost of technology both for listeners, the consumers of
popular music, and for those who produce CDs and tapes, in little backyard
studios.

This third generation,
on the one hand, benefited from the much greater interpenetration of musical
influences coming from other regions of Brazil, from other social classes
and also from other countries—as was the case with the entry of American
rap—reaching a young population, which without the drop in recording
costs, would have been marginalized even in relation to its own mass culture,
with the exception of that which is transmitted on television.

We know that what arrives
via television is far from being the most interesting part of the culture
produced in Brazil. It is curious that, having access to consumption and national
and international musical production, this generation should maintain an attitude
of reserve and criticism as far as television is concerned.

On the other hand, there
exists now the possibility that these consumers from classes C & D, as
the advertisers say (the lower classes) can produce creative responses originating
from the diversity of musical expressions which reach them, and thus insert
themselves into the mass culture. All of Brazil has come to be aware of groups,
which, until now, even if they were creative, would have had at most a regional
or local impact.

Music Role

Popular music, in Brazil,
is a very strong and very present discursive product, perhaps the strongest
in a country strongly marked by illiteracy. Popular music here assumed the
function of producing meaning for life in society, for our differences, for
the miseries and human riches of this country.

It is quite frequent in
my clinic, when someone is trying to find a context for something that has
happened in their private life, in their emotional life, for them to quote,
not a philosopher, not a priest, but the verses of a well-known composer:
"as Caetano says, as Chico says…"

They more often quote
verses from MPB (Música Popular Brasileira—Brazilian Popular Music)
than verses from other poets or literary authors. Music and cinema are constantly
present in psychoanalytic offices. But music is more all-encompassing, has
a greater reach; even somebody who never went to the cinema certainly has
a radio and listens to music.

What is more, popular
music had and has composers, principally from the generation of the seventies,
a critical generation, who went to university, were from the middle class,
were politicized—Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Milton
Nascimento, artists who think about Brazil, as well as making music.

Chico Science and Nação
Zumbi do not exactly represent critical thought; they would instead be the
object of what has until today been the critical thought in MPB, an object
that begins to manifest itself, to stop being an object in order to become
a subject.

Moving from objects of
criticism to subjects creating a language, the poor young men of the great
cities of Brazil are beginning to produce a differentiated space for the expression
of their experience.

Until recently the politicized
composers of the middle class were concerned with poverty, exclusion, marginality,
with the condition of the other, which was portrayed or denounced in their
songs.

What we heard in Mangue
Beat is the drumbeat, the sound of marginality itself. The sound of the other.
What they produce is not exactly critical thought as far as they themselves
are concerned, but rather a sort of inclusion through the word, the rhythm,
and the very individual, quite aggressive beat, that is the strong mark of
their presence in Brazil.

It is as if they were
saying "listen, we are here on the scene". It is a not an analysis
of the conditions in which they live, it is a way of including themselves
in the scene.

Musical Community

Vinicius de Moraes, in
his famous samba, the "Samba da Bênção," intermixes
spoken passages between the sung passages. In the third and last of these
passages, marked by the sweet and continuous lulling beat of the bossa
nova, Vinicius de Moraes pays great homage to the black composers of samba.

In this homage he creates
something like a community of composers, particularly of the composers of
samba, the black composers, a community in which he wants to include himself,
as the "blackest white in Brazil". We hear the voice of Vinicius
de Moraes paying homage, as if he were with the same act naming this community,
creating this community symbolically.

As Maria Alice Rezende
de Carvalho said so well, this was not a Brazilian community; it was much
more a Carioca community that in the samba by Vinicius was projected
into Brazil.

And Vinicius says: "Saravá
(Hail)Cartola, Pixinguinha, Nelson Cavaquinho, Saravá Sinhô,
Ismael Silva, Donga, Noel, (a white composer) Lupicínio" (a gaúcho,
from the south). Vinicius and Baden Powell salute the black community of the
Brazilian samba.

This makes me think of
one of the raps of the Racionais MC’s on the CD Sobrevivendo no Inferno
(Surviving in Hell), in which Mano Brown does something similar
to what Vinicius de Moraes did, just in reverse.

In Brown’s salute to the
community of rap, the accompaniment never is the light and ironic, somewhat
"blue" beat of the bossa nova; it is a sort of continuous
buzzing, an electronic moan, marked by a subtle and menacing punctuation,
which produces a somewhat apprehensive feeling in the listener.

Mano Brown’s voice is
low in both senses of the word; it has a saddened note, without shine. His
long list of names does not create a community of authors, of consecrated
poets; they are not names of people that he is including in this community;
he is enumerating the neighborhoods of the peripheries of the cities of Brazil.

This is also not a happy
salute, he is not greeting them as in the case of the happy "Saravá!"
in which Vinicius de Moraes seems to be saying: "you are great composers,
you are the best, and I include myself among you".

The meaning is different,
it is that of a lament for the excluded. Brown begins by stringing together
names of neighborhoods from the interminable periphery of São Paulo:

"Hello Jardim Japão,
Jardim Hebron, Jardim Ângela, Capão Redondo, Cidade de Deus,
Cidade Ademar, Peri Peri, Brasilândia, Campo Limpo, Itaquera, Cohab
1, Cohab 2… ".

Then he leaves São
Paulo for other cities: "Tabatinga, Boréu, Camaragibe, Candiau…"
this takes about three minutes without stopping, in which he is simply naming,
one after another, the peripheries, and finally concluding with "Jorge
da Capadócia", the invocation of the saint who seals the body
of the poet and protects him from all evil.

Private and Public

The people of Mangue Beat
come from one of these peripheries, from the neighborhood of Rio Doce in Recife.
Their art shows us that the dividing line between the public and the private
is broken, in an absolute way, in the conditions of poverty and misery of
these great urban peripheries in Brazil, where private life is absolutely
invaded by the public dimension, or rather by its absence.

If there no windows marking
the transition between the house and the street in the neighborhood of Rio
Doce, it is not because the windows are closed to the street, it is because
the street is already inside the house. There is no true privacy, nothing
that protects the subject who lives in a shack in the periphery from being
absolutely invaded by the street.

The relation of one inside
the house with the street is not one of contemplation. The street invades
everything with its violence, filth, its indignity. The public invades the
private not by its excess, but by its lack; privacy is unprotected due to
the irresponsibility of the State in relation to the public space in the poor
neighborhoods of the great cities of Brazil.

It is not a matter of
the politicization of daily life. One does not find in the lyrics of the songs
a mention of public life in the sense of a politically articulated project
uniting all the community in the common space of the street or the square.

On the contrary. It is
the disregard by this republic for public space, the fact that nothing guarantees
to the individual that the government will assume its public responsibility
for some essential aspects of life, those same ones that all politicians mention
in their speeches: transportation, health, education, basic sanitation, security.

This leaves the citizen
absolutely exposed to the vicissitudes of the public space. Each day he must
resolve, by himself, the problems of the infrastructure of life that should
be the responsibility of the government.

In this sense, in the
favelas and in the mangue, the concept of privacy does not even
exist as a value, since this is a bourgeois cultural value, nor as a possibility,
since private life is invaded by questions that ought to be within the purview
of the government.

The more the government
abandons the population, the more the private dimension of the life of the
wretched disappears. That is to day, public life affects the most intimate
corners of what ought to be private for the subject.

A more well-known example
for us in Brazil, which for decades has been a theme of music from the Northeast,
is the effect of the punishing drought on individual lives. As Luís
Gonzaga sings in "Retorno da Asa Branca":

"…And if the harvest
doesn’t spoil my plans
Mr. Vicar,
I am going to marry
by the end of the year."

"… E se a safra
não atrapalhar meus planos,
quê que há,
ó seu vigário,
vou casar no fim
do ano".

The harvest depends on
the drought, the singer can make his plans for living with his beloved if
the drought doesn’t get in the way, because if it does there will be no wedding.

There is no project for
individual, private life in the face of the punishing drought, and we know
that this is not a natural disaster—it is a calamity provoked by decades
of bad public administration in the states of the Northeast.

Popular Culture Lives

To change our point of
view a little, Chico Science and the Mangue Beat groups which survived his
death also represent a rather recent phenomenon in Brazilian musical production,
which is the fact that the cultural industry and the mass culture, instead
of having destroyed peripheral popular cultures, on the contrary, made possible
an unexpected inclusion of marginal expressions.

I say this because, in
the seventies, when I was working as a journalist in the area of culture for
several independent newspapers, our great worry was that all the regional,
unique, truly popular manifestations, which were still resisting massification,
were doomed to disappear, crushed by pop, and especially by American pop,
through the invasion of foreign mass culture into Brazil.

Just that the opposite
happened. Or rather, not exactly the opposite, because today there is a massification,
a very serious descent to the lowest common denominator in the production
of culture for the masses in Brazil and around the world.

But as the cultural industry
itself has to nourish itself with novelties, a space for different music,
which we had not foreseen, was opening up in the musical market.

Today the art produced
by small groups, groups which represent a very individual regional reality,
can gain access to the market rather easily. The diversification of Brazilian
popular music is much greater than it would have been in the seventies, when
we imagined that it would be extinguished entirely.

One example of this is
the Carnaval in Bahia. It is true that most of the space in the Carnaval,
at least in the media, is occupied by the trios elétricos. The
TV networks fight over the rights to broadcast to the whole of Brazil a party
with thousands of people from São Paulo, Minas, and Curitiba dancing
the porno foolishness which is axé music, inhaling the smoke
from the trucks and protected from the rest of the multitude by the strength
of the arms of poor blacks from Salvador who are holding the ropes, like galley
slaves, so they can earn five or ten reais a day. Even Carlinhos Brown
commented on the direction of axé music, the poetic quality
of which is dropping every year.

But at the same time,
in the Carnaval in Bahia, there are appearing, or reappearing new Afro groups,
based on the worship tradition of less well-known orixás, remembering
the celebrations of slaves coming from other African nations, revitalizing
the expression of cultures that were disappearing.

The singular makes space
for itself within the sameness of the mass culture.

In this sense the Northeast
is very rich. The traditions of embolada, of the desafios (challenges)
of the players of the viola, of cordel poetry, of the rhythms
of coco, ciranda, of maracatu, are very strong, and carry
on a free dialog with the influences of international pop, producing an absolutely
new sonority.

This liberty to incorporate
and modify foreign influences is perhaps a distinguishing characteristic of
northeastern popular culture, which since the sixteenth and seventeenth century
assimilated elements of the Portuguese cancioneiro, producing a free
translation of the imagery of the culture of the colonizing elite for the
reality of life in the sertão.

There a dialogue in reverse
was taking place, in which the use of some signifiers, of some strong images,
taken out of their original context, caused them to acquire meanings completely
different from the originals, thus creating a renovation of popular tradition.

Black Roots

These new composers and
groups from the northeast affirm the tradition of the verses of the embolada,
of the rhythms of maracatu, with an irony that marks the distance between
the origin which was lost and the musicality of the black traditions that
these young people still carry in their blood.

Maracatu is the
rhythm that is most present in the music of Nação Zumbi, but
it has a religious, Afro-Brazilian origin, that is not preserved in Mangue
Beat. Maracatu was the name of a festival celebrated in Pernambuco
by groups of slaves called "nations," that would process from the
churches of the Rosary, the churches reserved for blacks, churches for slaves
prohibited from entering in the others, where the whites were praying.

At the doors of their
churches the blacks would play drums and do a dance simulating scenes from
the Portuguese court. There still exist some "nations" of maracatu
in Recife: the Leão Coroado (Crowned Lion), the Pavão Dourado
(Gilded Peacock), the Elefante (Elephant)—and now, Nação
Zumbi.

In the maracatus,
the slaves were enacting a nobility which was not that of the African nations,
but of the court of their masters. But in this court, in addition to the figures
of the king, the queen, the princes, there are also drummers, caboclos
and baianas, as well as the calunga, a white cloth doll
carried by the "dama do paço" (lady of the palace).

This doll bore the name
of the god Calunga, an entity representing the sea for Angolans—the same
sea that separated enslaved blacks from the African lands.

The maracatu of
Chico Science, of Nação Zumbi, is a warrior maracatu,
which eliminates the old dimension of the imagery of the court. The nobility
of Nação Zumbi comes from the mud, it has the bad smell of the
mangue (marsh), of the rotten side of the big city. The tradition is
revived ironically.

The other appropriation
by Chico Science in his poetry was from the tradition of the cordel.
It is very frequent in all cordel poetry for the voice of the poet
to outline an I that is its subjective expression but does not affirm itself
as individuality.

An I different from the
expression of a private intimacy, such as the bourgeois culture recognizes,
and which is expressed, for example, in the love songs of Chico Buarque, or
in the subjective expansions of the verses of Caetano. It is not the I of
a poet speaking about his particular sensibility, but an I that is diluted
in the things around it.

Let’s listen to the verses
of "Mateus Enter", a song by Chico Science the name of which is
completely enigmatic for me; I don’t know what "Mateus Enter" is.
"Enter" refers to the "enter" key of the computer.

The force of this music
is absolutely rhythmic, warlike, supporting the entry of this I that has nothing
to do with the narcissistic, bourgeois, introspective I of our university
tradition.

"Eu vim com a Nação
Zumbi

ao seu ouvido falar,

quero ver a poeira subir e muita fumaça no ar

cheguei com o meu universo

e aterrisso no seu pensamento

trago as luzes dos postes nos olhos

rios e pontes no coração

Pernambuco embaixo dos pés

e minha mente na imensidão".

"I came with Zumbi
Nation

to talk to your ear,

I want to see the dust rise and lots of smoke in the air

I came with my universe

And I land in your thinking

I carry the lights of the posts in my eyes

Rivers and bridge in my heart

Pernambuco beneath my feet

And my mind in the immensity".

In this music, it is important
to note, the poet does not come by himself, he comes with his nation, as the
blocos of Maracatu reincarnate the African nations which succumbed
to slavery.

He arrives with his universe,
which is the universe of the city: the lights of the posts, the rivers, and
the bridges form part of this public body, whose feet carry Pernambuco where
they go.

The "mind in the
immensity" is what humanizes this I, and confers on it a dimension which
extrapolates this dimension of an object among other objects.

Living Marsh

I want to pick up on this
image of the "mind in the immensity" to recall that Chico Science,
when he formed Nação Zumbi, issued the "Manifesto Mangue
Beat" (Mangue Beat Manifesto), the symbol of which was a parabolic antenna
stuck in the mud. The mud of the marsh.

The mangue or marsh
has a very important metaphorical meaning for this group, as a place throbbing
with life, with great biodiversity, a place that resists in a certain way
urban devastation, but that is always threatened by urbanization

The mangue also
represents an area of exchange, between the salt water of the sea and the
fresh water of the rivers, between the sea and the earth. In this manifesto
entitled "Carangueaw6kx com cérebros" (Crabs with brains),
the members of Nação Zumbi say that they are beings from the
mangue who think, who have brains.

And that they are open
to interchange, like a network of tubes and communicating voices that the
parabolic antenna is able to capture. In this sense, you see that there is
not exactly an affirmation of a national, Brazilian identity. What exists
is a poetics that makes a bridge between the more regional, the neighborhood,
the mangue, the favela, and the global.

The national is barely
present. The sense of brasilidade, of Brazil as an imaginary unit which
lends to support to identities, is lost. He is a regional subject, whose mind
is projected toward the immensity, projected toward the global.

Chico Science was a poor
boy from the neighborhood of Rio Doce, in Recife. He was a crabber, someone
who went to bailes funk (funk dances), who later worked in a computer
company, where we can suppose that the idea of a subject who exists in a "net"
would have begun to take shape.

A net does not necessarily
have a central reference. A net is a crossing of many references. The manifesto
"Carangueaw6kx com cérebro" ("Crabs with brains")
proposes to recycle and rescue traditional rhythms of the region with the
addition of pop elements, without making a hierarchy of values.

Giving value to traditional
rhythms does not have, in this case, the meaning that it had for the generation
that came of age during the period of the military dictatorship, which sought
in popular traditions some expression that might signify its difference in
as far as its relation to the support of the Brazilian middle class for the
dictatorship.

Here we do not have the
idea of resistance, but the acceptance of one’s origin as fate: if he is from
Pernambuco, if he comes from this culture, it is impossible to ignore the
influence of the maracatu, the embolada, the cordel.
He has no desire to free himself from this, not because he is resisting other
influences, but because the world to which he belongs imposes itself on him.

Continuing with this brief
biography of Chico Science, it is important to emphasize that Nação
Zumbi was formed due to the contact that he and other young men from Rio Doce
had with the work of a sort of NGO, a community center for popular education
in the periphery of Recife called Daruê Malungo.

Alternative Spaces

There, in 1991, a bloco
afro was formed called "Lamento Negro" (Black Lament)
that led to Nação Zumbi. This type of social interaction created
by the work of various NGOs is also a recent phenomenon in Brazil.

In the face of the absence
of that which the government ought to offer in the way of leisure centers,
places to meet, for education, exchange of information, etc. these small projects
by non-governmental organizations gain importance among the needy populations.

The importance of these
alternative spaces is enormous. It can be seen that where there is this type
of community work, new talent, a bloco, a band, a new artist appears.

Which proves that the
vanishing of popular manifestations currently has a lot to do with the lack
of spaces in which they can occur. Where a place is created, an artistic expression
arises which may be weak or strong, but which is always necessary.

I am going to take a look
at some excerpts from the manifesto of Mangue Beat, which is the voice of
this subject who is crisscrossed by the world and at the same time very close
and very far from the rest of the world.

"Emergency!

A quick shock, or Recife will die of a heart attack".

The concern here is with
Recife, it is with the city, not the country.

"You don’t need to
be a doctor to know that the simplest way of stopping someone’s heart is to
obstruct his veins. The quickest way to give a city like Recife a heart attack,
and to empty its soul, is to kill its rivers and fill in its estuaries. What
can be done so as to not sink in the chronic depression that paralyzes its
citizens? How can it regain its spirit, be delobotomized, recharge its batteries?"

From the outset the reader
does not know what Chico Science is referring to, whether it is the rivers
that are dying, the mangue that is dying or the intelligence that is
dying. All it takes is injecting a little energy from the mud and stimulating
what there is left of fertility in Recife’s veins.

"In the middle of
1991 a center for research and production of pop ideas began to be generated
and articulated in various points in the city. The objective is to engender
a circuit of energy, capable of connecting the good vibrations of the mangues
with the world circulatory network".

Mangue Folks

The circuit that is created
goes from the mangue to the world. A circulation of pop concepts. Here
the factory of concepts is already pop culture. There is no school here. They
symbolic image is a parabolic antenna stuck in the mud.

Here is the cultural panorama
captured by the mangue’s antenna:

"The mangue-boys
and mangue-girls are individuals interested in: comics, interactive
TV, anti-psychiatry, Bezerra da Silva, hip-hop, midiotia, artismo,
street music, John Coltrane, chance, non-virtual sex, ethnic conflicts and
all the advances of chemistry applied in the area of alteration and expansion
of consciousness".

The "advances of
chemistry" are a rather explicit reference to drugs capable of "altering
and expanding consciousness". As for the rest, the enumeration of the
elements with which the mangue-boys and mangue-girls identify
reminds one of the lyrics of a song from the tropicália era.

But I don’t know if we
can consider them as the sons/grandsons of tropicália, or as
a symptomatic expression of the Brazil which tropicália was
describing in the sixties.

This enumeration, which
seems tropicalist, does not produce the effect of a saturation, of the critical
nonsense typical of the tropicalist esthetic. It is creating a field of identification
for the poor young men and women of his generation.

Perhaps we need to know
the work of Nação Zumbi. There is a portion of a song by Chico
Science called "Banditismo por uma questão de classe" (Banditry
for reason of class), from the CD Da lama ao caos (From the mud to chaos),
in which he repeats the refrain:

"Banditry for pure
evil

Banditry by necessity.

Banditry for pure evil

Banditry for reason of class".

In this case, "reason
of class" has a double meaning. Banditry can be a matter of class or
a matter of style. It is worth listening to the "opening speech"
of this song, which is called "Monólogo ao pé do ouvido"
(Monologue in a Whispering Tone). It is a rather confusing speech:

"Modernizar o passado
é uma revolução musical

Cadê as notas que estavam aqui ?

Eu não preciso delas

Basta deixar tudo soando bem aos ouvidos.

O medo dá origem ao mal

O homem coletivo

Sente a necessidade de lutar

O orgulho, a arrogância, a glória

Enchem a imaginação de domínio

São demônios os que destroem o poder

bravio da humanidade.

Viva Zapata! Viva Sandino!

Antônio Conselheiro, todos os Panteras Negras

Lampião, sua imagem e semelhança.

Eu tenho certeza: também eles cantaram um dia".

"Modernizing the
past is a musical revolution

Where are the notes that used to be here?

I don’t need them

Everything just has to sound good.

Fear leads to evil

The collective man

Feels the necessity of fighting

Pride, arrogance, glory

Fill the imagination with domination

They are demons, those who destroy the savage power of

Humanity.

Long live Zapata! Long live Sandino!

Antônio Conselheiro, all the Black Panthers

Lampião, his image and resemblance.

I am certain that they also sang one day".

Chico Science does not
need the "notes that used to be here", the notes of the past, to
make his musical revolution. Without them, he can still make everything sound
good.

But his "revolution"
does not break with all of the past; he recognizes a dimension that surpasses
the individual, speaks in the name of a "collective man" whose ancestry
is based on a rather fantastic sort of ideological miscegenation.

He names his antecedents,
who range from the revolutionaries Zapata and Sandino, to the messianic monarchist
Antônio Conselheiro, from the Black Panthers to Lampião, who
perhaps might have put various humble ancestors of Chico Science himself to
the sword.

What these men have in
common is their marginal condition in relation to power, even though some
were victorious in their struggle. They are together in the same manifesto
because, as the music says later,

"Acontece hoje, acontecia
no sertão

quando um bando de macaco perseguia Lampião.

E o que ele falava outros ainda falam

`eu carrego comigo coragem, dinheiro e bala’"

"It happens today,
it happened in the sertão

when a bunch of monkeys chased Lampião.

And what he said, others still say

`I carry with me courage, money, and bullets’".

"Courage, money,
and bullet" are what link the imagination of Chico Science to the memory
of his idols.

Savage Revolution

It is not easy to decide
if he is quoting the men full of "pride, arrogance and glory" who
destroyed the savage power of humanity, or if he is naming those who represent
the savage power of humanity. The absence of irony here draws the attention.

This discourse is read
with a certain solemnity, like a manifesto that is calling for some confused
type of revolution, or at least for resistance in the name of these figures
who perhaps represent the "savage power of humanity".

Another song which is
important as a illustration of my reflection concerning the absence of a representation
of private life in this imaginarium is "Manguetown", which is on
the second CD from Nação Zumbi called Afrociberdelia:

"Estou enfiado na
lama

é um bairro sujo

onde os urubus têm casa

e eu não tenho asas

mas estou aqui em minha casa

onde os urubus têm asas

vou pintando, segurando as paredes do mangue do meu quintal

manguetown

andando por entre os becos

andando em coletivos

ninguém foge ao cheiro sujo

da lama da manguetown

andando por entre becos

andando em coletivos

ninguém foge ao cheiro sujo

da lama da manguetown

andando por entre becos

andando em coletivos

ninguem foge à vida suja dos dias da manguetown

esta noite sairei

vou beber com meus amigos

e com as asas que os urubus me deram ao dia

eu voarei por toda a periferia

vou sonhando com a mulher

que talvez eu possa encontrar

ela também vai andar

na lama do meu quintal

manguetown

"I am stuck in the
mud

it is a filthy neighborhood

where the vultures live

and I don’t have wings

but I am at home here

where the vultures have wings

I am painting, holding up the walls of the mangue of my backyard

Manguetown

Walking down the alleys

Going in vans

No one flees the filthy smell

Of the mud of manguetown

Tonight I will go out

I will drink with my friends

And with the wings that the vultures gave us one day

I will fly through all the periphery

Dreaming of the woman

That perhaps I might find

She will also walk

In the mud of my backyard

Manguetown"

Once again, note that
the beat is aggressive and the musical construction is not melodic. It is
not yet a spoken poem, as in the case of rap, but the musicality is reduced
to two or three minimal, contained, that only open up a little in the refrain.

To begin with, where is
this guy speaking from? He talks to us from the mud, the mangue, the
chaos, and not from the privacy of his room or his window to the world:

"Estou enfiado na
lama

é um bairro sujo

onde os urubus tem casa

e eu não tenho asas"

"I am stuck in the
mud

it is a filthy neighborhood

where the vultures live

and I don’t have wings"

That is to say: the vultures
have somewhere to live, they have the house that the poet doesn’t, and the
poet does not have the wings that the vultures do.

"Mas estou aqui em
minha casa

onde os urubus têm asas

vou pintando, segurando as paredes do mangue do meu quintal"

Walls that exist because
he sustains them, "painting, holding up" the walls of the mangue
which is no different than his backyard. The entry of the refrain follows,
which projects the subject into the collective space of the city:

"Andando por entre
os becos

andando em coletivos

ninguém foge ao cheiro sujo

da lama da manguetown…"

"Walking down the
alleys

Going in vans

No one flees the filthy smell

Of the mud of manguetown"

This refrain is repeated
over and over again. The mud of manguetown gets into everything, and no one
can escape its filthy smell.

From here on, another
value will appear in the poem. The question of sociability, which is revealed
as much in rap as in the Mangue Beat movement, will be affirmed in the form
of philia, of friendship.

The predominant idea here
is that the space that the singer considers to be his is not the isolation
of the home, but rather the point where he meets his friends; this is an idea
that is very present in this type of music, in the production of these young
groups from the peripheries. Thus the second part of the song says:

"Essa noite sairei,


vou beber com os meus amigos

e com as asas que os urubus nos deram um dia …"

"Tonight I will go
out

I will drink with my friends

And with the wings that the vultures gave us one day…"

Observe that the poet
begins by saying that "I don’t have wings", "the vultures have
wings and I don’t have wings". But when he goes out to drink with friends
he acquires the "wings that the vultures gave us one day."

You may interpret them
as wings of imagination, of daring, of happiness, whatever they may be, he
does not name them. The following metaphor is sweeping as well. With the wings
that the vultures gave him and his friends one day….

"Eu voarei por toda
a periferia

vou sonhando com a mulher

que talvez eu possa encontrar"

I will fly through all
the periphery

Dreaming of the woman

That perhaps I might find"

Here we think—ah,
here is a cliché, a dream typical of the poetics that we have been
analyzing up until now, of the middle class, of private life, of intimacy,
etc. Here is the poet of the mangue, like anyone else, "Dreaming of the
woman / That perhaps I might find". But how does he imagine this meeting?

"Ela também
vai andar

na lama do meu quintal

manguetown"

"She will also walk

In the mud of my backyard

manguetown"

And here the refrain comes
in:

"Fui no mangue catar
lixo

pegar caranguejo, conversar com urubu"

"I went to the mangue
to pick through trash,

to catch crabs, to talk with the vulture"

If he is going to find
a woman, she is not at all like the idealized muses of the popular imagination;
she will be stuck in the mud with him, talking with the vultures together
with him, that is to say, it is not a matter of "our love and a cabin",
but of conversing with vultures. And to pick through trash.

No Lyricism Here

This was the song "Manguetown".
It is not easy to go far in reflecting on it because the register of this
song is not reflective, it limits itself to presenting, not the intimacy of
the poetic voice, but the circumstances of the existence of the subject.

This authorial I is an
I invaded by the city, and every time that this image gains a poetic force,
this poetic force has to do with the urban element, not with any element of
intimacy, of sensitivity, which in the lyrics of traditional MPB is identified
with the I of an individual psychology.

This expanding subject
which is manifested in the verses of Chico Science and other Mangue Beat,
which is manifested in the extremely long lyrics of rap from São Paulo
and Rio does not resemble the I of bourgeois privacy unless in its authorial
quality, speaking in the first person.

As in the verse by MC
Rap’Hood: "Eu tô com o microfone/ é tudo no meu
nome" (I got the mike / it’s all about me). He is a subject with
his own name who takes into his I the echoes of the collectivity to which
he belongs.

The degraded public space
of Brazil in the eighties and nineties makes way for a sort of territory that
is at the same time terrain for subjectivity—affection, friendship, of
the identifications of these young artists—and the space of the city
that for them, from the poetic point of view, does not have frontiers.

It begins at the periphery,
in the mud of the mangue, flies over the planet and projects itself
into the space of the transmission from the parabolic antennas.

Discography:

Gonzaga, L. Luiz Gonzaga
canta seus sucessos com Zé Dantas. São Paulo: RCA Victor,
p1959. 1 record.

Racionais MC’s. Sobrevivendo
no Inferno. São Paulo: Cosa Nostra, p1998. 1 CD.

Morais, V. Autógrafos
de Sucesso. Rio de Janeiro: Phonogram, p1974. 1 record.

Chico Science & Nação
Zumbi. Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.

Chico Science & Nação
Zumbi. Da lama ao caos. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1994. 1
CD.

Discographical
Notes:

1 MORAIS, V.
Samba da Benção. V. Morais. In: Autógrafos de Sucesso.
Guanabara: Fontana, p1974. Guanabara: Fontana, p1974. 1 disco sonoro. Lado
1 , faixa 5.

2 MORAIS, V.
Samba da Benção. V. Morais. In: Autógrafos de Sucesso.
Rio de Janeiro: Phonogram, p1974. Rio de Janeiro: Phonogram, p1974. 1 disco
sonoro. Lado 1 , faixa 5.

3 RACIONAIS
MC’S. Salve. I. Blue, M. Brown. In: Sobrevivendo no Inferno. São
Paulo: Cosa Nostra, p1998. 1 CD. Faixa 13.

4 RACIONAIS
MC’S. Salve. I. Blue, M. Brown. In: Sobrevivendo no Inferno. São
Paulo: Cosa Nostra, p1998. 1 CD. Faixa 13.

5 GONZAGA,
L. A volta da Asa Branca. Zédantas, L. Gonzaga In: Luiz Gonzaga
canta seus sucessos com Zé Dantas. São Paulo: RCA Victor,
p1959. São Paulo: RCA Victor, p1959. 1 disco sonoro. Lado A, Faixa
4.

6 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Mateus Enter. C. Science, N. Zumbi. In: Afrocyberdelia.
Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD. Faixa 1.

7 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Carangueaw6kx com Cérebro. C. Science
& N. Zumbi. In: Da lama ao caos, p1994. 1 CD (encarte).

8 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Carangueaw6kx com Cérebro. C. Science
& N. Zumbi. In: Da lama ao caos, p1994. 1 CD (encarte).

9 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Carangueaw6kx com Cérebro. C. Science
& N. Zumbi. In: Da lama ao caos, p1994. 1 CD (encarte).

10 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. [Monólogo ao pé do ouvido]
Banditismo por uma questão de classe. C. Science. In: Da lama ao
caos. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1994. 1 CD. Faixa 1.

11 SCIENCE,
C. & NAÇÃO Z. [Monólogo ao pé do ouvido] Banditismo
por uma questão de classe. C. Science. In: Da lama ao caos.
Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1994. 1 CD. Faixa 1.

12 SCIENCE,
C. & NAÇÃO Z. [Monólogo ao pé do ouvido] Banditismo
por uma questão de classe. C. Science. In: Da lama ao caos.
Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1994. 1 CD. Faixa 1.

13 SCIENCE,
C. & NAÇÃO Z. [Monólogo ao pé do ouvido] Banditismo
por uma questão de classe. C. Science. In: Da lama ao caos.
Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1994. 1 CD. Faixa 1.

14 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

15 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

16 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

17 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

18 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

19 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

20 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.

21 CHICO SCIENCE
& NAÇÃO ZUMBI. Manguetown. L. Maia, Dengue, C. Science.
In: Afrocyberdelia. Rio de Janeiro: Chaos/Sony Music, p1996. 1 CD.
Faixa 12.


Maria Rita Kehl is a psychoanalyst, writer and poet, the author
of three books of poetry and the books of essays A mínima
diferença—o masculino e o feminino na cultura.
She was born in Campinas, São Paulo state, in 1951
and is a doctor of clinical psychology. You can reach her
emailing mritak@uol.com.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated
by the language and culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates
from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German, and
is also active as a musician. Comments welcome at querflote@hotmail.com.

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