Most people have heard of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro; settlements where approx 22% of the city’s 12 million inhabitants live. Violence, gangs, Police brutality and drugs is the stereotype of these communities that most see on the news, but this is far beyond all that is going on there – as ever, there’s another side of the story.
A cultural movement is happening – Every night of the week there are ‘Roda de rimas’ (rhyming circles) around the city. Young people from the communities are taking matters into their own hands through their own independent creativity; creating a vibrant and thriving urban music scene, breaking down social barriers and holding to account institutionalized racism, sexism and discrimination, and giving a voice to the people.
These communities for decades have been controlled by drug gangs, since the ‘Pacification Police Units’ have been installed gradually since 2008, the violence has continued; though it is reduced on the whole; deaths either at the hands of ‘faciones’ (gangs) or Police remain common, and have once again started to become more so as the state who are strapped for cash after the Olympics, are gradually withdrawing Police resources. In a situation like that, being a musician or a b-boy is a different choice to getting into drugs, joining a gang or becoming a cop, it gives them an opportunity for recognition and respect from their peers, the political nature of many of the lyrics a chance to voice their social or political frustrations, and to show solidarity with others in a similar position.