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A History of Brazil's Black Punk Scenes

Racial segregation is a real issue in Brazil and rock spaces are a mirror of that. We take a look at the rise of Brazil's black punk scenes.

In a new short series, Okayafrica contributor Aude Konan will be highlighting little known black punk communities around the world, and how they work to gain more visibility within their local punk scenes.


This third part of the series focuses on the rise of Brazil's black punk scenes. Revisit our previous installments in the series: a portrait of France's Black Dragons and South Africa's black punks.

Seu Jorge said in an interview that “rock music is not pro-black.”

Racial segregation is a real issue in Brazil and rock spaces are a mirror of that. For Seu Jorge, rock music didn’t come from the black neighborhoods in Brazil, and the most popular bands seldom had black members.

Behind this quite controversial quote lies a valid criticism of the rock and punk scene in Brazil.

Brazilian punk has a long and complex history, starting back in the 1980s, during the golden age of post-punk with pioneer bands like Innocentes, Legião Urbana and Mercenárias (a band made entirely of women) appearing mostly in São Paulo, Rio Grande, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília.

Few of these bands had black and mixed-race members. Post-punk was huge in 1980s Brazil and labelled as revolutionary, but it got little exposure elsewhere.

A new wave appeared in the 1990s, with more black bands like Dead Fish, Nação Zumbi, Gritando HC, and MystifieR.

They weren’t afraid of being political, tackling issues like poverty and discrimination. In the case of the punk-metal band MystifieR, they openly called themselves black supremacists and forbade any kind of discrimination, racism, or prejudice.

They fought against racist skinheads when they first started as teenagers in 1989. Once they got international exposure, they received backlash for being one of the very few black rock bands around. Nonetheless, they kept their mission of creating a safe space for black punks.

The punk scene spread around and grew bigger and bigger, getting into the mainstream scene. Some, like Pavilhão 9 and Câmbio Negro were heavily influenced by both punk music and hip-hop, making music that reflected both genres.

Many of the 90s bands like Devotos and Dead Fish are still active a few decades later. The writer Fred Di Giacomo, who created the fanzine Afrociberdeli@ and the Gluck Project wrote in his brilliant essay how the punk scene back then was lower-middle class and definitely not welcoming for black Brazilians.

Very few bands were fronted or had black members. To listen to black people, you had to be into hip-hop, samba, funk or bossa nova, which were more diverse: coming from working class background, or queer bands, or other parts of the country, like the Northeast region.

Like in many countries were punk scenes appeared, the environment was incredibly white. The only thing is, a huge portion of Brazil’s population is of African descent. In 2010, a census revealed 50.7 percent of the Brazil population define themselves as black or mixed race.

In a country where many claim that there is no racism due to its various existing communities and the high number of mixed race people, people of African descent are still kept under wraps, and seldom represented, even more when it comes to punk scenes.

The industry has changed, the scene has changed and became more popular and black punks aim to create even more safe spaces, with newer bands like Boca D and the thrash-crossover outfit Subcut Grindcore Sepultura, the latter having toured internationally.

For a while now, Afro descendants in Brazil have been on the forefront of a few movements aimed at celebrating their origins and bringing about better representation in the media, like Afrikfest in São Paolo (celebrating all kind of music), or Meninas Black Power, a collective that promote black beauty and natural hair in different Brazilian states.

Deixa o cabelo da menina no mundo ? Imagem @escrevendoverso

A photo posted by Meninas Black Power ? (@meninasblackpower) on

The Facebook group Afro Punk Brasil was created in 2015 by Renato Oliveira, inspired by the documentary Afro Punk, as a way to gather punk enthusiasts of black descent in Brazil and create a community. They’re not affiliated with the festival, but define themselves as a cultural movement using music, dance and art to celebrate the contributions to the music and fashion scene of people of African descent.

So, what is next for the black punk in Brazil? With other musical genres like hip-hop becoming more popular, will the punk scene remain segregated? Or will a new, bigger one appear? With so many movements made by and for Afro descendants, punk music is not the focus anymore. And in a way, it’s not so bad.

Punk music in Brazil had for long lived in a very white space, and for half of a population that has been forced to stay silent for so long, assimilating that culture is no longer an option. Afro-Brazilians are creating spaces that go beyond punk, which may lead to new musical genres that will mix all these different influences to create something new, not so entangled in a past that hasn’t been relevant in years.

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Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio


The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.


Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th

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Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

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Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

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