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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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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rejoice! WhatsApp Places New Restrictions on Chain Messages to Fight Fake News

To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.

The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers."

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Sarkodie Hits Hard With His Latest Single 'Sub Zero'

The Ghanaian heavyweight rapper shows up with the fire bars over an Altra Nova-produced beat.

Sarkodie has dropped a new aggressive track in the shape of "Sub Zero."

"Sub Zero" follows the star Ghanaian rapper as he throws back criticisms that have come his way from other rappers with his own ice cold flow. The new track was produced by Ghanaian beatmaker Altra Nova and mixed by PEE On Da BeaT.

"Sub Zero" follows Sarkodie's turn-up single "Bumper," which dropped bak in February.

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