Spoek Mathambo’s newest video from Mshini Wam.

 

And all February I’ve been listening to Grace Jones’ version from 1980.

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Grace Jones-She Lost Control (Long Version)

(partial synthesis of posts on Pirate Antropologies)

Just over a week ago, as I settled onto a couch in MC Doca’s living room, a Globo News reporter announced that funk MCs had been sent to prison for apologizing crime. A YouTube video of MC Ticão and MC Frank singing about how FB, the dono (owner) of the recently police-invaded Morro de Alemão was hiding out in rival faction Rocinha. The report next showed an armed blond police woman–with heavy makeup and perfect hair–shouting and banging on an apartment door. The camera revealed two shirtless, tattooed MCs, Frank and Ticão, who are brothers, blinking away sleep. Cut to a table with a watch, a ring, and a few chains. “The police encountered various gold chains” the reporter intoned. Tremendously successful MCs with gold chains?!? How incriminating!

MC Smith, MC Max, and MC Didô had also been imprisoned. They also lived in the two communities recently occupied by the police: Morro de Alemão and Villa Cruzeiro. The deputy accused the MCs of using the Internet to share music making “apologizing” crime and criminals, forming a gang (with the other MCs), associating with traffickers, and doing “marketing” (yes, she used the English word) for drugs and criminal factions.

Next the report announced that MC Galo of Rocinha had been arrested in a traffic blitz in Leblon. He had an arrest warrant for marijuana possession from 1998 and for singing “proibidão” (“very prohibited” music). The police evidence? A YouTube video of Galo singing in Leandro HBL’s and Diplo’s Favela on Blast. None of the press using the clips contacted Leandro to ask permission. And whenever Leandro has used Globo’s footage, he’s had to pay. A lot.

The video, which Globo used, is Galo’s top hit on YouTube.  The clip, they chose, compares the hard life of the MC to the hard life of a drug-seller. It’s not, even “proibidão.” So, why did Globo weave Galo–who had been arrested a day earlier–into the story? Perhaps to build sentiment against Rocinha, a community speculated as a target for police invasion and “pacification.”

Predictably, none of the reports look at the roots of “forbidden” funk–which refer to drugs, violence, and criminal factions. A common story among funkeiros goes that in the mid-nineties when the various judges prohibited bailes funk in clubs, typically in working class suburbs, the parties and the music moved into favelas. Farther away from police repression, some bailes began to be financed by criminal factions. At the same time funk’s base in Miami Bass & freestyle evolved into the Candomblé- and samba-influenced tamborzão beat.

I visited the MCs in prison yesterday along with MC Leonardo, the president of APAFUNK, and DJ Marlboro, who’s credited with recording the first “funk carioca” album in 1989. We met with the MCs in a classroom above the underground prison. After one guard allowed us to enter with cameras and voice recorders,  another returned to confiscate the camera and voice recorder of two human rights reporters. I hid my point-and-shoot camera. Until the guard came back shouting, “The meeting is over! Stop singing. No cameras!”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEZtdKteKm0[/youtube]

When asked if he ever expected to be jailed for his songs, MC Smith responded, “This is a political game that’s happening in Brazil now, so yes…. Ivete Sangalo lives in Bahia. And what’s that? Carnaval, carnaval ‘fora da epoca’ [out-of-season, all the time] and she sings about what happens. And I live in a community that was taken over by the state… one of the most dangerous in the world. And I live in a community with a high risk of violence, a criminal base, high rates of prostitution. And therefore I’ll sing what I live. And what I think. This is freedom of expression. Not only me, but for Max, Ticão, Frank, Didô.”

When will the criminalization of funk carioca stop? People point out how City of God is “proibidão” that was Oscar-nominated. Yet, funk suffers prejudice unlike high-class art. After the police invaded Vila Cruzeiro and Morro de Alemão and failed to capture “bandits,” it seems that they chose easier targets: MCs with “proibidão” videos on YouTube.

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MC Galo-Funk-Se Quem Quiser (words MC Dolores)

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MC Smith e MAG- Aqui o Bagulho é Doido

"ABC of Citizen Jail: Graduating Citizens"
"Suffering and Smiling"

TC reached into the roots of one plants on the table. “It’s a baobob,” he told me, “My daughter brought me some seeds from Africa. This tree is also the symbol of Rede Mocambo.” In Portuguese “rede” means network, and “mocambo” is the traditional, thatch building of quilombos, maroon communities of escaped slaves in Brazil. Quilombos continue to this day. TC heads Casa Tainã, a cultural center and initiator of the Rede, in a “modern quilombo” on the periphery of a small city in the interior of São Paulo.  TC told me that he plants a Baobob sapling in each “quilombo” which is part of Rede Mocambo.

The project started when Casa Tainã gained partnership with state-backed Digital Inclusion programs with access to technological resources and computers, and began to set up Internet telecenters in quilombos in the Southeast of Brazil. From these social, knowledge, and material exchanges, a “Quilombo Network” began to take root. Now the Rede extends through almost all the Brazilian states (even though not all quilombos have Internet yet because some don’t have electricity).

How do you get computers to the projects? I asked. “With old computers we practice ‘meta-recycling,’ transforming the computers to give them a new life” Robson, also of Casa Tainã told me. In the quilombos they show them how to practice metarecyling, to install free software, to access the Internet, and to make a video or to record a song. And “the quilombo production will then circulate on the ‘rede,’ the Internet.”

TC said that “this network was created as a tool to fight for and ensure our rights. Communication in a network generates greater understanding of quilombo and black struggles. We have to use the new open technologies to construct with them.”

Robson added that the Rede’s goal is also “to discuss the right to land, the right to religion, the right to culture, not hierarchical culture, but horizontal…. And the goal of the network is to think of a new cartography of African identity.”

“And in terms of cartography,” Robson continued, “The baobob connects all the quilombos in the network to Africa. It’s a remembrance of who they were before slavery, when we were kings and queens.”

TC told me that he also brings seeds from each of the quilombos that he visits to plant back to Casa Tainã and in other quilombos in the network. He had just returned from a regional Rede Mocambo Encounter in Northeastern Brazil. Cacao pods from Quilombo João Rodrigues in Bahia were drying in the sun.

“Palmares was destroyed by cannons. Now the big cannon is the media. But with decentralization of the means of communication and with new open technologies, we also have cannons. Imagine if Palmares had had the Internet. We have a tool for revolution,” TC.