“There is no love in SP / The bars are full of empty souls / The greediness vibrates, the vanity excites.”
The lyrics above are about São Paulo, my hometown, but ironically I saw Criolo for the first time in Berlin.
This song was released in 2011. Listening to it again, I realise that unfortunately, not much has changed. If anything, Brazil has gotten worse.
Brazil is back on the world’s radar because of the Amazon fires. It’s been all over the news, and light has been shone on the words and actions of our not-so-politically-correct, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Our political situation is very complicated, to say the least.
You can’t talk about Criolo without talking about politics. If there’s an artist who has consistently criticised the system, it’s Criolo.
Never afraid to stir up a political debate and share his point of view, the Brazilian hip hop singer and MC has always been an advocate for minorities, calling out social injustices and supporting social welfare programs and the protection of the black Brazilian youth – a matter close to his heart, coming from a similar background.
The music video for his song Boca de Lobo shows just how much inequality still exists in Brazil, as well as the constant chaos the people must bear.
It shows supposed former first lady snorting coke while the masses fight on the streets. It shows the figure of council woman Marielle Franco, brutally murdered in 2018, amidst of the riots. And let’s not forget the tragedy of Mariana, where a dam broke and filling the whole city with heavy, harmful mud. Criolo creates an apocalyptic scenario based on facts.
Over the years, the MC has added new beats and electronic arrangements to his repertoire, creating something completely in his new single Éterea (ethereal). Here, Criolo fights against all stereotypes and clearly raises the LGBTQ+ flag by giving space to trans and non-binary performers in his video.
I had the chance to speak to Criolo ahead of his gig at YAAM this Sunday:
What can we expect to see – more Boca de Lobo or Éterea?
This Boca de Lobo tour was thought through with a lot of care. We’ve given new musical arrangements to the album, brought two new singles with us and will also play bits from each phase of my previous albums. So it’s really everything super new, full of care and very special.
How do you feel, touring in European whilst Brazil is all over the international news?
People are organizing themselves in the whole country and around the globe because of the Amazon. This is very important but I still don’t see anything real being made about what’s happening. There is a debauchery regarding people’s lives.
When people say that Brazil is going through a genocide of its black youth, our leaders mock them. Yet, this hard data is not a myth, it’s not folklore, it’s not made up – the black youth is being butchered. When we talk about the indigenous population being wiped out – murdered and having their land taken away, no action is being taken by those in charge. This is a mockery of us.
We are living in dark, gloomy times in which any action we take to restore respect, anything we do to go back to the human being, to the environment, is being trampled.
Éterea is very different from what you’ve produced before. What was your inspiration for this single?
Brazil is the country which kills the most. Our people are being assassinated.
In the world rankings, we come in third for countries that kill the most LGBTQ+ community members. This it inhuman, it’s cruel and lacks any form of respect. And this song is a request for us to really open up to dialogue, to contribute to a meeting of hearts, of people, of human beings. It’s a request to be conscious about the massacre that’s happening in Brazil.
My feeling is a feeling of resistance, of resilience, of somehow trying to connect with the world. My feeling is that music can make the bridge between people’s hearts and emotions.
We have people in power who ignore that racism exists. On national television, the President states that racism doesn’t exist, that it never existed. He does the least effort to improve the social problems in a country where misery and chaos are reigning.
Many of our advancements are moving backwards. People who speak up are arrested, teachers are being chased out. We are living in moment of total sadness. A depression is spreading amongst our youth and this is going to be an expensive bill to pay in the future.
I believe that we can get together with the youth of the world. From Berlin and from the countries we are visiting in Europe, I hope we can create a bigger force to fight all this.
I believe art can still provoke that feeling when we perceive ourselves as humans, and when we perceive ourselves as humans we perceive the other next to us. Then, only then, a miracle might happen.