The Selvática Karina Buhr – Music, Feminism, Activism and Brazilian Punk
By Sarah Luisa Santos . October 7, 2016
For those who don’t know, Brazilian music has a long tradition of female singers. I like the MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) from the ’70s, with the likes of Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa.
Karina Buhr is a modern addition to this list of great names, and does not disappoint when it comes to keeping our line of strong, female Brazilian singers with maracatu, a typical music style from Recife, North Brazil, flowing in her blood.
Here in Berlin, the singer has already performed with Metá Metá, and now she is preparing for another run of concerts and the launch of her book “Desperdiçando Rima” (in English, this would be something like wasting rhymes) at A Livraria, a bookshop in Torstrasse that sells Portuguese literature.
I had the pleasure to meet her for a short interview. Here’s a bit of what we talked about:
Your surname is Buhr. Where does this name come from? And how did you come to be in Berlin?
My Grandfather, my mother’s father, was German and went to Brazil in 1935. I have a very strong connection to Germany and relatives spread around here (Rostock, Köln, Hamburg, München, Büsum). I guess the only connection missing is my fluency in German (laughs).
I love Berlin and I took the chance to stay a bit longer after my concert with Metá Metá. After that, other concert opportunities started to pop up, and I also got the chance to launch my book here. I’m very happy with that. And I also have a band that follows me here: Leo Barreto (bass), Ignatz Bee (guitar), Seb Thieme (drums) and Malte Bogner (keyboard). And one of my concerts will be only me and Pyrolator (Kurt Dahlke).
A brief history: how did you start out with music?
I started being a percussionist and singing in maracatus like Estrela Brilhante do Recife e Piaba de Ouro. Then I formed a band called Comadre Fulozinha, later on I took part in another band called Eddie, I also played with DJ Dolores, and so many people… and nowadays I’m a solo artist.
How would you define your style today (your previous work had elements of punk)?
I have a strong punk influence in my work – not only when it’s related to the songs, but also in the way I’m dealing with it – being an independent producer and participating in every step of the musical production.
I played percussion on my last three records and the sound has lots of heavy guitar sounds. But I compose music with a voice drum, and that’s also very strong. So here and there even not so evident, the work has a certain flair of ciranda, baião, ijexá. Anyway, of course some songs are just pure rock ‘n’ roll and that’s it (laughs).
But, I never forget my deepest musical influences, that comes naturally from the carnival of Pernambuco – where in the same day you can listen from rock to frevo, maracatu, caboclinho, la ursa… under a 40°C scalding sun and with all the women in the world.
Talking about women, you are also known for being a feminism activist. The cover of your latest album, Selvática, clearly shows female empowerment. What’s your relationship with this topic?
Feminism is something that has always been part of my life since I was little. This is a daily topic in my family and on the streets. And with time, this has got bigger and bigger and it got into my music and I go on living this very everyday actively.
In Brazil I take part in meetings with the National Front of Abortion Legalization. I also make the digital fanzine Sexo Ágil, I take part in debates, I write, draw and I’m also part of collectives like Deixa Ela em Paz, Vaca Profana, CFEMEA, TPM Magazine, Gorda and Sapatão among others.
The last 28th of September was the international day for the abortion legalization in the Caribbean and Latin America, where many videos, texts and actions took place online, where people were talking about the subject for 24 hours. In Brazil we live in the middle ages when it comes to women’s rights; over their bodies (and who suffers most are the black poor women), but we did have some great developments with debates and this is very beautiful and incendiary.
For the album cover I thought about portraying a warrior, mixing symbols and adding a vintage cinema atmosphere. It’s nothing really obvious, but I had these ideas in mind. So, this cover was produced by my sister, Priscilla Buhr, and pictures were taken at the river Capibaribe, Recife. The name of the album I took from the Book of Genesis, where wild animals (selvático in Portuguese) were venomous animals. I made an analogy with the way women are portrayed in the bible and treated in real life, I thought selváticos also works for all of us. And the lyrics of Selvática are a poem that retells poorly told stories for us women.
How was it to produce a totally crowd-funded album?
Actually it was a pre-sale of the album and from my book, illustrations, t-shirts, among other things on the Kickante website. This decision was made to raise money to make the record in a completely independent way.
The download is for free on my website, and I think this is the best way to share my work and have a more direct relationship with my audience. People listen to the music, then go to my concerts and buy my CD and follow my work more closely. I think this is a much better way to deal with my work than have this barrier of the “buy” before people can actually get to know my music.
I’m not part of any record label, so this kind of decision always falls into my hands.
Do you have anything upcoming for Berliners?
I’m preparing for a concert with Kurt Dahlke (Pyrolator) on the 29.10 at Villa Neukölln. We are currently producing some new pieces together.
I must say I identify a lot with this city, but also at the same time I find many things weird about it. But I like it.
8.10 – Noize Fabrik – Elsenstr. 52
14.10 – Heimlich (Ballhaus) – Naunynstr. 27
28.10 – Poetry Slam Desperdiçando Rima, at Aviatrix Café (following the program Brasilien trifft Berlin, at A Livraria) – Herrfurthstr. 13
29.10 – Karina Buhr und Pyrolator – Villa Neukölln – Hermannstr. 233
Images from: Jorge Bispo (cover story) Priscila Buhr (album) and Guilherme Conte (concert in Berlin).