Taking the lid off the Black Rio movement and música soul : the shifting terms of race and citizenship in Rio de Janeiro
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In this project, I situate the Black Rio movement and Brazilian música soul within a history of representations of black Brazilian masculinities in music. I do so in order to trace changing conceptualizations of race and citizenship in 1970s Rio de Janeiro. I seek to move beyond the existing literature which judges the Black Rio movement on its political expediency while ignoring its historico-cultural context. That is, prior works tend to pit black soul musicians and dancers against the mostly-white, middle-class intellectuals who have historically made determinations about black Brazilians, and in doing so these works have judged the Black Rio movement a political failure. Instead, I focus on the agency asserted by black Brazilian musicians and dancers in representing themselves and in creating alternative places for the enactment of their identities in opposition to the normative expectations of Blackness and standards of masculinity. Beginning in the 1920s and the 1930s, expectations for black masculine behavior were tied to restrictive, demeaning representations of the malandro in samba music and of afrobrasilidade in Carnaval celebrations. These representations were influenced by changing attitudes towards race in the context of national consolidation and the propagation of the myth of racial democracy, which recognized racial difference while not recognizing extant racial inequality. Entrenched modes of thinking and normative modes of being were adamantly challenged by soul musicians and dancers in the 1970s. Through the adoption of U.S. funk and soul music and strong masculine imagery associated with the Black Power movement, black Brazilians appropriated and resignified international symbols in order to forge a new black identity. In doing so, soul musicians and dancers carved alternative spaces for themselves, and renegotiated the terms of their inclusion in the Brazilian nation. This paper considers the shifting place of Blackness in Brazil through an analysis of visual, aural and lyrical representations of Blackness in music and in the critical reception of that music. I argue that funk and soul music played a key role in destabilizing the restrictive notion of afrobrasilidade held by mainstream Brazilian society, enabling new ways of being both black and Brazilian.