Hip-hop music played a central role in the formation of a cohesive Afro-Brazilian identity, Jaqueline L. Santos contended in a presentation of her research on the rise of the genre in Sao Paulo, Brazil as part of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute’s Spring Colloquium Series on Wednesday.
Santos, who currently holds a fellowship at the Hiphop Archive at Harvard University, spoke about how funk and soul music from the United Sates and later hip-hop music imported from New York City helped unify Afro-Brazilians.
“Sao Paulo and New York have a similar history of population growth, and hip-hop had a similar effect among marginalized populations in both cities,” she said.
Santos explained the spread of trends in Afro-Brazilian popular culture, including hip-hop, during the late 20th century from Sao Paulo to neighboring cities through social pathways she called “black corridors.”
Even though Brazilian hip-hop took its inspiration from its American counterpart, Santos noted some differences in the places the two occupy in their respective societies today. For instance, Brazilian hip-hop does not have the widespread airplay in Brazil that its American counterpart does.
“In Brazil, hip-hop and rap music [are] protest music,” said Santos.
But Santos said that, despite its lack of mainstream appeal, hip-hop has done much to empower the marginalized contingent of Afro-Brazilians in Sao Paulo. As evidence of the degree to which the hip-hop movement has gained political significance, Santos showed one photograph of a meeting between a delegation from the hip-hop movement of Brazil and then-president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Her presentation focused on the hip-hop movement’s spread from New York to Sao Paulo, but Santos stated that she believes the genre now has a significance that extends beyond the United States or Brazil. She said that hip-hop has forged connections among young hip-hop enthusiasts in Brazil to like-minded individuals as far away as Europe and Africa.
“I think hip-hop connects black youth in every country of the world,” she said.
The lecture attracted both students and other scholars in the field.
“I think it was wonderful to see the connection between African-American hip-hop and Brazilian hip-hop, but especially to see what is unique and political and creative and historical about this movement,” said Dr. Lorelle D. Semley, a W.E.B. DuBois Institute fellow and professor at College of the Holy Cross who attended the event.