Note from BW of Brazil: The city of Rio de Janeiro is of course famous for many things. Its breathtaking views and beaches. The Christ the Redeemer statue. The Maracanã futebol stadium that recently hosted the 2014 World Cup Final won by Germany. These are just a few of the city’s attractions. Rio is also home to a vibrant black culture. The roots of bailes black (black dances) came out of the tremendous influence African-American Soul and Funk music had on its Afro-Brazilian following of the era. From there, to the continuation of bailes funk (funk dances) and bailes charmes, these parties still represent where one can get a taste feel of the black cultural experience in Brazil.
At these parties that are frequented by well-dressed mostly black men and women aged 18-35, one is sure to hear the latest sounds of American superstars such as Chris Brown and Beyoncé as well as legendary icons such as Michael Jackson, James Brown and everyone in between. Adding to the often times one-sided cultural exchange, on the Rio stop of her world tour, Beyoncé herself paid homage to the popular funk and passinho styles coming out of primarily Afro-Brazilian communities. To keep up on the latest fashion trends and releases by international stars such as Beyoncé, her husband Jay-Z, or other stars, one can even buy gym shoes, baseball caps, CDs and DVDs at these dances. A sort of world within a world, these bailes are yet another place Afro-Brazilians have carved out where they can be proud of their race and their culture, briefly sheltered from Brazil’s obsessive “dictatorship of whiteness” in nearly every realm of society.
The bailes of Madureira: The “charme” of blackness in Rio de Janeiro
For nearly 25 years, the famous baile charme (charm dance) has rocked the Viaduto Negrão de Lima in the Rio neighborhood of Madureira. The beat of the samba and the hip shaking of the mulatas from the Acadêmicos da Rocinha Samba School in São Conrado gives way to the swing of black music and the choreographed “passinho” steps of the parties that carry nicknames like ‘Soul + Black’.
The bailes began in 1990 when a group of friends got authorization from Viaduto de Madureira, in Praça das Mães, to put on the “Charm na Rua (Charme in the Street)” project, which would happen every Saturday. The first dance featured DJs Markin New Charm, Kally and Loopy and guests DJ Malboro, Fernandinho and Corello.
In 1995, the project was renamed “Projeto Rio Charme”, and reformed its dependencies, for the control and safety of the public. Today, Viaduto is recognized by the State Government as a center of popular concentration, responsible for the diffusion of black culture in Rio de Janeiro.
In addition to weekly events and awards, the space has hosted many international and national attractions such as Chingy, Montell Jordan, Keith Sweat, Darrius, Rah Digga, Negra Li, Quelynah, Nina Black, Sampa Crew, Dughettu, Sandra de Sá, Racionais MCs and others.
Baile Charme in Madureira
In command of the sounds, DJ Corello, inventor of the term ‘charme’ in the 80s and an icon of the Viaduto Madureira parties. “The name ‘charme’ came about because it was too hard to pronounce the guys to pronounce ‘rhythm n’ blues’. The genre has always had its ghetto in Zona Norte, or the north zone of Rio de Janeiro. Now Zona Sul (South Zone), that consumes fashion, seems its getting a little of tired of música eletrônica (electronic music). Hopefully it’s not just a fad, I want to plant a seed so that more rhythm n’ blues parties come about,” says Corello.
He takes to Rocinha his dream team: DJs Guto and R!Jay, residents of the baile de Madureira, DJs and guest Nepal, the requested soul DJ of the new generation. Just important as the sound, the dance and the outfits complete the nights of the charme. Therefore, in addition to DJ-ing, the climate of this suburban dance at the foot of Rocinha is also guaranteed by the beautiful mulheres negras (black women) and their afros, which will parade in the middle of the crowd and indulge themselves on the dance floor.
“There are choreographed passinho steps, but they can also dance alone, as long as it’s charme!” reveals Simone Criolla, an administration student and producer responsible for the selection of the team of models and dancers.
Dream Team do Passinho
:The idea is to do it once a month,” guarantees Jerônimo Machado, producer of artists like Fernanda Abreu and also the one responsible for the party. “With the advent of the UPPs (Police Pacification Units), I thought about putting into the community a proposal of the baile black (black dance), that I attended for a while, and bring fun to the community that was deprived of bailes funk (funk dances), so as not to get that story of the traficante (drug dealer) who left and nothing else happens. I distributed 400 tickets to the people of Rocinha and another 400 for the guys there from Madureira,” says Machado, who took advantage of the event to celebrate his 53rd birthday.
At 57 years of age, Marco Aurélio Ferreira, aka DJ Corello, is preparing a book recounting his long history of experience in the dances. “I’m writing, I want to release it this year still. I’ll talk about the influence of black American music in Brazil, telling the story of the sound teams of names like Big Boy and Ademir, and I will also speak of the transformations that radio went through,” describes Corello.
An authority on the subject, he makes a rant about the myth surrounding the baile in ‘Dutão’ (as the Viaduto Negrão de Lima is affectionately called). “Madureira is not like the people of south zone think. The dance brings together a satisfactory number of people, but it could be triple, with caravans coming from the south zone, only that it doesn’t have sufficient bathrooms, no structure. It’s worth improving, but it needs large companies that look after the motion,” he suggests.
It was in late summer 2012 when much of the Brazilian viewing audience began watching a new saga on primetime TV. The novela would soon grow its the audience. Set in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, the story by writer João Emanuel Carneiro, Avenida Brasil, became a public phenomenon until the last chapter, in October of the same year.
At that time, DJ Michel could hardly suppose that the Madureira neighborhood known for its diversity of cultural movements, would enter the list of tourist destinations of the city and the novela multiplied the number of visitors of the famous baile charme beneath the Viaduto Negrão de Lima, the old Madureira overpass, where Michel has resided for twenty years.
Proud to operate one of the most highly rated dances for supporters of “passinho do charme”, Michel ensures that the ball of the overpass already appears as a cultural reference of Madureira, perhaps every suburb. “The dance was stopped for three weeks because of a reform to improve onsite security. A frequenter stopped me in the street and said he was getting sick of not being able to go to the Viaduto on Saturday nights. It was then that I realized the importance of my work and this space.” He believes that, from a cultural standpoint, for Madureira the dance is as important as the samba schools Portela and Império Serrano, in addition to Jongo da Serrinha.
In the novela, “Baile do Divino”, a fictitious name for the dance, the character Darkson (José Loretto) is one of the dancers of charme and a resident of Divino, inspired by the Madureira neighborhood. The actor took classes with dancers to make the character a “charmeiro” (attendee of charme dances). DJ Michel account that after characters like Darkson began appearing on the scene, the number of visitors has risen gradually. “Before the novela, we had an audience of 90% of natives and the remaining 10% were visitors. After the dancing began to appear in the novela, the number of visitors rose to 40% and the local people who hadn’t returned for some time came back.” Adriano, 37, an attendee since the age of 15, confirms the words of the DJ. “I came straight to the baile charme, but I stopped for while. I went back after it started coming on the novela.”
In the Carnival of 2013, the Portela samba school featured Madureira as its theme and the overpass, of course, could not be left out. The school had a wing and a float dedicated to the movement, with great influence of black culture in the United States.
Under the overpass the straightening iron is out
It’s not hard to find girls with an innovative look and a “Black Power” (afro) hairstyle under the Negrão de Lima overpass. Some say that the charme dance is where the blacks of Rio truly find themselves. Accepting cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) is more than an attitude. It’s facing prejudice directly, without fear of criticism. At this dance, the chapinha (hair flattening iron) is out. “Out there I feel a certain prejudice for I having natural hair. I’m another one who threw the prancha (chapinha) out and decided to wear a hairstyle with more roots. Here I feel at home. We are family. Everyone knows and respects each other,” says Ana Paula, who is a technician in radiology.
Student Kirse Lima has attended the dance for four years. She met her boyfriend there. She notes that, historically, it’s the suburb where one finds the largest number of Afro-Brazilians. And at the charme dances, which take place in ghettos, the tendency is most blacks being among the regulars. But the presence of other races doesn’t bother her, she says: “The interaction between different tribes is characteristic of the space.”
Learning the various passinhos to the sound of American rhythms such as R&B and Soul was a challenge for the student Paloma. Not that it was difficult, she explains, but because there are some that require practice. “There are many passos (steps). The best school for learning them is practicing here every Saturday.”
Source: O Dia, Viva Favela, Catraca Livre, Delas iG