Rio youth explore possibilities beyond stereotypes of funk and futebol and show talents on the violin



Note from BW of Brazil: In Brazil, black youth from poor neighborhoods are stereotyped in a number of ways. It is believed that aspirations and possibilities in life revolve around futebol (soccer), the funk or Samba musical style or a life of crime. No doubt, in regards to the latter, this contributes to the high rates of murder of black youth. When they fall into one of these categories, society either labels them as exceptions to the rule, are shocked into disbelief or attempt to stereotype them regardless. With their musical talent and the lucky break of a generous stranger, the young Paixão boys in Rio are bucking the stereotypes and showing their capabilities on instruments usually associated with classical music.

BW of Brazil would like to wish the boys perseverance, success and acceptance because, as we have seen before, when black people break the stereotype, society quickly tries to put them back “in their place”. Need proof? See reactions when a young black girl aspired to be a ballet dancer, a young man sought to sing opera music, another young man attended a private school and a number of women sought to sing other forms of music besides Samba. As black kids provoke fear everywhere from BMW dealerships, pharmacies and shopping malls, we can only hope these obstacles don’t deter these talented youngsters. 

Complexo do Alemão reveals young musical talents

The dream of the twins Natanael and Gabriel da Paixão is playing at the Theatro Municipal

Text by Juliana Alcantara and Soraya Batista/Photo: Agnaldo Santana

The twin brothers Natanael and Gabriel de Jesus da Paixão, both 12, residents of the Complexo do Alemão, are experiencing a special moment in their lives. Violin students of the Projeto Ação Social pela Música do Brasil (Social Action through Music Project of Brazil), they’re used to performing in the Palmeiras do Teleférico subway station on weekends. In one of these presentations, a man passing by stopped to listen to the songs that were being played and was thrilled with the talent of the boys. At the end of the show, he approached them to talk.

Encouraged by an admirer who gave him a violin as a gift, Gabriel da Paixão wants to be a soloist in an orchestra
Encouraged by an admirer who gave him a violin as a gift, Gabriel da Paixão wants to be a soloist in an orchestra

“He introduced himself and explained that he liked music and had been impressed with their performance. Then he asked for my phone (number). When he called me, he asked if the violins from the performance belonged to my children and when I said no, he offered to give them new instruments. And a few days later he brought the violins,” says the housewife, Débora de Jesus da Paixão, mother of twins.

The violins Natanael and Gabriel played belonged to the musical project that tends to children of pacified communities (UPP) (1). Having their own instruments was an old dream of Débora’s children but that couldn’t happen since a violin costs an average of R$250 (US$113) to R$3,000 (US$1,359). In other words, a hefty price tag that didn’t fit into the Paixão family budget.

Débora da Paixão: An admirer donated the violins to her sons
Débora da Paixão: An admirer donated the violins to her sons

“They were very happy. They never imagined that such a thing would happen in their lives. I was also very moved. It is very difficult for us to see such a nice gesture from someone without wanting anything in return,” said Mrs. Débora.

The donor of the violins asked to remain anonymous, but will not be forgotten anytime soon by the family. Currently the boys are no longer playing more in Palmeiras station, so Débora did not know if the benefactor returned to the place. But despite not meeting him again, she said she is very grateful for the gifts given to her children.

Natanael wanted to play guitar but the sound of the violin enchanted him
Natanael wanted to play guitar but the sound of the violin enchanted him

Natanael and Gabriel’s connection to music began in unusual ways. Nathanael learned through a friend near his home that music lessons were being offered by the Ação Social pela Música do Brasil project. He went to check it out, liked it, took his two brothers Gabriel and Giliard and divulged the project to other youth in the community.

“At first he thought it was guitar lessons and was surprised when he saw that they were violin lessons. But then decided to do it and liked it. I never imagined that my children would be interested in this type of instrument, so far from our reality. But I’m proud, they play very well and want to be professional musicians,” says the boys’ mother.

Little Gileard performs his first notes on the cello
Little Gileard performs his first notes on the cello

Gabriel says he and his brothers had never taken a music class, but quickly learned how to play the instrument and can already read music. The boy has bold plans for the future: “I imagine soloing in an orchestra.” Nathanael already says his goal is to be a music teacher. “For me, the performances we give are like training, because when I go to the Municipal Theater I will already be accustomed to it.”

Gileard, 7, the youngest of the family, saw his older brothers playing violin and also began to follow the lessons. “He was playing tambourine in the church,” commented Débora proudly with the gift of her three children for music. “Over the weekend we wake up with them playing. I’m happy because my kids moving forward.”

Marcio Marins, coordinator of Alemão da Ação Social pela Música do Brasil, sees the activity as positive because it improves interpersonal relationships. Another issue is the joy of seeing children engaged positively with their future. “Three years ago they only knew funk. Now, the world has opened up to another perspective.”

Source: Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora


1. The Pacifying Police Unit (Portuguese: Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, also translated as Police Pacification Unit), abbreviated UPP, is a law enforcement and social services program pioneered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which aims at reclaiming territories, more commonly favelas, controlled by gangs of drug dealers. The program was created and implemented by State Public Security SecretaryJosé Mariano Beltrame, with the backing of Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral. The stated goal of Rio’s government is to install 40 UPPs by 2014. By May 2013, 231 favelas had come under the UPP umbrella. Source

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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