São Paulo Fashion Week pays homage to ’70s music show Soul Train

black Brazilians

This post will be this blog’s second foray into the connection between African-American music and culture and its importation into Brazil in the 1970s. This topic was briefly touched upon last year in a post about singer Negra Li. Usually on this blog, the annual São Paulo Fashion Week or Fashion Rio are discussed in the context of their regular exclusion or extreme under-representation of black models, and in this year’s show, a controversial model parade that paid “homage” to black people by presenting models wearing brillo pad-like material as wigs. But this time around the blog’s coverage is about an eye-catching event that happened after the first day of one of the country’s biggest fashion events. Here is a snip from an article from GNT Globo that covered the event:


The Brazilian designer brand Cavalera ended the first day of presentations from its summer 2014 edition of SPFW (São Paulo Fashion Week) with a show of joy, soul, style and many nice surprises on the runway. Inspired by the 1970s American television show, Soul Train, which featured the likes of James Brown and Aretha Franklin who performed on its stage, the designer brand turned the program into a catwalk where the models turned into dancers, having as master of ceremonies the actor Tony Tornado, with many distinguished guests.

In the past decade or so, several writers have explored Afro-Brazilian social and cultural movements and/or African-American influences within them, including Michael Hanchard, David Covin, Kim Butler, Niyi Afolabi, Shawn Lindsey and too many Brazilian authors to name. The whole GNT Globo article on the SPFW actually discussed more the fashion details of the Cavalera sponsored event with the ode to Soul Train being only a backdrop. From this brief article, one would never know the long history of the cultural connection between this period in African-American history and how it was received in Brazilian, specifically, Afro-Brazilian social circles. The article also referred to cultural icon Tony Tornado as only an actor. Although most likely known by younger Brazilians as an actor in Brazilian novelas, Tornado was in fact a singer and dancer who had a huge influence on the development of black consciousness and black identity in Brazil as well as the “Brazilianization” of black American Soul music influences in the 1970s.
 Actor/dancer/singer Tony Tornado as the master of ceremonies

Tornado, whose given name is Antônio Viana Gomes, is often referred to as the “Brazilian James Brown” due to his JB-influenced dance steps and Soul music style that was completely different for Brazilian artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Tornado’s afro (called “black power” in Brazil), flashy, colorful clothes, platform shoes, slick dance steps and the black consciousness inspired lyrics in his two early ‘70s LPs and various singles are still referenced today as the beginning of a shift in black identity in Brazil in Afro-Brazil’s own “black and proud” cultural/political phase.

Tony Tornado, right, along with another popular ’70s black cultural icon, dancer Nelson Triunfo

It was fitting, but also ironic that Cavalera would call upon Tornado to present this nod to the iconic American musical show because it was Tornado who was targeted by Brazil’s military dictatorship as “subversive” and a “threat” to national security because of his potential to “wake up” masses of black Brazilians who had been taught to believe in Brazil’s mythical “racial democracy” and that they were not blacks but rather simply Brazilians. Due to this harassment, Tornado’s musical career ended after only two LPs and a handful of singles. It was also fitting because having lived in the United States for a period in the 1970s, Tornado actually appeared on the show twice.

Tony Tornado sings at the Cavalera sponsored ode to Soul Train

This blog will further explore Tornado’s impact on black Brazilian culture in the 1970s as well as the “Black Soul” movement as a whole in a future post, but for now, check out the pictures and videos! See more photos here and here.

Video: SPFW tribute to Soul Train
Video 2: SPFW tribute to Soul Train

Source: GNT Globo

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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