“They offered me $25,000 to use my song, but offered a white songwriter friend $350,000; They don’t want to let the blacks win” – Samba singer Neguinho da Beija-Flor details racism in Brazil’s music industry
Racist practices in Brazil’s music industry are nothing new. From the belittling and violent oppression of samba musicians in the first few decades of the 20th century, to attempting to restrict black women to only singing in this genre, there is a whole untold story of how black artists have been treated. We see remnants of this today where black funk artists struggle to earn respect and promotion in the multi-billion real entertainment industry and black rappers see white rappers achieve success following a much easier path to fame and fortune. In Bahia, black Carnaval groups and blocos have long complained of being excluded from high visibility locations and lucrative endorsements while their white counterparts consistently get top billing, widespread promotion and bigger checks.
In an interview with the Extra newspaper, the famous sambista (samba singer) Neguinho da Beija-Flor spoke about recently turning 70 years old, and also took the time to comment on the black struggle for respect and equality in Brazil.
The artist whose real name is Luiz Antônio Feliciano Marcondes is one of Rio’s most well-known symbols of Carnaval and has been recording music since 1977. Speaking on how the industry treats black artists, he recalled a case that he considered striking, and which exemplifies racism in the world of Brazilian music:
“They called me asking me to authorize the use of the song “É campeão” in a national commercial for six months, and they offered me BRL $25,000. But I called a friend, a white songwriter with blue-eyes who got BRL $350,000 to release one of his songs, as well-known as mine. I didn’t (accept), of course.”
The artist is the author of the tune that is one of the most well-known songs in the world of futebol. And that wasn’t the only example he provided:
“I have already been offered BRL $10,000 to do an advertising campaign alongside a white actress who would earn BRL $150,000. I didn’t accept that either. Friboi (meat company) wanted to pay me BRL $1,000 to be their poster boy. Are they crazy? They don’t want to let the blacks win, but we will keep on fighting.”
Not holding back his criticism, the star also shared his views on futebol legend Pelé, who many Afro-Brazilian activists have criticized over the years for his silence on the race issue. Neguinho also believes “The King” of futebol denies the existence of racism in Brazil: “Pelé denies racism. I don’t. I was not embranquecido (whitened) by fame and money and I still suffer from it.”
The award-winning singer continued with his view on the cause of the Afro-Brazilian community: “A luta pelos direitos civis do negro (the struggle for the civil rights of blacks) is very important. Our history has been burned, little is yet known. That’s why it’s important to have initiatives like the museum and the collective of black artists.”
The artist refers to the Museu da História e Cultura Afrobrasileira (Museum of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture), the inauguration of which is scheduled for 2020. The museum is to be housed in the Docas Dom Pedro II building, in the port area of Rio de Janeiro. The museum is being constructed in homage to the historical importance of the site known as Cais do Valongo, the largest slave port in history, now considered a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Docas is also considered an important location for Brazil’s black community because it was made by the black engineer André Rebouças, who refused the use of slave labor 20 years before the abolition of slavery in 1888.
The largest port of entry for enslaved Africans in Latin America, on May 23 it received the official designation of World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The archaeological site was discovered in 2011, during excavations of the works of the Porto Maravilha.
Kátia Bogéa, the president of the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (Iphan), revealed that BRL$4 million will be spent on preparing the Cais do Valongo for visitation.
Information courtesy of Revista Fórum and EBC