The empowerment of black women with music: Tamara Franklin renovates rap and presents her discourse in defense of mulheres negras

tamara franklin 3
tamara franklin 3

Tamara Franklin (3)

Note from BW of Brazil: “Why do we need empowerment for black women? Shouldn’t we just have empowerment for ALL women? After all, ALL women are oppressed by a sexist system. You’re being divisive!” This is the sort of comment I would expect from someone reading the title of this article and doesn’t understand the system of white supremacy. It is the same discussion that happens within feminist circles when black women attempt to merge with white women only to discover that most white women don’t understand that even as they although they are victims of sexist system, they don’t see their racial privilege, and as such, ignore demands made by black women. White women can’t/won’t see that they are the standard of beauty constantly upheld on magazine covers and beauty contests, are placed on a pedestal when men (of all races) seek lifelong partners and, for many, represent the ideal mother figure. No one will say to a a white woman politician that she looks like someone who serves coffee because it is the black women who most Brazilians associate with housework and service.

These are but a few of the reasons that so many are calling for the empowerment of black women. Empowerment in politics. Empowerment in entrepreneurialism. Empowerment the production of films. Empowerment through music. This last genre is what the artist featured in today’s post is all about. Through her message, her image and her discourse, she wants to encourage millions of black women to empower themselves in Brazilian society and let the world know that black women can do anything that any other group of women can do given the opportunity. 

tamara franklin (4)

Tamara Franklin renovates rap and presents her discourse in defense of black women

Incorporating styles such as baião, African beats and reggae, she is one of the prominent performers on the Minas Gerais hip-hop scene

By Shirley Pacelli

‘If 2015 was the year of women, in 2016 will be even heavier,’ predicts Tamara Franklin

“Turbante coroa/felina leoa/ tambores de Gana/ dona da savana.”

“Turban crown/feline lioness/ drums from Ghana/owner of the Savannah.”

Tamara Franklin (2)

With a strong feminist discourse and especially in defense of the black woman, the track “Vem e vê” (Come and see) is only one of the “gems” of Anônima, the debut album of rapper Tamara Franklin, from Ribeirão das Neves. The CD, which was pre-released in December, on Matrix, is already on sale online.

At 24, Tamara is a promising name on the Minas Gerais hip-hop scene, which has been dominated by talented women as Zaika dos Santos, Bárbara Sweet and Clara Lima. Tamara’s contact with music was made at the age of 8 years in a church in her community. The congregation, led by a woman developed works related to the periphery. It was a sermon on the importance of the unsung heroes of history that came the name of the CD title track (meaning anonymous) – a project that is far from being labeled as gospel.

Tamara Franklin-part.-Thiagão-PAI

Very much connected to racial issues, Tamara soon made connection with women who accomplished something significant and didn’t have their names registered in so-called “official” history such as Aqualtune, queen of the Congo who led an army in Africa and in Brazil – as a slave – she was grandmother of Zumbi dos Palmares. “My sound represents so many other anonymous who don’t have a space and voice to speak,” says the rapper.

“Anônima” opens the disc and soon surprises by the sound of fifes (flutes). The basis of the sample was made from the song “Baião destemperado”, from the CD Corpo do som (2002), by Barbatuques, the instrumental group from São Paulo. The flow is tight and the beat invites you to dance. Produced by Easy CDA, of Xeque Mate Produções, the album has 11 tracks that mix the classic beats of rap with reggae, samba, cânticos afros (African songs) and even the sound of fifes.

Tamara Franklin - Tipicamente Brasileiro (Clipe Oficial 1080p
Still from Tamara Franklin’s video “Tipicamente Brasileiro”

The lyrics are pure social criticism and cover topics like the beauty of black women, ostentation and racial prejudice. “The CD speaks of what I saw, I think and I see within my context and of my era in a timeline that I know exists,” explains Tamara.

From Baião to reggae. “Hey Jah” features the participation of Gordão, of the Uai Sound System, Look and Simimi Ni Moyo, a rapper from Luanda (Angola). The pop tune “A alma nos une” features the participation of Mozambicans Adriana Chyale and Pisco Mazuze, and Black W, of the Morro das Pedras. Tamara says that she has the habit of looking for the work of independent African artists. “We started talking and created this connection,” she says.

Tamara Franklin - Tamara em apresentação da Virada Cultural 2015, em setembro (foto - Eduardo Tristão Girão)
Tamamra Franklon performs at the

A special partnership and probably the most touching track on the disc is “Mãe preta”, meaning ‘black mother’. The 1954 tune is by the famous sambistas gauchos (samba musicians from Rio Grande do Sul) Piratini and Caco Velho.

“Era assim que mãe preta fazia/ criava todo o branco com muita alegria/ Porém, lá na senzala o seu pretinho apanhava/ Mãe preta mais uma lágrima enxugava.”

“This is how the black mother did it/raised all the whites with a lot of joy/However, there in the slave quarters your little black boy you beat/Black mother wiped another tear.”

Tamara shares the verses with her father, Mark Franklin, who sang the song to her and her sisters.

Tamara Franklin - 'Anônima', o 1º disco de Tamara Franklin
Tamara Franklin CD ‘Anônima’

“It’s the music that most moves me, it has a very strong message. It changes me. In the pre-release of the CD, my father took the stage with me. Destabilized me. I held back tears. And he has that thing of passing on calm, wisdom,” says Tamara. The patriarch is also the voice that opens the CD. “It’s to bless the work,” says Tamara.

“Maravilhosamente simples” brings a sample of “Saudosa maloca”, a 1955 composition of (old school sambista) Adoniran Barbosa. “Tipicamente brasileiro”, that closes the disc also starts with samba and is another strength of the project. “This completely escaped from my writing process. I hear a beat and I always write on top of an instrumental. This I woke up with the chorus. ‘‘Quer me chatear fala do meu cabelo/Quer me chatear fala dos meus parceiros’ (‘You want to piss me off talking about my hair/You want to piss me off talking about my partners’). My friend Look dared me to do an all-rhythmic rap. I accepted and it worked,” says the rapper. The chorus, as she herself assumes, is one of those that sticks and spends the whole day in your head.

For Tamara, nothing is a rule in hip-hop: “Some people don’t like this dialogue of rap with other styles, others propose even bolder steps. It has to do with the own influences themselves,” concluded Tamara.

Tamara Franklin_Pablo Bernardo

“Na Pele”“Mais uma preta marrenta, vinda das ruas barrentas” (Another hard-headed black woman, coming from the muddy streets). From the lyrics of Anônima comes the urgency of discussing the struggle of black women. Tamara suffered everything na pele (up close). “We’re ugly, smelly, hair ‘like this’. I grew up seeing white women as the great icons of beauty and hearing that I was a macaca (monkey),” she says.

The singer recalls that the black woman is permanently harassed by the society, that doesn’t see her as good enough for a relationship or position, but promotes the hyper-sexualization of her body. “Besides this, most are single mothers who have to take care of everything at home. She who buries her son. Most of the dead youths are black. It is she who will be abused in clinical when she has the baby. The highest rate of femicide and domestic violence are among us,” adds Tamara.

Thus, the rapper sees the importance of preaching the empowerment of black women with her music. And the project has been effective. It has become common girls, having pride in their black powers (afros), send to her videos singing “Tipicamente brasileiro”. “The best weapon we have against this prejudice is to recognizing oneself as capable and beautiful. I’m black and this does not make me less than anyone else,” she says.

Recently, Tamara rehearsed “Maria da Vila Matilde”, of the acclaimed disc A mulher do fim do mundo, by Elza Soares, and is considering adopting it in the repertoire of her shows. “You think she has done everything marvelous and there’s no way to pass it. Then she brings more strength, messages and discussions. She transcends any explanation. It’s the best campaign against violence against women I’ve ever seen. And she did it in a light way, with all her energy,” she praises.

In her performances, Tamara sings “A mulher do fim do mundo” (woman of the end of the world), including the chorus of “Cilada” by the Minas Gerais rapper Sarah Guedes.

Tamara Franklin – Tipicamente Brasileiro

“Eu não sou mulher para você mesmo não/Moleque não merece tanto assim na mão/ Deus foi generoso até mesmo para Adão/Pra uma costela eu lombro seu caminhão.”

“I am not a woman for yourself no/Little boy you don’t deserve so much in your hand/God was really generous to Adam/For a rib I mess up your truck.”

Elza and Sarah are artists that I think are fantastic. I’m not ignoring the path of each of them, they are two strong women. I wanted to honor them,” explains Tamara.

Tamara Franklin – Anônima

Sarah Guedes is only one of rappers with which she has “closed” currently. Zaika dos Santos, Lana Black, Polly Honorato, Page, Brisa Flow and Bárbara Sweet became references for the singer. “I came into rap surrounded by men. For a long time, I absorbed the macho discourse. I swallowed it without knowing what it was. Let it naturalize inside of me – outside I already know what it is,” she says.

She recalls that the second edition of the Semana Hip-Hop Alto Vera Cruz (Alto Vera Cruz Hip Hop Week), held in November and led by women, was boycotted by many rap men of Belo Horizonte. “I think the women’s scene here tends to grow. We are organizing ourselves for this. I saw something beautiful between us: a little something has been set aside to support each other. If 2015 was the year of women, 2016 will be even heavier,” she warns.

Source: Divirta Se

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


  1. ” and led by women, was boycotted by many rap men of Belo Horizonte”. Boycotted? More likely men are not giving a fly and being that hip-hop has been invented by black men and is, by all means, a masculine style of singing that is consumed mostly by men, it’s all more likely her music doesn’t speak to them. If you’re going to sing about racial discrimination that’s going to speak to all blacks, if you’re going to to this AND add gender shit in it, that’s your right but I’m not going to your show, that’s for sure. Specially since institutional racism affects black men much stronger than black women.

    • ” Gendershit”, while I consider do white feminism to be pointless for BW, I do think BW need their own movement of somekind. When black people address racism affecting “all” blacks, they’re mainly addressing issues affecting BM while ignoring and/or dimissing issues affecting BW. From an American point POV, you have Black Lives Matter started by mostly BW concerning police brutality affecting BM. BW women were/are outraged at the unjust killings of BM, while BM were seemly silent at the multiple rapes of BW by Daniel Holtclaw there was little coverage by the mainstream media and where were all the BM?
      My point is BM do not give a damn abt BW, they are the only group of men who can’t protect “their” women. Black women have taken up feminism to protect themselves as Black men can’t and/or won’t protect BW.
      BM have would rather protect WW who are more protected than BW, white women have more power and privelege based on their whiteness than BM and BW combined, but BM still rush to defend them while leaving BW unprotected.
      As a BW, I’ve decided that I will no longer march and protest for BM as they continue to show that racism affecting them is ‘more important.’ If you don’t care abt my problems why the hell should I care abt yours?

  2. OK, point taken.. I agree 100% that ” white women have more power and privelege based on their whiteness than BM and BW combined” and from my part I’m not one of those who protect white women, on the contrary, nothing irritates me more than a white feminist.

    Look, I get your point, and you’re right that BW need a separate movement and if you want my protection I’ll give it to you. Though most what I have seen from BW feminist movements take too much of the message of from white feminists and do not separate BM from white men – they seem to view us all as the enemy. I’m really not going to sit down and listen to someone saying how a big chauvinist pig I am, not from a white but also not from a BW. And by the way, the way to do this certainly won’t be through this women rap thing – it does not appeal to me one bit.

    • Fair enough. Yes, there are some problematic parts of Black feminism but it’s a start, I was once interested in solely Black ewpowerment as I viewed feminism as pointless (still do) but I’ve come to the realisation that present-day Black empowerment is just black male empowerment.
      Black men who hate themselves and BW, are complicit in White Supremacy and can be just as dangerous to the black race as White men.
      Most BW see both WW and WM as both perpertrators of White Supremacy, while BM tend to absolve WW from their role in White Supremacy. Why do you think that is?
      Black men seem to be fearful of whitemen and see them as the enemy yet they strongly desire their oppressors’ women, interestingly enough.

      • Thanks for your wise words… Indeed one of my missions in life is to ask white feminists how they DARE to ask for anything when they profited from black blood and sweat without complaining. Sure, men were the ones capturing Africans, but were they not profiting and being accomplices to the barbaric things their men were doing? For 400 years??

        Sister, I see through your pain and if there is anything I can say is that,we need to stick together. Also if you think I just care about my problems and I don’t like feminism. We have no chance without being one nation. Blacks all around the world are one single entity. If we start fighting for the little things we disagree we are dead.

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