Note from BW of Brazil: If one were to divide Brazil’s scene into style and genres, there would be enough for every region of to be considered its own country. As Brazilians soak up a variety of influences, from its own regionally and nationally recognized artists to internationally recognized singers and bands, it makes for an intriguing stew of musical flavors. Combine this is rising black consciousness among a range of Afro-Brazilian singers and rappers and you have a very interesting period in the nation’s musical history. In past posts on Brazilian musical artists, we’ve brought recent hit makers such as baianas Juliana Ribeiro and Larissa Luz, 90s singers such as Daúde and Corona, new school MPB artists like Luciana Mello, break out favela funksters Pearl Negras and old school singers such as Alaíde Costa, among others. Today, we present another artist whose style is not easily classified into one genre. And from what we’ve already heard from her, we hope she continues to share her talents.
All the force of a black woman
Serene and incisive, Zaika dos Santos uses her music, which passes through various styles, to combat structural racism
Empowerment. Zaika doesn’t limit herself to rap as a genre or to feminism as an ideology
By Lucas Buzatti
“Is it real?,” asked a homeless person about Zaika dos Santos’ braids, about the same time that we sat down on a Parque Municipal (Municipal Park) bench for this interview. “Yeah, wow. It’s hair, like yours,” said the Minas Gerais born singer. “I’m used to it,” she added good-naturedly, as she packed her bun of nagô braids, revealing the tattoos on both forearms that, together, exhibit her catchphrase: vibe positiva (positive vibe). Indeed, if there is a person who can be emphatic in their struggles and at the same time, serene and zen, this is Zaika dos Santos.
Born in the Aglomerado da Serra region of Belo Horizonte (BH), Zaika had contact with the artistic world as a child. “I am the daughter of a singer of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB), named Selma Santos, and a cultural producer from São Paulo,” says the singer, 27. “I followed the musical foray of my mother until the age of 8, when she decided to stop. I experienced in the atmosphere of many musical languages, which permeated my childhood,” she says, citing rhythms like funk, soul, bolero, brega, samba, forró and reggae. The artists, the singer grew up listening to were Jorge Ben, Bob Marley, Belchior, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Lindomar Castilho, among others.
Hip-Hop appeared around 10 years ago when Zaika began break dancing and heard the Racionais MCs for the first time. “The Racionais came out very strong in the community, through Rádio Favela. There was also had the Câmbio Negro, which was more political and fit me a lot, socially, in a place of belonging,” she said. “I was writing, but I didn’t encourage myself to sing. My mother awakened in me that side of my voice,” she recalls.
When she moved to Contagem (also in Minas Gerais) with her mother, the artist became more active in the scene. “I joined the collectives, to give break workshops. There I joined two rap groups, Vulgo Elemento and the Estilo Feminil, I stayed for a while and then I left,” she recalls. “Then one day two girls appeared at the door of my house, calling me to put together a rap group. And this was how Ideologia Feminina came about “.
With the group, Zaika took her first copyright flights: in 2006, Ideologia Feminina won the Hip Hop In Concert Festival at the Teatro Francisco Nunes, and a year later, was a finalist for the emblematic Prêmio Hutúz (award). Her bandmates decided to abandon their artistic career and Zaika, firm in her objective, migrated to Leal Sound System, dedicated to Jamaican rhythms flirting with electronic music like ragga and dancehall. With the troupe came the songs “Vibe Positiva” and “Acorda, Menino”, the embryos of her first solo album, Desabafo which she started recording in 2010. At the same time, Zaika joined Coletivo Dinamite as the only woman of the group. “But it was too much testosterone,” laughs the singer. “It was the only rap band that had a woman in BH,” she recalls.
Three years later, the desire to finish Desabafo hit hard, and Zaika left Coletivo Dinamite. The solo album came in 2014, released free on the internet, in the style “do it yourself” that always permeated Zaika dos Santos’ flow. “It’s funny, because we say that the street has no owner, but it does. This thing of ‘a rua é nóis’ (the street is us) is very complex, and for the black woman then, it’s even worse. Now the internet, yes, is free,” she reflects. “The disc is really a desabafo (outburst). I was pretty tired of Hip Hop, of some demagoguery of the movement, the machismo, which is hidden but very present, she criticizes.
ZAIKA DOS SANTOS – “MAMAUÊ”
The debut yielded the video for “Manauë” and several shows, including the Conexão BH, Transborda and Virada Cultural festivals. In parallel, however, Zaika – an self-acknowledged workaholic – already produced her second album, Akofena with partner Dubalizer Wagner (music producer and sound engineer from São Paulo who has worked with Nação Zumbi and Tribo de Jah). “I’ve never limited myself to rap. I am no longer just an MC. I am a singer, ‘toaster’ of sound system. I would say that today what I do is electronic music,” she points out.
Desabafo (Produto Tosco) – Zaika dos Santos
“’Akofena’ is an adinkra symbol. African symbolism has always been very strong for me,” she explains. “I grew up with this thing of, ‘Look, you’re black and if they discriminate against you, you will not accept it. This here is your culture and you have to pass it on’. And adinkra is one of these references that I mix in my clothes, in the lyrics of the first disc and also the new, that should come out this year,” she says, noting that the first single, “As Negas”, was recently released. “It’s a song about acceptance of black women. Of assuming yourself in the way that you are, with your shapes, your nose, your hair, your culture,” she says.
“Feminism I never adhered to one hundred percent because I’m a black woman. And it is limited to discussing the numbers of the black population. A larger number of women raped, murdered, violated. Gee, we even pay for the most expensive make-up,” she jokes. “I have difficulty in assuming this discourse of white feminism as mine.”
Zaika dos Santos – O que é o Amor? (Prod. Dubalizer) :: Pocket Show Duelo de MC’s – 30/11/12
Zaika says that writing is her outlet for dealing with problems such as sexism and structural racism. “Before I did a more frontal discourse, today I understand that the best way to educate is the embrace. But I’m not fighting to educate those who doesn’t want it,” she adds. “I struggle to empower more irmãs negras (black sisters). To show that I was at the mall with my hair, I will not accept security following me. That if I’m in a store, I don’t want the radar of blacks. That the person has no right to touch my hair because he thinks it’s different, I’m not an art gallery,” she affirms. “If the other does not accept me, the problem is with him. It is he who is sick.”
Source: O Tempo