I've been having some mail contact with Márcia from Brazil the last week. I found her very kind and interesting so I asked her to tell me more about the situation in São Paulo/Brazil and how the punk scene is in her neighborhoods. Believe me, I got some answers!
1. How is it living in Brazil?
Brazil is a big country, the bigger one in south america and also the most "developed and industrialized" one, but at the same time we can consider Brazil as one of the lawless countries (in real bad terms) and probably the country which has the highest level of social unequality, this means that living here can be good or real bad. For an example, in the big centers, you will easily find lots of 5-star hotels located side by side to innercities (favelas). You can simply stop your car in front of the biggest supermarket or shopping of the whole city and you will notice there are homeless people trying to earn some money by cleaning your car's windows or something like that, it is a very particular country and depending on where you go, there are the most beautiful places to visit or children being slaves (or near to it) at coal mines, people living on garbage fields (to where the government takes the trash collected from the big centers) or a big beach covered by 5-star hotels and expensive restaurants... Another particular thing about Brazil is the high number of "squats" (not as the term is considered by the punk scene, but simply places occupated by homeless people). Down here being a "squatter" doesn't mean you are a "member" of any expecific political group fighting for any expecific cause... people construct their "houses" (commonly called as "barracos": houses constructed with parts of outdoors, rests of trash found on the big centers or at garbage fields...) in public places (forming the innercities - favelas: a high amount of houses like that on the same block or neighborhood) because they simply don't have a better place to live. Living here is complicated and, depending on your economic conditions, it can be harder than any other place in earth.
As a punk you have to “know where you step in”, to be smart, avoid some places (there are places “ruled” by nazi-scum skinhead gangs), avoid the cops (you know why) and big centers on which “mass-fashioned mindless groups” tend to be in, such as funk bullshit or “pitboys” (acephalous mommy’s boys who like to play the tough guys and walk with their dogs all over the streets). Those groups (or fashioned gangs) tend to attack anything or anybody they don’t understant, and we know they aren’t “that intelligent” (haha) to understand people with colored hairs and different point of view. If we’re forced to be in a place like that, we have to handle guns (it’s a crime in Brazil) or something like that to make sure everything’s gonna be fine. The good thing is that the brazilian people at all are very simple and friendly so, even with a big mohawk you can make good friends and be respected at your neighborhood if you know how, turning your life easier...
The brazilian government’s structure is divided by thousands of different "political associations" (partitions) whom "fight" against each others when at the elections time, but in fact it doesn't matter what one is going to "take control" of the country or any city/state because at the "deadlines" they are all the same bullshit... you can notice for an example a city being controled by a "pseudo-communist" mentality near to an other one under an "almost-fascist" mentality... The actual president for an example, came from a "communist-origined" partition and actually controls a "non-communist" country. It doesn't matter what "side" is controlling the country, city, state... there's no "left or right", there's no sense... You have a good job and you're fine, if you don't you're in a bad "shape"... The "american dream" of a person who born poor and, working, made an empire doesn't fit in here, the poor will be poor and the rich will be rich, that's the only truth.
Our society is probably one of the most pacifist in world when talking about politics and it's because Brazil lived under a fascist regime (supported by the, at that time, nazist german government) since the 30’s till 1984 and at that times, any contracultural manifestation (against the "government pre-stabilished values") was considered as a crime and everybody involved with it would be risking their lives (people were murdered, missed, tortured, extradited...). There are people looking for their families till the actual days, looking for people who were missed during that era. This factor is very important when to consider the brazilian society in relation to its government, even today common people fears the police brutality and the state at all.
The brazilians are also very religious (the most common brazilian religious mindset and belief is: "things could be even worst without some kind of god or something"), there are lots of different religions living pacificly with each others, all of them under that same mindset.
The access to a descent education is real poor, many people has only conclude the high school, some of them not even the high school and there is a high level of non-alphabetized people (who can't read or write, I don’t know the exact term in english), this means that the "cultural values" are easily missed or substituted by any "imposed fashioned pseudo-culture". People become "uniform", "common"... That lack of education also bring certain level of intolerance and violence between diferent sub-cultures, such as different football (soccer) fans... people fight for everything they shouldn't... Sometimes I ask myself things like "what are they looking for? what are they waiting for?", there is a common "popular phrase" which is something like "I'm brazilian and I never give up", but giving up on what? these people gave up ages ago, all what they have is an idea of a supposed "good god" to keep them alive, their football team as a "feeling" of being important and their TV shows to distract their sick minds and bodies when they come back home after a hard day at their "slavery-conditioned" jobs. It's not their fault at all, they don't even imagine how is like being different, they fear it.
Over the times the brazilian people have “developed” a way to keep theirselves alive and have something to eat by any means found and even so keep a smile on their faces (that’s the reason for that stupid phrase about giving up on something). At least a half of the brazilians work on alternative jobs (informal jobs) and that’s because almost of them didn’t have access to education enough to acquire a descent place on the steps of the supposed “high-class society”.
The economy in here is very instable, today it’s bad, tomorrow worst or not; Our currency calls “Real” and its value is about U$ 0,38 (a month ago it was U$ 0,50, 12 years ago it was U$1 and in 1992 for an example, it was about U$0,00040!!!). Most of the big industries are multi-nationals (for an example we don’t even have a brazilian car manufacturer, all cars in Brazil are made by Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford, Peugeot, Chevrolet and so on), most of the small industries (or plantations) such as the coffee market sell their products to other countries and then these same goods get back to Brazil (re-sold) at higher prices. There isn’t a political system to help the small factories to sell their goods inside Brazil, there aren’t industries able to turn the “raw material” into the final product and because of all those reasons, the brazilian economy is very associated to the price of our currency in relation to the american dollar or the euro. The price for imported stuff is very high and the taxes at customs are about 50% of the initial price plus the real price payd for the imported goods so almost imports (such as video-cameras, cellphones, games, computer parts, musical instruments and technology at all) bought by the brazilians gets to Brazil by illegal ways; This factor is very important when considering the economy at all because it stabilishes an alternative economic system to the whole society. There are stores controlled by the mafia which sell only those kind of goods and for all people who work or buy on these stores (I’m talking about real big shoppings) the economy works different. For an example, you will not buy a descent cellphone for U$500 (by a legal way) but the same model costs less than U$100 on a store like that. That kind of market tends to retain a big part of the brazilian economy.
5. Punk Scene, Bands, Venues and Gigs.
Brazil has a pretty big punk scene and each state has its particular considerations so I'll keep my report about our local scene (São Paulo state). São Paulo's punk scene is probably one of the biggest scenes in world (I think it's not so big than some punk scenes in USA, but I'm sure it's the biggest in South America), here are all kinds of punx with all kinds of "points of view" on what is to be punk, most of us live pacifically with others but there are also a conciderable amount of punx involved with "violent intentions" only. In this case you could do a comparision to one of the early reflections of this report on which I said that a lack of education brings violence... It happens with the whole society, reflects into the punk scene. The punk "groups" (divisions or whatever you call) are basically the following: "Punks do Subúrbio" (Suburban Punx; in Brazil the Suburbs are the poorest areas) which are mainly present on the east side (they are also present on the south and north area) of São Paulo and are also the biggest "group", The "Punks do ABC" ("Punks from ABC"; Abc is an industrial area in São Paulo, between the center and the east side) and the "Rawpunx", commonly know by the "classical spikey haired" "old anti-school style (don't like the term "old school"... didn't learn how to be punk on school). Each of those groups are divided by "sub-groups" (lika small gangs or "punks from a neighborhood or another") and those small divisions are the main reason for violent conducts and intolerance, but it's also inside those small groups that things happen; Each group has "its own" bands, zines and productions at all, there are great people on all groups, people working hard to keep the punk alive by the way they think is right, organizing shows, meetings or political manifestations, editing zines, distributing records, playing in bands... In contrast to the good things, there's a big lack of information but the common sense of keeping the punk alive (even by, sometimes, irrational ways) is bigger than any problem.
Talking about the ways of thinking of each specific group would bring us to an even longer report (we would need a "bible-sized" zine to publish it all haha), all groups have their particular considerations (as I said early) so I will talk a bit about the scene which I know better, the rawpunk scene:
The Rawpunks are a group of punks formed in 1999 from some of the "Punks do Suburbio" (I was one of them and so have been a rawpunk since its beginning), we have our political anarchist posture as all the other groups but the main difference is that we believe in punk as a culture first than any political reason or other argument to be punk. We believe that punk has its own habits such as the way we dress, the way we talk, the music we like and play, the productions we do, as for an example, the indigenous have their own dressing, coocking, religion and habits at all. This mindset gave us a good "ground" to stabilish a scene and difuse the punk culture and productions into all other groups, trying to hard to give a descent and "reasonable reason" to the punk-beings on "why they are punks" apart from a political reason only (In other words, we believe that anarchism is an important part and it has to be always "happening" but it has to be considerated as a point of view of an individual who, before being anarchist, belongs to a culture, the punk culture in this case).
The most awesome thing in the brazilian punk scene is the high number of bands, there are between 4 to 6 shows per weekend (in São Paulo) and between 5 to 10 bands playing on each show, even living here it's impossible to know all bands, there are new bands apearing all the time. Playing in a punk band in Brazil means being devoted to a culture in the most literal sense of the phrase, it's hard to get a descent show, hard to get a descent sound equipment, to have a place to pratice (rehearse) to keep the same line up over the years (it's hard to stay punk and people give up on playing in punk bands)... Recording a band was something almost impossible 10 years ago, so there are bands playing for over a decade without having at least a descent studio work (and I'm talking about good quality audio recorded only, not about a record being released)... Releasing a record is still a hard job, there aren't many labels (almost none) dedicated to punk music only and the prices for pressing Cds or Lps are very expensives... There’s where the D.I.Y. spirit comes in its more sincere way, people record their own bands and distribute their own stuff for very low prices... Actually “Casa Punk Records” (which we have been trying to keep up) has been working with some unkown bands, recording their stuff and releasing by D.I.Y. ways but we can’t even get close to release a high number of bands if considering the whole scene. There are many good bands I’d suggest you to have a check and I’m going to cite a few. Of coarse I’m gonna say Luta Armada and Pós-Guerra (the 2 bands which I play haha) but you should also check:
- Estado de Guerra
- The Squintz
- Death from Above
- Total Revolta
- Atos de Vingança
- Ódio Brutal
- Dívida Externa
All those bands play 80’s punk style, if you’re looking for good 70’s style punkrock try out:
- Colisão Social
There are also some older ones (80’s bands that still play or that came back recently) such as Cólera, Armagedom, Skarnio, Olho Seco and Lixomania. As I said before, I could cite thousands of bands (there is like a punk band per neighborhood!) but I think those bands are a nice point to start having an idea on how the brazilian punk bands sound.
Venues and Festivals:
There isn’t any punk venue in São Paulo and probably neither in Brazil at all. Most punk shows happen on “alternative” venues (open for any kind of music, underground or not); there are also shows happening on any possible place you can imagine... since there aren’t punk venues, and most of the alternative venues are expensives to rent (we have to rent the place to organize a show) or far from the big centers, the promoters use to set up shows anywhere they can, which means from a truck placed on a poor neighborhood to a school or a poor bar located on the “farest” village as possible (haha). About shows being stopped by the police, yes, it happens sometimes, mainly when the show is happening on an “improvised place”. When it happens we wait till the cops go away then we start to play again (lol)... Sometimes people get arrested because of it but we can’t give up on playing right? Some other times the cops are called because of conflicts (real wars) in front of the show (between different gangs or agains nazi-scum) but usually when the cops get to the show almost punx went away yet. The key to keep yourself save on brazilian punk shows is to avoid the cops by any means necessary; Being under a direct conflict against them means being murdered or near to it. The good thing about the brazilian punk shows is that when a big festival happens (not frequently) everybody (or almost) is there... There were festivals with over 5.000 punx from São Paulo only in the past and that’s when you say to yourself “damn we’re a very big and weird family” (haha).