In this radio show, I will connect the current COVID pandemic to the preceding Environmental Movements to save the Amazon Rainforest and the hostile, divisionist political climate in Brazil with the rise of far-right populist movements through the lenses of Indigenous digital militancy. I will introduce some activists both Indigenous and allies who chose music as their means to convey history and to emanate the power of healing through connecting. The historical framework of these songs comprehends a long history of oppression but targets its main critiques to the current government and political division of Brazilian voters that started in 2019.
Babi: “You’re listening to KRLX 88.1 FM a service of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. My name is Babi and I am here on What’s up, human nations? to introduce you to a lot of new music and international news that should be very unfamiliar to some of you. It so happens not by coincidence that your KRLX host is Brazilian and in this show. I will share with you an overview of 2020 movements in Brazil that responded to COVID, the Amazon fire, and Bolsonaro’s (The Trump of the Tropics) presidency through the digital militancy of Indigenous peoples.”
So to start you all off, we will play an icebreaking tune that will convince you to stay around and listen about the stories behind our songs and whatever else we will play next to you!
Sutileza is a very soothing, melodic song. The artists are Colombian and Brazilian and through a beautiful combination of lyrics and melody, they created this song during the pandemic with the intention to convey calmness in dealing with tension and anguish.
Babi: Before getting to the pandemic, however, let’s start in 2019 with the beginning of Bolsonaro’s term as a president. It is worth noticing that the Indigenous of Brazil did not live comfortably before Bolsonaro’s term because Brazil, as many ex-colonies, still face the challenge to resolve its colonial traumas. However, with the rise of far-right movements supporting Bolsonaro’s appeal to the security of “ the traditional household” over anything and anyone, Indigenous lives, and surviving traditions were put in front of a more imminent threat of ethnocide. The elected president was expressively unconcerned about the survival of Indigenous people, especially when having to choose between opening indigenous land for economic development overhearing the democratic demand for Demarcação Já ((a movement that pleaded for the official and just delimitation of Indigenous land).
This last song, “Demarcação Já” was created as a protesting anthem. This movement gained a lot of visibility because of the support of long-term allies who are also notorious pictures in Brazil especially due to their musical art MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) which main influence is Afro and Indigenous beats. This song protested the new policies that were presented by Bolsonaro’s government. 1
Among other explicit actions against Indigenous sovereignty in Brazil, Bolsonaro appointed for the office of FUNAI (the governmental agency for the protection of Indigenous lives) an Evangelical religious leader and pressed on the approval of the bill 191 which opened indigenous territory to mining and hydroelectric activities under no fiscal regulations. 2
Besides the daily struggle for life, those political measures caused COVID to be disproportionately threatening to Indigenous Populations. The thumbs up given by the president to miners and other parties interested in advancing their economic activities over protected territory increased the exposure of Indigenous communities to outsiders which still happened despite lockdown. The activist Kae Guajajara (from Guajajara nation) composed a song featuring Kandu Puri (from Puri nation) in three languages dedicated to telling the impacts of the pandemic to Indigenous lives.
This song is very very powerful because it strengthens the dialogue between the mainstream Portuguese language spoken by all Brazilians and the traditional languages of their people Zeeg’ete and Kwaytikindo. But mainly, using these three languages, it carries a universal message:
Even though people have the impression that overall the pandemic is helping Nature and the environment, which could be true, what is going to happen when we go back to “normal” if the people being most affected by the pandemic are the guardians who protected Nature when our “normal” way of living was killing it?
An underlying message the songs I am playing today have in common is that Indigenous people are not only looking after themselves, the benefits they are seeking are not only basic rights but also universal. We heard multiple times that the Amazon is the lung of the world. But the lungs of the world is Indigenous because they are the ones keeping it protected on the verge of a tipping point. This theme is not only brought up by Indigenous peoples who reside in forests and protected reservations but it has been very highlighted by urban Indigenous individuals who carry with them an even bigger burden of reconnecting with traditional values of guardianship in the physical constraints of the cities.
This song is by Katu Mirim (Boe Bororo people) an Indigenous rapper and what sticks to me the most from it is the verse: “You are only alive because I am alive.”
Despite unitedness of many Indigenous peoples in Brazil through Environmental activism, it is important to remember that different communities experience different struggles. Besides, many descendants who carry Indigenous legacies but have been disconnected from their origins face the difficulty of not belonging to either space (the cities and reservations). This last song, in alignment with Katú’s rap, also speaks to the struggle of disconnected and urban indigenous peoples and their encounter with systemic violence (police, interracial relationships, colonial relationships).
The next two songs have a very different melody. The difference here is more nuanced than urban vs reservation, especially because these next two songs also differ among themselves. The difference consists on the beauty of individual sharings of histories and narratives surrounding a shared theme, and how they each carry a personal experience that is relatable.
Music, in its many genres and melodies, is an act of healing in all its steps. The composing of music allows for individuals to share their stories in an oral but multi-sensing way (all our senses tune in and are indulged by it!). Oral mediums not only offer more visibility for non-white composers and historians*3 but it allows for a wider connection between composer and listener. This connection is a big part of the healing process. This next song speaks about this connection and ally ship to overcome and heal many of the existing problems today.
Retomada (Retaking) is a song composed and performed by three strong mixed-race women. It speaks about the intersectionality of Indigenous, Black and Feminist resistance movements and how they can achieve more and grow stronger if in alliance. Resistance, however, cannot be romanticized but it must be acknowledged because recognition is key for integration without erasure. The alliance of intersectional movements is an act to restore not only cultural but also, and mainly, individual sovereignty.
“Sovereignty is like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes” – Meredith McCoy in Class
Humans have a shared responsibility to fight for justice in order to become a more cohesive, powerful and joyful species. It must be our ultimate goal, to pursue Teko Porã – a good and well-lived life (in Guarani).
Thank you for listening! I’m Babi and I wish you a good rest of your day.
- I use this term to designate someone who participates in the construction of historical narratives.