Tuesday, March 30, 2010


30 March 2010

The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are desperate places – shanty towns where the rule of law is absent, dominated by drug traffickers and gangs, made even more shocking by their proximity to some of the most opulent parts of the city. In 1993 police killed 21 innocent people from Vigário Geral, one of the poorest favelas, in retaliation for the shooting dead of 4 policemen. In response to this tragic event, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae was created to offer young people from the favelas an alternative to a life of drugs and violence. AfroReggae began as a newspaper but soon started offering workshops in dance, percussion, circus skills and a host of other cultural disciplines. Controversially working with some of the major drug traffickers while also attracting major commercial sponsorship from companies including Santander and Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, AfroReggae has grown into a large and extremely successful organisation. We visited three of Rio’s favelas as guests of AfroReggae, being met and escorted at the entrances to each favela by some of the most brilliant samba drummers I have seen. We saw performances of dance, circus skills, percussion, drama, reggae, rock and orchestral music and had a question and answer session with AfroReggae founder Jose Junior. But the climax was undoubtedly a performance by the original Banda AfroReggae – now an internationally acclaimed group making a rare appearance back in the Vigário Geral favela. Banda AfroReggae are a mighty band – big, loud, funky and incredibly cool. Their music incorporates pop, rock, reggae, hip-hop and rap with Brazilian percussion: it’s fast, catchy and irresistible. Hearing Banda AfroReggae for the first time in a private performance in a small studio in the AfroReggae centre was an amazing experience – I’m a fan! You can see a report and photos on our visit to AfroReggae at http://www.afroreggae.org.br/2010/03/25/nucleos-de-vigario-complexo-e-lucas-recebem-visita-de-diretores-britanicos/, listen to AfroReggae on Spotify and see their remarkable story in the 2005 film ‘Favela Rising’.

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At 11:01 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I really envy you your job!


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