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Samba and Punks in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Daniel Hoffman | Brazil

Rafael poses for a portrait after a performance was cancelled because the drummer never arrived.

In a city of more than 18 million people, life can be tough with crowded streets, crowded subways, aging infrastructure, and the constant pressure to work and move and get ahead and get along.  At the end of the day, most people retreat to the safety and solitude of their homes whether they be in bland high rises in dangerous neighborhoods, guarded condos in the wealthy areas, or gated communities on the outskirst of the city.  However, there are those who need to relax by socializing and expressing themselves through music and dance.  Oddly, in a relatively homogenous country there are two drastically different scenes when the sun goes down. Some people follow the national samba tradition to small clubs that open late and close in the early morning.  On the other hand there are the punks who revel in their own world, apart from the others, but clearly united in their music and styles.  This project explores these two worlds of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Arriving in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, a massive home to 21 million people, can leave you speechless.People live and work among a sea of buildings that were once the Amazon rainforest. There is no shortage of malls, restaurants, or traffic and the contrasts are abundant. The wealthy, mostly of European descent, live in condos with helipads on their roofs. The poor, generally dark skinned from the north of Brazil and from mixed indigenous and African decent, are found in shantytowns on the outskirts of the city.Within this megacity, however, are distinct subcultures that exist to allow to build a community where they enjoy life and express themselves.This project explores how two subculture, samba and punks, celebrate life while demonstrating the challenges and contrasts that make up life in São Paulo.

Samba, most associated with the annual carnival celebrations in Rio and Salvador, is enjoyed year-round in about 50 small clubs throughout the nearly 600mi² of São Paulo.While samba is a national passion, it’s a small minority of people who go to clubs on any one night.Oddly, the music that unites the country also highlights racial divisions. One club is favored by people from the same low-income areas because the performers are one of them and sing about and for them. In another, the music is more political, and the people tend to be from the wealthy parts of the city.

Similar to Samba, the punk scene is brought together by music. The people who embrace and participate in São Paulo’s punk scene are diverse; professionals with university degrees, musicians or tattoo artists struggling to get by, and plenty with drug or mental health problems.Regardless, they have created a community that is both open and closed in enigmatic ways, but clearly showing how people of this megacity can come together despite differences, but without escaping the contrasts of the city.

djhoffman@outlook.com

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