Gaby Amarantos is a Brazilian national superstar and the voice behind an anthem for the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
In the music video below, themes of religious diversity and freedom mix naturally in the lively environs of Rio de Janeiro.
Gaby Amarantos, in an interview with The Globa and Mail, observes that “Brazilian people are very faithful. Not only for religious purposes, because we also have an immense religious diversity, but… I think Brazilians believe a lot. Even that the World Cup will work out. If things are still going well for the country, it’s because Brazilian people are very positive. Brazilian people are very joyful – not just because of parties and carnival. We work a lot, we work our asses off. But we like a party in the end.”
“My Brazil is a country that is getting better,” she says. “I see the country growing. It’s not the perfect Brazil, but it’s undeniable that the country has improved. Of course, it’s a country being made by the people. Before, the country wasn’t administered for the people. So people in the elite are pissed off. There is an undeniable shift of power.”
“The periferia imposed this change, they didn’t ask for permission,” Ms. Amarantos said in a recent interview in her office in a Sao Paulo record label, seeking to explain her people and their moment. “They kicked the door: ‘Now it’s our turn.’ The elite was obligated to accept.”
“People who would have thought I was tacky 15 years ago think I am a fashion icon today. People who thought my music was laughable today think it is the most incredible thing in the country. People who thought I was the ugliest woman on earth think I am a beauty icon. And a role model. Today I’ve become the coolest thing in the world.”
She says this not arrogantly, but with a sort of delighted wonderment. Ms. Amarantos is 34, the single mother of a five-year-old, and grew up in a hardscrabble neighbourhood of Belem where she sang in church before she discovered tecnobrega. The name translates, literally, as “tacky techno.” The original brega was a twangy country music with lyrics about heartbreak and suffering; the new version was reinvented for a crowd that likes to see the biggest possible sound system set up for dance parties – twang with a synthesizer slapped on top.
“Without being pretentious, tecnobrega doesn’t sound like anything from outside Brazil,” she said, calling it “vibrant and authentic and danceable” and, perhaps most significantly, “born in the periferia.”
Her race also makes Ms. Amarantos a new style of superstar: although more than half of Brazilians identify as black or mixed race, success here (in business, politics, arts – anything other than sports) correlates with whiteness. But she believes this, too, is changing.
“People are becoming less hypocritical, they are no longer saying that there is no racism in Brazil. The majority of Brazilians are stating that they are black, for the first time … and this majority of Brazilians want to see this percentage reflected on other things.”