Destination Rio de Janeiro, the first travel to the former capital of Brazil.
Aterro de Flamengo: A free concert on December 11, 2006. Human Rights’ Day. Sounds of music. Also sounds of protest against the use of the ‘Caveirão. And sounds of cheers after the announcement of the death of Pinochet, former Chilean dictator.
Day 4, 5 PM
Detail of the stage
It was a sunny and pleasant day. We just had our stomachs filled with a delicious meal from the cuisine of Minas. As if we had been here at home. We only had to cross the wide avenue to arrive at the festival grounds of Aterro do Flamengo. That day, 11 dec 2006, was the international human right’s day. On that day, a free concert was organized in Rio, in order to draw more attention to human rights. Several Brazilian artists had agreed to participate. From the Aterro, the Corcovado rock, and the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer was visible. But only when it was not hidden from our view by low clouds. We made a quick series of pictures with the Corcovado in the background. Deborah and Joana noticed, that some officers of the military police were talking for a longer time in their radio device, when we were taking pictures. The girls did not trust them too much, and advised me to keep away the camera. I did it obediently.
At 5 pm, the first artists appeared on stage. They were local samba celebrities. Even Rodrigo and Deborah did not know their names or their music. Some of these artists were already old, and their samba style was very old too, according to Deborah. The festival grounds were not crowded yet, but soon it would be full of music lovers. Not only teenagers, but also many older ones. Music lovers in their forties, fifties, sixties, and even older, to my accurate estimate. The military police was present and patrolled around the area. Their batons dangled menacingly at their belts. One time they acted against a vendor of soda and beer, because it was not allowed to sell something of glass. Only drinks in plastic or in cans were allowed. The poor vendor had to pick up his merchandise and was forced to leave the area. There were loud cries of protest of the vendor and his wife. They begged the police to allow them to stay, because it was affecting their income. These drinks were their only possessions. As if they had invested all their available money in drinks, in the hope to have better food for one day. The police did not give in, they followed the strict rules. They used no violence, but they surrounded the couple that could not move towards the area again. The policed checked the merchandise, and confiscated the glassware.
It ended very sad fir this poor couple, but this was the only incident that was visible to our eyes that evening. However… At about 8 PM, a small group started to protest noisily. The police did not react. ASome of the activists carried a banner, and others distributed small flyers: ‘Down with the Caveirão.’ A free translation of what the protesters want: that the use of the Caveirão (‘Skull’) had to be stopped immediately. The Caveirão is an armored car that the police in Rio use to enter the slums in Rio. In these slums, there is a long war going on: between the police and drugs criminals. With many casualties on both sides. Police drive with a Caveirão in the favela at night, and summons the locals to leave the streets. This warning is done with a powerful speaker. This armored car causes great fear among the innocent people; children have nightmares, associate police with violence, and even consider them as evil. These children grow up with the war. They see violence, they have witnessed countless murders, and they consider death and violence as part of their lives.
The activists briefly entered the stage and received a strong applause from the spectators. They consider the Caveirão as an example of violating human rights. The activists left the festival, the artists resumed their joyous and catchy music. Now more famous artists appeared, and now the music sounded more familiar to me. Artists like Daniela Mercury, Fernanda Abreu, Gabriel o Pensador. The song “Rio 40 Graus” (Rio at 40 degrees), was enthusiastically sung by Fernanda Abreu. The artists appeared and left, they only had a short repertoire each. Short but very intense, with a lot of enthusiasm.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsRUz9xZuLo 450 325]
Olodum. Watch the big drum balancing in the air.
Suddenly one of the host presenters interrupted a live performance. He had important news to announce. Remarkable news. Because one of the biggest violators of human rights in South America, in the world even, ‘finally had died’. Augusto Pinochet, the notorious Chilean ex-dictator, was dead. An overwhelming eruption of cheers followed. Pinochet apparently was not popular in Brazil, too. Perhaps the Brazilians think of the dictatorial past in their own country, which had ended only 21 years ago. In contrast to the surrounding countries, the former dictators of Brazil did not face any trial. Brazil even had granted asylum for certain dictators, like the former ruler of Paraguay. In Brazil, the dictators ruled bloody-handed. There exist stories of students who were arrested, and were then thrown from a helicopter when it flew above the Atlantic Ocean. Most people prefer not talk about it, they appear to be embarrassed about this difficult period, and maybe have undergone some personal suffering. It seems that this black page is to be forgotten, but it definitely is not turned yet to become history forever.
The later in the evening, the more famous the artists. The most popular artist of that night even had some double function. He was one of the oppressed during the reign of the dictators; he even had lived in exile for some years. He is one of the singers who has a huge impact on Brazilian music and culture. And since 2003 he was appointed Minister of Culture, to the surprise of many. His name is Gilberto Gil, the singing minister. The minister with his long dark rasta hair tied in a ponytail. This evening he was an artist. With his guitar he gave a fantastic show, despite his already advanced age. It was clear to note – for me – that Gilberto is a genuine artist. He played with the audience, strumming his guitar. The audience sang along with him, a unique combination. The highlight of his performance was his famous song: Vamos fugir, let us flee. This song is also sung by the popular rock band Skank, with great success. ‘Vamos Fugir’ was sung loudly by the audience. The festival area was now completely full. A thunderous applause sounded when Gilberto had ended his show. He still enjoys enormous popularity as an artist.
The evening was not over yet; two big names were still on the list to appear on stage. But it was about time to find the bus that was about to depart to Belo Horizonte. Suddenly, Jader, the organizer of our trip, appeared in front of me. He grabbed my arm, and I could do nothing but follow him. He dragged me through the crowd, closer to the stage. There was another group from our bus. The distance to the stage was now quite short. Ideal for making pictures. And that was the reason why Jader dragged me towards the stage. He is well aware of my reputation as a photographer, and he wanted me to make some recordings of the upcoming performances of the famous percussion group “Olodum” from Salvador and of Monobloco from Rio. One of the group, I was joining now, is a Chinese who was living in Brazil for three years already. He had his movie camera with him, and made his recordings with much enthusiasm. Now I was surrounded by the group, it was safe enough for me to make my shots. I took pictures of the impressive show of Olodum, and of Monobloco.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdTFt0wpRkk&feature=fvwrel 450 325]
Olodum and Michael Jackson – They don’t care about us
The show of Olodum was a lust for the ears, but also a lust for the eyes. It was clear to me that the members of this band have been playing well together, and that visual effects are integral parts of their performance. Not only the colored hair or clothing, but also their sometimes silly jumps, their acrobatic touring with big drums that they spin in the sky as though it had feathers. Impressive! The final performance that night was done by Monobloco, which could count on much enthusiasm of the crowd. It was already past midnight when the music of the samba group died away in the darkness. The audience left in an orderly way, and in a satisfied mood. For us this musical evening was more than successful. We walked to the bus, were some travel companions were waiting impatiently and started to complain. They wanted to go home, they were tired. About thirty minutes later, the final festival-goers arrived; the bus was now ready to return home, over the mountains, heading for Belo Horizonte. Mission Rio One has been accomplished. To be continued with Mission Rio Two…
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007, 2015