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Música Soul: Soundtrack of Black Power Movement in Brazil

If we had said ‘Negro power’ nobody would get scared. Everybody would support it. If we said power for colored people, everybody would be for that, but it is the word ‘black’ that bothers people in this country, and that’s their problem, not mine.” —Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at UC Berkeley, 1966

James Brown released “I’m Black and I’m Proud” during the height of the Black Power Movement in the United States in 1968. Brown’s in-your-face approach to racial pride resonated in the U.S. ghettos as well as the slums abroad. Many black people, all around the world, embraced the Black Power soundtrack and consciousness.

Working-class black cariocas (residents of Rio) of Zona Norte began using the English phrases “Black Power,” “brother” and “black is beautiful.” They played African-American soul records at their bailes (dances) and incorporated the lyrics and sounds into their music.

Tim Maia, the godfather of música soul, spent five years in the United States. He came to know the sounds of black America intimately. When he returned to Brazil in 1964, Maia incorporated the soul and funk influences into his songs. By the 1970s, other Brazilian musicians, such as Banda Black Rio, Cassiano, Gerson King Combo, Jorge Ben Jor and Gilberto Gil, began making soul records.

DJs started throwing soul-only parties. This nova (new) music spoke to an experience—both universal and unique at the same time. The time period was known as “Black Rio” instead of the Portuguese equivalents: negro or preto. Organizations, such as Instituto de Pesquisa e Cultura Negra and Associação Cultural do Negro, met regularly to discuss racial politics and inequality. By the end of the ’70s, funk and disco would take over where soul left off, but it was the latter that helped to shape a generation of artists around a universal black identity…

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