Brazils queer music scene is a source of hope in a conservative political climate

Pabllo Vittar, Bruno Capinan and DJ Jess Lucas are making music and throwing parties as a form of resistance


BRUNO CAPINAN as part of BRAVE FESTIVAL at Harbourfront Centre (239 Queens Quay West on Friday (July 19). 8 pm. Free. harbourfrontcentre.com/brave.


Every year, millions of people crowd the streets of Brazil to participate in Pride parades in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. This year was no exception, but the political climate in the months since the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has left many queer Brazilians fearful for their safety and futures.

In 2013, Brazil became one of the first countries in South America to legalize same-sex marriage, and dreams of a prosperous and equitable life for the country’s queer community finally seemed like an attainable reality. Just last month, Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to criminalize acts of homophobia and transphobia in a landmark decision.

Despite these legal improvements, the climate of hate and violence does not appear to have dissipated. According to LGBTQ watchdog Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBTQ people were killed across Brazil in 2018, and at least 141 have been killed so far this year.

Many believe that the election of Bolsonaro, a self-declared homophobe, has fuelled a climate of hate and violence and emboldened his supporters. This tension came to a head in January 2019, when Jean Wyllys, an openly gay congressman, was forced into exile after receiving numerous death threats.

“Bolsonaro was voted into office by being very explicit about his hate for LGBTQ, Black and Indigenous people, as well as for his political opponents,” says Bruno Capinan, a Brazilian musician now living in Toronto. “But, I think it’s important to note that one of his first moves was to eliminate the ministry of culture. Queer art shows are being censored and violence against LGBTQ people has increasingly been [popping up] on social media.

“Being an openly LGBTQ artist in Brazil right now is like being part of a resistance movement,” he continues. “Kind of like it was for artists during the dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1980. That dark period inspired artists like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and so many others, including my own work.”

Capinan’s new album, titled Real, is scheduled for release on July 19 via Coax Records. He describes it as a resistance album against the new wave of attacks directed at LGBTQ people, proving to be his most political work to date. Ahead of his performance this week at Harbourfront Centre’s Brave Festival, Capinan hopes that everyone will be able to relate to his music and reflect on the struggles of queer people around the world.

For Brazil’s queer community, a vibrant music and club scene has become a source of hope for many who long for an opportunity to occupy public space – openly – without harassment.

Jess Lucas, a DJ and event producer in Rio, has been throwing parties for Brazil’s queer community for the last seven years. After Bolsonaro’s election, she started noticing a crackdown on venues that host queer parties.

“It’s a lot harder to find spaces for parties and sometimes when we do, people are scared to show up,” she explains. “There’s a lot less people attending than before, but I think it’s important to give people a space to be themselves and feel safe, even if it’s only for one night.”

Last month Lucas travelled to Toronto to spin at the Pride edition of Cherry Bomb, the monthly dance party for queer women.

“Despite all the dark times we are living in, the LGBTQ community has never been so united and strong like we are now. People are trying to fight back now more than ever.”

Also in attendance at Pride this year was Brazilian drag superstar Pabllo Vittar, the first drag queen to be nominated for a Grammy. Performing in front of a massive crowd at Yonge-Dundas Square, Vittar’s intense choreography and pristine vocals left fans in awe. She also surprised the audience with a performance of her latest hit, Garupa, a collaboration with singer Luísa Sonza.

The 24-year-old drag queen has become a household name in her home country and is now finding mainstream recognition around the world for blending traditional Brazilian funk beats with elements of pop music.

Vittar has also been an outspoken voice for the country’s troubled queer community and a supporter of the #EleNão (#NotHim) movement, a resistance campaign that ignited during the 2018 general election against, President Bolsonaro.

When asked about the political climate in Brazil, Vittar told NOW, “Regardless of the government, Brazil has always been a very homophobic country, and that’s why people in our community keep being killed. It’s a very sad and shameful reality.

“That’s why the music scene is so important,” Vittar adds. “It’s like an act of freedom and a true manifestation of our community. We are together in the same struggle for the same goals.”

@iamdenio

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