AfroReggae and Rio's Favelas

Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro looks great on the travel poster — and is great on its famous beaches, in its famous Carnivale, and more.

But Rio is also a city of vast hillside shantytowns — favelas — where poverty is the rule, the drug trade is king, police are often lawless, and urban violence is some of the world’s very worst.

Brazil’s murder rate is five times that of the United States. In Rio, only three percent of homicide cases are solved.

Into all that comes AfroReggae, a Brazilian musical grroup born of the streets of Rio’s favelas. AfroReggae is trying to give back — to give inspiration, hope, pride and a path to youth surrounded by too much violence, drugs, and poverty.

This hour, On Point: AfroReggae’s musical lifeline to the favela — the hardest streets of Rio.


Joining us from New York is Damian Platt, co-author of “Culture Is Our Weapon: Making Music and Changing Lives in Rio de Janerio.” He was a human rights researcher for Amnesty International in Brazil from 1997 to 2005, and from 2006 to 2008 he was coordinator for international partnerships at AfroReggae.

And with us from Dartmouth, Mass., is Dario Borim, associate professor and chair of the department of Portuguese at UMass-Dartmouth. He hosts a weekly live radio program called Brazilliance, dedicated to the music of Brazil.

Here’s the latest video from AfroReggae’s YouTube channel

We want to give big thanks to WBUR reporter Monica Brady-Myerov for her gracious translation skills, helping us to better understand AfroReggae’s Portuguese lyrics. Here’s a sampling:

from “To Bolado” (“I am confused”)

I am confused
Only workers live in Vigario Geral
The 29th of August, they killed my people

They killed 21 people who lived here…

Because the day before
Drug traffickers killed four police officers…

I am Vigario, I say with pride
I love my community

I don’t understand this world
They tell me the police
is an organization that exists to protect citizens…

from “Nenhum Motivo Explica a Guerra” (“No Motive for War”)

No motive for war
Not money
Not greed
Not revenge or industrial advances
Not hope, not ideals
Not in the name of good versus evil
No motive for war
Not the thirst for power
Not the fear of loss
Not anger
Not a lie
Not a land grab
No one has to do what they don’t want to…

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