Graffiti is often contentious. Some find it a destructive type of vandalism, others view it as an art form to rival any other.  It’s roots can be found in 1970s NYC street culture and often represent social and political messages:

“Graffiti is revolutionary … and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it’s free…” Terrance Lindell


The scene grew like crazy in the 80s and by the 90s and, as with all big trends, came commercialisation and the entrance into art galleries, despite still being illegal on the streets.

In Brazil, graffiti made its way to São Paulo long before Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo is the powerhouse and impetus of South American graffiti. A more preoccupied police force, due to existing high crimes rates, made for a more relaxed creative environment.

“Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand[s] of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti.” Design Week


In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed a law which decriminalised street art, if done with the consent of the builders owners.

In Sao Paulo and Rio, the street art is ubuquitous, from the favelas to upper class neighbourhoods, from institutional to residential. The flourishing scene is now less about destruction of property and increasingly about community and improving the neighbourhoods and cities and making things simply look beautiful.


In Brazil, there is a difference between ‘Pixação ‘ or ‘Pichação’, which is a style of cryptic tagging and ‘Grafite’ a street-art style distinctive to Brazil. The former came about in the 40s-50s and has a very interesting social and political history with the statments originally written in tar. It’s protaganists, the Pichadores, often compete to tag the tallest, most dangerous, inaccesible locations. This scene has had a resergance in recent years.

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Os Gêmeos (The Twins) are graffiti artist identical twin brothers from São Paulo, Brazil, Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. They started painting graffiti in 1987 and gradually became a main influence in helping to define Brazil’s own style. Their work often features yellow-skinned characters, but is otherwise diverse and ranges from tags to complicated murals. Subjects range from family portraits to commentary on São Paulo’s social and political circumstances, as well as Brazilian folklore. Their graffiti style was influenced by both traditional hip hop style and the Brazilian pixação movement. Their urban art has taken them all over the world, including to the US and to Europe, causing them to become one of the best-known and sought-after on the international stage.



The son of an Evangelical minister, Stephan Doitschinoff is a Brazilian artist with a penchant for religious iconography and bright graphic styling. His scope includes installation and video, though Doitschinoff is perhaps best known for his paintings and public works.



A pivotal figure in the Brazilian street art scene, has been working in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Surrounded by graffiti and pixadores he slowly began to leave his figures around the neighborhood. His bold and colorful characters have a lot of aesthetic similarities to graffiti lettering.



Always reflecting about the future of human kind, the planet and interacting with nature, Hyper hails from Belo Horizonte.



Brazilian street artist Alexandre Orion removes soot to draw skulls and create ‘Art less pollution’ or reverse graffiti.




































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The eyes of the world are increasingly falling upon Brazil, not least because of its remarkable economic growth over the past few years. As the largest Latin American economy and one of the so-called BRIC nations together with Russia, India and China, Brazil’s growth has recently outpaced that of the US and western Europe.

The country has undergone remarkable economic, cultural and political changes since the 70s when repressive military dictatorship ruled with an iron fist.  Brazil’s vast natural resources (iron, diamonds, oil, soybeans, sugar and coffee) have been instrumental in the strong development of both agricultural and industrial production, though there is still much controversial debate over the future of the Amazon region.

Other factors which have fuelled Brazil’s economic boom are a large population (190 million people compared to the UK’s 60 million people), international investment and high food and oil prices, which has led to rapid growth. The nature of this rapid growth has it’s dangers, however, with soaring domestic inflation being the main concern.

Enjoying a whopping 7.5 percent GDP growth in 2010 despite the global downturn, unemployment below 5 percent, rising wages, decline in relative poverty and an expanding middle class and Brazil looked like it was poised for long-term economic growth and prosperity. Over the past three years, 45 million Brazilians have moved into the middle class, known as ‘C-ers’, which has opened up a world of consumer opportunity. The government’s program ‘My House, My Life’ was set-up to help lower-income families buy or build their first home which helped fuel growth, though has raised concerns about creation of a credit bubble.

It looks, however, as if the economy is now slowing down as the GDP was down to .9 percent in 2012. This indicates that the reliance on the new consumer class cannot sustain this level of growth and the rising inflation rates are taking their toll. To keep the momentum going, Brazil needs improved productivity and investment and to support this, the infrastructure problems (The ‘Brazil Cost’) of high import tarrifs and bureaucratic hurdles, must be addressed.

Despite large leaps in education, skilled and qualified labor is still relatively hard to come by, pushing wages up and keeping productivity down. According to a study by the Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo, this means that national products are 34 percent more expensive than imported ones.

The country will host the 2014 World Cup and Rio de Janeiro will be home to the 2016 summer Olympics which will give a big boost to the economy, with estimates of more than $131bn, but with these world-class events come extremely high expectations.


Along with the rest of the world, Brazil is becoming obsessed with surfing the internet. The expanding middle class are increasingly online and Brazil’s highly-social culture means social networking is hugely popular. Unlike China, the world’s biggest emerging market, Brazil does not block sites such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter which means the business is there for the taking. Brazil’s Facebook users total around 65 million, the second largest market after the USA. It has become one of Twitters top-five user groups.

Brazilian’s love to chat and to share, which is handy as there is increasing curiosity in Brazilian content. International technology companies are planning huge increases in advertising in Brazil over the next three years to tap into this booming trend of online trading and increase in purchases of smart phones and computers. 

The Brazilian music industry is also benefitting from the surge in the online market. It has helped break artists via direct-to-fans marketing and trending and the digital streaming music service Deezer has recently launched in the country. The huge passion for music in Brazil is undoubtable, it is now down to the digital music companies to entice Brazilians into purchasing music in this way.


The price of property and land in Brazil has sky-rocketed. Costs have almost doubled in Sao Paulo and Rio since 2009 and continue to climb. There is increasing interest from Western Europe to buy in Brazil which has helped create a market for million pound, top-end properties. Internally the system is very similar to the UK, with most people borrowing on mortgages, which are becoming more accessible with the growth in the economy.

Following the authorities clamp-down on the gangs and policing of the favelas (Pacification), wealthy buyers are now stepping in to buy up the land of the favelas. Vidigal favela in Rio, the most famous of all, nestled on the slopes overlooking the city, has seen a big transformation. Estate agents are opening offices, rental prices have surged and more outsiders are moving in.

One of the most famous of the newcomers is Andreas Wielend, an Austrian engineer, who bought a run-down favela property with stunning panoramic views and turned it into a popular hostel and nightclub. The area has suddenly become one of the most fashionable in Rio, with flashy hotels under construction, Rio’s elite and even rumours of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie buying up land in the area. The gentrification is similar to that seen in cities such as New York, London, Berlin and Beijing and with it comes big changes to the community. Some are positive such as greater security, increased social services and more money coming in. Some are not so great. There are still huge public health issues with irregular or no sewerage or water services and increasingly the threat that people will be forcibly relocated or priced out of their homes.

There are more people living in Brazil’s favelas (over 11 million) than live in the whole of Portugal (10.6 million). Rio alone has 1000 or so favelas and 40 will have been pacified by 2014. This gentrification trend looks set to stay.





Waaay back in 2007, the Bongo’s descended on the Salvador Carnival with a mission. That mission was to get involved. We had heard tales of a group of Brazilian’s who dressed up as Gandhi for carnival, wearing beads, robes and turbans and, we imagined, embarked on a spritual journey of sorts. What we found, and fully embraced, was the Filhos and Filhas de Gandhy (Gandhi) movement and what it lacked in sprituality, it certainly made up for in fun.

Dave and Graham were to take part as Filhos (sons) and myself and my friend Indi were to be Milhas (daughters) of Gandhy. We were the first ever western girls to be allowed on the float and procession and so felt hugely honoured and a certain sense of responsibility.

On the first day as we turned up for our costumes fittings, I admit us girls were picturing something along the lines of the standard sexy be-jewelled, feather-covered, carnival numbers and were slightly dismayed to find our outfits were a little more ‘Karate Kid’ than ‘Carnival Queen’. 


My lasting memory is the majestic sight of a sea of stunning Afro-Brazilian faces in pure white costumes blocking up the streets of Salvador, with a few little pasty gringo faces staring out – Bongos!


We were taken under the wing of the Filhas who, once accepting of our presence, looked after us with great care. They helped us perfect our percussion instruments on the wobbly float that careered into electricity cables on the cobbled streets and kept us away from the less desirable streets, blocos (carnival groups) and the military police, who they warned were the most dangerous of all to encounter. Instead of being hassled whilst dressed as Gandhy’s, we found that strangers often, most likely for the first and only time in our lives, bowed in front of us. We liked it.

The Gandhy men were not backward in coming forward and perform a ritual of hooking-in girls they like the look of with their rosary of beads, spraying them with an odd soapy perfume they carry in a bottle, then launching in for a kiss. Actually, calling it a kiss sounds a lot more romantic than it was, lets just call it a forceful embrace. Some got a bit bitey.


After day 3, we were exhausted from all the sugary caipirinhas, the heat, the mauling and the laughter and decided enough was enough. On travelling back into Salvador however, the infectious sound of the drums from every corner would get under your skin and you would want to be back out there, sweating with the best .

It was a wonderful, hot, loud, passionate, crazy, beautiful, scary experience and without a doubt the most fun I have ever had in 3 days.








Straight No Chaser, 2004


The famous carnival society ‘Filhos de Gandhi’ (Sons of Ghandi) is headquartered in the Pelourinho district of Salvador, where it runs a cultural and community centre. Founded in 1949 by stevedores (dock workers) from the port of Salvador, it was the subject of a renowned documentary by Lula Buarque de Holanda, with a score by Gilberto Gil (who also recorded an unforgettable tribute to the Filhos with Jorge Ben).

The port of Salvador was responsible for the heavy flow of merchandise from all the ports of Brazil and Europe. During the war, in Bahia as in other states, it was the stevedores who initiated protests against Nazism and Fascism, refusing to unload ships from Franco’s Spain & Hitler’s Germany. They were the first to march against the Nazis.

Soon after the Allied victory, various communist leaders sought out the stevedores because of their active participation in the fight against fascism. With the legalization of the political parties that had been meeting in secrecy, a large number of stevedores joined the Communist Party. In the elections that followed, the stevedore Jaime Maciel was elected state deputy. For this reason a certain reaction grew up against the stevedores, although they were not intimidated. During the Dutra government, however, this reactionary element was able to interfere in the labor unions and the stevedores were among the most persecuted.

Before the Second World War, the stevedores had always participated actively in the popular festivals of Bahia. By 1949, the stevedores were suffering bad times. The federal government announced a post-war economic plan, placing the union in federal receivership. The Captaincy of Salvador imposed a climate of terror.



It was Thursday of carnival week. A handful of stevedores were sitting beneath an old mango tree drinking and discussing the day-to-day business of the union. The men lamented the situation of the nation and their own misfortunes deciding ’God was asleep at the wheel’ as they say in Brazil. At this point Vavá Madeira decided to take the initiative and introduced the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. The proposal for the group was accepted, and the Sons of Gandhi were born.

Learning that the stevedores were going to march in the carnival under the name of Gandhi, the governing junta of the union summoned the responsible parties, warning them “any carnival block mounted by the stevedores would be deemed a Communist demonstration.”

On the first day, blood flowed, but only from the feet of the participants. The uniform was a twisted white cloth made of plush toweling, along with a sandal of raw leather known as a malandrinha which punished the feet.

As the group had decided, women were not permitted to join and the use of alcoholic beverages was strictly forbidden, except on the sly. The rationale for these prohibitions was that where there is women and liquor, there is conflict and the fundamental principle of the society was peace. 20 fixed strict rules apply during carnival time.



Like the man whose name they adopted over 50 years ago, they are pacifists. Their traditions are also deeply rooted in Candomblé.  All members are bound by a strict code of ethics.  They run many community projects like the Projeto Crescer e Aparecer – a cultural educational center helping 1500 children and adolescents. In the early 80s the FdG were going through a downturn as numbers decreased and people were more attracted to the more modern and colourful Ile Aye and Olodum blocos.  Gilberto Gil decided to give them a boost and famously showed solidarity by marching with the FdG, which swelled their number as at the time Gil was going through his most populist period. 



In 2003 I met with one of the pillars of the Dona Aurora community in Salvador: Luis Barbosa, who showed me photos of his recent carnival exploits with the legendary Filhos do Gandhi. Mr Bongo’s Bosco de Oliveira and even our own Bahian bad boy Paul Bradshaw (Straight No Chaser) had spoken of the filhos in hushed tones (PB’s most treasured possession is his FdG t-shirt).

FdG came from the city that gave us Candomble, Tropicalisimomusic movement, the writer Jorge Amado and the great samba singer Dorival Caymmi. It is the centre of Brazilian culture with the famously beautiful UNESCO world heritage site and the more haunting Pelourinho (otherwise known as the whipping post from the days of slavery).

On this basis I had persuaded 3 other honourable high-minded gringos to accompany me on the trip: Gav Smith (Disorient and Bongo man), Alexis Maryon (Straight No Chaser Lensman) and journo Steve O Rourke.

Having researched the pacifist history of the Gandhi I was expecting a middle-aged, laid-back, bell-ringing bloco who had a more measured approach to carnival going than the crazy foot-stomping, elbow-crunching, slam-dancing youth or Yuff of blocos like Olodum, Ara keut and Ile Aye. These filhos guys would surely be marching slowly along, chanting about the Orixas (Candomble gods)  drifting into a meditative state… How wrong could I be?

On arrival in Itapoa we touched base at the Dona Aurora street children project that we work with. Two days of preparations then followed, most importantly the fitting of the treasured towel turban, which had to be hand-stitched on to each filhos and could cook your brains to 100c. A giant white robe with a picture of Gandhi was also tapered to length, blue and white DIY sandals, numerous beads, white gloves, ribbons and the one they all went mad for – the lavender Gandhi spray. Included in the preparation was the question ‘what does a FdG wear under the gown?’ There were 2 schools of thought: leave the keks at home so as to not get too hot, or wear the keks to avoid chaffing.

The first few nights feature relatively light carnival action, maybe 6 hours of dubbing it in the reggae 70s dancehalls. As with West Africa, Bahians were crazy for the killer reggae sounds of the 70s, even Jimmy Cliff moved out for a while and started singing with Olodum. However, the sound is so distorted it sounds like they’re singing in Brazilian…lets all chip in for a full King Tubby’s rig to be installed.

After 2 days of mild partying we were ready for the big event. Everyone we met was constantly reminding us that carnival was highly dangerous, so to not to take anything valuable with us. Poor old Alexis had to cope with the prospect of carrying his big lens camera with him, which was absurd as even earrings were fair game. Luckily Alexis’ fears were eased as the costume of filhos tended to dissuade any vagabundos.

Luis, the experienced filhos veteran, showed us his credentials and all was settled…    Some beach-side drinking ensued to muster the courage to prance around for 3 days and nights looking like gringo gandhis. In the meantime, Luis explained the only real rules: ‘Not to get too drunk’  – desregrado (which means immoderate). In other words,  ‘do not drink  immoderately’, rather than ‘drink moderately’, which can allow for some misinterpretation. The ultimate dishonour, however, is to let someone else wear your turban.

Later that day a meeting was arranged where all FdG congregate in the main square of the pelorinho at 3pm so, in typical Brazilian time, by 6pm they had turned up. There upon ensued a huge bar crawl following smaller samba groups through the old cobbled streets of the city. Having spent the best part of the next 3 hours drinking in the FdG bars we pondered whether or not the filhos actually marched anymore and had just become a gentleman’s drinking club. One man asked to have a sip of my chives regal whereupon he downed it in one…Luis informed me he was the chief of police. The filhos it seemed were composed of fine upstanding pillars of the community, lawyers like our marching friend Juvenal and policemen, but boy could they drink. There was a kind of pre-match atmosphere developing, a hint of expectation was in the air. Luis then gave the nod, we turned down a few street corners and came upon the sea of the 8000-strong filhos.  This sight truly stirred our souls. We were late so had to run to catch up and enter the FdG carnival ropes. Each bloco is roped off so no members of the public can enter and interfere with their carnival pursuits, although the FdG are allowed to wander off.

Once inside there was no sign of the quiet bell ringing FdG of old… these guys had come to party. The centre of our procession consisted of 3 massive trio electrico boom lorries, packed full of speakers with a filhos singer rubbing the mike on top of dropping carnival hits aplenty. Alexis so excited with camera in hand entered the bus and his flash didn’t stop until he realised the first deck was a giant urinal and having taken photos of prominent politicians in uncompromising positions, was not overly popular. We rocked and partied and sprayed our scent all over the well wishers. The filhos are well liked and they even had their own lookie-likie Gandhi who was perched on top of one of the speaker lorries.

We then entered the giant bullring that is Central, mixing it up with other blocos we decided to split and join other blocos like Daniel Mercury, Araketu and Bloco Paratins. By the end of the night we had lost contact with each other, all the FdG had spread out and were mixing well with the crowd. Gav had to head home early with chaffed thighs, maybe keks were advisable. Alexis had spent the whole time hiding his camera as numerous Capiataes de Areia (Captains of the sand), basically thieves, had been arrested in a heavy-handed manner. The military and civil police just wrap a truncheon behind the Bahian youth which is sadly watched by many rich Salvadorean residents from behind their barred gates. The gate issue is huge in South America due to their fear of crime, but the lack of inclusiveness just seems to breed more crime.

So proceeded two more days of hedonistic mayhem. Over the carnival period I was to see the filhos flying close to the edge, although none ever gave their turbans away. The other top 5 carnival groups were Ile Aye (always the best-designed clothes), Filhos de Oxum (traditional roman red colouring), Olodum (bit quiet this year) and Timbalada (very noisy and could do with a better singer). Carlinhos Brown marched with the FdG on the last day of the carnival this year as a mark of respect.







Brazil is best known for its samba, batucada, forro and increasingly electronic beats such as baile funk. It does, however, house a lesser known rich historical and exciting future hip hop scene, or ‘hippy hoppy’ as they so wonderfully phrase it in Portuguese.

Brazilian hip hop was first born in urban Sao Paulo and Brasilia in the early 80s, coming to life in the favela street parties where DJs played American funk and soul records to the largely Afro-Brazilian crowds. This created a platform for the early hip hop tracks and the music developed as a result of political, social and racial issues. The lyrical content tends to be highly politicized and scornful of the more US-style lyrics that glamourise drugs, sex and violence, subjects the baile funk scene is lyrically closer to.

As with a lot of music, its interpretation differed depending on the place. Rio fed off the electronic feel of Afrika Bambaataa which paved the way for the Miami bass and baile funk scene, whilst in Sao Paulo the more rootsy style of Grandmaster Flash was more popular. It was not until around 1987 that rappers and DJs joined forces with graffiti artists and B-boys to create a hip-hop ‘movement’ with socially oriented objectives.

In the early days of hip hop the commercial music industry in Brazil showed little interest in the movement so the producers and rappers tended to contruct their own channels to distribute their work. Initially this involved the establishment of an infrastructure of performance venues and means of production but has more recently led into social networking on the internet. The scene has, historically and for the mostpart, been founded on a sense of unia˜o (unity) and as a positive force in regard to African heritage.

The pace and complexity of Brazilian hip hop can make it a challenge for anyone unfamiliar with the Portuguese language. Add to that the fact that the lyrical content is so localised, this can go a way to explaining why it has previously struggled to make a large impact in the international arena. There are also some social barriers within Brazil where people can percieve hip hop, as with baile funk, as uncivilised and uncultured.


Nowadays the hip hop scene has shifted from the suburbs into the mainstream and as in other parts of the world is a strong influence on youth street culture. With a focus on the four main elements: rapping, beats, graffiti and street/break-dancing, it has has given the youth an ideology and sense of belonging that transcends much further than the music itself. Much of the music celebrates and calls attention to the vast swathes of Brazil that tend to be ignored and left behind, despite the country’s current economic boom.

There’s a change every day. Every day it’s a new age, but it depends what street you’re on. And I invite you to walk to the streets. If you go, even to the neighborhoods that appear to be completely forgotten by mankind, you can see an absurd evolution — people maintaining their own dignity, and though they don’t have the material resources, they’re teaching us what it means to be creative, they are doing amazing things.” Criolo.

Rapper Emicida said in the LA Times, “We used to be able to buy pirated copies of ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ from the street dealers around the community… But English is a much more monosyllabic language than Portuguese, so you [English speakers] can find different lyrical solutions whereas we have to employ some more clever subterfuges… Our poetry is different, but the themes were the same: the ghetto, the margins of society, drugs, violence, ascendance.”

“Violence, violence is reality of the street, the nonsense of people starving to death, that is violence” Xis.

A new social movement started to come out of the hip hop scene in the 90s, which involved working with youths from the favelas to keep them out of trouble and away from the pursuasive drug lords. Mr Bongo worked with the group Afro Reggae whose documentary Favela Rising details their amazing story. The non-profit orgnaization formed in 1993, uses hip hop and reggae, alongside Brazilian dance, to offer kids an alternative, positive focus.

In 2003, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture helped ease some of the obstacles from Brazilian hip hop musicians by creating grants for community groups to promote the arts and self-expression amongst the more underprivileged sectors of society. The ‘Culture Points Program’ has led to the creation of projects dedicated to the development of the art form, allowing greater exposure and creativity.



Most early rap of the 80s was strucutred as stripped-down beats from drum machines, occasional scratch sequences and basic bass lines. As producers became more informed they began to explore more into the world of hip-hop aesthetics.

In 1988, Hip hop, cultura de rua (Hip hop, street culture) was the first compilation album to be released. Featuring artists such as Thaide, it marked a turning point in the scene. One of Sao Paolo’s first MCs, Thaide cut his teeth in the freestyling and beatboxing events that took place outside the legendary Sao Bento station. Working with DJ Hum, the pioneering duo had many hits over the next decade.

Also in 1988, the group Racionais MCs was formed. Hailing from São Paulo, they were set to become one of the most dominant forces of the Brazilian hip hop scene. Their tone was energetic and revolutionary and focused on the everyday struggles for young men in the favela. By the early 90s their concerts regularly drew crowds of over 10,000, despite being generally ignored by the mainstream cultural tastemakers – radio, TV and record labels. Their classic albums of the early 90s Holocausto Urbano and Raio-X are legendary. They are set to release a comeback album in 2013.


By the mid-1990s many Brazilian rappers began to experiment with the fast, bombastic delivery and perfomance similar to early Busta Rhymes and Public Enemy.

Groups such as Sistema Racional (Rational System) and Xis 34 promoted positive thought as a way of life. Sistema Racional reworked the legendary hip hop mantra of west siders RZO “that’s the way it is” (assim que e) into “it should be like this” (e´ assim que tem que ser).

Racionais MC’s finally broke through into the mainstream in 1993 spreading hip hop culture from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to the further reaches of Brazil. A multitude of new hip-hop groups were formed on the back of this: Cambio Negro and GOG (Brasília), Faces do Subúrbio and Sistema X (Recife), Da Guedes (Porto Alegre) and Black Soul (Belo Horizonte). During the mid 1990s there was also a wave of popular bands that mixed hip hop with rock and other musical styles, including Planet Hemp with the famous rapper Marcelo D2 as front man and Nação Zumbi.

1998, Racionais MCs released the album Sobrevivendo no Inferno (Surviving in Hell). The album sold over a million copies and is considered by many to be the most important Brazilian hip hop album ever. Following this massive success, the record companies finally recognized the commercial potential of Brazilian hip-hop. This moment opened up the gates to other artists, the main ones being: Z’África Brasil, Sabotage, De Menos Crime and Kamau (São Paulo) and MV Bill, BNegão and Rappin ‘Hood (Rio). MC Rappin’ Hood was one of the first to rap over an old classic samba track, a trend that became more popular later on.

Hailing from Niteroi, the duo Black Alien and Speed were one of the most influential groups of the late 90s and early 00s. They rapped over the new baile funk beats which were becoming increasingly popular. Mr Bongo picked up one of their tracks Quem Que Cagetou which was then used in a Nissan advert and remixed by Fatboy Slim.


Another of Mr Bongo’s hip hop artists, Marcelo D2, started out in the popular rap/rock band Planet Hemp and decided to go solo in the late 90s. He began experimenting with rapping over old-school samba beats. He worked with the legendary Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato and the results were slick and extremely popular and led him to record six studio albums over the next decade. Unlike many of his Sao Paulo predesessors, MD2 stayed away from themes about street life and violence and leaned towards samba and Brazilian culture. One of his best known hits A Procura da Batida Perfeita (Looking for the Perfect Beat) used elements of the Afrika Bambaataa track of the same name. MD2 has since become a big name nationally and internationally, appearing on Brazilian Big Brother and working with Sergio Mendes and MTV in the US.

Moving into the 21st Century, in 2000 Sabotage had a massive hit with his album Rap é Compromisso. Growing up on the drug-ridden streets of Sao Paulo he met an untimely and violent death in 2003 which shook the foundations of the Brazilian hop hop scene for a long time.

The biggest female rapper to date is Brasilia’s Flora Matos. She worked with Emicida on her 2009 album Flora Matos vs Stereodubs which is a samba-influenced collection of jazzy rhymes and hooks. There are many more lady MCs coming through nowadays so watch this space…


Criolo has been involved in the Brazilian hip hop scene for 20 years but has only recently been given the recognition he deserves as one of the most important musicians in Brazil today. His 2011 album Nó na Orelha is a wonderful combination of poetic hip hop, samba, jazz, soul and reggae and tackles the sociopolitical issues prevelant in Sao Paulo as well as his own disadvantaged youth. He sold 650,000 official downloads in the last year which is huge for someone who does not have a major behind him and indiciates his steady rise to the top in Brazil and internationally.

One of the first rappers to cause a real stir on the internet with the breakthrough hit Triunfo was Emicida whose name is a fusion of the words Emcee and Homicide. Also born and raised in Sao Paulo, his impromtu battle-style has won him a huge YouTube following. A booking at Coachella Festival in 2011, involvement in the Vice Creator’s Project and the soundtrack for the new Max Payne 3 game, mean things are heading worldwide for this young rapper.

Slightly lesser-known than Criolo and Emicida but increasingly prominent is OGI. Of Brazilian and Japanese descent he started the group Contrafluxo. His 2011 album Crônicas da Cidade Cinza (Tales from the Grey City) was composed of 90 song-stories portraying life in Sao Paulo.

The most contemporary sounding hip hop artist comes from Belo Horozonte in the Brazilian interior. Flavio Renegado raps over gritty basslines and surf-rock guitars and his song Minha Tribo é o Mundo (The World is My Tribe) is his anthem.

Brazilian rapper Marcello Silva left Rio de Janeiro in 2011 to spend a few months in New York City. The idea was to take his references and ideas born from Brazilian hip hop and blend them with the NYC sound. This resulted in a new name Dughettu and an album titled BPM021, in collaboration with Redbull.

The MTV Music Awards in Brazil had until recently been the domain of mainstream pop and bland generic boy bands. But 2011 saw a shift with an appearance by Emicida, whose political performance touched on slavery and the workers movement’s land-invasion. Later Caetano Veloso joined Criolo on stage and sang along to his big hit Love Does Not Exist In São Paulo thus confirming the rappers place in Brazilian music history. Emicida and Criolo won all the keys awards on the night proving Brazil’s long-marginalized rap community are finally pushing their way into the spotlight.

Sources and further reading:


Crowd with open-armed man

Brazil has always been a bubbling hub of creativity, with its music, art, architecture and dance-like football reaching iconic status. Musically, we think of it as the birthplace of genres such as Samba and Bossa Nova, however over the last few years Brazil has become a mecca of electronic music along with its European counterparts. The new upwardly mobile middle class with its disposable income and aspirations are happy to pay higher entrance fees to watch the top-end international DJs such as David Guetta, Eric Morillo and Fatboy Slim, with ticket prices sometimes up to $600 per person. The new super clubs, rated some of the best in the world and forthcoming sponsorship for these events has created a burgeoning industry in recent times.

The busy summer resort of Balneario Camboriu is fast becoming the centre of the ‘expensive’ end of the Brazilian electronic music scene and is increasingly compared to Miami and Ibiza, with Space and Pacha reportedly on their way. It attracts over one million Brazilian and foreign tourists each year, many just heading to sample the nightlife and houses the two best clubs in Brazil, according to DJ Magazine.

For those who like their music and clubs a little more grimy, the Baile Funk (or Funk Carioca or Favela Funk) scene is still going strong and has been shifting into the mainstream since the 90s. Derived from Miami Bass, its conception in the Favelas meant the content often discussed gritty social issues and it is still controversial due to the often rude lyrical content. Brazilians seem split in their desire to embrace it, with certain class connotations attached to it. Mr Bongo put out a compilation, Slum Dunk: Funk Carioca a few years ago which stands strong and features many classics of the genre

In 2003, Mr Bongo’s tune Quem Que Caguetou (Follow Me Follow Me) by Black Alien and Speed was used in a Nissan advertisement in Europe, helping to spread the word about Baile Funk. In 2004 the success of artists MIA and Diplo helped bring the genre to the international stage and since then many exciting new variations of the style have started to come out of Brazil.  Keep an eye on the Mr Bongo release schedule this year for some exciting new electronic Brazilian music.

Next time…Brazilian hip hop.

1. Nike ‘Joga Bonito’

This advert is from the 2006 Nike World Cup campaign. It uses music from ‘Barbatuques’, a body-percussion group from Brazil who use handclaps and body slaps to create their percussive sounds. Simple Brazilian instrumentation over the top creates a stripped-back track which allows the ad to flow and Ronaldinho to do his famous football dance. Plus how cute is little Ronaldinho?

2. Nissan ‘X-Trail’

This 2008 ad for the Nissan X-Trail features the track ‘Quem Que Caguetou (Follow Me)’ by Brazilian hip hop outfit ‘Black Alien and Speed’. The funk ghetto pace and edginess of the track gives the film its kudos and its unrelenting style fits the subject matter perfectly. The popularity of this music led our label Mr Bongo to release the track commercially, including a remix by Brighton’s own Fatboy Slim which took the track into a whole new arena.

3.  Nike’ Airport’

This song is the all-time Brazilian classic ‘Mas Que Nada’ by Tamba Trio. It’s a track that everyone associates with Brazil and has that instant recognition. The song was written by the legendary Brazilian singer/songwriter Jorge Ben and has been covered by many Brazilian and international artists alike such as Dizzy Gillespie, Al Jarreau and Jessy J! It is best known as the signature song for Sergio Mendes. This 1998 ad shows that a older-style samba track also works well on a high-energy ad.

4. Bacardi ‘Island’

This track was a bespoke piece written by Mr Bongo’s band ‘Sao Benitez’ in 2009.  They created this Brazilian funk track to enhance the party feel the agency required for the Bacardi worldwide campaign. Using a Peruvian MC and Brazilian musicians from Brighton, the track was a huge success and came out as a commercial release on Mr Bongo Records due to popular demand.

5. Guinness ‘Snail Race’

This Guinness advert from the year 2000 is an absolute classic. The track ‘Babarabatiri’ by Beny More is actually Latin, not Brazilian, but the overall effect of music-to-film is so good I had to include it in my top 5 list. Whether you like Guinness or not, hearing those distinctive, manic horns will instantly take you back to the racing snails… what more can a brand ask for?