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World Music Matters

Edgar: new voice of rap from Brazil favela

Audio 10:34
Edgar's debut album Ultrassom
Edgar's debut album Ultrassom ©Urban Jungle/Pedro Ladeira

Brazilian rapper Edgar hails from the favelas, using recycled materials to make his clothes and MPCs to make music. His debut album Ultrassom (Ultrasound) delivers a dystopian view of Brazil's future, yet brims with poetry. He recently gave his first concert abroad at the Mama Festival in Paris and talked to RFI about how music keeps madness at bay and his fears over the country's swing to the far right.

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The poor shanty towns known as favelas around Rio de Janiero and São Paolo have produced not just samba, Brazil's national music, but funk and more recently hip-hop and rap.

Rappers like MV Bill, Emicida and Criolo have become voices for its people, suffering from the same prejudice and lack of opportunity.

Edgar's territory is Guarulhos favela on the edge of São Paolo.

"As well as kids dealing in drugs, there are lots of funk parties every night with 3,000 people crammed into small venues," he told RFI's Musiques du Monde.

The 30-year old has known the rough end of life and spent several years living on the streets, but his music explores the way society is heading rather than his own past.

Has love been taken prisoner?

The track Plastico envisages an apocalyptic future for planet earth in 2022. The video shows him biting into a fish to find a stomach full of Rio carnival sequins.

“It’s the plastic era," he sings, "the future is beautiful like a bird without wings, our future will be beautiful like a rainbow forming in an oil spill, the future is a video game fanatic, the future is a child who’s afraid of us."

On O Amor Esta Preso? he questions whether we're still free to love. The video shows him hung upside-down in a straightjacket.

"Love’s been taken prisoner, in a condom," he sings, "reality’s been placed in a straightjacket, hospital wings and school corridors are strangely similar. [...] You want to civilise rather than humanise us."

The road to dystopia quickens under Bolsonaro

With far-right Jair Bolsonaro set to take up office as Brazil's next president in January, Edgar sees the outlook as bleak. His father is of Amazonian Indian descent and there are fears Bolsonaro will work to convert more Amazon rainforest into farmland and put business concerns ahead of biodiversity.

In the song Que estas libelulas entrem em extinçao (before the dragonflies disappear) Edgar warns of the dangers of failing to protect the environment.

"Dragonflies are bio indicators," he says. "When a lake starts being polluted dragonflies are the first insects to go. So it shows pollution levels. Without dragonflies we just won’t know."

He fears his future as an experimental artist may be compromised.

"Having opinions, being different, makes you a target [in Brazil]," he laments.

But doubts his work will change much for society at large.

"I have no ambition and very little hope of changing anything. I do what I do just to bring myself back from the brink of madness.

“I feel I’m in danger," he continues. "But [this situation] gives me inspiring subject matter, trying to build things which are the very opposite of what’s happening. You have to explode from the inside."

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