January 16, 2018
Saturday, March 24, 2012

Criolo: from favelas to the world with love

By Gabriela G. Antunes

BuenosAiresHerald.com staff.-

It’s a long way to the top if you want to make yourself known in the world of music. It is an even longer way if you are a Latin American artist from a shantytown and your thing is rapping. But Criolo, Brazil’s newest phenomenal musical export, managed to get there.

From being praised by Brazilian biggest recording artists such as Chico Buarque, to having received candid reviews from international newspapers such as The New York Times and The Guardian, calling him “The megastar of the megacities,” Kleber Cavalcante Gomes (aka Criolo) is on the top of his game.

Not only the media, but music buffs alike in Brazil have caught on to his sound, seeing the star being named the best upcoming artist at Brazil’s MTV music awards, gaining him fans all over the world.

His CD No na orelha (loosely translated as Ear Knot), which can be download free on the internet, became a huge success catapulting him to fame he never thought possible and earning him the title “Mr Favela.”

The ballad Nao existe Amor SP (There is no love to be found in Sao Paulo) became an anthem for those who live through and understand the harsh and sometimes disappointing world that Brazilian urban life can present, particularly in Sao Paulo.

Criolo, a son to poor north-eastern Brazil immigrants trying to make it in Sao Paulo, stays humble though. “I am no different than thousands roaming the streets of Sao Paulo,” the soft-spoken rapper told the BuenosAiresHerald.com.

“I just had an opportunity and I took it. There are thousands, if not millions as good as me in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the world”, he said.

Often seen as the “voice of the slum-oppressed people,” Criolo denied he is another urban poet speaking for those whose harsh realities don’t appear in the papers everyday.

“I come from the Grajau. It is a neighbourhood in Sao Paulo with a population of one million people. This strikes people,” he explained. “It is a powerful thing, the will to lead a better life, the road to dignity,” Criolo continued.

“But who am I to speak about the people’s realities or perceptions,” modest Criolo remarked as he denied taking on the crusade of the retirantes, the underprivileged drifters who escape the northern droughts and hunger to try their luck at the Brazilian megacities only to find prejudice and miserable working conditions.

An artist’s artist as well as a commercial one, Criolo struggles now with the fame he never saw coming, as worldwide famous Brazilian icons such as Caetano Veloso have said the rapper is “possibly the most important figure to hit the Brazilian pop scene.”

“What I am is just a piece of a bigger reality. We are eternally under construction. That is why I can’t say I am speaking for everybody,” the singer explained as he tried to escape the title of a ‘socially-driven’ lyricist.

With over twenty years of underground performing in Sao Paulo’s hectic rap scene, Criolo has since become a media darling appearing in feature articles for the Rolling Stone magazine and numerous national television shows. Soon he’ll be jetting off to carry out his European tour, but beforehand will make a stopover in Buenos Aires taking to the porteño stage for the first time.

“It is so weird. Up to a year ago, I didn’t know if I was going to play in the next neighbourhood. I have so much to be thankful for,” Criolo said.

However, the 36-year-old musician is more than a victim of chance. He comes from the ever-growing part of the Brazilian population that has to tackle their way through life and is not at all in time with the country’s newest economic progresses.

Throughout his life, the artist has worked in diverse jobs such as a supermarket packer, salesman and social worker

“I tried to adequate myself to traditional jobs. But I was always working on my mind, sitting at a dark corner and writing lyrics,” Criolo explained.

“Who can say they have not had a tough life? Even still, I had to express myself. There was no other option,” he said when asked about the long road he had to take to maintain himself as an artist.

The ghetto MC jokingly blamed the rap scene for keeping him around for so long. It’s the influence of rap, Criolo said, that allows him to flirt with reggae, samba, afrobeats and other music giving him his very distinctive sound.

“Rap music understood me and offered me a lending hand. I am the son of rap in my country and it is a generous genre. It never asks you anything in return and it doesn’t take you hostage,” the rapper explained.

On the verge of giving his first Argentine performance, and although teased slightly about the famous Argentina-Brazil football rivalry, Criolo remains diplomatic: “Music, like sports, is made to unite people. There can’t be any music to segregate us just as there can’t be any sport separating us.”

But his songs are far from being a message of social conformity. “What I have for you is a box filled with mud, a bitter blanket to cover your bed,” Criolo writes in ones of his songs.

“Some rather die to see a black man succeed,” another fragment from a song says, making it hard to believe the rapper is not at least trying to sing the realities of those sixteen million of people living under the line of poverty in one of the countless shantytowns of Brazil.

“Music is a sound wave cruising everywhere,” the musician said.

“There is no such thing is as borderlines.”

Criolo and guests play at Niceto Vega Club (Niceto Vega 5510) on Sunday, March 25, at 8.30 pm. Tickets cost $50 at the venue or can be purchased online www.ticketek.com.ar

To access the artist’s music you can check out his Facebook page where you can access free downloads and live streaming of his songs: http://www.facebook.com/criolo.oficial

Alternatively take a peek at his website: http://www.criolo.net/



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Tags:  criolo  favelas  brazil  chico buarque  

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