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Brazil Sings a New Tune

Brazil Sings a New Tune

Posted by Laura Zúñiga on March 21, 2014

Stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and the Brazilian pop singer Claudia Leitte are lined up to perform the theme song for this year's World Cup in Brazil. But the anthem that many Brazilians are singing as their country gears up to host the soccer competition comes from a very different source: MC Guimê, a slender, tattoo-covered 21-year-old who grew up in the slums of São Paulo.

His hit song "País do Futebol" (Soccer Nation) is about rising out of Brazil's slums, the favelas. MC Guimê—short for his real name, Guilherme Dantas—wrote the song after he realized that the trajectory of the Brazilian soccer prodigy Neymar mirrored his own: Both grew up playing soccer barefoot on fields of dirt, using rocks as goal posts, and both ended up at the top of their respective games. The song's video, shot in the favelas of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, has been viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube since it was posted in November and is regularly played on MTV in Brazil. MC Guimê (pronounced gee-MAY) performs the song with the Brazilian rapper Emicida. "Look how far we've come," MC Guimê sings triumphantly in the song's chorus.

The rise of MC Guimê and other funk artists to national fame shows how funk music—long associated with violence and the favelas—is going mainstream in Brazil. Brazilian funk—not to be mistaken with the 1970s sounds of U.S. singers such as James Brown—is a dance-music genre based on loops of electronic drums and samples from other songs, combined with rapping or singing. Technology and social media have allowed funk artists such as MC Guimê to make names for themselves despite being largely ignored by major record labels.

Funk's newfound popularity is fueled by listeners from a generation that has undergone the biggest class shift in Brazil's history: tens of millions of people moving out of poverty to form a new middle class. If economic empowerment has given this new class a voice, funk has given many of its members something to sing.



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