Machine Gun Voices

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Machine Gun Voices:

Bandits, Favelas and Utopia in Brazilian Funk


Paul Sneed

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of

the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison



First and foremost, I would like thank God for giving me the opportunity to carry out this study. Next, I would also like to thank Bill Wilson, a person whose simple spirituality and dedication to service to others has been an inspiration to me . There are many other people to whom I feel indebted and who helped me in various ways over the years to carry out this project. Although many of them will not be mentioned by name- be they residents of Rocinha, fellow researchers and students, teachers, relatives or other friends- the passion for living and learning these people have shared with me is a critical part of this thesis. It is my hope that the marks and traces left by our experiences together will be evident to any of them that might have occasion to read this.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to many other teachers who have touched my life over the years, starting with Dr. Emil Piscitelli, who I have considered something of a mentor ever since taking his philosophy classes at Northern Virginia Community College back in the late eighties. My interest in Portuguese language and Brazilian culture is the direct result of my friendship with Professor David Haberly and the wonderful classes I took with him at the University of Virginia. Professor Herbert Braun, also of the University of Virginia, was an inspiration to me with regards to social justice in Latin America and he also guided me in my first study of the favela of Rocinha in 1990. That initial work on favelas opened doors for subsequent projects including this thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which could not have been conducted without the intellectual guidance and backing of Severino Albuquerque and Florencia Mallon. In addition to being my advisor, Severino has supported me in many ways and believed in me through all the various ups and downs of the long haul of my career as a graduate student. It is impossible to measure what I have learned from him and if it were not for Severino, I would never have come to Madison in the first place, nor would I have stayed. Florencia, in addition to her invaluable contribution as a reader for this thesis and to being my advisor for my PhD minor in Latin American History, has offered me guidance on this project since it was first conceived in one of her graduate seminars. My contact with her over the years has offered me a model for making my graduate studies personally meaningful through her approach of “history from the bottom up.” I am also grateful to the other members of my thesis committee, Guido Podestá, Alda Blanco and Kathryn Sanchez, for believing in my project, reading and evaluating my chapters and helping me to carry out this study. Classes that I took with Professors Mary Lou Daniel and Ellen Sapega in the Portuguese department, in Latin American history with Professor Francisco Scarano, and in comparative literature with Professor Luís Madureira were also important to my ideas as I have worked on this thesis.

In that initial research experience in Brazil back in 1990, as an undergraduate student at UVA, many people greatly helped me who should be mentioned here. In particular, I would like to mention Professor Jurgen Heye, the coordinator for the foreign exchange program at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, for supporting me in my decision to move to Rocinha, and the late seu Pereira, the president of one of the neighbor’s associations in Rocinha, for graciously receiving me and including me in the activities his organization. Also, I want to thank my friend Eliane and her family for accepting me into their home on Rua Um, my first residence in the favela, and the family of seu José and dona Josirene in Cachopa, who later offered me a place to stay as well as their trust and friendship. I have always stayed close by them in the Cachopa area of Rocinha in all the time I have spent in Rio de Janeiro since that first time because of the fondness I have for them and their kids, Cileide, Josivaldo, Valdirene and Sara. In the years since, other good people from Cachopa have become like family to me as well, like my friend Apolônio, my neighbors dona Helena and her late husband seu Antônio, as well as Zezinho and Ivonete, who own the little store in front of my house. Since I first met them in the Valão area of Rocinha in 1990, dona Raimunda, the sweet lady who has considered me an adopted son in Brazil, and her family have made me feel like I truly have relatives in Rocinha. She and her husband seu José, as well as their daughters Socorro, Margarida, Cleonice and Antônia, and their grandson Erick, are evangelical Christians who don’t care much for funk music, in particular, but their invaluable love and support over these many years had helped me greatly in everything I have done in Rio.

I also want to thank all the people who have directly helped me to do the research for this thesis, by talking to me about their experiences with funk, loaning and giving me music to listen to at home and going to dances with me. Charlys and Alan, two of my oldest friends in Rocinha, were the first people to take me around funk dances in Rocinha and on the social scene more generally in the mid-nineties. About that time, MC Renato talked to me a great deal about the history of funk over at his little music shack by the Passarela where he used to sell tapes. MCs Leonardo and Júnior, and composer Renato Moreno, have also been good friends and offered a wealth of information in both formal interviews and informal conversations over the years, as has rap artist Nêgu Tema. I am also grateful to MC Galo and MC Dolores for their support of and interest in my work. Thanks to Wagner, the owner of the Club do Emoções, and the many fine bouncers and DJs who work at Emoções who always greeted me with enthusiasm and did whatever they could to help me in my research. A big thanks to Orlando for all the help transcribing many of the live recordings of underground songs that can be found in the appendix of this thesis. Orlando is a great friend and we have shared many dances together. I’d also like to thank all of the other people who have allowed themselves to be formally interviewed, such as Clisna, Cleide, Fernanda, Bárbara, Leandro, Alex, Cícero, Denise, Silvana, Penélope, Aline, Náni, Erick, Maikon, Filipe, and Clêzinho.

From the beginning, the story of this thesis has been intimately bound together with the story of my involvement with the Two Brothers Foundation, and therefore many thanks are due to those who have shared in that story as well. Some are researchers who have helped shape my ideas through the many conversations we had as we shared the experience of working in Rocinha. Thanks to members and students of Two Brothers alike, such as Socorro, Viviana, Daniel, Orlando, Sérgio Rivera, Consolação, Washington, Bruno, Leila, Bruno Albino, José Luís, Sérgio Soares Almeida and our dearly missed Suede. I would also like to thank the Brazilian and international volunteers who have worked at Two Brothers and who have taught me so much about life and about the community of Rocinha, especially, those who were there at the same time as I was, like Brianna Carrigan, Corinne Davis-Rodrigues, Robert Neuwirth, Diego Deane, Mônica Guimarães, Andrew Levine and Rafael Berríos, Júlio Ludemir, Theresa Williamson, Mark, Ali, Anthony, Helena, Markus, Mike, Pete, Doug and Moisés. Thanks, too, to the friends from Two Brothers in Madison who have taught me so much through their passion and dedication to social justice, such as Jake Jesson, John Fieno, Desmond Arias, Thomas Mitchell, Isabel Mhula, Michael and Claudia Ferreira, and Alan Kodzik, and to the people who have always helped us raise money and spread interest in Brazilian culture, like Joe Seitz of Madison Capoeira, Andrew Irving of the French House, musician Ricardo Voigt, Sam (DJ Papiluv), and the tireless staff of the Catacombs Coffee House.

Finally, I would like to thank my family for their love and support throughout my life and especially throughout my graduate studies. Thanks to my loving wife, Jeyla, who put up with more than her share of hardships as I researched and wrote this thesis; I could never thank her enough for all her love and support. Thanks to my sisters, Theresa and Jennifer, and my nephew Patrick; I’m sure none of them will ever know how much their support helped me to carry out this project and to bring it to a conclusion. Thanks to Kimberly Durden and my friend Bob Jubb, whose been like a brother to me ever since I first came to Madison years ago, and whether he wanted to or not has become something of an expert on Brazilian music, culture and favelas. Finally, I want to thank my parents, Earl and Barbara, two people who have helped me in a million ways to finish my doctoral program, and to be the person I am. They are two of my very best friends in life and it is to them that I dedicate this thesis.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ……………………………………………………………………..ii

Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………….viii
Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….ix
Chapter 1: Writing about Funk in the Favela of Rocinha ………………………………1
Chapter 2: Funk, Favelas and Organized Crime ………………………………………46
Chapter 3: The ‘Social Bandit’ in Funk …………………………………………….…95
Chapter 4: Funk, Utopia and the ‘Found Sounds’ of the Black Atlantic …………….159

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