Music to Expand Your Consciência Negra

dia da consc negra

November 20th is Dia da Consciência Negra, or Black Awareness Day. It’s a public holiday in several states including São Paulo, but the entire month of November usually sees many cultural activities, discussions and events to commemorate black resistance and talk about current issues important to the black Brazilian community. This date marks the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a hero of resistance and the last surviving leader of the settlements founded by runaway slaves (quilombos).

The song “Alienação,” or Alienation, by Ilê Aiyê caught my attention, and works well to commemorate this holiday.

  • Se você esta de ofender
    É só chamá-lo de moreno pode crê
    É desrespeito a raça é alienação
    Aqui no Ilê Aiyê a preferência é ser chamado de negãoSe você esta de ofender
    É só chamá-la de morena pode crê
    Você pode até achar que impressiona
    Aqui no Ilê Aiyê a preferência é ser chamada de negona

    A consciência é o motivo principal
    Eu quero muito mais
    Alem de esporte e carnaval, natural.
    Chega de eleger aqueles que tem
    Se o poder é muito bom
    Eu quero poder também

    O sistema tenta desconstruir
    lhe afastar de suas origens
    Pra que você não possa interagir, construir.
    Já passou da hora de acordar
    Assumir sua negritude é vital para prosperar

    Ser negro não questão de pigmentação
    É resistência para ultrapassar a opressão, sem pressão.
    Lutar sempre igualdade e humildade
    Vou subir de Ilê Aiyê
    E mudar toda cidade

  • If you want to offend
    You just need to call him brown, you know
    It’s disrespect to the race, it’s alienation
    Here in Ilê Aiyê he prefers to be called a black man.If you want to offend
    You just need to call her brown, you know.
    You can even believe it makes an impact
    Here in Ilê Aiyê she prefers to be called a black woman.

    Awareness is the main motive
    I want much more
    Than sports and carnival, naturally.
    Stop electing those who have
    If power is so good
    I want power too.

    The system tries to destroy
    Distance you from your origins
    So that you can’t interact, create.
    It’s about time to wake up
    To assume your blackness is vital to prosper.

    Being black is not a question of pigmentation
    It’s resistance to overcome oppression without pressure
    Always fight for equality and humility
    I will rise as Ilê Aiyê
    And change every city.

The song calls for a rejection of the term moreno, a far-reaching term that can mean anything from brown-skinned to having dark hair. Instead Ilê Aiyê embraces the terms negão and negona, which are usually ascribed to dark skinned blacks and can often have a negative subtext to mean large and threatening. The song seeks to reclaim these terms to mean unapologetically black.

It’s also powerful for the song to talk about wanting more than sports and carnival, the few spaces where black Brazilians are featured prominently, whether as soccer stars or samba queens. Instead, the song calls for blacks to rise up and lead politically, instead of depending on those who already have power, or the white elite.

The song’s straightforward, audacious message is on par with Ilê Aiyê’s history. Founded in 1974 as Salvador’s first afro Carnaval group, it was immediately controversial for permitting only black people to participate. (In 2010, they decided to allow others in.) They paraded in Salvador’s carnaval, celebrating different African countries and playing traditional African rhythms, changing the way the city would create music and view its identity. Ilê has grown to be a cultural institution in Salvador with numerous cultural and educational initiatives with the goal of educating, celebrating and empowering black Brazilians.

Zumbi dos Palmares. Feliz Dia da Consciência Negra!

Zumbi. Feliz Dia da Consciência Negra!

2 thoughts on “Music to Expand Your Consciência Negra

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