When it comes to the realm of changing social realities, music is powerful! We are used to change coming in the form of protests, marches, and other events, highlighting social realities within a culture, community, or nation. However, there is something about cultural aesthetics, musical aesthetics, and its ability to celebrate the “uncelebrated.” The phenomenal thing about this is that you don’t have to say anything. You simply perform truth, and those images, which have been hidden. That’s it! In the simplest of terms, you allow the artistry to speak for itself. Often times, artistry speaks louder than any political speech, or outrage. Why? Its because it has the power of performing the reality, of what many seek. If you desire holistic imagery from a people, or community, whose imagery has been tainted, then you simply do the work of presenting their beauty. The very presentation, in itself, positions the viewing as part of a normalcy in society. Consistent repetition articulates the humanity. Soon, people no longer find it “odd,’ that difference is given the limelight.
In this current era when the fight for Blackness has presented itself on mainstream television and radio stations, on international platforms, questions are asked and conversations are held. We can have the debates. We can have the arguments. Yet, for certain artists, the best way of showcasing a people’s humanity, in countering negative stereotypes, beauty is the greatest tool! Let’s remember that the nation of Brazil has also entered the spotlight, when it comes to its own Black population. Conversations of marginalization and injustices have added sparkles to the dialogues. But wait, there’s more!
Very few people take heed to the Afro-Brazilian population, and the culture birthed from it. Very few media outlets in the United States or Europe have ventured to cover the richness, politics, and community of Afro-Brazilians. Do you remember the list of options we had for discussing this group? Of course it is a magical haven of dance, music, culinary, laughter, and other components to the culture of a people. Many times, they are not actively, or consistently, highlighted on Brazilian television stations. This leaves them hidden’ contributing to ongoing stereotypes, plaguing their existence. Yet, there is an anecdote for that. A simple anecdote, indeed! And for one Cuban-American legend, and living icon, the remedy is very simple.
We are back in the world of famed singer, Grammy-award winner, song-writer, businesswoman, actress, and activist, GLORIA ESTEFAN! A new album, new look, and the venture into further territory of the musical persuasion. Except, there is one thing. Sometimes, you have to go back into past collections, as a reason to showcase their relevancy for the present day! A form of musical genius of re-decorating a hit performance and classic! Further illustrating that your music, artistry, and creativity never goes out of style. For our beloved Gloria, that illustration is the song “Samba,” from her new album, Brazil 305! All I can say is, “Wow!” Quite frankly, even that does not convey the true feelings of the term. From Cuba, the US, and now Brazil, Gloria Estefan has inched her way into new territory. Its a nation where a different rhythm is stomped, dance, swayed, and performed. Its called Samba, and Estefan’s immersion into it, has been made very clear. Nothing more can be said. Fierce, Darling! Simply, Fierce!
Using her classic 1985 hit with the Miami Sound Machine (off her 2nd-English album Primitive Love), “Conga,” we find an intertwining of Brazilian candy, with Cuban delight. The iconic rhythm and melody of “Conga,” never went away. Musical proof that we can always come back to it when we desire to. Its a new coloring, atmosphere, and land for the song. Perfect! Attracting current generations to previous times requires that we meet them in their time. And Baby, right now is the right time!
The video release of “Samba” speaks many volumes on the current times. What makes the video so enchanting, and vivacious, is her presentation of the Afro-Brazilian presence. The carnival dressed themes and Samba bands are enriching images of Afro-Brazilian culture, and it constituency of Brazilian culture, as a whole. Its fascinating the hidden messages within the video. In this Portuguese-speaking nation, the Black Brazilian community are a cultural and musical wonder, who sustain aspects of Central African aesthetics and performance; imprinting itself into a foreign nation, and birthing new music, as a reflection of their particular journey in Brazilian paradise. A lecture was not needed. There was no need for a debate. All that was necessary, is a platform. The performance would sing for itself. Its that simple!
In this video, Gloria Estefan has not only asserted a re-framing of Black Afro-Brazilian communities, but she has also challenged outside (and interior) negative perceptions. Wearing beautiful blue and white carnival attire, Black, Afro-Brazilian populations are depicted as beautiful. Joy, happiness, and the use of music for life’s fulfillment, surrounds their very presence. Forget about the negative impacts of race, gender, and color; those particular -isms, which aids in relegating them to socio-economic invisibilities. Not with Gloria! Through her gaze, they are beautiful! They are natural to be around, and they too, are performing in the cultural experience of humanity. Gloria Estefan’s performance with Black, Afro-Brazilian Samba band members and Carnival dancers, challenges the foolishness of another -ism. That pertains to colorism, when it concerns to the collective depiction of Brazilian women. Do you notice the presence of chocolate-colored, Btazilian women in the video? They too, are presented as beautiful, womanly, feminine, and aesthetically pleasing. Ah, the ugliness of colorism is shattered by this simple act. The Blackness of Brazil is placed front and center. There is nothing ugly about it, or shameful about it. Highlighting their image on television sends a bold and chilling statement. What is is articulating is that the colorful richness of their humanity is a normalcy. Their lives matter, and it is Samba, which carries the beat of their rhythm, and the her/history for their tune.
Sitting back and observing the video, Gloria Estefan finds joy in experiencing this other world. Her very presence is comfortable among them; letting Cubans and Brazilians, that any lingering fears regarding this community should be thrown away. The notion of “Blackness” as a criminality becomes a mockery and a joke, in its very own right. Granted, this is not being stated within the video. However, by presenting Brazil’s Black, Afro-Brazilian representation on the main screen, opportunities of such conversations are allowed to come to the surface. Seeing colorful images of this category of people, as contributing to the human experience, forces many Brazilians to question the lies they may have been taught about them. In fact, any reactions to the very sight of their presence on television, will force them to acknowledge the rationale for any resentment to their presence-even if they are not ready to have that conversation. Furthermore, by Gloria Estefan interacting and performing with them, in the way that she is, she depicts the absurdity of racial bigotry and bias. Why not should they be on television? That is the underlying question.
While many people are focusing on the question of Blackness and Black lives in the United States, Gloria Estefan’s “Samba,” centers this discussion in South America. She doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist. She doesn’t dance, or sing her way, into delusions. That’s one of the blessings, and sacred teachings, of this video. Estefan presents the image, and leaves others to have the conversation. Its evident that music and culture provides that comfort to address societal issues. Plus, its entertaining. Again, music is the comforter to go through this journey; a gateway into comprehending racial sensitivity in Brazil. There you have it Ladies and Gentlemen. Presenting that topic on a cultural platter, while giving you a taste of a different cuisine. Tasty? Is it not?
If we want to go through the visuals of the video, the audience observes how Gloria Estefan serves as the visiting storyteller in this vibrant culture in Brazil. Entry into its gates may be new to her, but she is not afraid. In fact, she highlights her sense of calm and ease with this community. There is a readiness to bring their Brazilian stories to the forefront. With Estefan’s presence, we can say the very same thing about Cuba. I’m sure that the Black, Afro-Brazilian communities appreciate this very gesture. Appreciating the reality of not going elsewhere, or the United States, to address the energy of Blackness, but addressing it right there; right at home.
Music and culture is the very essence of storytelling, within a society. In fact, it addresses those complex issues, often restricted to the University, and collegiate, level. The ability of taking an image, traditionally painted as a negative, and transforming it into something that is deserving of our attention, is one of the most powerful elements to happen in the music and entertainment industries. The hidden message is that you don’t have to focus on the negative in making the change. You simply present the change you wish to see, and allow it to stand on its own. In focusing on the positive of this change, the irrelevance of negative imagery is showcased. Why focus on that, when you have the dancing and singing proof of a different storyline? The video “Samba,” is one essence of genius, and the power to focus on what we desire as opposed to what we don’t want to see. We didn’t have to see protests. We didn’t have to focus on issues of racism against Brazil’s Black, Afro’ community. The method was simple. Place music and the culture as the forefront, and allow it to be the greatest teacher.
Samba is the very basis of Brazilian culture. If you want to tell a different story, if you want to tell another story, go through the rhythm of a nation. If you want to show a different side, a more colorful side, go through its tunes. If you want to bring to light the wondrous aesthetics of a community, considered taboo, put them on stage and allow them to carry the tune. This magical and genius move by Gloria Estefan, and her team, re-tells a different story, and the magic of it all. Through the visuals of “Samba,” she says many things, without saying anything at all. Dancing and singing a new reality, is the mystic of Universal greatness and wonder. Dancing into a new phase of society is the the most powerful essence of change, that a people can make. In her musical creativity, Gloria Estefan is keen in understanding this. The great ones know that change is performed. Placed on center stage and depicting how irresistible change can be. Its more attractive; connecting change to the presence of Universal greatness and aesthetics.
Our living Cuban-American, Salsa legend has done it again! Venturing into a world, which houses Universal aesthetics and wonders of Blackness. In fact, the video goes into the world of magical realism. A special world of Afro-Brazilian culture, and the Blackness of it all, is showcased in Brazilian mythology, as a fairytale. The realm of our imagination allows us to venture into a hidden world, visited by few Brazilian people. And yet, our Darling, Salsa legend took to her adventurous world, and moved into the “forbidden world,” of those painted in the magic of Universal delight. Guess what? there is nothing “scary” about it! That’s the irony and adventurous humor of the video. What is deemed a “scary place,” is actually where all the fun and joy is located! That’s where all the beauty of Brazilian culture is birthed from, and the artistry of Gloria Estefan guides us on this story. Like viewers, she is a visiting storyteller, who documents the fascination of this world, for many to see. Yet, once she performs with them, the space is no longer unfamiliar to her. For she has now been colored in the rhythms of Samba, and it acclimates her Cuban-American presence into this vivacious beat! Using her famed song, “Conga,” a new flavor is immersed into the atmosphere. Movement was a requirement, and changing landscapes is a necessity. Again, more proof in how time and movement display differing colors, designs, and styles for a musical metamorphosis.
Samba is beautiful! Samba is magical! It has the power to reveal hidden beauty. That is the wonder of the Universal realm. Within its Blackened coloring, are colorful treasures and wonders. A performance of magic, beauty, dance, and song. After all, isn’t this what the video of Gloria Estefan’s video is depicting? I think so. So, Conga Baby! Dance and shake into Samba’s bliss! Awaken treasures within Brazilian Blackness, and Samba well, so the world won’t miss!