AfroReggae was formed in 1995 in the favela shanty-towns of Rio de Janeiro. Fusing many elements of Brazilian and international music past and present—including mangue beat, rap, samba-reggae, funk, raga, xaxado beats, drum ‘n’ bass, capoeira and candomblé—the 13 member group has established itself as one of Brazil’s most passionate and creative bands. AfroReggae has collaborated with artists like Arnaldo Antunes, Nando Reis and Caetano Veloso, and opened for the Rolling Stones at a 2006 Copacabana Beach concert for a crowd of over 2 million people.
Born out of desire to counteract the violent drug industry and police oppression, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae – GCAR (“AfroReggae Cultural Group”) was formed in January 1993, initially around AfroReggae Notícias (“AfroReggae News”) – a newspaper designed to add value and disseminate black culture. The newspaper primarily targeted young people interested in reggae, soul, and hip-hop, among other musical genres. The group soon thereafter opened its first Núcleo Comunitário de Cultura (“Culture Community Center”) in the Vigário Geral favela (a slum area) in 1993. In a short period of time, this center was offering its first workshops – dance, percussion, garbage recycling, soccer and capoeira – the foundations for new social projects. GCAR knew exactly what it was seeking with its programs: to offer a cultural and artistic education for adolescents living in slums. By affording local youth more chances of strengthening their citizenship, GCAR hoped to provide a viable path away from entanglement in the prevalent drug trade.
In 1997, AfroReggae opened Centro Cultural AfroReggae Vigário Legal (“Vigário Legal AfroReggae Cultural Center”), a landmark in its history. With structured facilities within the community, they were able to enhance the quality of their programs and transform the initiative into a reference point for social and cultural practices in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
AfroReggae’s performance will precede a screening of director Sergio Resende’s 2006 film Zuzu Angel, which tells the true story of a famous Brazilian fashion designer of the ‘70s, and her political awakening after the military regime kills her son.