On Wednesday, April 19, we present the European Premiere of Jura Capela’s Manguebit. But what is this most interesting of genres? We thought we’d dive into it a bit and see what exactly is Brazilian Manguebeat (mangue bit, manguebit).
The Brazilian Manguebit cultural movement is a unique and powerful expression of the marginalized communities living in Recife’s mangrove swamps. Originating in the early 1990s, it was born out of a desire to create a new sound that reflected these communities’ daily lives and struggles. Its pioneers were musicians from the urban slums and mangrove swamps who were determined to break free from the traditional northeastern music, such as forró and frevo, and create something fresh and reflective of their realities. It’s official manifest states that Recife’s inhabitants as crabs living in Recife’s mangrove environment. A major symbol associated with Manguebit is that of an antenna stuck in the mud receiving signals from all over the world.
Manguebit was heavily influenced by Chico Science, a musician from Olinda and one of the founders of the band Nação Zumbi. Chico Science’s music blended traditional northeastern rhythms with punk and rock, and his lyrics often dealt with social and political issues faced by the people of Pernambuco. Unfortunately, his untimely death in a car accident in 1997 was a massive blow to the movement. Still, his legacy lives on, and his music inspires new generations of musicians.
The focus on the mangrove swamps is one of the most important aspects of Manguebit. These areas are home to some of the poorest communities in Recife, and the movement’s lyrics often speak of the daily struggles and challenges the people living there face. Manguebit’s musicians have become advocates for these communities, bringing attention to their social and environmental issues, such as pollution, lack of basic infrastructure, and poverty.
Musically, Manguebit is characterized by its fusion of traditional northeastern rhythms with hip-hop, funk, and rock. It features heavy percussions, such as the maracatu drums and the alfaias, a type of bass drum, and electric guitars, bass, and synthesizers. In addition, the lyrics often tackle social and political issues like inequality, racism, and police brutality. Still, they are also playful and humorous, reflecting the culture and spirit of Recife.
One example of Manguebit’s socially conscious lyrics can be found in the song A Cidade by Chico Science & Nação Zumbi. The lyrics address the urbanization and industrialization of Recife and the displacement of the city’s marginalized communities: “A cidade não para A cidade só cresce A cidade não dorme A cidade não tem prece Onde está o verde Que era aqui tão perto? As águas do rio Capibaribe Estão cada vez mais pretas”
Translated to English: “The city never stops The city only grows The city never sleeps The city has no prayer Where is the green That was once so close? The waters of the Capibaribe river Are getting darker every day”
Another example can be found in the song Meu Maracatu Pesa Uma Tonelada by Mundo Livre S/A. The lyrics address the issue of police brutality and racism in Brazil: “Não atire, não Não mate, não Não mate, não Não mate, não Não mate, não Não mate, não”
Translated to English: “Don’t shoot, no Don’t kill, no Don’t kill, no Don’t kill, no Don’t kill, no Don’t kill, no.”
Manguebit’s impact on Brazilian music and culture cannot be understated. It has inspired new genres and movements, such as mangue rap and mangue beat, and has paved the way for other musical and cultural expressions challenging the status quo. Some of the most prominent musicians associated with the movement include Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, Mundo Livre S/A, Eddie, and Otto.
Today, Manguebit continues to evolve and grow. Its musicians experiment with new sounds and styles while staying true to the movement’s roots. The annual Carnival in Recife, one of Brazil’s biggest and most popular festivals, features many Manguebit-inspired bands and musicians, showcasing the vibrancy and uniqueness of this cultural movement.
Featured Image: By Leonardo Silva from Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil – Estátua Caranguejo com Cérebro ou Caranguejo Elétrico (Chico Science) Monumento ao Manguebeat, Rua da Aurora, Recife, Brazil, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121161324