Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Listen to the message behind the reggae

Posted by Kimberly on October 27, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 27, 2007, page 2 (696 words)

The movie ‘City of God’ was created in 2002 and nominated for four Oscars. Its message about the frantic fight for survival shot through to the heart of every cinema-goer. Grupo Cultural AfroReggae was born out of just such violence. A massacre of 21 innocent people, including a 15-year-old girl, occurred in Vigario Geral in 1993 supposedly due to retaliation by a death squad of policemen against the killings of four officers by drug traffickers at the favela [shanty town].
“It was after that, that we had the idea of creating our group,” said Anderson, one of the group’s vocalists, adding that “we need a negative to turn into a positive.”
They brought hope and a solution with the kind of energy that will be evident at their concert tonight.
“It’s a concert with hope and human integration that come together in music,” said Anderson, adding that the name of the concert is ‘Nothing justifies war’.
“Through presentation, we wanted to show there is hope, that people can change reality if they want,” he said.
During the concert, they will be speaking of war in Brazil, around the world, the war between different social classes, religions and races.
“We want to integrate people from all these different groups,” said Anderson.
Formed in 1993, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae have overcome many challenges during their existence. Oe of the best have been their collaboration with the local police.
As fellow vocalist Luis Gustavo (LG) explained, “it was very hard to start this work with the police because they were always seen to be the oppressors.
“Our objective was to show the poor communities in Brazil that even a policeman has a soul, is a human being.
“Today those very police that would only go inside the favelas to be oppressive, they go now to teach everything we taught them: percussion, basketball, capoeira, graffiti,” he said.
As a result of this change, LG added that “the number of killings of young people inside the communities by the police have fallen by more than half.”
LG’s message was simple: “We are not the owners of truth but we believe in what we do,” adding that “we do really believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, that we are able to change the reality.”
And the impact their efforts have had, have been tremendous, “giving someone the opportunity to work and do something they haven’t done before,” said Anderson, adding that “opportunity is a word we like to use.”
In other words, he said, it show that there is a different way of earning a living and “living your life outside the shanty town.”
Those that joined before are now instructing and teaching the new recruits, who tend to be between 17 and 20 years old, “that are the main bread-winners,” said Anderson.
LG added that “we don’t impose our truth on people, just pass our message on to them and see them try and replicate what they’ve learnt.”
When the group tour, they don’t just take their concert and music, they also tend to involve the local youth in workshops encompassing capoeira, graffiti and percussion, to name a few.
The group are well aware of their fortunes, when it comes to having the money to invest in such activities.
“They [youth] have the desire but not the money to achieve what they want to do.
“We started 15 years ago so it’s easier for us to receive sponsorship and donations ad we feel it’s our responsibility to help the groups achieve the status we have,” said Anderson.
So, with their first time in Asia, “it’s not somewhere we thought we’d go to,” according to Anderson, “it’s very interesting to be in a place [Macau] that seems to be growing the most in the world,” said LG.
The group’s growth seems unstoppable too, what with this tour giving them the opportunity to film their experience within Asia with a TV project titled ‘urban connections’, about how people around the world can connect despite the differences.
It is this attitude and belief, that has, and hopefully, always will, give Grupo Cultural AfroReggae the ability to succeed where many have failed.


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