By Nathan M. Walters, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In Rio’s freestyle movement (encompassing graffiti, street art, music, performance art) a new message is being delivered, one that sums up the honorable aspirations of many in Rio, “With Pride” (Com Orguhlo). The messenger is one of city’s veteran graffiti artists/rapper/producer/poet/multi-media pioneer/Carioca de Gema, Airá-Ilu-Aiê Ferraz D’Almeida (aka Airá Ocrespo, aka Mc Grafiteiro).
Mc Grafiteiro’s vibrant portrait-in-motion style graffiti is prevalent in Rio. His commissioned murals are prominently displayed throughout the city, including his contribution to the giant mural in Lapa (now a source of great discord in the graffiti community) and the wall outside Rio’s Historical Museum (Museu Histórico Nacional).
Probably less seen, but representative of Grafiteiro’s commitment to community improvement, are the panels the artist has been painting in the Complexo do Alemão favela. In these, as in many other pieces, the artist depicts children engaged in different activities (reading, sitting in class, etc.), reflecting the goals of communities in transition.
“I am trying to raise awareness with my work,” a copacetic Grafiteiro explains. “Graffiti and music are two different media I use to communicate with people. I want to create a fusion of the two.”
Grafitero has been involved in the freestyle movement for over ten years. First with the AfroReggae movement, then with graffiti, and now with hip hop, though his involvement in all three, and many others, has always been concurrent.
Grafiteiro’s recent debut track, “Com Orguhlo” (with pride), is creating a buzz online. The track, touched with tones of “Awareness MCs” from the U.S. (e.g., Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Blackalicious, The Coup, KRS One), is engaging (even if you don’t understand Portuguese) anchored by bass-laden piano, a Questlove-esque drumbeat, sprinkled with funk horns, and elevated by one of Rio’s most impressive set of pipes (Juju Gomes).
The whole track has a head-nodding seventies vibe, a Curtis Mayfield type funk driven by Mc Grafiteiro’s lyrical skills, a full and empowered voice, leaping through the singsong intonations of Carioca Portuguese. The combination is something completely original and enticingly foreign, though with an inviting familiarity that should catch the ears of those with even a marginal interest in hiphop.
Grafiteiro is relying on crowdfunding for Com Orghulo as a way to further develop his music projects, and, thus, his message of positivity.
“Com Orgulho is an important message for the people, it is the start of bettering ourselves, our communities,” says Grafeteiro, “I see a lot of alegria [joy] in Rio but not enough love. Love starts with pride, pride in ourselves, this is what changes communities.”
The song’s lyrics sum up Grafiteiro’s ideas, “believing in the mission/ gives the direction/ to have the vision.”
Grafiteiro is hoping to reach a broad audience, across Brazil and across the world, with his message of pride and respect. Though only thirty, Grafeteiro has a keen wisdom when speaking about problems in Rio and ways to improve situations.
He is the type of young inspired activist (not a political activist, awareness activist seems more appropriate) the city needs, delivering a simple message that can have a profound impact on the current social development of Rio.
Espousing a life empowered “with pride” is an idea (both globally, and locally) worth encouraging; and in the words of the French playwright Victor Hugo, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”