By Lacy Edney, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Many visitors to the Cidade Maravilhosa are starting to find ways to give back through a host of different NGOs (non-profits) offering the opportunity to volunteer in underprivileged communities, ranging from caring for essential needs to providing creative activities for the youth. One such creative NGO is putting a new spin on things with a DJ school in Rocinha.
A very unique way of giving back to the community, SpinRocinha, implemented by Rocinha Media School, offers free DJ classes to children of all ages living in Rocinha. This DJ course uses digital music production as its primary educational development focus.
The classes are hands-on, but also cover topics such as technical proficiency, sound production, cultural and music history and theory, media literacy, narrative structure, and critical youth issues. The purpose of the program is to develop industry-standard DJ skills so youth can produce music based on their own experiences living in the favela.
This new program was opened back in August 2011, and now has twelve students ranging from age twelve to 35. Founder Renato da Silva, better known as Zezinho, wanted to offer something different that wasn’t yet available to those living in Rocinha.
Zezinho explains, “I didn’t want to create something we already had, plus music has always been an important part of the Brazilian culture. This course is about enjoying and appreciating music, however if students want to pursue DJing as a career, we help them with marketing, promotion, and the creation of business cards and CD’s.”
Zezinho was born and raised in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. He explained that he spent eighteen years working as a DJ in the U.S. before moving back to Rocinha in 2007.
He began offering tours after much prompting from friends, and he now offers tours in Rocinha to guests who want an up-close and personal perspective of his favela. The success of his tours has given him the opportunity to give back to the community which is so dear to him.
Zezinho states proudly, “Rocinha is my family. I feel loved, wanted, needed, and cared for here. I have always felt a very strong connection here. I feel like my work has a lot of meaning and it’s a necessity to give back.”
DJ classes are offered in the evening three times a week. There is even a class offered just for girls. Classes are taught by DJ Zezinho as well as by some local DJs from Rocinha, although DJ Zezinho states, “We are always looking for more help.”
The one room studio boasts top of the line equipment which was purchased in part by donations, and the rest by revenue from the favela tours. Zezinho is excited about the growth of the DJ program and welcomes anyone who would like to join the effort.
“I would like to expand and open DJ schools in other favelas,” he says. Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela and Morro do Prazer favela have seen the example SpinRochina has set, and want to open up DJ schools in their communities as well. For those musically talented and looking to give back to the community, SpinRocinha is a fun and positive way to impact lives.
“Foreigners are welcome to volunteer or help in any way possible. We encourage all types of music, not just hip-hop and funk, we have kids that are into electro and house music too,” says Zezinho.