"Roots of Brazil" is a 5-part radio series exploring Brazil's cultural origins by illuminating Salvador da Bahia, a city at the center of the country's rich history. Producer Dani Hayes sat down with those who were able to travel to Salvador and interview those who are influencing modern-day Brazil.
Dani: “I’m sitting here at a roundtable discussion with the ‘Roots of Brazil’ crew. I’m with Jason Gilmore, who is the professor of this group, with his students Brieann Charlesworth who is a global communications major, Mckayle Law and Elizabeth Thomas who are anthropology majors. So I wanted to start with Jason. Jason, tell us a little bit about this series, it's called "Roots of Brazil." Explain a little bit about the title, and why did you choose to go to Brazil and highlight the culture there?”
Jason: “Yeah so the "Roots of Brazil" was a title that was chosen specifically because we went to a place called Salvador, Brazil. It's in the state of Bahia. It's in the northeast of the country and it's the colonial capital. It's where the Portuguese first arrived. It was the first capitol of the Portuguese colonists and it's a very complex space. But it is, for all intensive purposes, the root location of the Afro-Brazilian identity. Pretty much the root of all that is modern-day Brazil.”
Dani: “So why did you choose Salvador? You said it's complex. Why is it complex?”
Jason: “It's just a very culturally diverse place, because of the meeting of African influence that came, unfortunately, across on slave ships. The European influence that comes from the Portuguese colonists, as well as the indigenous influence. So Salvador really is kind of a place where all three of those cultures, and all three of those societies, I guess to a certain extent, come together. So that's what was quite fascinating about that place and that's what drew us there.”
Dani: “I am really looking forward to this series because you said you took twelve students to Brazil and three of those students, they got to focus on this radio series. So each episode that is going to follow this one will be about something specific from Salvador.”
Dani: “So I wanted to go around the table and first talk to Elizabeth. Talk a little bit about what your episode will focus on.”
Elizabeth: “Well my episode focuses on a group called “Projeto Axe” and they have a unit in Salvador. What they do is they take children off the streets, who are living on the streets, and spending all of their time around very detrimental influences, and they give them resources. As Jason talked about with the complexity with the Afro-Brazilian influences, they take these children back to their roots. They take them back and show them these African influences art forms, music, dance. They teach these children where they come from. What I loved about my opportunity, we interviewed a woman who is now one of the directors of Projeto Axe, and she started out as a street girl. She lived on the streets for seven years and there wasn't much hope for her until this organization found her.”
Dani: “So we get to hear her story in a couple weeks?”
Elizabeth: “Yes! For sure.”
Dani: "And Mckayle, you are doing an episode about the women of Brazil. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and the stories we’ll hear?”
Mckayle: “I’m focusing on three different women that we were able to interview and meet, who have really complex, different stories. They come from different social classes and are different skin colors and have had different experiences as a woman in Brazil. Not only do the women in Brazil have to deal with gender discrimination, but on top of that they deal with a lot of times extreme poverty, prostitution, and the sex industry is huge there. So they’re having to deal with these kinds of issues on top of the complexities of being a woman.”
Dani: "I think that’s interesting. Let’s go to Brieann. Tell us a little about the stories we’ll hear from your episode.”
Brieann: “Well, my story’s going to focus on Capoeira, which is the Brazilian martial arts that came out of Salvador. It’s pretty unique to look at, but also its history is also unique as a martial art as well. And what it means in the Afro-Brazilian culture and what it means to that area. It’s used a lot to empower a lot of the youth as Liz was talking about for Projeto Axe, but it also gives them a sense of identity around that. And just to give a brief description of it, it looks like acrobatic karate almost.”
Dani: “So it was probably an experience to witness that?"
Brieann: “Witness it? No we did it!”
Dani: “Oh, you did?”
Brieann: “And I went back and did it again, it was great.”
Dani: “And Jason, you have an episode that you’re going to focus on about drumming.”
Jason: “Correct. It’s about a drum corps, an organization not dissimilar from Projeto Axe. It’s an organization called Olodum. It’s been around since 1979 and has focused on giving opportunities to the children of downtown Salvadorl which used to be really run down and a really dangerous part of town. So, Olodum is this organization that kind of targeted that area, to go in and provide kids opportunities and discipline through drumming to begin with. And they’re very famous for their drum corps. They pretty much own downtown. As you walk through the streets of downtown, at some point in time you’re going to hear a drum corps echoing down the corridor of those streets.”
Dani: “What are you excited most for our listeners to get out of ‘Roots of Brazil’?
Jason: “The fact that … right now, all eyes are on Rio. And all eyes have been on Rio, and the complexities of Rio and the difficulties of that city putting on the Olympics. But what we miss and what we’re not seeing are these incredibly rich stories, and these incredibly powerful organizations that are doing the work that many of us who sit watching television would really like to be involved in. These are the people who are doing it on the ground, who are dedicating their lives to it, again, in an incredibly complex but beautiful and rich space that is Salvador."