Festival Brazil in full swing

JD picks the best of the hottest event this summer: Southbank Centre’s Festival Brazil

It’s been a long time in the making and it wasn’t easy. Over 70 Brazilian events in the form of concerts, exhibitions, talks, films and performances are taking over the Southbank Centre. This summer-long festival is a combo of local Brazilian artists, classic names, and up-and-coming musical and literary voices. Mix this with a big dose of audience involvement and the line up might just transport you mentally a little bit closer to the shores of Brazil.

Its stereotype as the land of ‘sun, samba and football’, which still prevails in many foreigners’ minds, isn’t helped by the fact that much of London’s Brazilian scene and small-scale festivals always focus on the country’s music. Festival Brazil stands out in this respect due to its emphasis on another great artistic export, national literature.

This summer you can hear poetry, take part in debates, see Ernesto Neto’s awe-inspiring site-specific sculptures, or check out a free weekend of workshops and shows from cultural collective AfroReggae.

Music legends and new artists hit the London stage and a series of documentary films highlighting the role and influence of historical music figures will end the festival. Jungle has prepared a low down of the HSBC-sponsored festival, with artist interviews and our best picks. Read on and enjoy!

“The festival highlights how Brazilian arts are so exciting in a variety of diverse areas. A few years ago for many people Brazil meant either football or samba and it was a rarity to see a major artist from a field other than music in London. Now we have key players in literature, design, visual arts, architecture and music showing work at a really vibrant festival. Nowadays Brazil means so much more to so many people.” DJ Cliffy (British DJ from the party Batmacumba who’s been working with Brazil for 20 years)


Arnaldo Antunes / Porcas Borboletas

***Please note this show has been cancelled and Porcas Borboletas will now support Os Mutantes on Sunday, July 18th***
Friday 16th July
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, from £15

So, how do you pick and choose from Brazil’s vast fauna to make sure you do justice the music of one of the world most prolific cultural countries?

First you get a legend, one that sells out anywhere in the world and represents the African heritage and rich musicality that only someone who’s been recording since the ‘60s can. That’s Gilberto Gil and he’ll perform on the very stage he debuted on in London when exiled by the military regime in 1969.

Keeping the theme of “legends”, you invite a singer (the first Brazilian female platinum record), acclaimed in Brazil – that doesn’t visit London too often – in the form of Maria Bethânia. With poetic lyrics in her songs, her rich deep voice is a sheer pleasure to hear.
Spicing things up with a true, urban Rio sound, get soon-to-be-star, Mart’nália, and to showcase what’s fresh from Brazil, Porcas Borboletas supporting Arnaldo Antunes.

The latter, a former singer with big ‘80s band Titãs, is an independent star in his own right, having enjoyed a solid solo carer as musician and poet – he’s been Jungle’s columnist since our first edition. And there’s still room for Os Mutantes, Afroreggae, and a great selection of local musicians. Tasty indeed.


Saturday 10th July
A show not to be missed by the up and coming Rio samba singer & composer who has worked with Ivan Lins & Caetano Veloso.
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, £17-£17.50

Maria bethânia
Saturday 17th July
Sister of Caetano Veloso, with over 30 albums & a deep mesmerising voice, she is truly one of Brazil’s legends. Enjoy her rare London visit.
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.30pm, from £15

Os mutantes
Sunday 18th July
The Tropicália pioneers are back with a new line up (keyboardist Arnaldo Batista is not coming) and their delicious psychedelic rock, with support from Porcas Borboletas.
Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, £20-£27.50

Gilberto Gil
Wednesday 21st July
Many say his voice is not the same, but the former Cultural Minister’s charisma and talent on guitar continues to draw huge audiences.
Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, £20-£35


Explore the linguistic legacy of Brazilian writers both past and modern, and make the most of the festival’s rich array of talks, debates, workshops, poetry and storytelling.


Clarice Lispector has been described by eminent literary figures as a “Jewish Brazilian born in the Ukraine”, “better than Borges”, and by Caetano Veloso as one of the chief revelations of his adolescence along with sex, love and bossa nova. The mysterious 20th century writer, with movie-star looks and an indefinable foreign accent has yet to gain her deserved place in Brazil’s literary canon, as redressed by Author Benjamin Moser with his biography Why This World. Hear a talk by him on July 12th (RFH, 7pm, £7).

São Paulo resident Milton Hatoum, a professor of Latin American literature, grew up in the Amazon surrounded by Arabic, and is considered one of Brazil’s greatest living writers. Having sold over 200 million copies (translated into eight languages), he will discuss his works, including his recent novel, Ashes of the Amazon, which criticises the Brazilian military regime, a story of a long rebellion and the struggle to understand it, on July 17th (1pm, £7).

And a must see is football legend Sócrates holding forth on the beautiful game. He’ll be in conversation with Alex Bellos, author of Futebol – The Brazilian Way of Life, on July 18th, Queen Elizabeth Hall (5pm, £10).


Ernesto Neto
the edges of the world

Until 5th September
Hayward Gallery, £15

Rio resident Ernesto Neto has opened the Hayward Gallery after its year-long refurbishment with his show The Edges of the World. Honoured to be part of an experience he describes as wonderful but intense, Neto discusses his interactive exhibition and Brazil’s role on the world stage.

What do you hope people take away with them after viewing your exhibition?
I hope they leave with some freedom inside themselves and a sense of delicateness in my art. You can touch everything, but at the same time it’s very fragile – always a tension between strength and weakness. I hope people leave my exhibition wanting to smell, breath and explore the world more. Your work relies heavily on touch.

Would you consider it sensual?
Definitely as my art very much relates to the body. We are all bodies in space. Some people have more space for sensuality, some have less. The same goes with money, education, etc. All of this relates to your state of being, which is at the core of my work.
My art is all about relationships – one piece is always touching, stretching or holding another piece in place. Just like human relationships – which can be kind, sexual, tense, loving and aggressive – my art reflects the same, and when the spectator interacts with it, they bring their psychological soul to the piece itself.

Would you call your art ‘Brazilian’?
My work is not about Brazil, it’s about art in a contemporary time in an urban space. As someone from Rio, I would love to take the beach to the Hayward, but it’s impossible because it would just be a representation of the original. I want to bring concepts instead.

How timely is the festival with Brazil’s advancement on the economic stage?
It’s great Brazil is rising, but the country needs a huge investment in education, and without it, we can’t really move on. But Brazil the country of the future? I don’t think we care about that. We want to be respected and recognised. In the end, a big company in Brazilis the same as one in the UK or US. Companies have their own ideas, so I can’t see how expanding in that way adds anything to the Brazilian spirit. Brazilians have a strong rational orientation from Western culture, but at the same time we have a sensual, dense, relaxing mix between African and native Brazilian. Our step is slower, our flesh is softer, we are less objective and our time is not just money.



Friday 16th July

Formed in 1993 by José Junior in Rio, AfroReggae is a non-profit organisation that aims to take young favela residents off the streets and away from drugs through means of music. In the face of adversity, the AfroReggae movement offers hope and leadership to young Brazilians. Its founder talks to Jungle…

Your weekend of activities and performance at Festival Brazil is very interactive, is that an important element of what AfroReggae does?
We live and breathe interactivity daily in Rio. We have 74 projects on the go at all times which operate with an incontrollable tenacity. Our projects are driven by a great sense of urgency and this can be found in all of the work we carry out. We operate within different social classes, using actions that reflect diverse regions, that commonly would have all reasons to hate each other and band together in favour of a more egalitarian city.

What is AfroReggae’s main aim and has the organisation expanded outside of Rio?
To invest in the transformation of people who are linked to crime in society. We help take people out of that world, mediate conflicts in the favelas and create a new reality for favela residents across Rio. It’s all part of the group’s DNA, which continues to multiply and reinvent itself. We want to take AfroReggae to every Brazilian state and around the world. We have no interest in maintaining a fixed base.

As AfroReggae gains more fame, is there ever a danger that some young people who join are only seeking celebrity?
Some young people come to AfroReggae in the same manner that some want to join a football team, with the dream of being rich and famous. But if members of the group are seeking fame to do good, I have no problem. We generate new entrepreneurs that have all sorts of sensibilities.

Brazil is becoming a bigger player on the global economic stage – will there always be a need for NGOs like AfroReggae?
Today many Brazilian NGOs receive financial support from the government at local, state and federal levels. It’s funny that when we started 17 years ago, NGOs didn’t want to align themselves with the government or businesses. In terms of our future – I would very much like to say working in conflict areas or helping rehabilitate narco-traffickers won’t be necessary. It’s one of our dreams. And if one day we aren’t needed anymore, you can find me at home playing with my kids and writing books.


Brazil! Brazil!
Until 18th Jul
A non-stop rhythm-filled infectious mix of capoeira, circus performers, samba & football feats.
E4 Udderbelly, £20 & under

Rio Carnival Samba Show
Sat 28th Aug
An energetic and festive show of dancing and drumming with samba singer Wantuir Tavares.
The Clore Ballroom, 9–11pm, FREE

It’s good to sit, watch and listen to the alluring and thought-provoking array of Brazilian artistic exports on offer at this year’s festival, but shedding your apprehensive British skin for a moment and getting involved is the best way to really dive in and get a true taste. The impressive line up of free workshops, dance jams and art adventures will leave you hungering for more. Or perhaps better yet, get you to join a regular samba class!

AfroReggae Weekender
23rd – 25th Jul
For over 15 years, AfroReggae has used music, dance and education to transform the lives of young kids and adults in Rio’s favelas. Featured in the 2009 award-winning documentary Favela Rising and known around the world for their explosive and creative energy, they are in London for a weekend of impromptu performances and action-filled events that embrace all ages. Make your own drum and learn how to play it, attend a dance or circus workshop, take part in the Southbank Centre’s biggest outdoor jam or talk and share ideas with the group’s founder, José Junior.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall and surrounding spaces, all day.

Samba Celebration
Sat 21st Aug
An all-day event with the Paraíso School of Samba with free dance and percussion workshops inspired by the Rio Carnival followed by an outdoor carnival performance.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall & Festival Riverside

Capoeira Extravaganza
Sat 17th Jul
Start Brazil! Brazil! followed by free Capoeira Angola workshops throughout the day led by renowned Mestre Carlão. Classes from beginners to advanced, children to adults.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 11am-5pm

Recycling Brazil
14th – 15th Aug
Get creative with a team of London-based Brazilian artists by experimenting with fabric and found objects.
Level 2 Green & Blue sides
Royal Festival Hall, 10am -1pm

Baby Loves Samba
Sat 14th Aug
The Southbank’s annual party for babies goes Brasileiro. Tiny dancers and their families are invited to dance up a storm.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 2.30pm–5.30pm

Samba de Gafieira Class
Sat 31st Jul
Get on your dancing shoes to try out this ballroom dance oozing with samba rhythm taught by the city’s oldest samba school, the 26-year-old London School of Samba. The class will be followed by a live performance from teachers and members of the school.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 2.30–6.30pm

The Southbank Centre in association with JungleDrums presents a series of free Friday afternoons concerts by local Brazilians playing sounds from their homeland, and London locals playing musical odes to the country’s heritage. Here are some of our favourites:

Maracatudo Mafuá
Fri 2oth Aug
Musicians from around the world play Maracatu, the traditional rhythm of the northeastern state of Pernambuco wearing colours that represent different orixás (spirits) in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 5.30pm

Fri 6th Aug
A London resident since 2006, this São Paulo native and turntablist will flood the riverside terrace in beats with his vinyl skills as he plays anything from Brazilian rare grooves to bossa nova and old school samba.
Level 2 Riverside Terrace
Royal Festival Hall, 5.30–8.30pm

Saravah Soul
Fri 13th Aug
Formed by Otto Nascarella, Saravah Soul was created to showcase an addictive style of 60s Brazilian soul-funk and samba, this half-Brazilian half-British group has taken the lead on London’s Afrobeat scene. The group’s much anticipated second album, Cultura Impura, comes out this month.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 5.30pm

Adriano Adewale Trio
Fri 27th Aug
Percussionist Adriano Adewale accompanied by flute, sax and guitar explores the work of 20th century Afro-Brazilian composer Pixinguinha, a pioneer in choro, a traditional Carioca style mixing Brazilian melodies with improvisation.
The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, 5.30pm

19 Jun – 5 Sep
Various dates, prices & locations

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