Country music and party politics

Image: Banksy, have a nice day (unsigned), 2003
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By CAÍQUE CARVALHO*

A highly controlled music market linked to the most backward bourgeois wings of the country

Dominated by the moral guidelines that ran through social networks in the form of fake news, the last presidential election proved to be a decisive chapter in Brazilian history and attested to the historical fractures that have long eroded this continental nation.

While male and female candidates tried to stay upright on the shaky ground of discussions around customs and religion, neoliberal agendas remained practically untouched, and agribusiness — one of the sectors that most benefited from the dismantling of labor rights and the deregulation of environmental laws—kept its appearance intact and well-groomed.

The second round confirmed the expectations of society and the results of the polls: the Palácio da Alvorada would be contested by Jair Messias Bolsonaro and Luís Inácio Lula da Silva. this second round it meant an intensification of the race, in which both candidates put all their cards on the table. The support of artists and other famous personalities became one of the strategic elements in order to attract possible undecided and abstention votes. While Lula had a good part of musical artists coming from samba, pop and MPB, Jair Bolsonaro added remarkable sertanejo support to his podium.

The political engagement of artists linked to country music is not unprecedented. It is possible to trace an activity of this kind linked to politics, even at the beginning of the 1960th century. Alvarenga & Ranchinho were arrested several times by the government of Getúlio Vargas, a condition that lasted until they were invited to make presentations for the President, when the previous relationship of enmity turned into mutual support. During the XNUMXs, duos such as Léo Canhoto & Robertinho and Tonico & Tinoco took the lead in defending the Military Dictatorship, composing and singing songs that exalted the achievements of the authoritarian regime.

However, it was during Fernando Collor de Mello's government that a significant change took place in the political participation of these artists. Unlike the previous examples, in which the support was given in a disassociated way, it is possible to perceive in the defense of the sertanejos to Fernando Collor the formation of a cohesive sertanejo block that managed to guide and speak in the name of an entire genre. On the visit to Casa da Dinda, the most explicit event in support of the then president, there was the participation of more than 40 country artists, which had been articulated by the radio host and owner of Rádio Atividade, Wigberto Tartuce and by the TV presenter, Gugu Liberato, who commanded O sertanejo saturday, the most important program of its kind at the time.

As in the 1990s, we can see an element of cohesion in the sertanejo support for Jair Bolsonaro, when singers like Leonardo, Chitãozinho and Fernando Zor articulated in an explicit defense visit to the then candidate. It is true that there are, in cases like these (of intense engagement in the campaign), well-defined political and economic motivations that are directly related to the social position in which individuals are situated.

In this sense, the support of Zezé Di Camargo or Gusttavo Lima can be explained from interests directly linked to corporate agribusiness agendas, since they are also entrepreneurs in the field. However, in order to understand how this group of artists manages to model the whole position of country music, it is necessary to understand the transformations specific to the genre, its social formation and artistic expressions.

By taking this path, we move away from the readings that identify backcountry support for the candidate Jair Bolsonaro as a result of a kind of “resentment” of this sector towards the middle classes of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the left in general.[I] Just as we also distance ourselves from other analyzes[ii] that condemn the entire genre to the most clumsy conservatism, building a type of perspective in which, generally, there is a hybridization between the criticism of the political position of these artists and a low valuation of their musical productions. This results, on the one hand, in serious and historical musical prejudice towards country music and, on the other hand, in a reduced capacity to understand the phenomenon.

Country music is a genre that managed to concentrate and express the socioeconomic transformations that the rural world went through, especially those arising from the agricultural modernization that took place from the 1960s onwards, which prepared the foundations for the emergence of modern agribusiness in the 1990s. A fact that also linked them, in the XNUMXth century, to the contingent of migrants and workers who formed in the metropolis and constituted their faithful audience. In this same period of change in the Brazilian social and economic structure, country music has transformed aesthetically and extra aesthetically.

In the aesthetic scope, the romantic generation incorporated to its songbook the rodeo spree that spread across the country, the truck driver's road trip life, the migrant's experience in the city, as well as the frustrations of affective relationships and the loneliness of the modern subject at the end of century. There was also a change in relation to the social origin of the sertanejos. While the first artists of the genre mostly came from the interior of São Paulo, from the 1960s onwards, there was a gradual increase in the number of artists from the Brazilian Midwest. The roads that once brought them to Botucatu, Itaporanga or Tietê, gained a new route, whose route is Goiânia, the new capital of country music.

In the 2000s, this trend intensified in several areas. The Sertanejo Universitário arises from the expansion of higher education in the country,[iii] the consolidation of agribusiness during the Lula government and the rise in the international price of commodities from Chinese demand, which enabled the expansion of credit and consumption in Brazil.

In line with the moment in the country, this new phase of country music began to build and imagine a world of celebration, success and enjoyment that condensed into the “microcosm” of the country ballad, consolidating both aesthetically and commercially this genre in the Brazilian imagination and in the country. music market in the country. At the same time, all these changes were accompanied by a growing structuring and professionalization of the production and circulation of this musical genre. In this position, country music guaranteed, on the one hand, the emergence of a branch of musical production in the Brazilian market formed by renowned offices, bands, composers and producers, specialized in the elaboration of this artistic product and, on the other hand, a privileged sector circulation of musical goods, agricultural fairs and rodeos.

The preponderance and importance attained by the offices of production and administration of the artists' careers and the events of exaltation of the agribusiness – that maintain dubious relations with city halls of small cities in the question of raising financial resources and their cultural destination – as the main space of circulation of the sertaneja music results in a growing and serious influence of these sectors in the political position of the sertanejos.[iv] In this sense, a criticism of Jair Bolsonaro could turn out of tune the convenient historical relationship of this genre with the agricultural bourgeoisie, one of the most engaged in supporting the Bolsonarist project.[v]

This can be seen in the episode in which João Gomes (who, although part of the piseiro genre, shares a public and depends on production structures and circulation similar to those of the sertanejos) raised a chorus against Jair Bolsonaro in September 2022. After the bad repercussion, the young artist apologized and declared not to “raise any flag”, which was not enough for the Imperatriz Rural Union, which refused the singer’s participation — which was already scheduled — in the Exhibition Park of city.[vi] Likewise, it is worth remembering that in 2018 the sertaneja Marília Mendonça joined the “#Elenão” campaign, retreating some time later, after suffering criticism from the public and threats to her family.[vii] That year, few sertanejos explicitly manifested themselves in support of a candidacy other than that of Jair Bolsonaro, with the exception of artists such as Lauana Prado and Gabeu, who declared their vote for Lula.

It is evident that agribusiness cannot be understood here as a univocal explanatory key to understanding this relationship between gender and the more conservative sectors of the right. However, in the same way, we cannot ignore its intense relationship with country music and the current commercial importance that this sector maintains, mainly in the sphere of circulation. From this derives the professional silence that most sertanejo artists maintain when the theme is politics, moving towards the ideological discourse of neutrality, the result of a highly controlled music market and linked to the most backward bourgeois wings of the country.

Instead of reading sertanejo support for conservative and neoliberal governments as a result of “resentment”, which would be equivalent to taking everyone to a couch, we should ask where does the amount of money that surrounds this musical genre come from and where does it go? what is the real degree of freedom and autonomy of the artists who compose it. In this sense, our attention must turn not only to understanding and analyzing the hubbub of those who supported Jair Bolsonaro, but also to the silence of those who chose not to express their opinion.

*caíque oak inmajoring in social sciences at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).

Notes


[I] Newspaper. “Why sertanejos like Gusttavo Lima and Leonardo support Jair Bolsonaro”. 17/11/2022. Taken from: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/gustavo-alonso/2022/10/por-que-sertanejos-como-gusttavo-lima-e-leonardo-apoiam-jair-bolsonaro.shtml

[ii] Political Pragmatism. “How the darker side of agribusiness boosted the university sertanejo.” 17/11/2022. Taken from: https://www.pragmatismopolitico.com.br/2022/06/como-lado-obscuro-agronegocio-impulsionou-sertanejo-universitario.html

[iii] It is notable that Sertanejo Universitário could only emerge from the consolidation of a university public that expanded from the 90s onwards. This expansion, however, took place in conjunction with the role played by Brazil in the international division of labor in a neoliberal context. . If we pay attention to the artists who attended higher education and who composed the first generation of the Sertanejo Universitário phase, this relationship becomes evident when one realizes that a good part of them were linked to courses directly linked to the productive needs of agribusiness, such as Agronomy and Zootechnics.

[iv] The presence of the rodeo announcer Cuiabano Lima among the sertanejos, in the visit they made to Bolsonaro at the Palácio da Alvorada on 17/10/2022, is symptomatic and indicates this link between sertanejo artists and the cultural and commercial events arising from agribusiness and the political tendency of this wing of the bourgeoisie.

[v] Recent reports prepared by the Public Prosecutor's Office and by the country's police indicate how the anti-democratic acts that do not accept the result of the last presidential election have, as the most prominent financiers and organizers, the representatives of agribusiness. The complete story can be found at: Brasil de facto. “Who's Who: Meet the People Accused of Organizing and Financing Coup Acts in Brazil” 19/11/2022. Taken from: https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2022/11/18/quem-e-quem-conheca-as-pessoas-acusadas-de-organizar-e-financiar-os-atos-golpistas-no -Brazil

[vi] State of Mines. “Union bars João Gomes show after singer 'treated Bolsonaro badly'” 17/11/2022. Taken from: https://www.em.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2022/09/13/interna_politica,1393457/sindicato-barra-show-de-joao-gomes-apos-cantor-tratar-bolsonaro -mal.shtml

[vii] TV News – UOL. “Sertaneja, Marília Mendonça was against Bolsonaro in 2018 and received attacks.” 17/11/2022. Taken from: https://noticiasdatv.uol.com.br/noticia/celebridades/sertaneja-marilia-mendonca-foi-contra-bolsonaro-em-2018-e-recebeu-ataques-91066

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