Title: A Brazilian funk DJ was sentenced to prison, but many believe his musical genre made him a target
Author: Fernanda Canofre
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2019 02:08:27 -0400
Podcast Download URL: https://globalvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/rennan-1-400x300.jpg
DJ Rennan da Penha. Image: Screeshot from YouTube/Rennan Da Penha
Rennan da Penha, 24, is a Brazilian funk DJ and the founder of what is arguably
Rio de Janeiro's largest funk party. Baile da Gaiola, which means “cage
ball” in Portuguese, gathers around 25,000 people in Complexo da Penha
Favela every week.
Last week, an appeals court sentenced Rennan for six years and eight months
in prison for “association with drug trafficking.” An earlier sentence had
deemed Rennan innocent for lack of proof, but the public prosecutor appealed
Rennan’s lawyers have also sought court approval for Rennan to remain free
while they appeal this newest sentence before Brazil’s Supreme Court. According
to Folha de S. Paulo, his prison order is yet to be issued.
The sentencing of this major Brazilian funk celebrity has sparked a debate
about racism and the criminalization of funk parties in the country.
O @rennan_penha é uma das grandes revelações de favela dos últimos anos,
um muleque q do nada, se tornou um fenômeno nacional através do FUNK. A
prisão do Rennan é política, racista e preconceituosa, ataca o FUNK, A FAVELA
e a ascensão de alguém q vem do nada e se torna gigante!
— Santiago, Raull. (@raullsantiago) March 22, 2019
@rennan_penha is one of the greatest revelations of the favela of the last
few years, a dude that came from nowhere, who became a national phenomenon
through FUNK. His prison is political, racist, and bigoted, it attacks FUNK,
FAVELA and the rise of someone who came from nowhere and became a giant.
Activist Raull Santiago, who testified in Rennan’s favor at the time of his
first sentence, told Global Voices that he was “jumbled with several other
people” who had all been charged with drug trafficking association in the same
process. During the hearings, Raull says, witnesses accounts’ have shown Rennan
had nothing to do with the favela's drug business.
After Rennan's prison sentence, his friends and supporters put together a
website called “Deixa Eu Dançar” (Let Me Dance) where they cite arguments
made by the prosecutors and judges and try to debunk them.
For example, the court's sentence says that Rennan's music “exalts drug
trafficking”; the website responds by saying that his lyrics merely express
daily life in a favela.
A point raised by the prosecution is Rennan's WhatsApp messages, in which he
speaks about routes where the police had been wandering lately in Complexo da
Penha. The prosecution weighed he was playing the “eyes” for drug lords.
The website argues that this how this is a common type of information to pass
around among favela residents, who are often mistreated by the police. Speaking
with Global Voices, Raull says that the information is useful for people
looking to avoid areas where armed conflict is likely to take place.
One of the latest videos tweeted by Raull shows a police officer shooting
aimlessly with a gun and threatening passersby by saying “you’ll be next.”
POLICIAL MACHÃO numa favela do Rio de Janeiro, ameacando as pessoas, dando
tiro para o alto a esmo, mandando o povo tomar no cu e ainda diz para alguém,
que “o próximo é você”.
ISSO É CRIME, não??? pic.twitter.com/GIHrjUJcmK
— Santiago, Raull. (@raullsantiago) March 23, 2019
Another point raised by the judges is that Rennan publicly paid respect to
people accused of drug trafficking that were killed. The website responds: “It
is not a crime to mourn the death of someone with whom you grew up regardless
of the mistakes they might have made in their lives.”
On his file, there is a photo of Rennan posing with a gun. The defense claims
the weapon is fake and the photo taken during Carnival. After seeing the image,
the first judge of the case dismissed the charges on Rennan, the website
Directly derived from Miami bass, funk carioca emerged as a musical genre
in its own right in the 1980s in Rio de Janeiro's slums.
Not to be confused with USA 1970s funk, Brazilian funk was originally produced
on the cheap, with a limited number of sampled beats and melodies that would
show up in nearly every song. Today, funk parties attract millions of people
from different social classes in Brazil and drive a multi-million dollar
However, just like samba many decades before it, white elites — and the police
and the judiciary — persistently regard the genre with prejudice (yes, samba
used to be frowned upon by elites before it became Brazil's national symbol).
There are state and city laws in Rio de Janeiro that recognize funk as part of
the state's cultural heritage, but that doesn't seem to have stopped a recent
criminalization wave of the funk scene. As Raull Santiago has told me:
Esse processo de condenação é uma situação muito grave, que passa pelo
processo de criminalização das favelas, das periferias, da juventude negra,
da ascensão das pessoas que vêm desses lugares, que fazem dinheiro, que
empregam pessoas. Acho que tem uma questão racial e uma questão da
desigualdade e do preconceito histórico implícita nesse processo.
This conviction process is a very serious situation, which passes through the
criminalization of favelas, of peripheries, of black young people, and the
ascent of the people who come from these places, who make money out of it and
employ people with it. I think the racial issue, and the issue of inequality
and historical prejudice, are all implicit in those charges.
Written by Fernanda Canofre · comments (0) 
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