Alexander Gonçalves

I went to São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, for a language program and independent research. For the first six weeks I received Portuguese tutelage and explored the cultural scene of the city. Presently, I’m in Rio, working with musicologists to interview funk musicians about their creative process.

This experience broadened my perspective of the cultural milieu and confirmed to me the importance of learning from people different from oneself. Moreover, it showed me how the poor of Brazil are a disenfranchised population in need of support. By documenting the struggles of funk musicians, I hope to show that the government’s outlawing of their musical form will be deleterious to the already tragic condition of Rio’s favelas.

For one, I studied Portuguese at Penn State prior to my arrival, which was essential for an immersive experience here. For another, my philosophy studies (in particular an independent study on the interpretation of music of the African diaspora) has informed my perspective on listening to the funk music and understanding its cultural significance to its creators. My arts entrepreneurship minor has also helped with understanding the business behind the musicians’ engagements.

Probably the most potent lesson has been what it means to be a foreigner, and what it takes to integrate into a new society/culture (a lot of effort and patience). Additionally, it has shown me that in Brazil, the vibrant cultural output of the nation’s poor is in jeopardy, and these musicians deserve support so they can survive with their art.

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