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Party Crews Reclaiming Sao Paulo’s Streets (interview)
O QUE É NOSSO – Reclaiming the Jungle is a new documentary about Sao Paulo’s growing open-air free party scene created by DJ and artist collectives such as Voodoohop, Metanol, Barulho.Org, Free Beats and Carlos Capslock.
Merging street party pleasures with politics and protests the unlicensed parties regularly attract thousands of revellers to locations such as the Minhocao, an elevated motorway that cuts through the heart of downtown Sao Paulo.
The 3.5km motorway, which was constructed in 1970, is nowadays closed to traffic after 9pm on weekdays and on Sundays ‘because of the noise and disturbance caused to residents, in many places the roadbed passes within 15 feet (4.6 m) of apartment windows,” Wikipedia notes.
Skrufff chatted to Capslock chief Paulo Tessuto (who’s also one of the city’s busiest DJs and promoters) about the scene and his role in it.
Skrufff: When did the first parties happen?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “The first party I can personally remember happened about four years ago when the Voodoohop crew selected the Minhocao as location. The sound-system was very basic, two speakers, a two channel mixer and a couple of old Pioneer CDJ200s. They had the idea for the street party one week and staged it the next one, attracting in the end around 1000 people listening to tropical beats mixed with EDM.
Other crews such as Metanol and Barulho.Org had already been organising similar parties as well.”
Skrufff: How and when did the parties coalesce into something more than just one-off happenings?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “Right from the start we realised their potential then two months later we promoted another Occupation at Minhocao, this time with 5 collectives ( CAPSLOCK, VOODOOHOP, FREE BEATS, METANOL, BARULHO.ORG). We chose the same location, on the elevated roadway above the bridge and about 3000 people turned up that day. And that was for me the start of the whole movement.
Skrufff: How are the parties regarded by police/ authorities: how much of a danger do police pose?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “So far the police have only shown up if there are people living nearby calling them to complain about the noise. I regard them as a huge potential danger, to be honest, because they’re usually military police, who are very aggressive and trained to hit people without really needing to. Their role is about demonstrating power.”
Skrufff: Have they used any excessive force against you?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “We’ve never had any episodes involving violence but lots of times we’ve had to switch off the music when they’ve threatened to put us in jail if we don’t. This fear is ever present in Brazil, because cops often act like they have carte blanche to abuse their power, beat people, kill people, arrest innocents, plant evidence and do all kinds of disgusting things meaning you can end up being charged with serious crimes or even in jail even if you’ve done nothing.
So I’m always a little afraid when we do the parties, but I believe that someone has to stand up for what they believe in, so we choose to do what we do. It’s vital to take this stance in countries where police are a genuine threat to the people. Change is needed and someone has to take some risks in the name of our society.”
Skrufff: Sao Paulo is also infamous for street crime: downtown is full of crack addicted homeless people (visible certainly after dark): have and of those people posed any issues; or indeed have any been positive about the parties?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “They are always the first ones to start to interact with us at the parties and to dance and enjoy the music. The parties are about fun and entertainment, pleasures that are usually denied them because the authorities don’t care about them. I see these people as victims of today’s cruel capitalist system. I really believe that we are very close to a collapse.”
Skrufff: How do you handle security?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “We’ve never had any kind of security at this parties as we’ve never had any robbery problem, or violence between the crowd or anything like that.”
Skrufff: What’s next for the parties?
Paulo Tessuto (Carlos Capslock): “I must say I am really concerned about the future of this movement. We’ve attracted a lot of attention and also had some huge successes. This will attract people interested in making money with this scene and those interested in control and exploiting people as well as the authorities.
We’re trying to spread some consciousness about being free about people’s rights to use the streets, to enjoy entertainment. In other ways we are highlighting lots of problems that aren’t supposed to exist in a democracy, so you never know what horrible stuff the corporations and powerful people might dream up to keep everything under control.
On the one hand, I am not very optimistic about Brazil’s future but at the same time we can see that the collective ideal is getting stronger and stronger here everyday. We need a revolution and it has to be soon.”
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff