top of page

Rhythm Politics in a Changing Brazil

New article from the AGOPOL project by Kjetil Klette Bøhler

This article investigates the role of music in presidential election campaigns and political movementsinspired by theoretical arguments in Henri Lefebvre’s Rhythm analysis, John Dewey ́s pragmatist rethinking of aesthetics and existing scholarship on the politics of music. Specifically, it explores how musical rhythms and melodies enable new forms of political awareness, participation, and critique in an increasingly polarized Brazil through an ethnomusicological exploration of how left-wing and right-wing movements used music to disseminate politics during the 2018 election that culminated in the presidency of Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Three lessons can be learned. First, in Brazil, music breathes life, energy, and affective engagement into politics—sung arguments and joyful rhythms enrich public events and street demonstrations in complex and dynamic ways. Second, music is used by right-wing and left-wing movements in unique ways. For Bolsonaro supporters and right-wing movements, jingles, produced as part of larger election campaigns, were disseminated through massive sound cars in the heart of São Paulo while demonstrators sang the national anthem and waved Brazilian flags. In contrast, leftist musical politics appears to be more spontaneous and bohemian. Third, music has the ability to both humanize and popularizebolsonarismomovements that threaten human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities, among others, in contemporary Brazil. To contest bolsonarismo, Trumpism, and other forms of extreme right-wing populism, we cannot close our ears and listen only to grooves of resistance and songs of freedom performed by leftists. We must also listen to the music of the right

Keywords: Musicology, Ethnomusicology, Popular Music Studies, Politics of Music, Brazil, Bolsonaro, Populism


bottom of page