Once a Big Tech, in one of those compulsory advertisements that push us, decided to tell me to appreciate black culture. The image was of a sullen guy in a basketball outfit. Brazil, according to the ideologized IBGE, is a country with a black majority. Brazil is certainly not the land of basketball. Basketball is also not a sport with a special relationship with Africa, and in Brazil, in particular, the sport refers to the tall figure of Oscar, who happens to be white and has a German surname. In the country’s favorite sport, however, we think of Pele, who happens to be black. Even so, it has always been clear to us Brazilians that there is no relationship between sport and color. We link Pelé to Brazilian nationality rather than black, and we contrast him with Maradona, who happens to be white but we see him more as an Argentine. No wonder, this black man who is considered king and national symbol has his personal life vilified by the black movement, which does not conform to his proud, happy and successful figure. Finally, if I were to associate any sport with black culture in Brazil, it would be capoeira, which, despite being a Brazilian sport, has its origins in communities of black slaves, and brings different musical marks from Africa.
The very fact of being a martial art set to music is an atypia within the martial arts. Here the resentful militant will say that music and dance were disguises for the angry black to distract white people. They then ask us to believe that music and dance are part of black religiosity (whether in candomblé or gospel music) in a spontaneous way, but that in the struggle it was just pretense . nonsense. This reflects their depressive mood, who, with all material comfort, are not able to have the lightness of spirit of their (in fact, our) slave ancestors.
The berimbau is a Brazilian instrument, as can be inferred from the gourd. If the berimbau gourd is from the American continent, the berimbau cannot have been brought ready-made from Africa. The one-stringed bow, however, is a common instrument in many African cultures. We are then led to imagine in this country the figure of an African slave who, at some moment of rest, indulged in the leisure of experiencing the sound of new things on earth and thought it was a good idea to attach the gourd to the bow. In fact, the very presence of the bow is already an indication of the value that a musical object had for the slaves. At the beginning of the 18th century, Antonil recorded that the advice of masters in dealing with slaves was to solve everything with three Ps: stick, bread and cloth. In an act of freedom, the slave added the bow to his reality, and then the berimbau. The black movement, today, just wants to claim bread and cloth. The arc is alienation, even conscious is who asks for bigger shares of what the worker already earns anyway, or – which is new since the end of servitude – the chance to be a worker, even if it is through racial quota. Then he willingly submits himself to being evaluated by the physique, just like a horse.
Like the Portuguese, the black people adapted to the things of the earth and used them to improve their culture . The berimbau and the atabaque are inventions of the black people in Brazil, who were able to continue their musicality without major ruptures with Africa. Across America with a black presence, the batucada arrived, whose syncopated rhythm mixed with the music of other cultures and created new musical genres. An apparent exception is the US, where black musicality refers to wind instruments rather than percussion. Still, the US follows the general rule of having blacks as a powerful expression in the musical field. Its original musical genres that fell in the taste of the world – jazz and rock – are music of black origin.
The exceptionality of the USA is explained by the Black Codes, by 1832, which prohibited blacks from playing the drum. Deprived of their favorite instrument, they found a way to continue the rhythm with others.
“What a wonderful world!”
And here we return to the scowling black man with a basketball shirt. Not long ago, American black culture was all about quality music. Great personalities were Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and, of course, pioneer Jimi Hendrix. Jazz and rock transcended the black niche and spread across the country before becoming global. On the other hand, I don’t know of a sportsman who has, in the USA, occupied a position similar to that of Pelé. They don’t have a favorite national sport; blacks like basketball and whites play those weird things whose rules no one understands (football, hockey, baseball). Nor do I know of any smear campaigns against major music personalities. Instead, I notice a fading of memory in a world where all time seems static inside an ahistorical corporate handbook by Robin diAngelo (their Djamila). Black? What is a black? A grumpy guy in basketball gear, a BLM protester, a victim of society, George Floyd. And nothing else. If talking about Luther King has become a right-wing thing, who will care about a simple song that exclaims “What a wonderful world”?
This, yes, a song whose melody every Westerner knows in the Louis Armstrong’s remarkable voice, although he doesn’t know the words or knows the singer. He released the song in 67 under an unknown pseudonym (actually it was Bob Thiele and David Weiss), and the song soon became a resounding worldwide success. The lyrics read: “I see the green of the trees, the red of the roses too The colors of the rainbow, so beautiful in the sky, are also on the faces of people coming and going. I see friends greeting each other, asking ‘How are you?’ They actually say ‘I love you’. I think to myself: What a wonderful world!”.
Today’s world would certainly not accept a smiling black man singing those words. It is an obligation to rebel against the injustices of the world and ask for cloth and bread – bow, no. And what is first true for blacks (keep in mind the social experiment in family breakdown so denounced by Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams) then becomes true for everyone: we are bombarded by propaganda that tells us to complain about life all the time, giving us a way to victimize ourselves. If you’re a straight white male, you might as well claim you’re fat, neuroatypical, or invent a gender identity to call your own. And then he must always ask for more bread and more cloth, as if such a powerful hand, capable of providing so much bread and so much cloth, were not also associated with the stick.
It is likely that many people educated, if I paid attention to the lyrics of “What a Wonderful World,” I thought the lyrical self was an idiot. Smart is the one who “knows” that the world is just horrible and spends as much time as possible stunned. Then he takes drugs (with licit or illicit drugs) and doesn’t know why.
The world is the size of the world. There is a way that the world can be horrible and wonderful at the same time, and wisdom tells us to think from time to time, to ourselves, what a wonderful world. It is certainly easier to do this in the same way as the lyrical self, through the little everyday things, rather than pinning one’s hopes on institutional politics or intellectual currents. A slave was capable of finding pleasure other than bread and cloth, and I very much doubt that he would do so through ideology or politics.