THE WHIRLING GIRLISH: Interview with Brazilian Drummer Fernanda Terra
The Whirling Girlish interviews Fernanda Terra, drummer for the Brazilian band Kombato, and instructor at Girls Rock Camp Brazil. They talk Brazilian punk culture, and Brazil’s current state of political turmoil.
Sao Paulo, Brazil—There is some gnarly stuff going on in Brazil these days. It’s actually been this way for quite some time. Make shift houses and dilapidated structures blanket mountainsides along endless miles of breath taking shorelines stretching all the way back into the heart of beautiful country with some deep rooted social issues.
Beyond the charm and allure of events such as Carnival, the Summer Olympics, and the World Cup, lies a movement of people standing up to their government with resolute determination to achieve economic justice. Record amounts of Brazilians have been joining together to protest and demand their grievances be heard in events baring striking resembling the civil rights movement of the United States during the 1960s. But alas, many of events turn to chaos, and so continues the damage and corruption.
Fernanda Terra, drummer of Brazilian based band Kombato, and drum mentor at Girls Rock Camp Brazil, has lived in Sao Paulo for quite some time. Sao Paulo is a city dense with beautiful culture, and represents both the progress and problems of the country. Punk culture transcends the music scene and is present in the threat of Skin Heads, gang violence, and unruly youth. In a recent interview with Fernanda, I asked her how the current political and economic turmoil is affecting the music culture during this revolutionary time in Brazil’s history.
SubAp!: So, Fernanda, there’s a lot going on politically in Brazil these days. Punk music is known for being pretty political at times, is that translating into the music scene a lot?
Fernanda Terra: Absolutely. A long time ago, Brazilian musicians had to worry about being more censored because there was a brutal military dictatorship. Today, we have made progress and lyrics are not as indirect and don’t have to be as metaphorical as they once were. People are bolder.
Are you finding most bands are more political now than in recent years?
Some bands stray away from that, but many, especially punk bands, use the stage to revolt against the current political policies and seek justice. The more and more underground you go, the more political it gets. The more raw the material is.
How does punk culture differ in the different regions of Brazil?
A lot! Some areas are more rural, while others more urban. For instance in Sao Paolo, there are some real punks (and not just people in bands with tattoos), but kids holding people at gun point, and stealing cars. There’s extreme poverty and people doing what they need to survive. There’s a big movement here of people standing up to the government. But like everywhere else, the punks are seen as a minority. There’s still some progress to me made.
Speaking of progress, how has the music scene that you know and love, grown since you started playing drums in 1992?
During the 80s and 90s the Riot Grrrl movement also made its way down to Brazil and influenced a lot more girl drummers to start playing. That movement still exists in Brazil today, and still affects the music scene. Sometimes I think people don’t realize the importance of the movement and what it did for women in music.
How has punk music changed?
Back then (early 90s), communicating was more difficult. We didn’t have access to as much information like we do today with the internet. It seems like there were more live shows, zines, newsletters, and other materials from bands. Bands didn’t have all the help from the media. You had to really like a band and set out to find more information about them, or get one of their shirts to promote them yourself. People would see you wearing the shirt and ask you about it. There was a different and more intimate level of interaction. Today, you see ripped Ramones shirts on models strutting down the catwalk in fashion shows without knowing anything beyond the name.
Do you think technology has changed the music experience?
There is less of a commitment to go to live shows. That’s because you can just watch it on YouTube whenever you want. You have all the resources you need to see a band and listen to their music at your fingertips. It’s easier than ever to even start a band without even having to pick up an instrument.
Would you say that the Brazilian underground music scene is still going strong?
More than ever! Especially in Sao Paolo, but there is great underground music everywhere, even though a lot of it makes its way into the mainstream.
For more information about Fernanda or anything you read here you can visit her website.
This interview has been translated into English from Portuguese.