In 1985, the image of an enormous crowd singing “Love of My Life” to an emotional Freddie Mercury during the first Rock in Rio put Brazil on the map of the world’s biggest—and most vibrant—music festivals. But beyond super productions such as Rock in Rio and Lollapalooza, the country offers a wide range of experiences for Brazilian and international music lovers.
Following the tradition, Brazilian festivals are a way for the people to engage, to demonstrate their political views and to celebrate. But, unlike the mega concerts focused on bringing foreign names to the country, festivals such as Bananada, João Rock and Meca aim to encourage national productions, presenting line ups filled with famous stars and new artists. Indeed, they end up boosting the career of names that, nowadays, are the core of Brazilian indie music scene or shine even in mainstream pop. Find more about them below:[restricted]
Twenty-one years ago a group of friends decided to play rock in Goiania, a midwestern city that, unlike Brasília—Brazil’s rock-oriented capital—is dominated by sertanejo, Brazil’s answer to country music. The result is the Bananada Festival, a unique option for those willing to know more about Brazilian culture outside the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo axis.
“Rock is Bananadas’s spine. Saying Bananada is only about rock is a misstep, but saying it isn’t about rock is a huge mistake,” said Bananadas organizer Fabrício Nobre in an interview with Vice.
Bananada never let go of its rock origins but, as it grew in size and relevance, its stages become more and more diverse; now it is a microcosm of the Brazilian music scene, bringing together famous and new artists in a week dedicated to music and culture.
Trough its editions, the festival hosted names as varied as national idol and former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, to drag queen and Brazilian pop princess Pabllo Vittar, as well as the Queens of Stone Age star Nick Olivieri and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, and plenty of Latin American stars.
In spite of opening up, Bananada kept its focus on encouraging indie rock bands from Goiania that now are known in Brazil and abroad, such as Boogarins and Carne Doce. Other icons of Brazilian new indie scene—such as Far From Alaska, Francisco El Hombre, and Terno Rei— also performed there.
In 2019, Bananada will take place from August 12 to August 18 and will have rapper Criolo and pop artist Tulipa Ruiz will be the headliners. The festival will also host Portuguese band Paus and Colombian band Frente Cumbiero on the international frontline.
This is another festival that has rock and roll in its very DNA. Created in 2002 in the city of Ribeirão Preto, an agribusiness hub deep in São Paulo state, the festival is named after three famous rock drummers: John (or João, in Portuguese) Densmore, from The Doors, John Bonham, from Led Zeppelin, and João Barone, from Brazilian band Paralamas do Sucesso. Even today, the festival has one of the most rock-oriented line ups of Brazil, but has opened up space for different rhythms, such as hip hop.
The festival benefits from the college vibes of Ribeirão Preto—home to a University of São Paulo campus—and attracts plenty of young people from the entire country. Indeed, the audience is never short of stamina to enjoy over 12 hours of concerts, skate parks, garage band contests and other surprises the festival’s sponsors provide.
Surprises are actually another trademark of João Rock. As it prioritizes Brazilian rock bands, the festival has an entire stage dedicated to new artists and it is not rare that the headliners, who are often good friends, perform unexpected live collaborations.
Among these remarkable partnerships, Herbert Viana, lead vocalist of Paralamas do Sucesso, and Dinho Ouro Preto, the frontman of Capital Inicial, two of the most popular Brazilian rock bands from the eighties, gathered in 2003 to pay homage to Renato Russo, the late leader of the iconic band Legião Urbana. Four years later, Os Mutantes, the first Brazilian rock band, and Caetano Veloso, Brazilian popular music idol, were a hit. In 2011, a tribute to Bob Marley gathered the Brazilians Fernando Badauí, from rock group CPM22, Alexandre Carlo, from reggae group Natiruts, Rogério Flausino, from pop-rock band Jota Quest, and Logan Bell, from the New Zealand band Katchafire.
This year, João Rock will take place on June 15 and, in keeping with the tradition, it will honor the rock tradition from Brasília. Besides, the line up is already exciting fans with another promising collab: Rael and Emicida, two of Brazil’s biggest rappers, will share the stage with Brazilian hip hop pioneer Mano Brown in what promises to be one of the great moments of the festival.
MECA Festival went beyond the music to become a cultural experience and platform. The event had its first edition in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state, back in 2010. Now, the team hosts festivals in five Brazilian states, plus monthly pocket events on the group’s headquarters in São Paulo and editorial content productions all year round.
Their idea is to provide its guests with a holistic experience. That’s why the events always take place at iconic Brazilian sites, such as the Urca hill, in Rio de Janeiro, and Oficina Brennand, a museum in Recife dedicated to the work of Brazilian sculptor Francisco Brennand created in an old brick factory. Its flagship event is the MECAInhotim festival, at Instituto Inhotim, the biggest open-air museum in the world.
This year, MECAInhotim will host Brazilian artists Gilberto Gil, Céu, Duda Beat, MC Tha, and Castello Branco, alongside three parties, guided visits to the museum and TED-style talks from May 17 to May 19. But, besides all these activities, this year’s festival will also be embracing sustainability, said MECA’s head of Content, Felipe Seffrin, to The Brazilian Report.
Inhotim is close to the town of Brumadinho, which was hit by the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history after a tailings dam owned by mining company Vale burst in January, killing more than 220 people and leaving about 100 hundred missing. The MECA team has even released the fundraising project PróBrumadinho to foster the reconstruction and sustainable development of Brumadinho after the disaster.
The remaining festivals are scheduled to take place at São Paulo (in July), Recife (in September), Porto Alegre (in November)m and Rio de Janeiro (in December or January 2020). According to Mr. Seffrin, they will be part of an innovative partnership with global trend consultancy WGSN.
“These festivals will be called MECAWGSN. There will be conferences based on the trends WGSN studies, as well as talks and workshops. We will invite several people and we want to have music attraction connected to these trends, like emotional design,” he said.
Those willing to keep up with MECA may sign up to their newsletter, or read their own newspaper, about art, music, and culture. They also host free pocket events once in a month in their headquarters in São Paulo, “We always bring indie bands, lots of artists that are starting to show up. It’s a way to strengthen ties with our public.” According to Mr. Seffrin, the festival intends to grow even further, but always gradually, to ensure the quality of experiences it provides.[/restricted]