The Barack Obamas of Brazil

I was approached by PBS/Frontline to see one of their documentaries and if I liked it, to write about my thoughts on it here. The piece is called Brazil: The Obama Samba and runs at a little over 12 minutes and covers an aspiring Brazilian politician who runs under the name Barack Obama. The story that accompanies it, is a summary of the video documentary itself (minus the first paragraph). 

Personally, I believe the only real change that will occur in this country (the USA) will come as a result of the people rising up and defeating the system, but I’ll run with the story for its Brazilian connection and for the fact that the idea of change and hope (or perhaps more specifically, the Presidential speech writer’s idea of it) is ultimately a good one. 


Here’s the beginning of the story (that accompanies the documentary), for which I would like to offer a few corrections and comments. I can’t help it. I’m a writer. 

“Brazilians love to mix things up — never afraid to grab hold of an idea and incorporate it seamlessly into their constantly evolving culture. Take their national drink, the caipirinha, add fruit juice, and you have a caipifruta (try guava, passionfruit, or kiwi). And samba, the most Brazilian of dances, is itself a mix of African rhythms and European melodies. In Rio, they put a hip-hop beat to it, and call it “funky.””

I understand the initial paragraph is an opener to the rest of the story, but I have a few suggestions as I have a hard time seeing Brazil misrepresented. Caipifruta isn’t what the majority of Brazilians (if not the entire population) call a caipirinha with fruit. They call it a ‘caipirinha de (insert fruit here)’ such as the caipirinha de maracujá. The next correction is that in Rio, samba isn’t mixed with hip-hop and then called “funky.” Funk Carioca, as I have written about here, is something all together different, and so is the Brazilian hip-hop movement. Those two things being said, lets get on to the documentary! 


Brazil: The Obama Samba

2 thoughts on “The Barack Obamas of Brazil

  1. Thanks for taking the time to look at the piece, and for adding your comments on the opening paragraph. As a journalist I love getting that kind of feedback. I was in Rio for less than a week, so I was picking things up quickly. For the record, the restaurant I went to in Leblon had “caipifruta de (insert fruit here)” on their menu. It’s possible that this establishment wasn’t reflective of what most Brazilians would call the drink, but it was what I had. And I knew I was setting myself up with the “funky” line — for starters, I chose to spell it this way because that is how it is pronounced in Portuguese (as opposed to “funk”). The Obama jingle was described to me as “uma canciao funky” by the composer, and though it is strictly not samba with a hip-hop beat, it does have both of those influences. Ultimately, this was the point, it is all a mix. Thanks again for your comments.

  2. No problem, Andres. I understand the difficulty a writer can face when looking at a culture in terms of how to best present it to a new audience. It’s never an easy job….and it happens to be one I contantly work at.

    I get the funky part, I guess there was confusion on my part over the English meaning of funky.


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