This Autumn, the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies is offering an exciting new course, PORT 365/JSIS 365 – From Samba to Hip-Hop: Brazilian Society through Music, taught by Professor Juliana Cantarelli Vita.
Professor Vita is a Ph.D. Candidate in Music Education with an emphasis in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, and a pre-doctoral instructor at the Spanish and Portuguese Department at the UW. Dr. Vita recently corresponded with The Center for Global Studies and shared more about her research interests, the course, and the cultural impact of Afro-Brazilian music.
“More often than not, the image of Brazilian culture and music is limited to Samba and Bossa Nova–which very much reflects elitist views of the view of the country. But I hope that students will open their ears and their hearts to the rich culture that varies from region to region.”
Could you tell us a little about the inspirations that led you to develop this course?
This course was actually developed by Dr. Eduardo Viana da Silva last Winter. I am tapping into the course especially due to my background in Music: I am currently a PhD candidate in Music Education with a foot in Ethnomusicology. The study of Brazilian music is at the core of my studies and of my practice as an artist.
Why is this course particularly important today?
We will focus mostly on Afro-Brazilian music, and understanding these musics (yes, in the plural) as pillars of Brazilian society and culture. Much like here in the United States, we need to stand up to racial and social inequalities in Brazil, too. We need to take a stance and one way forward is through education. Black Lives Matter.
What are some key insights that you hope students will take away from this course?
In terms of key insights, I hope students will have a grasp of how diverse Brazilian music is. More often than not, the image of Brazilian culture and music is limited to Samba and Bossa Nova–which very much reflects elitist views of the view of the country, given that these two traditions come exactly from the more affluent states. But there’s so much more than just these two traditions. I hope that students will open their ears and their hearts to the rich culture that varies from region to region, from state to state, and sometimes even from town to town. We will also look into some musical cultures from Portuguese-speaking African countries, and trace parallels between Lusophonic cultures in South America and in the African continent.
How has studying and teaching about food impacted your life?
Music is my life, and it has always been. I feel privileged to be teaching this course right at this moment–a moment of social uprising, a moment of re-evaluating everything given the pandemic, a moment of collective reflectiveness. Getting ready to teach the materials for the course was almost a revisit to historical moments as well.
Is there anything else we haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
I have been teaching Brazilian music in the United States for the past 6 years. I have given more than 50 workshops around the world on the music that is very much the core of my work, which is a tradition called Maracatu de Baque Virado from Recife, Pernambuco (the place I was born and raised). Being able to share this music has shaped me as an educator, artist, and activist. I also need to acknowledge my positionality: even though the focus of the course (and of my work) is on Afro-Brazilian traditions, I do not identify as such in Brazil; so, in the course, we will also talk about approaches to teaching and learning music that might not part of your background, and how to do so respectfully.