“Don’t believe what you see
Don’t believe what you read.” – “Propaganda,” from the album Chaos A.D.
Max Cavalera of Sepultura should have been a torch bearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which have just concluded.
“Metal is as emblematic of Brazil as is Pele or the Amazon,” a passionate fan told Sam Dunn in Global Metal.
Did this have a realistic chance of happening? No, but nevertheless a golden opportunity was missed to showcase heavy music and its role in the recent history and culture of Brazil, through millions of records sold (20 million of those by Sepultura alone) and its impact on even more millions of fans’ lives.
And given the country’s current political situation, I also can’t help thinking that the original Cavalera lineup especially would have had something to say about it sonically…not to mention about the global sporting events Brazil has hosted under the eye of two of the most corrupt and unethical bodies on earth (FIFA and the IOC).
As one of the most politically astute metal bands of its day, Sepultura’s music is perfect for Brazil’s current moment. Songs like “Refuse/Resist,” “Desperate Cry,” and “Propaganda” evoke images of cracked Third World pavement, blazing heat from sun, bullets, and fires; riot police, smoke, and tear gas; black bandanna face masks, Molotov cocktails and improvised pipe bombs.
The snooze-fest of the Rio opening ceremony so desperately needed an injection of this violent struggle, something, anything, to contrast the image of the Brazilian favelas as happy-go-lucky samba parties where everybody is always dancing.
I longed for the Cavaleras to storm the stage, roaring the lyrics from “Slave New World:”
“We are not slaves, we’re–FREE!!!”
Born from the hardscrabble struggles of the impoverished favelas in Belo Horizonte, Sepultura’s original members spoke a language that inspired millions the world over who had grown up in similar circumstances to embrace the beauty of heavy music as a form of expression, a fire that continues to grow worldwide today. Yet, as jaw-dropping corruption continues to mount both in global sport and global politics, the ranks of informed metal fans are mounting as well. Sepul-nation.
Rio 2016 would have been a perfect opportunity for these Third World metal heroes to rejoin forces with the Cavaleras, a clenched fist to the cry of a nation that needs them now more than ever, and to raise that fist to the world. It would have been a moment of which all Brazilians could be proud, one that could sit comfortably with the many other great moments and stories from these Olympics.
Who knows what may have transpired next? Tokyo 2020…take note!
Written by Matt P