Boteco Pratododia disco booth
Serjão Discotecário, DJ Dinho Pereira and Seu Osvaldo, his father, the first DJ in Brazil, in the DJ booth at Boteco Pratododia. Photo: Luiza Sigulem

“Black is beautiful / Black is love / Black is a friend / Black is also a son of God”, sings Jorge Ben Jor (then Jorge Ben) in the first stanza of the song that gives title to his eighth album, 1971. At the beginning of the decade, in Brazil and in the world, the exaltation of blackness was the watchword.

In São Paulo, one of the architects for the self-esteem boost undertaken by Afro-descendant youth was the scene of black balls, as the parties spread throughout the suburbs and peripheries of the capital of São Paulo were called.

Through some of the characters who built this story, CULTURE! Brazilians will tell in two chapters - the first of them a cut between the 1960s and 1970s - how the Brazilian side of Black Power emerged and how it was disseminated, a movement that marked the struggle of North American blacks for equal civil rights and reverberated in several countries of the world.

Chapter 1 – From DJs to DJs
In 1958, a modern Brazil emerged with the emergence of Bossa Nova, the construction of Brasília and the conquest, in Sweden, of the first of five football world titles. It was also in that year that Osvaldo Pereira, a radio and TV technician, born in Muzambinho, Minas Gerais, and based in São Paulo, made history by becoming the first DJ in the country, or rather, the first “discoteca”, as prefer to be called.

In interview with CULTURE! Brazilians, Seu Osvaldo, artistic codename of the 82-year-old veteran, revealed that his passion for music began in his adolescence, at family parties where he always managed to play the 78rpm records that contained dancing themes by artists such as Jacob do Bandolim, Luiz Gonzaga and Jorge Veiga.

Also a radio aficionado and determined to unravel the magic behind the device, as soon as he arrived in São Paulo, Osvaldo learned about a course taught at a distance by the North American company National and decided to invest in the training of radio and TV technicians. The knowledge acquired with the course paved the way for a job at the Eletro Fluorescente Harpaco store, located at Rua Guainases, in downtown São Paulo, where he started to build portable radios and also take care of the record session, as a salesman and responsible for the renovation of the inventory

At the end of the 1950s, big dances conducted by big bands were in vogue in the urban centers of the country. With the premise of live music performed by groups of ten to 15 musicians, it was expensive to produce parties of this nature. Consequently, tickets were restrictive, especially for black audiences. But, from the professionalization of Osvaldo as a disc jockey, a low-cost alternative appears in the capital of São Paulo.

“In 1958, I started to earn money by playing on Sundays at the Martinelli Building. Seeing that the audience was growing, the organizer of the dance bet that he could also profit by having parties that turned into the night and rented a property at number 82 of Avenida Rio Branco, where I started to play on Saturdays from 22 pm to 4 am.”

At the suggestion of Francisco, a great friend from work, who was studying English, Osvaldo gave the dance the enigmatic name Orquestra Invisível Let's Dance. Baptism justified by the fact that the disc jockey, armed with the powerful sound equipment he built for the parties, always plays his records behind a curtain. When least expected, the stage was unveiled and the couples discovered that there was no orchestra, but Osvaldo manipulating the record player that made them dance to the sound of big bands led by artists such as Glenn Miller, Ray Conniff and Ray Charles.

The mechanical music dance was so successful that Osvaldo's followers soon emerged. Pioneer discotheques in the black dance scene, such as Amauri, Eduardo and the trio Os Carlos, began to organize parties in other regions of the capital of São Paulo and, increasingly, attracted a mostly black audience.

The peculiarities between the disc jockey and the DJ, Seu Osvaldo explains, had to do not only with the technique adopted by both, but also with the nuances of the public's behavior. “In 1962, I made a kind of mixer (equipment that mixes and passes the music played by DJs) and my boss lent me a second record player. I thought that the novelty would be a success, but I failed, because that interval between the exchange of records served precisely for the boys to continue holding hands and flirting with the girls. After that, I never did dances with two turntables again.”

Osvaldo's decision to abandon his life as a disc jockey became irremediable in 1972. With the death of his wife, Carolina, he had to bend over backwards to work on the production line at Philco's television factory and take care of his five children, four boys and one girl. Of the boys, two followed their father's example, the eldest, Tadeu, 56, also a renowned discotheque, and the youngest, Luís Claudio, 43-year-old DJ Dinho.

In 2003, Seu Osvaldo gained fair recognition by being included in the gallery of characters profiled in the book Every DJ has Sambou, by journalist Claudia Assef. At the launch party for the first edition, the patron of Brazilian DJs was invited to play again. Happy with the resumption, it remains in activity to this day.

The meeting point with the interviewees who make up this report was the Boteco Pratododia, a small music club headquartered at 34 Rua Barra Funda, in the west of São Paulo, which is home to dozens of DJs of the most different genres. The location was not chosen by chance. After all, the article's trigger was an informal chat with two other veterans, the DJs Claudio Costa and Lula Superflash (artistic aka Márcio Pequeno), who hold a monthly dance at the club called please. During a recent edition of the party, listening to good stories told by the duo, this reporter and one of Pratododia's partners, Luis Felipe Freitas, also a journalist, came to the conclusion that the trajectories of the duo and other anonymous people who built the history of the dances black in São Paulo should be told, especially for their role in exalting blackness.

The phenomenon was really significant. At the height of the movement, parties such as the Chic Show, created by Luizão, another icon of the discothèque era, gathered more than 15 thousand people. An entrepreneur, Luizão brought artists such as the Zapp and Whodini groups to the country and, the most emblematic of them, James Brown, who came to São Paulo in 1978 and filled the Palmeiras gymnasium, a frequent stage for the biggest Chic Show balls.

Claudio was there and assures: “To sum it up, it was sensational, breathtaking. Imagine us, who didn't have access to big shows, we saw a Jorge Ben here, a Gilberto Gil there, suddenly being face to face with none other than James Brown…”.

James Brown's first performance in São Paulo
Flyer – or flyer, as it was more common to say in the 1970s – of James Brown's second performance in São Paulo, a feat of the Chic Show team, led by DJ Luizão. Photo: Reproduction / Personal archive

The James Brown Effect

But if in 1978 the patron of funk was unanimous among blacks in the capital of São Paulo, ten years earlier, the organizers of local balls were suspicious of the rise of the new idol. Case of lawyer Sérgio Nogueira Teófilo, Serjão, a first-time discotheque who started playing professionally in 1964.

“Because I danced a lot, my peers were jealous because the girls just wanted to date me and I ended up being sent to the turntables. But I took a liking to the thing and where there was a festivity there I was with my records. My selection included artists such as Gary McFarland, Trio Esperança, Milton Banana, Lenny Dale, Bossa Três, Elza Soares, Luiz Carlos Vinhas, Bert Kaempfert, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben, Trio Mocotó, Wilson Simonal, Som Três and Os Caçulas. I only stopped playing because of a new type of music that came with a guy named James Brown. After all these wonderful artists I mentioned comes this guy, screaming wildly with a rhythm that, for me, was always the same. I stopped,” says Serjão.

Also present in the interview, Dinho explains: “There was a generational rupture. It wasn't just Serjão who didn't swallow soul and funk. It was practically the entire dynasty from the Invisible Orchestra. So much so that this type of sound they played was only successful again at the dances of the 1980s, with the return of the Os Carlos team. That’s when the style got the name nostalgia,” he says. According to Lula, the divisions of this transitional phase were noticeable not only in the choices of sound teams that emerged in the 1970s, but also in the preferences of the public in each region. “On the east side, at the balls in the Guilherme Giorgi hall, the Zimbabwe team only played funk and soul. Then came the Zambezi team, who used the same style and didn't do samba-rock at all. Those who played samba-rock again were Chic Show, at the São Paulo Chic parties, Clube da Cidade, in Barra Funda, and Black Mad, in Vila Brasilândia.”

Boteco Pratododia, in the photo, Cláudio Costa and Lula Superflash
Egresses from the dances of the 1960s and 70s, DJs Cláudio Costa and Lula Superflash maintain the Pixaim dance in São Paulo, at Boteco Pratododia, where they were portrayed. Photo: Luiza Sigulem

Lula, who was the founder of the WMS, Side One and Master One teams, and a contributor to Zimbabwe, Black Mad and Dynamite, now tells his story. “Unlike Serjão, I became a DJ because I didn't have the slightest vocation for dancing. At the age of 14, I left my job as an office boy to work at the Fernando Discos store, which was located in the Zarzur Building, on Prestes Maia Avenue, downtown. In the history of the bailes black in São Paulo, everyone applauds Fernando, because he was the first shopkeeper to let us listen to the records. We spent a lot of money buying LPs, but not all of them were good for balls. Since walking into the store, I've been lucky enough to see all the transitions they're counting: the DJs, the crews, and the DJs. The only entertainment that Afro-descendants in São Paulo had was football, samba and Carnival. The dances opened up a new possibility of union.”

the racial question

“In the early 1970s, every Friday there was a melee at Viaduto do Chá. The black people would get together to find out about the balls that were going to take place on the weekend and the viaduct would be taken from end to end”, says Claudio. He, who will turn 60 in July, started playing in 1968 at family parties and garage balls in the Saúde neighborhood, in the south of São Paulo. In the 1980s, he was a DJ at Asa Branca, a club in Pinheiros, on the west side of the city, he did many Chic Show balls and also worked for Rádio Bandeirantes FM, where he was producer and speaker of the programs new york expresssweet love e Until Finally It's Friday.

Marked by the unpretentiousness of the dance, the meetings of the 1960s resulted in the feeling of cohesion that, in the following decade, stimulated the confrontation of racism, as Serjão's report attests. “Meetings to publicize the balls began on Direita Street, because there was a division between those with fair skin, who were on Viaduto do Chá, and those with dark skin. Then, by force, the boys started to gather on the viaduct.”

Lula takes advantage of the hook to map the migration of the black movement through the streets of downtown: “The meetings began on Rua Direita, passed through Viaduto do Chá and went to the galleries on Rua 24 de Maio in the second half of the 1970s, where they remained until the end of the 1980s. beginning of the XNUMXs, when the Military Police started to put rubber in the class. It was then that we left for the Antonio Prado square, on the opposite side of the center, and then went to the São Bento subway station, where Brazilian hip-hop emerged. As the station has more than ten exits, it was ideal for escaping the PM. If they came one way, we ran the other way. Even Djavan took a hit on Direita Street,” recalls Lula. “Also, black and with that hair…”, provokes Serjão, who explains: “At that time, it was enough to gather a group of black people on the street for the police to arrive. The whites were afraid and didn't mix with us. They didn't go to balls, because they feared being robbed. Their concept was: there are only thieves in that place. Today the mix is ​​so much that it even has Japanese.”

Serjão's testimony converges with the comment of another veteran of the black balls in São Paulo, DJ Tony Hits, creator, in 1972, of the Verde Amarelo team, in Vila Santa Catarina, in the south zone of São Paulo. “In the 1970s, you could count on your fingers the fair-skinned people who went to dances. Today, the audience is more diverse and so are the places we play.” In addition to a record store that bears his name, Tony runs dances alongside old-school partners such as Charles Team, another legendary figure of the black dances, and Seu Osvaldo.

In that period of division between whites and blacks, dressing well and keeping your hair impeccable, explains Serjão, were practices resulting from racial prejudice: “The duty of black people was to walk in a straight line so as not to be seen as a maloqueiro, as a bandit. By the way, if you were underdressed at the ball, all you had to do was look at the line to give up going in”, he defends. “It was the biggest wave. Everyone with black hair. Men and women lined up. The boys wear plaid jackets, silk shirts, shiny shoes, bell bottoms”, recalls Claudio.

Nelson Triunfo, the first Brazilian b-boy
Nelson Triunfo, considered the first Brazilian b-boy, is held up by the public who saw James Brown's first visit to Brazil, via Chic Show, at the Palmeiras gym. The cape worn by Triunfo was a gift from Mr. Dynamite, but, as the dancer reported in “Nelson Triunfo – Do Sertão ao Hip-Hop”, a biography signed by journalist Gilberto Yoshinaga, the present, shortly afterwards, was stolen in his dressing room. Photo: Pena Prearo / Reproduction of the book “Nelson Triunfo – Do Sertão ao Hip-Hop


With an attentive ear to the reports of the followers of his tradition, Seu Osvaldo repays the reverence he has always received. “It is so difficult to describe the joy I carry with me. I thank the DJs of now and take my hat off to them, because they are the ones who continue to make that little seed I planted in 1958 alive.”

His father's DJ partner, Dinho comments that the patriarch's craft inspired, in addition to him and his brother, Tadeu, more than 20 family members who are also DJs, among them a character who marked the 1980s and the consolidation of rap in the following decade, Grandmaster Ney. For Dinho, in an environment commonly affected by vanity, one of the most important values ​​taught by Seu Osvaldo is the posture of humility. “The DJ is a kind of medium. He deals with something a little spiritual, because he has to capture the energy of the dance floor and translate it into music. I had the privilege of learning from my father that music should have the spotlight and not the DJ.”

In the next issue, the final chapter of this report. On the agenda: the transition to the hip-hop scene of the 1980s, the rediscovery of samba-rock by the 2000s generation and the parties that keep the tradition of black balls alive.

Read follow the dance, second chapter of this report
See statements by Luizão, creator of the team, about the Chic Show balls in Palmeiras

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