Ask the average person what Brazil is famous for and you’ll most likely get a list that includes soccer and many of its most famous players, the awe-inspiring Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio Carnival, The Amazon Forest, samba, coffee, the Iguazu Falls and much more. But ask a member of the LGBTQI+ community or one of its allies and you’ll probably hear that, unfortunately, Brazil is also known for having a homophobic general populace and one of the world’s highest rates of anti-trans violence and homicide.
These facts make the story of this month’s cover artist even more extraordinary. Born in one of the country’s most conservative states of São Paulo, trans musician Liniker and a group of her musical friends burst onto Brazil’s music scene in 2015 with a YouTube video for single ‘Zero’ which quickly went viral.
Her friends, also from the same countryside town of Araraquara, then formed her band the Caramelows, and the group went on to write two albums and tour extensively, bravely and unapologetically carving out and claiming space for queer artists and audiences throughout the deeply conservative nation.
We thought Liniker e os Caramelows were an inspired choice to play at HOTA’s upcoming OUT LOUD Festival – a celebration of diversity in an ever-changing world – in support of fellow Brazilian and living legend Jorge Ben Jor, the father of samba rock. So we chatted with the extraordinary woman herself ahead of this not-to-be missed concert.
Liniker’s voice comes at a critical time in Brazil’s developing consciousness. Through her choice to transition in the public eye and not water down her authentic expression of self, she has forced further public discourse around the queer movement in Brazil, and done so while endlessly spreading a message of love in the face of all the hate directed towards her and everyone like her. For Liniker, it’s important to keep this concept at the core of everything they do.
“I remember when we went viral,” she recalls.
“People could recognise me on the streets, people sang our songs, but we didn’t have a career and the respect yet.
“I’m proud that nowadays we are able to travel around the world singing about love. This should be part of this idea of success.”
Travel around the world they have, but until now, they have yet to come to Australia. The OUT LOUD Festival will be one of the few stops on their first ever Australian tour, and they’re all incredibly excited about it.
“It’s so crazy to think that we are going to cross the globe to perform our songs and to sing about love. It’s going to be our first time in Australia and I can’t wait to play there,” says Liniker.
As Gold Coasters know, we aren’t short of Brazilians living and working here, so I’m sure there were will be plenty of home peeps in the crowd for the show. Liniker agrees.
“Brazilian people who live abroad attend our concerts because they like our music, but it’s also a way that they find to keep connected to their culture that they miss so much. Our audience is very warm.”
But not always. Liniker has been quite matter of fact about the treatment she has received at the hands of the media and some of the more conservative members of the public in her home country and throughout South America. But in a place where 90% or more of trans women end up homeless and / or in sex work, she is also grateful for the privileges her position affords her.
“My visibility as a singer helps me to occupy spaces that aren’t the usual ones for trans women. That representation is so important,” she says.
“Brazil remains a very transphobic, chauvinist, racist country, with a lot of hate speech. When a trans woman takes the stage, that alone is political.”
Politics, hate speech, and fear are unfortunately elements that still are interwoven into the daily lives of many LGBTQI+ people all around the world. But through art, music and messages of love, courageous ambassadors like Liniker seek to embody the changes they wish to see in the world.
Liniker e os Caramelows is not quite like any other band you’ve ever heard before, while also seeming comfortably familiar. People say the sounds of black soul and samba run through Liniker’s blood.
When asked about her influences, she says “I remember listening to Banda Black Rio, Clube do Balanço and Itamar Assumpção when I was a kid. However, contemporary Brazilian artists such as Tulipa Ruiz were important to my formation as songwriter as well. The same when we talk about Etta James and Nina Simone.”
If that doesn’t mean much to you apart from Etta James and Nina Simone, then just trust Liniker when she gives the following advice.
“People should get ready to dance a lot. We wish people could keep the energy of our concerts in mind for a long time. So we will make it to be special.”
You can catch Jorge Ben Jor and Liniker e os Caramelows when they light up the The Outdoor Stage at HOTA on Friday 6 March 2020. This is an all ages event, and you can grab your tix over at hota.com.au.