Afrobeats in the Lusosphere: Social Discourse and Language reframed in Rhythm & Poetry

Camila Alves

independent researcher, Brazil


The purpose of this work is to examine the artistic creations of rappers from Portuguese-speaking countries, in order to observe the development of the oral language in each context, and how the social and cultural changes can influence this music genre. The construction of a RAP song is made by lyrics and samples, beats or remixes, which is called rhythm and poetry, as constituted in this artistic manifestation of Hip Hop culture. In Brazil, RAP is an imported culture, but it has acquired new meanings in contact with the traditional local music, which has already originated from a multicultural environment provided by the Amerindian orality, African Bantu rithms and Lusitanas influences. In Portugal, the descendants of immigrants from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique have written lyrics that express the linguistic and cultural encounter that has taken place in the Portuguese society nowadays. Meanwhile, on the African continent, rappers from Portuguese-speaking countries create their own cultural “salad bowls”, mixing the language of Camões with the languages of the Motherland in its immense multilingual scenario. Portuguese language, such as RAP music, are living social and cultural organisms which are expressed from local and global perspectives. Thus, this music genre is characterized as a good corpus to analyse the discourse, as a continuous and dialogical flow of speakers that constantly reframe the language from their local contexts, but at the same time, interact in a micro and macrocosm of social experiences expressed in their vocabularies. According to Alim (2009), globalization has created multiple new opportunities for youth to rework, reinvent, and recreate identities through the remixing of styles, as a result of a multitude of technological innovations, by focusing on stylization in the many translocal style communities that constitute the Global Hip Hop Nation, which together may form a global style community. RAP is essentially electronic music, which makes it an important part of the technological cultural revolution of our time, since it has re-signified the ways of producing musical language simultaneously at the time of the beginning of technological modernization and has been following all phases of this revolution, which gives a global character to this specific genre. The fluid character of its language dialogues with the idea of corpora analysis that is proposed by this work, thus, the linguistic data from this type of songs can be used for the purpose of identifying semantic, pragmatic and discursive patterns of the Portuguese language in different contexts. Bakhtin (2002), says that forces contained in each utterance and the social processes of centralization and decentralization of the language are the main ingredients of the enunciation. These movements transform social plurilingualism into a historical process, since it is possible to identify several social voices represented in these discourses. The methodology of analysis of this research is multidisciplinary, made by Corpus Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Cultural Studies and Ethnomusicology.

Keywords: RAP, Portuguese language, Music data


Camila Cristina de Oliveira Alves was awarded her Ph.D. by the Linguistics department at Sao Paulo State University in 2017. Her work was part of a research project entitled “Creative writing practices: aspects about subjectivity and otherness” coordinated by Professor Marina Mendonça. The PhD dissertation and contribution to this project was named “Beats, Remixes and Voices: Identity and Interdiscursivity in the Periphery Music” and explored how the stylistic and compositional linguistic resources of Brazilian songs – such as Rap, Funk and Tecnobrega – materialize ideologies and produce interactions between individuals through speeches that (re)affirm identities by social voices in the artwork discourse. During this research, she spent one year in the UK (2015-2016) as Ph.D. Student Research Associate at Queen Mary University of London (School of Languages, Linguistics and Film – Comparative Literature and Culture Department) improving research skills and studies on Cultural Studies under the supervision of Professor Galin Tihanov. She has published papers and attended conferences in Brazil and other countries in this period, such as France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Scotland and Wales. In the last few years she has worked with languages, culture, arts and technology at universities, schools, language centers and tech startups. She is interested and experienced in the areas: Applied Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Digital Humanities, Discourse Analysis, Education on Ethnic-Racial Relations, Latin American Studies, Literature, Media, Music, Natural Language Processing and Sociolinguistics.