Musician Maria Beraldo rebels against Brazil’s far-right leader through song

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, doesn't hide his views about women and the LGBT community. He has made light of rape. He has also been quoted as saying he would prefer to see his own son dead rather than gay.

Maria Beraldo is not taking any of this lightly. She's a singer songwriter who's writing music in defiance of Brazil's far right president.

Sonia Narang has her story.

Narang: When I meet Maria Beraldo, she has the word "trouble" emblazoned in bold black letters on her bright red pants. Beraldo released her first solo album last year and she's gaining fans with her provocative, opinionated lyrics. In a country where the president has openly bashed women and gays, her songs of empowerment and lesbian lovers are a direct challenge.

Maria Beraldo: We have something like a dictator. Our government is being closed. One of the most powerful technologies of oppression is to silence, silence a lot of stories. In Brazil, I think we have a lot of artists and people and everybody thinking and talking about freedom and putting themselves out [there].

Narang: While Brazil has relatively strong legal protections for LGBT people, anti-gay violence runs high there and Beraldo fears it's getting worse under Jair Bolsonaro.

Beraldo: I think we're actually in a moment now that is really complicated. It's really hard in Brazil now. We have terrible numbers and Lesbophobia is growing.

Narang: Berlaldo was a classically trained clarinetist. She's 31 now and lives in Sao Paolo, and she's been playing music for as long as she can remember.

Beraldo: Actually, I studied in my mother's body because she's a musician and my parents are musicians. So I always had this at home.

Narang: In her song "Maria" she creates a world revolving around women by telling her story through the stories of her mother and grandmother. She says men have long been telling stories through their own perspective, leaving women out.

Beraldo: A lot of histories are being silenced. My album is telling my history and I think that is really powerful for a lesbian woman to say her history.

Perola Mathías: Traditionally, we don't have so many singers that think as a lesbian, putting this kind of voice in the lyric.

Narang: Perola Mathías is a sociologist and music researcher in Sao Paolo.

Mathias: So, Maria Beraldo's doing this. When she passes this kind of message, it's a kind of resistance, in an artistic way, an aesthetic way and in a political way.

Narang: Beraldo's album is titled "Cavala." That's also the name of the single. The word "cavalo" is masculine and means "horse" in Portuguese, but "cavala" is an offensive slang term for women. And in this song, Beraldo reclaims the word.

Beraldo: I think that word has the strength of the animal and the strength that was taken from us — like, 'men are strong, men are brave, men are like the horse.' And actually, we are that. We are supporting everything. Women had that strength much more than [men]. So it was a word that started to come out in my life because of this music.

Narang: Sociologist Perola Mathías says Beraldo's music sends a message to girls and young women.

Mathias: I think that it's important in this conservative moment. This music can say to them, 'You can do whatever you want, being a woman.'

Narang: Beraldo’s live concerts attract thousands of people across Brazil and she spreads her message through social media, as well. Her Instagram following has grown to more than 16,000.

Beraldo: I think that a lot of women and a lot of lesbian women listen to my history and identify, and that gives a lot of strength for those people. The way that we can start to change things is to let each person tell her history.