Lata Doida: Rhythm and Recycling in Realengo [PROFILE]

Sustainable Favela Network* Profile

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This is the tenth article in a year-long partnership with the Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies at San Diego State University to produce a series of monthly favela-sourced human rights and environmental justice reporting from Rio de Janeiro on RioOnWatch. It is also the latest in a series of profiles of initiatives in Rio’s Sustainable Favela Network.

Editor’s Note: Since the interviews conducted for this profile of community socio-environmental project Lata Doida, their activities have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. “There were shows and workshops that ended up being canceled, rehearsals, meetings, soap-making groups, studio recording sessions,” Lata Doida founder Vânia Maria Nascimento told RioOnWatch this month. “Anyway, we’re doing some things online, but nothing in comparison to before.” Lata Doida has since shifted its efforts to distributing food parcels and producing homemade masks for local donation. “We are yet to define a new way of being for Lata Doida,” said Vânia, “but we’ll get there.” 

Initiative: Lata Doida (“Crazy Can”)
ContactFacebook | YouTube | Instagram
Year Founded: 2008
Community: Realengo
Mission: To promote creative, educational, and sustainable experiences in art, contributing to a more humane and less unequal society that is capable of developing in harmony with the environment.
Public Events: The Lata Doida band performs concerts throughout Rio de Janeiro. Lata Doida also holds music and arts and crafts workshops in Realengo.
How to Support: Though Lata Doida does not usually accept monetary donations, due to the pandemic and economic crisis, the organization is currently in need of support to help cover rent and energy bills. Contact Vânia Nascimento, Vanielle Bethania, or Vandré Nascimento through Lata Doida’s Facebook page.

Rio de Janeiro’s music scene is as diverse and vibrant as its residents. From Samba to Bossa Nova and Funk Carioca, the Marvelous City produces an array of sounds and styles popular around the globe. Out in Rio’s West Zone, in the sweltering suburb of Realengo, an extraordinary group of young musicians is making their mark not only on the Carioca music scene but also on the fight for sustainable development in Rio’s urban peripheries.

Their name is Lata Doida, and a quick trip to their YouTube channel reveals their unique blend of Afro-Brazilian and African-American styles and rhythms, including Funk, Samba, Maracatu, and Blues. The name Lata Doida was born out of the band’s use of homemade instruments built from scraps and discarded materials found around the neighborhood. From guitars made out of hubcaps and cutting boards to marimbas built from wood crates and plastic bottle kazoos, Lata Doida’s “recycled” instruments have become a hallmark of their sustainability platform.

According to co-founder and musician Vandré Nascimento, “The name Lata Doida stuck on account of the music workshops that we have held since the beginning that took place with materials that we had at hand. It has to do with the issue of sustainability in the production of music and concern with the reuse of materials. It’s also a form of economic sustainability.” While nowadays Lata Doida can be seen performing anywhere from Arpoador in the South Zone to Praça XV in downtown Rio, the group’s roots will always belong in Realengo.

For Lata Doida’s founders—Vânia Maria Nascimento and her children, Vandré and Vanielle Bethania—music, art, and community involvement have always been a family affair. From a young age, Vandré and Vanielle were exposed to the world of musical performance by their musician father. They also grew up seeing their mother deeply involved in social work in Realengo. Concern about social and environmental issues such as violence, trash accumulation, flooding, and spread of infectious disease led Vânia to constantly look for ways to help her neighbors and improve her community.

This rich family history inspired Vãnia, Vanielle and Vandré to form the organization Lata Doida. “From the interest in music and the fact that my mother always acted in the community, it was also our desire to create social transformation,” explains Vanielle. Motivated by a love for the art and their neighborhood as well as indignation at the living conditions in Realengo, Vânia and her children set to work. Vânia soon found a house to rent that would become Lata Doida’s music studio and cultural center for the next ten years. From the beginning, Lata Doida focused on providing interactive educational programs for children in Realengo. Vânia led arts and crafts activities, while Vandré and Vanielle ran music workshops.

Nowadays, Vânia tends to focus more on recycling and environmental affairs, while Vandré and Vanielle concentrate on the music. However, all three continue to collaborate on whatever needs to be done. “We do everything. We clean. We wash together. We collect material from the street,” says Vânia. Making the trio’s dedicated work for Lata Doida all the more impressive is the fact that they also have maintained accomplished professional careers. Vânia is a health agent for a local clinic and works closely with street recyclers. Both Vandré and Vanielle are teachers. As the work required to run Lata Doida can be demanding, Vânia, Vandré, and Vanielle receive constant support from friends, family, and band members.

It was over the course of Vandré and Vanielle’s music workshops that the Lata Doida band emerged, featuring several early workshop participants who later became full-fledged band members. Performing professional-quality shows across the Rio metropolitan area, the Lata Doida band brings a high degree of visibility to Realengo. The music that the group creates deals extensively with the community and its significance to each and every one of the nine band members. Their art, including live shows, recordings, and even a short film entitled “O Chapeuzinho Verde na Mata Atlântica” has been featured on television programs and in written publications, from Medium to Globo and TV Brasil. Wherever they perform or publish material, Lata Doida makes sure to tell their audience where they come from and the challenges their families and neighbors face on a daily basis.

Above all, the members of Lata Doida hope to highlight the strength and ingenuity of Realengo’s residents. “Our biggest source of resilience, I believe, is ourselves,” asserts Vanielle. With limited government support, Lata Doida and other community initiatives run by residents are improving the quality of life in Realengo one action at a time.

Although the band remains perhaps the most famous aspect of Lata Doida, the organization works on a variety of fronts. Activities and projects include the aforementioned crafts and music workshops as well as the promotion and support of local political events focused on environmental and social justice. Under the direction of Lata Doida, community leaders and activists occupied an abandoned public space that was filled with waste and trash and transformed it into the Parquinho Verde (Little Green Park): a common area for leisure and recreation. In times of crisis, the members of Lata Doida organize to provide relief and support for neighbors in need. When heavy rains devastated Realengo and surrounding areas in the beginning of March 2020, Vânia rushed to put together a donation drive to benefit affected families.

Driven by the goal of fostering the growth of Realengo as a center of creativity and artistic production in the region, Lata Doida provides sound equipment and logistical support to local festivals and cultural events, including the Festival de Música e Cultura de Rua de Bangu and Sarau do Calango. Moreover, the organization often collaborates with local artists and allows them to record in Lata Doida’s studio. Finally, Vânia, Vandré, and Vanielle love to share their expertise and resources with a network of collectives and initiatives in Realengo (e.g. Realengo Viaduct Cultural Space and Parque de Realengo Verde) who are all fighting for the cause of sustainable development. “Everyone is in a difficult situation, but we’re helping each other, making things happen here. If we don’t do it, nothing happens,” reflects Vandré.

All of Lata Doida’s activities, in performing concerts, organizing workshops, or beautifying public spaces, serve to build a more just world. Vânia believes that she, her children, and all other members of Lata Doida can enact positive change through “much love, much poetry, much music, many beautiful things, and much art.” With a decade of work alongside their neighbors, Vânia, Vandré, and Vanielle are witnesses to the collective potential of Realengo. “We have ended up learning that we have power. We have strength together. Observing each other, seeing the potential of each other, we learn that we have strength,” declares Vanielle.

According to Vandré, through the collective actions of Lata Doida and other community initiatives in the West Zone, residents of the urban periphery are forming their own perspectives and sustainable solutions. This process is resulting in a higher degree of collective self-esteem as well as greater autonomy from Rio’s urban center. In the end, this improves the periphery’s ability to not only survive, but to thrive. By forming strong bonds with neighbors, Lata Doida hopes to build a Realengo that has a healthier environment with fewer diseases, less flooding, less violence, more parks and recreational areas, and more art. Ultimately, Lata Doida envisions Realengo as a self-sustaining community in which residents can find employment, education, healthcare, recreation, and art. With homemade instruments in hand, Lata Doida is taking this vision to every corner of Rio, one show at a time.

*Lata Doida is one of over 100 community projects mapped by Catalytic Communities (CatComm), the organization that publishes RioOnWatch, as part of our parallel ‘Sustainable Favela Network‘ program launched in 2017 to recognize, support, strengthen, and expand on the sustainable qualities and community movements inherent to Rio de Janeiro’s favela communities. Check out all the profiles of mapped projects here.

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