Different language, same pride.


Music and art have endless ways of being created. I’m a singer/songwriter born and raised Rio de Janeiro Brazil and my art is music, written mostly in English.  I started singing at a very young age and, when I was 11, I spent a year living in the US (Minnesota, to be more specific) with my family. That was also the time when I started writing my own songs and they naturally came to me in English. Since it was a natural process, I kept on writing like this my whole life and found myself being criticized time to time for not writing in my native language (Portuguese).

There was a certain kind of prejudice involved. People from Brazil questioned why I didn’t write in Portuguese as often, since it is such a beautiful, rich language, saying that I was not honoring my roots and culture by singing/writing in another language most of the time. At the same time, people in the US would question if I could ever write as well as a native-English speaker could, since I lived in the US for such a short amount of time and considering it isn’t my first language.

According to C. Wright in his book “Excerpt from The Sociological Imagination”, issues “ have to do with the organization of many such milieux into the institutions of an historical society as a whole” and trouble “is a private matter: values cherished by an individual by him to be threatened”. Depending on what point of view you take, you could analyze the problem mentioned earlier as either. So issues would be matters that affect society in general and troubles, individual personal problems.

It is a known fact that some of the biggest Music Companies were originally founded in the USA. Universal Music, Warner Music, SONY BMG and many others are just a few examples. The American music industry has gained so much strength over the years that it has taken oven over international grounds. Globalization helped making their music and culture very accessible to people from all around the world. Many students and professionals who work with music aspire to build a career in the entertainment industry in the USA, where most of the opportunities for this business are.

That’s why so many artists all around the world have started writing in that language. The journey to being successful in the entertainment industry is already tough enough for anyone, so shouldn’t musicians at least have their full support from the people in their countries in pursuing their dreams? Saying that an artist should only express himself in his first language could be considered an issue. It narrows horizons for artists in society and holds them back to create beautiful life-changing works of art. Artists should be able to express themselves freely in whatever language they choose to thrive in the paths they have chosen.

A lot of times foreigners might never speak English as well as an American would, but they might bring different points of view to the table. Different languages have different expressions and this variety of ways of saying the same things brings a new color to music and lyrics. Prejudice can make this extremely ineffective.

This situation can be also viewed as a personal matter. I love and respect my first language (Portuguese), but writing in English is something completely natural to me. I’m a strong believer that what we write is a reflection of what we listen to, and I can’t help the fact that I connect with a genre in which the majority of the songs have English lyrics. Being criticized and not respected for doing something that is completely harmless and natural can affect an artist very effectively.

When people from the music industry in the US already don’t take my work seriously before even listening to it because of my non-American roots, considering the language I am writing in, it’s definitely trouble. Being from another country doesn’t make someone any less capable of succeeding in this field.

I would say that the criticism for writing in a different language then your own is mainly trouble because, even though the number of musicians doing so is constantly growing, it is still a minority compared to the ones who write in their first language. I’m not the common rule, in that sense. But it’s important to keep in mind that every song has a message in it, and this kind of attitude keeps that message from being delivered, or sometimes, even written. And who knows how important to society that message could be?

I’m excited to see what different points of view and realizations sociology can bring me by analyzing things for what they are, regardless of the personal value they might have in my life. As a songwriter, getting different points of view is always interesting and inspiring. Can’t wait to see what comes out of this class!


2 thoughts on “Different language, same pride.

  1. This is such an interesting dilemma! I wonder how many artists find language to be a barrier or a limitation in their writing? The author argues here that her problem of being discounted in her native country for not writing in Portuguese is a trouble. And, I would agree that, among artists in the US, this is likely a trouble. In other words, not writing in Portuguese is not a major problem for American artists. But, perhaps many Portuguese speaking musicians are trying to get their non-English music recorded and distributed through a major label – which apparently are all located in the US. It seems here that these companies might only be interested in investing in artists who speak English (since English speaking listeners are their primary market). So, perhaps among Portuguese and even all non-English speaking persons, this problem is an issue?

    • Thanks Staley! Well, there are Major Labels in Brazil as well, but their distribution is basically local and there is no comparison regarding the investment with the American Labels budgets. Also, in the US you can find a very strong entertainment industry, where in Brazil it is more modest in that sense, even though we have amazingly talented musicians and artists.
      I would say, though, that getting a local label with the capability of giving an artist in Brazil the proper investment he/she needs to break into the mainstream pop music industry is definitely an issue!

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