Since bursting onto the international scene in 2016, Brazil’s Black Pantera have made it their mission to lift as they rise.
Hard rock soaked in punk and bottled with a hefty dose of metal, Black Pantera use their music to shout the message that things can be better. With their latest album Ascensão, out now, Black Pantera have given a sound to oppression, struggle but also victory – and ascension.
While all rock-based albums are in one way or another inspired by artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Black Pantera paid extra tribute to the icon with Ascensão, seeking to educate their swelling audiences that despite becoming an incredibly white space, rock music originated from the minds, hands and mouths of black musicians.
Though told in Portuguese, there’s an urgency to Ascensão that transcends language barriers. After all, the band recorded it in just 13 days – clearly, they wanted to be heard. BLUNT spoke with guitarist and bassist, the brothers Chaene and Charles de Gama to hear them out.
I’d love to know the story behind the album name, Ascensão…
The album has a strong name. It’s called Ascensão, for you guys [in English] it’s Ascension. Ascension of black people, ascension of women, ascension of the poor people. Because in Brazil, it’s so bad now. We needed to talk about these issues and make the people believe in our power again.
Racism, homophobia, sexism…We don’t like these things. We use our songs to fight them. Ascensão is an album against all the bad things that happen in all countries.
There’s so much injustice in the world causing these issues, which stories did you pick to explore for the album?
We have the worst government in the world. I know bad things happen all around the world, but here in Brazil, the President doesn’t want to make things right. He’s the worst, worst president in the history of Brazil.
So, we always have ideas or songs, talking about the government, talking about the President, talking about racism, about the pandemic, . Unfortunately, whenever you turn on the TV to see the news in Brazil, it’s worse all the time. You have violence, you have death. At this moment, I have an idea for making three or four songs…
You recorded the album in just 13 days which is very fast, you must have had important things to say…
We live in Uberaba but recorded in Rio de Janeiro – actually, we recorded the album almost two years ago. At the same time, COVID-19 come and fucked everything. In Brazil, COVID is really brutal because the government has minimised the effects of the virus, and of the pandemic and our people die. Black Pantera had a lot of things to say, so we did the album fast.
Tell me how the fans react, how the Brazilian kids feel when they hear your music.
The best moment a band can have is when the fans come to you and talk about the song; about the music, the riffs. Here in Brazil, rock is not as popular as it was in the last few years. The kids right now like hip hop and funk. It’s nice. We love all these types of songs. But for us, we wanted a black band doing rock and roll.
It’s awesome, man, the fans coming to us and awesome when I see a kid come to our Facebook, and telling me, “Man, everything you do with your band, makes me want to learn a guitar and start to sing and scream”. Brazil’s black youth who like rock finally have a reference.
Black Pantera started off as a cover band – doing Metallica and all this stuff. When I was very young, I discovered I wanted to do my own songs. So, I started to learn. I started to read books. I started to see the movies and try to understand more about my culture, about my people, Malcolm X, Sister Rosetta, Muddy Waters, Fishbone, Talib Kweli, Bad Brains…This gave me strength to write the songs.
…As well as Jimmy Hendrix, all these guys. We need more black people in rock and roll, because rock and roll was born with Sister Rosetta – the mother of rock and roll is a black woman! She played guitar, man, so fucking good.
How important is it for Black Pantera to use your platform to teach fans about the origins of rock that they may not necessarily see represented on the average festival line up?
That’s a big reason behind Black Pantera – to remind the people where rock and roll came from – to remind kids these days. Everything is so white but the truth is not that because using the internet these days, it’s possible to see these artists made great songs before all these guys like Keith Richards or Jimmy Page came after them.
We see these guys and we see where their influences come from – from the black people who did it many years ago. As Black Pantera, want people see the history, the real history about punk, about metal, about rock – all these styles of music have a black man, or a black woman, who did these songs before anyone else.