Act: Inspiration

Indigenous Culture for the World

October 31, 2017

A collective space for storytelling and talking about indigenous culture from various regions of Brazil, online radio contributes to maintaining the traditions of various ethnic groups.

In the Tupi-Guarani language, the word “yandê” means at once “we” and “our”. It’s no coincidence that this vocabulary was used to name the first online indigenous radio station in Brazil, created in 2013 by three friends: the journalist Renata Machado, of the Tupinambá ethnic group, the plastic artist, publicist and designer Denílson Monteiro, of the Baniwa ethnic group, and Anápuáka Muniz, of the Tupinambá ethnic group whose training is in marketing. “Our idea was to open up a collective space so that indigenous groups from various corners of Brazil could be the protagonists of their own history,” Machado explains. “A history that has been silenced over the last five centuries, since the beginning of the Portuguese colonization of Brazil.”

Oral tradition

With its headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Yandê Radio has most of its content produced collaboratively throughout Brazil. This is thanks to a group of 150 indigenous individuals from various ethnic groups who have been exchanging cell phone messages for a year and a half. Among them are journalists, teachers, students and chiefs, all linked to the indigenous movement,” says Machado. “Each of them sends news of the region where he lives, sometimes with photo, audio tracks and video.” In agreement with the journalist, the aim is the least possible interference with the received content so as not to distort the original narrative. “We are extremely oral people,” she says. “We often receive recordings from elders who don’t speak Portuguese, but the material goes on the air anyway because the members of that ethnic group are going to understand the message.”

Information also arrives through stationary contributors – as is the case with teacher and plastic artist Daiara Tukano, from Brasília, and History teacher, Vavá Terena, from Mato Grosso do Sul. In addition to news, the radio airs discussions, such as the conversation between the indigenous leader Ailton Krenak and the anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, recorded in 2015, in Parque Lage in the state of Rio de Janeiro. “It’s one of the most accessed audio streams on our program,” Renata says.

From heavy metal to forró

With educational and cultural purposes, about 500,000 people have listened to the programming over the last three years. Around 40 percent of the listeners are indigenous. “On the other hand, many communities located in remote areas, with poor Internet accessibility, are not able to access the radio,” says Machado. Because of this, most of the listeners (that’s to say 60 percent) end up being composed of non-indigenous people.

“Today, we are heard in 40 countries, like the United States, England, Germany and Russia,” the radio’s founder says in a celebratory tone. That’s without mentioning that Yandê Radio has more than 35,000 likes on Facebook, its own YouTube channel and is also on Twitter. “We believe that media convergence is an important means for cultural empowerment and preservation,” the journalist explains.

And, of course, music is also part of the programming. “But we want to break the stereotype that there is only one type of music made by indigenous Brazilians,” Renata goes on to say. “Today, in Brazil we have more than 300 ethnic groups whose members live in villages, remote areas or in cities.” This diversity is reflected in the musical production and a range of diverse rhythms, from heavy metal to forró sung in indigenous languages. “The radio station has a very extensive collection of music and I’ve discovered some interesting sounds going through it, like the rap group Brô Mc’s made up of members from the Guarani-Kaiowá ethnic group,” says plastic artist Luciana Rennó, a Yandê listener. Whoever enters the radio’s website can access the link to a treasure: the “Native’s Show,” a pioneering initiative produced by the Center for Indigenous Culture between 1985 and 1991. The collection brings together almost 200 shows hosted by Ailton Krenak and other indigenous leaders, which in the past were disseminated by Brazilian educational broadcasters, such as USP Radio, linked to the University of São Paulo. “I am a great admirer of Yandê, because the radio gives voice to the indigenous communities and disseminates quality information that conflicts with so much misinformation we have today,” says Krenak. “Not to mention, the radio team is inventive and entrepreneurial: even without support, they’ve been successful and are always innovating.”

As of today, Yandê has not managed to attract any patrons or advertisers. That being the case, the costs are met by means of financial support from friends, giving lectures at schools and organizations, in addition to the online sale of souvenirs, like t-shirts and pillows with the broadcasting company’s logo. “We started the radio with pure determination, because it’s a project we believe in, that has to do with our origins and our reality,” Renata Machado concludes. “And we’re not going to give up!”


Teaser photo credit: Radio Yandê Facebook page.

Ana Paula Orlandi

is a journalist and a graduate of PUC-MG. Her work is in the areas of culture and behavior and she publishes books on the third sector.

Tags: indigenous communities, indigenous culture, indigenous lifeways, rebuilding resilient communities