RAPublicar (1986 - 1996) book
It has been said that at any given historical period a revolutionary being lies dormant in the very nature of the youth stratum. I don't consider that the youth community or, for that matter, any other community or age group have a specific nature as such. There is, rather, a cultural, social and family context. There is a history and historical context marked by economic, political and ideological variables that at specific moments in time place the people at the limits of their individual existences and collective experiences. It is usually then that change occurs or social shifts, even if minimal, take place. When confronted with such limitations or any contingencies that may occur. One of the most often noted aspects of the post-modern world is the absence of memory, be it individual or collective. The rejection of memory is oftentimes the result of the will or the repetitive imposition in time of a collection of unquestioned memories on the contemporary world. Without taking into consideration the existence of other players or simply with no attempt at understanding the reasons for its fading or for the selective reading being done. I see memory as one of the most interesting human faculties. In domains where 'official sources' are absent it is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the most fruitful work tools in the field of the human and social sciences.
There is a personal memory stored by individuals concerning their particular lived experiences, which is not dissociated from aspects of the memory of the social group where they developed or felt to belong, where they were raised and underwent the process of socialisation. There is a collective memory made up of facts considered relevant and stored as official memory. Thus, even that which we name 'places of memory' is expressed in the consolidated versions of a collective past of a given society, of a specific historical time. It is necessary that all of this be questioned if we wish for society to move forward.
This project was completed during 2016 and benefited from several interviews that I conducted between 2012 and 2016 with people involved in RAP, the 'hip hop culture' and other associative movements and trade unions that collaborated and interacted between 1986 and 1996. During the interpretation of their contents these oral sources, in their intrinsic diversity and wealth, have been set against other sources of the same period: interviews given during the 90s, written press, home- made documentaries, correspondence, poems that were never set to music, unreleased recordings of live performances, recordings or radio programs the subjects followed, watching films mentioned during interviews, other written work and exclusive data gathered from a set of seven debates I organised and coordinated between September 2016 and January 2017. The main objective is that of channelling memory to where it must be, to the present, to the bosom of society. To contextualise it with reference to a multitude of perspectives and voices. To set up, for this purpose, a stimulating sharing platform where images and sounds, exclusive or familiar, that have generated dialogue and different interpretations when received or remembered and that gradually grew wider while some of the ties grew tighter. Although rigorous in questioning and following a specific methodology, this project was not meant to be framed exclusively in an academic setting or riddled with technical jargon. I wrote it in the first person intentionally.
It is my belief that academics should seek to be near, not far, the people. This project had as its main objective to claim back this almost uninterpreted memory, all too often systematised, and the questions it raised, in the city of Lisbon to begin with in and later spreading a bit throughout the whole country, in a fashion that is clear within the context of Portuguese society and popular culture of the second half of the twentieth century and using language that is easily understood by all. I was aware that the collection of sources used were selected according to my personal experience in the field I work, since I considered these more logical in the defence of my reading of this particular theme. I was also aware that the assertion – still current within some social groups, especially in the public dominance of some press, the audio-visual and some actors in this micro- history – of the existence of something like 'the' history is inaccurate. For, on the one hand there is 'a history' in each argument that is put forward and, on the other hand, neither a collection of lived experiences nor a collection of written, oral, graphic, official or documentary sources can constitute on its own 'a history.' To this will be added the specific interpretation, framing and historical narrative of the individual who proposed to interpret it. From the person who did it is (self) demanded an understanding of the narrated facts or gathered memories as several pieces of a larger puzzle. Pieces that, as my investigation progressed, I sought to understand if they were being conditioned for reasons of a personal, social, political, (anti) ethical or ideological perspective of my interlocutors. And there were ways of sussing it out. Particularly when setting up oral against documentary sources. Not being undermined by personal experience was a challenge. Firstly because I was familiar with some of my interlocutors for far too long and secondly because, as most of my/our generation, I personally shared their anguish, uncertainty and hope during a historical period marked by, among other aspects, two specific factors: firstly the signing of the treaty of accession of Portugal to the European Community on 12th of July 1985; secondly, the model of economic growth implemented during the period of Cavaquismo [the political period that saw Anibal Cavaco Silva as leader of the centre-right party Partido Social Democrata.
RAP, like any other popular music domain, is a product of quotidian life and so it is inevitable that there will be a confluence or a pull-back of events, of the facts and elements in the midst of which it takes place. The oral history was the best way to highlight this. In my interviews, I sought to question the main topics raised in the past by these actors, the way in which this past left a mark in a section of the memory reproduced throughout these years in this specific cultural and musical domain.
I invited my interviewees to question themselves over the ambiguous ways in which they relate to the discourses about their pasts, discourses that are often produced by themselves. It was interesting to realise in this process that in some cases my questions came to be their questions to which they eventually sought an answer. The expression of RAP in the Lisbon metropolitan area between the years 1986 and 1996 gradually became the framework in which several communities defined their identities and who, from the initial contribution of the precursors, gradually emerged in their supportive role of the community as a new understanding of the value of memory and its ongoing transmission as practice that tended to become permeable and receptive to other practices such as cinema and the plastic arts.
by Soraia Simões/Researcher&Creative in RAPublicar. A micro-história que fez história numa Lisboa adiada: 1986-1996 (Editora Caleidoscópio, coming out this year).
'The work of memory collapses time'| Walter Benjamin