The Sarau – Brazil’s Open Mic Night


(Source, Fábio Braga)

When I lived in San Diego almost a decade ago, in my college years, I frequented open-mic nights throughout the city and they remain some of the best memories I have of that time. There’s something really cool about a bunch of strangers getting together to share their artistic creations and ideas. It should be no surprise to anyone that knows me that I have lots of admiration for those who create.

It could be argued that the moment in which something is created, it is valuable, but some might say it is when a creation is shared that it gains value. In early modern Europe, this way of thinking corresponded to people’s notion of public vs. private (kind of like shared vs. not) where private actually meant deprivation, being deprived of public life (generally, ‘public’ meant of ‘importance to the court’). Being a writer and a bit of a poet, I think art, like knowledge, should always be shared.

It is with good reason, then, that what has intrigued me for the last few weeks is the idea behind the sarau, a sort of open-mic night in Brazil which may or not be themed. Think of a topic, gather some participants and audience members, pick a place to meet and Bob’s your uncle! Your sarau can be cultural, poetic, musical, philosophical, historical, theatrical or even political. It’s an excellent idea and I really think it has the ability to take the open-mic night idea and expand upon it by creating a sense of community.


(Fábio Braga)

Sarau do Binho

In São Paulo, the oldest sarau has been operating for eight years and is called Sarau do Binho. It operates from theperiferia (the outskirts) and speaks to the issues such communities face, especially in São Paulo, when they find themselves forgotten and ignored. Binho, the event’s organizer and a poet himself, says, “The Sarau is a laboratory. Here people bring their creations and learn to have a taste for reading and writing. Out of the popular laboratory, more than just words, come a strengthened civic consciousness.”

Almost as a test of their mission and purpose, the bar where they have always come together was recently closed by the local government, likely as a measure to silence the strong community movement that the sarau promotes. As a result, they’re taking the message to the streets of more well-known neighborhoods in the center of the city in order to raise the money to pay the R$20,000 in fines to reopen the bar and continue another project based on lending books to kids.

For more on Sarau do Binho, go here (in PT). To learn more about saraus that operate from the peripheries, see this video (in PT).

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