How Are the Olympics Affecting Rio's Nightlife Scene?
Photo by Wilmore Oliveira.


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How Are the Olympics Affecting Rio's Nightlife Scene?

We asked entrepreneurs, DJs, and promoters if the Olympics in Rio are somehow positively impacting the already hard life of those working in the city's scene.

This article originally appeared on THUMP Brazil. Forget about all the unfinished and delayed construction work, alleged human rights violations, political scandals, terrorist threats, and zika outbreaks, the only thing we know for certain about the Olympics in Rio is that there'll be a hell of a lot of partying. As the mega event swings into its final weekend, a sprawling series of nightlife events are still incoming—not only set inside the numerous bars and nightclubs that occupy the city, but on big sponsored stages, themed clubs created in correlation with competing countries, and, of course, corporate events put on by brands. Before the Olympic Torch was officially ignited and the games got underway, I spoke to a collection of DJs, producers, and owners of night clubs in Rio, about how the competition would affect the city's nightlife scene.


Despite the fact that the city has birthed countless great musicians and musical styles, Rio has long had a reputation as something of a daytime city—it's never been that easy for those who treasure late nights and all-night dancing to spread their wings (and legs) to full effect. Urban zoning policies dating back to 1976 have created a multitude of hurdles that you need to jump over (see what we did there?) to throw parties, which has lad to many of them running under a shroud of illegality, or with temporary permits that can be revoked at any time.

Beyond the economic and political crisis taking place in Brazil, the state of Rio de Janeiro specifically is going through its biggest financial crisis to date, which means it officially declared a state of public emergency so the Olympics could be held. Surprisingly, even with such low revenue right now, most of the people I talked to around the city seemed a somewhat optimistic about the event's effect on the scene. The people I spoke to suggested four ways that the Olympics would Rio's nightlife scene: that individual DJs will benefit from corporate involvement, that government programs have shut down some longstanding scenes, that the legacy of Rio's street parties will continue to go strong, and that nobody really knows what's going to happen. Read on for a survey of how the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will affect its host city's nightlife.


1. Everybody has predictions—but nobody really knows what's going to happen.

"I believe that a great flow of tourists will benefit the entertainment industry, but I do think the World Cup was probably way better than the Olympics could be, because the Cup brought in had tourists that were way more on the wild side, and who enjoyed all the partying and noise and all that," said Cabbet Araújo, owner of Rio club's Fosobox and La Paz. "At the Olympics we have this more refined kind of tourist, one that is a bit more selective. I don't see the jolly ones that we had here during the Cup, but I do feel that we're still going to have very good moments, with big crowds and all." Fosobox, located in the Copacabana Beach area plans to be open all week for the games' entire 20 days, and La Paz, in the Lapa area, will be open Wednesday through Sunday.

Araújo also mentions that during the World Cup, his venue's revenue doubled. "[The World Cup] took place in June, which is normally a weak month since it's the beginning of the winter, the end of the semester, and just before vacations," said Araújo. "I hope it gets like that during the Olympics. I don't feel that those free events spread throughout Rio will get in the way; the city's filled with people that want to experience Rio's nightlife and clubs. I think there will be some full houses, but they won't be as euphoric as they were in the World Cup."


Daniel Koslinki, one of the partners of promotion company Grupo Matriz, and owner of Batafogo's Casa da Matriz club, believes what will happen to the scene is still a real mystery. "You just don't know if it's going be like a big Carnival of sorts, but if it does, it's gonna be shit, since Carnival has gotten worse during the last five to six years," he says. "Everyone is just out on the street getting shitfaced from beers bought from street vendors and no one feels like paying to get in clubs or concerts. There's also a ton of street stages and block parties going on."

Historically, the Carnival period in Rio brings millions of partygoers and tourists to the streets of Rio yearly, but it's just not that beneficial for the actual night club circuit. "When nighttime arrives, everyone is so wasted from the block parties that it actually hurts the clubs," explains Cabbet. "It's a complicated season in which even the street vendors end up losing some money."

Throughout the years, cariocas (the local word for Rio natives) tend to congregate in places surrounding the aforementioned street vendors, who carry out an illegal activity often overlooked by law enforcement. When Carnival comes, the City Hall basically raffles a bunch of licenses for these vendors to register themselves, assuming they commit to only sell one brand of beer, as well as get their drinks from authorized distributors.


Since Casa da Matriz focuses on college students, Daniel explains it's hard to measure what will change during and after to the Olympics, or the time-off students get that's scheduled to take place in Rio coinciding with the event. "It's great for us to have a holiday," he says. "For instance, there's our Wednesday night Indie Karaoke, produced by this really crazy bunch—every time there is a holiday on Thursday, it just gets packed. Which is even better now that mayor set up a lot of Olympic holidays."

Holidays and vacation time are often where Fernando Schlapfer's profit stems from. He's the founding photographer of the I Hate Flash Collective and producer for the party I Hate Mondays. "We always do our parties during the vacation season, or we hold special editions when it turns out Tuesday falls on a holiday," he tells me. The party usually caters to the faithful followers of the I Hate Flash website, including people from other states visiting Rio, but not foreign tourists.

"Of course we know that there is going to be one or two gringos, but we focus on a more segmented audience," he says. "I believe that foreigners always fall into "gringo traps"—some clubs that emphasize on advertising within hostels, hotels, for tourists. And when you're doing something a little more focused towards a scene, the gringos that come over are the ones that already know the party and have friends here in Rio. But a handful of fucked-up situations that happened in other editions of the party were due to some gringos that basically end up there out of the blue—some sexist stuff that usually happens in other clubs, guys hitting on girls brashly, pulling their hair, shit-talking. So we really don't focus on them—don't advertise towards them, even though they spend some more [money], since they're not on any lists. Our parties get packed anyways, so we usually don't go after those people."


2. With a massive influx of international cash, local DJs have a (small) chance to win big.

Photo by Marina Nacamuli

DJ and producer Nicole Nandes tells me she refused offers to do some of her LUV parties in August, to focus on corporate events. "Those of us working with events have been getting ready for the Olympics for over a year. Obviously we had great expectations—despite our patriotism and political engagement telling us to do exactly the opposite, since our Mayor changed a lot of stuff. The city's turned to chaos, he deforested a lot of places, took too many people out of their homes, and that's the sad part of it all which I do not like—I do not condone," she says.

"Everything got really expensive, really confusing, and companies just took too long to get in touch with producers to agree upon what was really going to happen. That lousy expectation, that grey little cloud in the air, just hanging there due to all the fuck-ups our politicians do made it all bad for everyone. But like a lot of Brazilians I do believe it's gonna work. Folks were hanging by a thread are managing to close all deals in the 11th hour. At worst, I feel that about 70% of those involved with the club scene has no reason to complain, because attention to nightlife is being experienced everywhere, at least a bit."

Although she's satisfied with the deals she been getting as a result of the games, Nicole confesses it hasn't been easy. "At first the pay was really bad, asking for fees from everyone and doing some haggling to try and close deals here and there. Some companies are handing out measly payments. It's a third-world country, they know we need the cash and it's gonna be their month to profit, so a bunch of companies paid good professionals really bad rates. But those who stood their ground and managed to carry out their jobs now are going to get well-paid for the month."


Nicole, a ferocious opponent of the VIP culture in Rio, [believes] now is the time for the city's more middle-class citizens to get a chance to experience some more opulent partying. "Those who'll end up paying to get in [to parties] are the ones coming from abroad, but that's fair," she says. "The ones who always had been in our events are getting in for free. I think that's pretty much what's going to happen, everything's going to be be packed; those doing paid events will also do well and that's about it, I have great expectations."

The city's militarization is one of the elements that could disrupt the whole party vibe for Nicole. "Just the other day I was at a bar in Copacabana and then this car pulls up with like a thousand soldiers with rifles in their hands, just going through the crowd. Is the city dangerous? Yes, we do know that, you just can't be too relaxed, but I guess that's not the way to go about it. Everyone in there is really chill and you don't need to go busting in carrying rifles around people."

Leo Janeiro, a DJ, producer and curator for Rio Music Conference, will be performing during some branded parties at the games as well as delegation events, and gave me an interesting insight regarding this movement. "Some DJs, those who do it as a job, who perform in weddings, private parties and corporate events, tend to be more appreciated right now, since they've hired many of those to do the sound in the competitions," he says. "This means that the swimming event has a DJ of its own, cycling has a DJ of its own—the same goes for triathlon and much more events, and I thought it was really interesting to see them go after those professionals who do know music. They came up with a cool procedure and that's nice because it put some other DJs in the spotlight who aren't necessarily famous."


I spoke to some of those DJs, who didn't want to identify themselves, but seemed to be somewhat dispirited with the job, not just because it was that "glamour-less soundsystem gig," but because although the final payment would be good, the daily fee just wasn't that great.

3. More government involvement has decimated Rio's baile funk scene.

As a consequence of Brazil being chosen as the host for the World Cup and Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, the state government, supported by the federal government and the private sector, launched a project in 2008 called Polícia Pacificadora, which basically consists of the military permanently occupying Rio's slums.

Years later, the project proved to be a fiasco, leaving a trail of death that includes locals, policemen, and criminals in its wake. With the permanent presence of the military and the installment of curfews, the frequency of the bailes [baile funk parties] was drastically reduced, moving farther into the communities not affected by the military. In the communities on which the project operates, bailes take place sporadically because of the uncertainty of the police's authorization.

MC Leonardo, one of the producers of the infamous baile funk hit "Rap das Armas" and founder of APAFUNK (Funk Professionals and Friends Association) is quite emphatic: "A market based on the police letting them do their thing or not, is not a market. There's no baile today, man, and those taking place are sporadic. The baile scene 10 years ago with 300 bailes taking place wasn't that good; it was inferior to what went down 20 years ago. Nowadays they won't let the culture folk organize bailes nowhere, then the drug lords go there and do their thing and they say "funk is run by thugs" and that is a "meeting place for criminals." Thus, the tourists coming to Rio will hear the loud thump from funk on the event's themes (sung by rappers Projota and Thiaguinho, neither of them natives of Rio), will see dancers at Maracanã and certainly are going to shake their asses to the beat throughout several of the corporate parties spread through town. But the real baile funk, the one with the sound systems in the favela, no one is getting near that.


According to Leonardo, the transformations within Rio's cultural scene run deeper than the suburbs and the favelas. "Rio's night scene is dead. Many clubs, bailes, venues are gone. Rio has no fun stuff going on beside mega events, and the mega events just opted to operate in a way that freezes culture as a whole. If they close down Fundição Progresso or Circo Voador, Rio will not have anywhere to hold concerts, but the guys running those places are really crazy, they have this clashing stance, go head to head with the City Hall. If they were regular businesspeople they'd lost it a long time ago. We don't know what's going to happen as soon as the whole port area is opened to the public. They're gonna try and move all events to the port area and those not in accordance, are just gonna get shut down. If we don't do something, that's what's happening with Rio de Janeiro."

Photo by Anna Mascarenhas

4. When all is said and done, Rio's real parties will remain where they started—in the street.

But there are DJs just riding the wave, such as Leo Justi. "There's a shitload of parties happening, man. On this one day I'll be performing with MC Carol, Karol Conká, Néctar Gang and Omulu and there are other two huge parties on that same day. There's shit going down everywhere, and I think that's something of its own, due to the scene's growth. Now when it comes to the Olympics, many producers feel like there's going to be a greater audience, but I doubt it. There are so many official events and just casual fun in the streets that charging for a private event is just risky," adds Justi.

Mashup máster João Brasil also has seen his schedule turn hectic. "I'm like a funk MC, performing every single day, from Monday to Monday and there are days where I even perform twice. Besides that, I've also done some production work: I made the opening theme for the Paralympics and all the vignettes for the arenas. I'll be playing at some paid parties as well as closed events in a hotel some days too."

With the average ticket of an alternative night plummeting and the competition of several other events, the solution for many producers was to take their parties to the streets. Diogo Reis, who had been running along other associates a multimedia party called MOO is one of those. "It just ain't easy. There's the political crisis and a strong economic recession in Rio," he says. Nowadays people think thrice before reaching out to their pockets. But following suit and tuned into those issues, we're having a MOO Attack! during the Olympics, which is a street party on August 19th, at Praça da Harmonia, practically next to Praça Mauá."

Just like other parties have traveling and free editions on the streets, MOO Attack! pays for itself with the profits coming from its official bar, set up by the producers of the event, that stimulate partygoers buying drinks through social media and even on the mic, always facing the opposition of several street vendors.

There's a whole lot of partying going on, and socioeconomic questions aside, the streets are still the place to be for cariocas and visitors to the city. "The street is the greatest place in the world," says Reis.

Translated by Thiago "Índio" Silva