Noise Pollution or Noise Beautification?

Drew Hayes - Brazil


September 24, 2012

Hey friends! Long time no blog. I have lots of excuses up my sleeves, but what matters is that I’m in Bahia, Brazil. Finally, I’m abroad. Finally, I’m a foreigner. New words, new people, new habits, new things. So many new things that I do or say each day that it’s difficult to process each detail. So for now, an observation. An American living in Brazil for 30+ years is asked what, if anything, he still isn’t used to about Bahia. He thinks for a moment and responds “the noise level.” In Salvador, the capital of Bahia, it’s nearly impossible not to relate to that sentiment. Starting at about seven, I hear drills, buses, shouts, music, etc. Above all, however, is the music. The music scene seems a lot like that of the States: it is very complex, very original, and very much tied to Brazil’s history. There’s always a new song, new artist, or new genre of music to dive into. Each night I’m up deciphering the lyrics of popular Brazilian artists with my limited Portuguese.

The really cool thing I sense here, as I mentioned, is that music is everywhere and it is loud. One doesn’t have to go looking for music. In Salvador, somehow, speakers end up on every street. For example, most people like to listen to music while they run, but in Salvador, many people elect to just strap a speaker onto their back rather than to bother with earphones. And, where I’m from, I’m used to getting dirty looks for loud music while driving. But here, of course, it’s totally normal to blast your music. Actually, the only cars that get noticed for their sound are those that strap the speakers and subs to the roof of the car to blast tunes for the whole neighborhood. Every night, it seems, there are several bands playing throughout the city, and hundreds of people lilting with beer in hand. Also, there is random daytime music, blasting from speakers somewhere near the hostel. I never determined where the music was coming from or why it was being played. Who knows. Here, there’s no such thing as 808 and there won’t be anytime soon.

Then, I thought that when I moved into the interior things would calm down, but they really haven’t. Even here, in Capão, a town of some fifteen hundred people, there is always someone playing something. There’s always something like music being played in the plaza or people dancing to a local band. One of my neighbors practices trumpet at night and the other hosts a band once or twice a week. And even here, there is a truck with a battery of speakers on the roof. It moseys along through all the tiny dirt roads, blaring music and political ads.

Drew Hayes