KAREN CUNHA: “IN THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL, WE FORGET TO LOOK AROUND”

We continue with the series #BehindTheSIM, which tells the story of the professionals involved in the São Paulo International Music Week. In the twenty-second chapter, we interviewed Karen Cunha, part of the SIM São Paulo Advisory Council.

If you go to the independent music venues in the city of São Paulo, the chances of having heard Karen Cunha's name are great - and it may have been even in the verses of the São Paulo indie group Bazar Pamplona. Karen, who now works autonomously as a consultant, artistic director, curator, among other functions, participated in the construction of projects that injected new life into the independent circuit of São Paulo.

Her music career started at school, where she organized parties and was responsible for resurrecting the student union. His first step as a professional in the field came in 2004, when he started an internship at the Youth Coordination: “We had the mission to explain to people the concept of youth, which until then had made no sense to anyone. There was the child and the adult and nothing in between. Even because of the importance of art and culture in the lives of young people, most of our work was focused on this theme ”.

She participated in the creation of the Youth Cultural Center, in the north of São Paulo. “The project became so incredible that we all ended up going to work there. I was responsible for curating the early years of CCJ. A lot happened there, as one of the first drag queen contests in Brazil; releases of the first albums by artists such as Gaby Amarantos, Projota, Emicida; international shows like GZA (Wu Tang Clan), Ian Mackaye (Fugazi), Manu Chao, Avey Tare (Animal Collective) playing in the cemetery square and many other things. It was there that the Independent Culture Month (MCI) was born, which later became politics for the whole city ”, he says.

From there, Karen was invited to work with Special Projects in the Office of the Municipal Secretary of Culture in 2013. “We strengthened the Cultural Turn, we created the policy of Street Carnival, we created the SP on the Street, we expanded the MCI, we created a policy of strengthening street parties ”, he recalls. She adds, explaining how she made the decision to leave the public sector and assume different roles in the market: “After 13 years, I started to think it was time to get to know the other side of the thing and, with a lot of suffering, I decided to leave the Secretariat and think about what I wanted to do. Much faster than I imagined, many cool things started to appear and I ended up doing a lot of curatorship, artistic direction of the show, consulting for companies and events ”.

Karen highlights the concept of “co-curation” and uses MCI and SP na Rua to exemplify how the relationship between government and music, especially independent music can be: “Both projects also had the mission of giving visibility to a scene more alternative both from the aesthetic and commercial point of view. I think the role of the government is to look at the chain as a whole and identify weak points, but with a lot of growth potential ”.

SIM São Paulo advisor three years ago, Karen's story with the convention started long before that: “I saw the idea at SIM while I was still at the Secretariat. It was agreed that the city needed a big music fair, so we supported the first edition financially and with the space. It is very cool to see the proportion you have taken ”.

Keeping an eye on the national political crisis and social movements, the counselor believes that music needs to fight oppression within its own ecosystem to then try to add to other struggles. “If we don't start by observing and correcting discrepancies within our own area, it will be difficult to contribute to a better world. Often, in this struggle for survival, we forget to look around us: Who are our partners? What kind of artist is part of our curatorships? Do you have LGBTQ +, black, women, indigenous artists in our projects? How do we remunerate our suppliers? How do we contribute to having cultural agents that are outside our bubble? Is the nature of my business fair? We are in the middle of a pandemic that has forced a good part of our sector to close its doors. How will it be going forward? What do we want for this new configuration in our area? ”, She provokes.

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