March 28, 2016—Acadêmicos de Milton Friedman is a Brazilian samba duo whose songs have become liberty anthems to Brazil’s libertarians. Now, the friends Jopa Velozo and João Nogueira want to conquer the world (so governments can leave you alone).
The group was founded by the two musicians while they attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
During their college days, Velozo and Nogueira found they had a lot in common. That’s when they knew that their passion for samba, politics, and good food made their relationship special. In no time, the duo would go on to compose songs heavily influenced by libertarian economists and philosophers, which made them a sensation in Brazil.
The group’s most recent show took place during the last Fórum Liberdade e Democracia (The Freedom & Democracy Forum) in São Paulo, Brazil, and the crowd loved them.
Velozo and Nogueira agreed to talk to VoicesofLiberty.com about their new project, the latest Students for Liberty conference, the libertarian qualities of Brazilian traditional music, and why professor Williams is so important to the duo.
VOL: First, where are you guys from?
AcMF: We are two Brazilian dudes. I (João) am from Recife in the Northeast of Brazil, and I (Jopa) am from Rio, in the Southwest.
VOL: In your official website, you explain that the band uses samba, as well as the ideas of capitalism and liberty, to express ideas seldom discussed by other musicians. Is there something intrinsically “capitalist” about the art of samba and its urban “carioca” roots?
AcMF: That’s a tough question.
Yes, there is something capitalist about samba, but it’s not something obvious. On one hand, many socialist intellectuals succeeded in influencing Brazilian artists in general, so you will find [some] antipathy toward capitalism among them. On the other hand, samba is a spontaneous and popular genre that goes beyond any ideology.
If you are able to ignore the position presented by some artists, you can look straight to the lyrics and you will find out that libertarian ideas are [also] present in their music. And the best thing is that they were absorbed naturally, rather than because of the influence exerted by intellectuals.
An old samba composer, Bezerra da Silva, once wrote: “If I want to smoke, I smoke / If I want to drink, I drink. / I pay for all of which I consume/ With the sweat of my job.”
These are libertarian values in samba music.
Capitalism is a word that carries a [certain] weight that makes it hard to fit with samba, but when you start breaking down the issues, speaking about it as popular markets, as trading with people, as an opportunity to cooperate, or the right to own your life, people will start seeing it as something closer to their lives. And socialism, besides being a word that fits easily with the word society, sounds very good to people, but it’s nothing but a political philosophy that makes little sense to people in their real lives. People don’t really deal with their family, friends, and partners under those principles. People don’t think violence is a good way to deal with their friends. So the statement on our website is more of a joke on how hard is to put the words samba and capitalism together.
VOL:Is the professor in your new “Good Intentions” video supposed to be the economist Walter E. Williams? And why did you guys choose him?
AcMF: There are two main reasons behind the making of this video. The first is that Walter Williams’s documentary ‘Good Intentions’ is great, not only as [far as] economy lessons go, but also as entertainment. Libertarians often are not good at communicating their ideas!
Both Milton Friedman and Walter Williams are great communicators, though, and it’s not a coincidence that this documentary was released as part of Milton Friedman’s TV show ‘Free to Choose’. So, MC Professor Will is a tribute to Professor Walter Williams. Yet, the inspiring moment came from the person we had playing the part.
Chris Kazarian is an extremely talented Boston based singer/songwriter. We wouldn’t even have thought about this video if we didn’t know Chris. So ‘Good Intentions’ was also a good chance, or excuse, to work with him.
VOL: What’s the most freeing thing about making samba in America? And what is the worst thing about making samba in America?
Why did you guys decide to leave Brazil and what are your plans for the future?
AcMF: Up to this point, Acadêmicos de Milton Friedman is singing in Portuguese and targeting followers in Brazil only. We were living here in the United States but this project is mainly producing more in Brazil. Last year, we had the pleasure of attending and performing live in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the second Fórum Liberdade e Democracia. Over 1,500 people listened to our music, even Milton Friedman’s son, David Friedman was part of the audience! That was a true honor, to say the least.
Good Intentions is our first step here [in America] and it will be followed by our next EP, which will be recorded in English as well as Portuguese. Our samba certainly has American influences from genres such as Rock, Blues, Jazz, Funk. So check back with us again soon!
VOL: Last question! In the last Students for Liberty national convention, Pussy Riot was invited to participate. Many believed they were performing, but instead, only one member showed up, wearing a Bernie Sanders shirt.
In your opinion, has the Students for Liberty leadership made a mistake by inviting them? Has the leadership of Students for Liberty ever contacted you to be part of one of their events?
AcMF: Wow, that’s new to us. We didn’t know about that. We would say that it seems to be a good reason for the Students of Liberty to start calling us instead of these guys [lol]!
We never had any contact with Students for Liberty. We are now trying to be part of PorcFest 2016, which will take place in New Hampshire. We would love to perform for Students For Liberty. Our goal is to keep performing as much as we can, in all kinds of venues, from libertarian events to Sanders’ conferences, but we’d be wearing Milton Friedman’s t-shirts to spread some liberty to those poor liberals.
Watch the trailer for ‘Good Intentions’ below: