Amplifying Access: Fabiane Pereira’s Mission in Brazilian Music Journalism

Growing up in Volta Redonda, Brazil, listening to different radio stations playing in her house and falling in love with music and radio were inevitable for Fabiane Pereira. But working in music journalism and the radio weren’t her first choices. As a teenager, Pereira decided to become a journalist while watching reporter Pedro Bial covering the Gulf War on Brazilian TV. “I found it fascinating that such a profession exists in which I could see the things I studied at school [first hand],” she tells Remezcla. Journalism school would be a chance for her to fulfill two dreams — becoming an international correspondent, just like Bial, and moving to the city of Rio de Janeiro.

But Fabiane’s enthusiasm for being a part of the storytelling of historical moments could not resist a reality check. When faced with the opportunity to cover a drug traffic conflict in Rio de Janeiro in college, she knew she had to look for something else. Working for TV Brasil’s editorial Sociedade, she got to cover concerts and cultural events. She then interned at Sony Music and an educational TV channel, where she got to do her first interview with none less than the awarded Brazilian poet Ferreira Gular. That’s when Pereira realized her career would remain connected to art, specifically music, reconnecting with her past. As the daughter of a seresta player, she grew up listening to the music whose creators are now among her interviewees.

With 16 years in the Brazilian radio business, Fabiane combines her life in Rio de Janeiro with a job in São Paulo at Nova Brasil FM, where she hosts radio shows and is an artistic curator. And though media is dominated by social media and digital vehicles nowadays, Pereira still sees the value in what some see as a dying medium. “My 79-year-old mom still consumes information through the radio. And there are many people like her. I fight for radio as my cause because I believe in the importance of information reaching people,” she says. “We need to democratize the vehicles of communication, and radio is the most democratic one because it reaches people who don’t have [access to the] Internet.” 

Pereira sees herself as a “service provider through Brazilian music,” an instrument to present people with music that can impact their lives.

Among her other resume highlights, she created her own YouTube Channel, “Papo de Música” (“Music Talk”), producing Brazilian music content, including interviews with Djavan, Marisa Monte, Liniker, and Luedji Luna.

In 2023, she took “Papo de Música” to another level by turning it into a music journalism festival. Supported by State-owned company Caixa Econômica Federal, Festival Papo de Música was hosted in three cities across different regions of Brazil, featuring panels with journalists, artists, and music industry workers and was free to the public. “Brazil is [mainly] a poor and unequal country. There’s no way I will ever work on any cultural event whose entrance ticket costs over USD 16.”

As a part of our Major Mujeres list, Remezcla spoke with Fabiane Pereira to learn more about her journey toward making music, culture, and information more democratic.

This interview has been translated from Portuguese, edited, and condensed for clarity.

When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?

There was one time, about 12 years ago when I interviewed [Brazilian singer-songwriter, former Minister of Culture] Gilberto Gil on the radio. Gil has always been very important in my life, and I’ve listened to his song “Rep” many times, but I never quite paid attention to the meaning of its lyrics: “The people know what they want / But the people also want what they don’t know.” When we spoke, we discussed the importance of radio and Brazilian music as education tools, and he quoted that verse [from “Rep”]. To hear those words coming from him was a big moment for me. As someone who always saw myself as a service provider through Brazilian music, the interview showed me that I was on the right path. People who work in radio have a very important instrument in our hands. We have a big responsibility to give our listeners not only commercial songs but also songs that will make our listeners understand the historical dimensions of the country we live in. I work at a commercial-driven radio station, but I fight for it daily and try to honor my job.

Another event that showed me I was on the right path was the Papo de Música festival in 2023. That festival embodied everything I’ve always wanted to do: to give space to artists on the margins of society, to bring stories to the audiences, and all for free. There were so many beautiful moments at this festival, such as [trans] artists like Filipe Catto and Assucena holding a conversation that is so rare and important in such a transphobic country as Brazil. Artists like Jorge do Peixe admit they’ve never found the space or reception to open their hearts [like he did in a panel]. Moments like these make me think, “Nothing comes easy, especially for me, a woman, a Brown woman.” But when I finally get to do it, it brings me so much joy and makes me sure I’m on the right path.

So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but it’s rare we hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning — did you ever have a moment like that, and how did you overcome it?

I never thought of giving up. I was always very sure that journalism was the mission of my life. Regarding social media, I obviously am always and often negatively impacted by the greener grass on the other side. Social networks give us a distorted view of reality, which often saddens me. Sometimes, I see a colleague having more significant achievements, getting to interview artists who haven’t accepted interviews from me, and, of course, it affects me. But a few things have changed my perspective and helped ease the impact of social media. One thing is I use it less now, especially after the pandemic. It’s time-consuming, and it doesn’t always do me good.

Another thing that made me stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side is my racial literacy. As I began to understand myself as a brown woman, I also started noticing how there are very few Black and brown female journalists and radio hosts with visibility in Brazil. So I stopped comparing myself to others — obviously, I still do, but much less than I used to.

Were there any mentors or other women who inspired or helped you get to where you are now?

Patricia Palumbo is a professional that I’ve always looked up to and said, “I want to be her when I grow up.” She’s an excellent radio host from São Paulo, an empathetic woman with exceptional knowledge of Brazilian music. She’s a great reference for an accessible professional and a female radio host. I am very happy that we are work colleagues today, have meaningful exchanges, and celebrate each other’s achievements. 

Another journalist who has influenced me, even though I’ve never met her, is Marília Gabriela. For me, interviews are the best format for getting to know a person, and few people do interviews like Marília Gabriela. There’s another journalist who influenced me—Glória Maria. She was an inspiration for bringing Black representation to [Brazilian] TV.

What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman — or even as a Latina — in the music industry?

It’s hard to be a woman in Brazil, even though I am aware that I am in an extremely privileged situation. I’m middle class, live in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, and work at the country’s biggest radio network. My background is filled with privilege. And still, I face difficulties in all aspects of my life for being a woman.

Recently, I had to seek a different doctor because my current one wouldn’t look at me when answering my questions. He’d always respond to my husband only. As for work, it mirrors society. How many times have I been silenced? Nowadays, when I feel silenced, I always point it out. There’s a tendency to say that women who do that are “masculinizing themselves [for approval].” But if speaking out and standing up for yourself is masculinizing, then that’s what we have to do. There’s no other way to survive in a society as sexist as Brazil’s.

What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?

I am completely passionate about my job — even with all the red tape that I have to deal with on the radio, which is so tiring, too. What I like most about my work is interviewing and talking to people. It’s very cliché to say, “I love people,” because people can be difficult as hell, but I feel like I am genuinely interested in people’s stories. When I know that I’ll give my listeners a good story through an interview, I feel very fulfilled. I’ll listen to the same interview [I do] four or five times, and each time, I get emotional at a different moment. Some artists I interview may not have other spaces but mine to showcase their work to the mainstream. It makes me so excited to present the audience with art that is meaningful, even though it’s not pop or dealing with important information that needs to be accessible to people. I once interviewed a neuroscientist about the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Imagine talking about that on the radio.  

We’re seeing more and more women artists and music creatives speak out about how their work went unprotected or their trust was abused in the industry — what has been your perspective on this, if any? Is this something you’ve seen happen?

I think we’ve come a long way. However, those who rule the industry are still men. Very few women are in positions of power. Very few women have the money or the pen. Brazil is a country of many female singers, but who manages them? Who develops their marketing strategies? There’s a false impression that women dominate the market because women have more voice and visibility today. However, we are still a male-dominated industry. Very few leadership roles in radio stations and record companies are in the hands of women. And I don’t see this changing soon. Just like [Psychologist, activist, and author] Cida Bento wrote, there is a whiteness pact in our society, and I believe there’s also a patriarchal pact where men only give referrals to men.

There’s a false impression that women dominate the market because women have more voice and visibility today. However, we are still a male-dominated industry.

What can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?  

One change is getting women to refer other women for jobs. We’ll only be able to change the market when that happens, even if it’s on a mandatory basis. “When you get there, make space for more people at the table.” I try very hard to live by these words. I haven’t always been like this, but now I do my best to put women in the position of leading projects on the radio and hosting the shows. We have to bring more women to the spaces we’re in and stop seeing women as competition. There’s a patriarchal idea that men are more prepared for certain jobs. I have fallen into that trap myself sometimes. But as long as we are still massacred by this patriarchal idea, things will not change.

Another thing that could help is changing the rules regarding maternity and paternity leave. [Per Brazilian labor laws, women have 120 paid maternity leave days, and men have five paid paternity leave days]. I can’t count how often I’ve heard: “We are not going to hire this person because they’re at the age when they might become a mother anytime.” As long as men are not seen the same way, we won’t be able to see a medium-term change in the market, not just in the music industry but in society as a whole. Men’s roles as caregivers should be treated by law in the same way as women’s. 

But it’s not just men; women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality — “If I can’t have it, neither can you” — is harmful to women?

Sadly, I’ve chosen men over women [in job referrals] because I saw women as competitors. But as I’ve become more gender-conscious, that awareness is a very important part of me today. Our market is so non-inclusive that whenever a woman stands out, [instead of making way for more women], what it does is that men get the chance to say: “Look, we are inclusive. We have a woman here!” But as long as we are the exception, the market will continue to be cruel to all of us. 

We need to include more women in the industry, but also more Black people. There are such few women in leadership positions, but much less Black people, men or women. It is very important to understand that we are in an extremely white market. While there are few women in leadership positions in Brazil, there are little to no Black people. And if you look at trans and disabled people, it’s far worse. It’s like they don’t even exist in the music industry. 

Journalism is not meant to be a glamorous profession. Many influencers are being confused with journalists today, and that’s dangerous.

What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space?

I’m 42 years old and never thought about my legacy! [laughs] I’d like more young people to remember that journalism is not meant to be a glamorous profession. Many influencers are being confused with journalists today, and that’s dangerous. Being successful by commercial metrics or gaining exposure can be a consequence. The journalist’s job is to provide a service and get society to grow collectively through information. As journalists, we need to have a clear understanding of what we say and share through mass media. 

There’s a myth that journalists are impartial, but we can’t be that because we are the outcome of our environment. We need to be very conscious of the choices we make. If you choose to live in a dystopian reality [in relation to our country’s reality], this is what you will propagate. Which is why another lesson I’d like to leave as a legacy is the importance of fighting against fake news. Things will get much worse in this regard, so we must combat the spread of fake news. Maybe if you ask me this question tomorrow, I’ll answer something else [laughs]. But for now, these are the two things I’d like young journalists to keep in mind.