In the Bolsonaro Era, Brazil's Daniela Mercury Has Leaned Into Her Political Side

Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury has gradually leaned into her political side over the span of three decades.
Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury has gradually leaned into her political side over the span of three decades. Photo by Malu Verçosa
UPDATE September 5: Due to travel and pre-production complications stemming from Hurricane Dorian, Daniela Mercury's September 7 concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach has been canceled.

Throughout her three-decade musical career, Daniela Mercury has been one of the foremost voices of Brazil’s axé music movement. The musical fusion, pioneered in Mercury’s home state of Bahia, blends Afro-Caribbean genres such as reggae with Brazilian music styles. Since she went solo in 1991 with the release of her debut single, “O Swing da Cor,” Mercury’s sweet vocals have lent a pop flair to the genre.

Her pioneering take on axé led to a lucrative and influential career that’s yielded a Latin Grammy and album sales reaching 20 million. But as Brazil makes headlines across the globe for raging fires in the Amazon and the controversial leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, Mercury’s forthcoming performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach will have greater resonance, particularly given the singer’s increasing willingness to wade into political waters.

Her first major public political statement came about five years before Bolsonaro's presidency, however. In April 2013, Mercury surprised fans with the announcement she was in a relationship with journalist Malu Verçosa, whom she married a month later. Almost immediately, Mercury became an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. As Bolsonaro's candidacy ascended, Mercury became a thorn in the side of the far-right leader, who was elected in October 2018 despite his history of homophobic and misogynistic statements. Mercury publicly expressed her opposition to his candidacy as well as the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff following a series of right-wing protests in Brazil's largest cities.

Shortly after Bolsonaro took office, Mercury teamed up with another Brazilian music legend, Caetano Veloso, for the Carnaval-themed single “Proibido o Carnaval” (“Carnaval Is Forbidden”). Its good-natured lyrics railed against homophobia and censorship and mocked a sexist statement by Brazil’s human rights minister Damares Alves, who said in an interview that a “new era was coming to the country when boys would ‘wear blue and girls pink.’”

The video for Mercury and Veloso’s collaboration has garnered more than four million views on YouTube since its release in February, and it was one of the biggest hits of this year’s Mardi Gras in Brazil. Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters trolled the video's comment section, but that didn’t inhibit the song’s popularity.

It remains to be seen if Mercury plans to express her political stances at her Fillmore Miami Beach show. But regardless of whether she dives into the issues affecting her homeland (no doubt in front of Brazilian expats in the audience), her music has a long tradition of celebrating her country's rich and diverse cultural history. Fans should expect to hear her biggest hits, including “O Canto da Cidade,” “Rapunzel,” and “Mutante,” as well as deeper cuts from her most recent albums, as she marks the 20th anniversary of her first international tour.

Daniela Mercury. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300. Tickets cost $64 to $104 via
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Ernest Barteldes