Latin America

Death of Brazilian pop star stuns half of country and baffles other

While millions mourned the passing of Cristiano Araújo, others had no idea who he was

Singer Cristiano Araújo.
Singer Cristiano Araújo.Divulgação

The deaths of Brazilian pop star Cristiano Araújo and his singer girlfriend Allana Coelho Pinto Moraes in a road accident on Wednesday have shocked millions of his fans throughout the country.

But at the same time their sudden deaths have also baffled many others on the social networks.

The 29-year-old Araújo, who was known for his sertanejo songs – a genre that mixes pop with Brazilian country music – was returning from a concert in Itumbiara, Goiás, around 200 kilometers from the state capital of Goiânia, when his Land Rover flipped over on a highway at around 3am on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old singer was returning from a concert when his vehicle flipped over on a highway

Araújo and his 19-year-old girlfriend Pinot Moraes were both killed in the accident, which occurred between the towns of Goiatuba and Morrinhos de Novia. Two other passengers were seriously injured.

The news of their deaths was broadcast on television and radio throughout the country early on Wednesday morning, while fans left messages of sympathy and solidarity on Araújo’s official Facebook page, which has more than 6.3 million followers. “We already miss you,” wrote one fan.

But at the same time thousands of other Brazilians were struggling to understand what all the fuss was about. Many people had not only never heard him sing, but also didn’t even recognize his name.

“Who was this guy?” asked one person in an internet forum.

“I never knew he existed,” said another.

“I just found out who he was because a taxi driver told me,” one woman confessed.

The sertanejo genre has become a sensation in Brazil, packing out concerts and parties across the country. 

The pop-Brazilian country style’s big moment came with the success of Michel Teló’s 2011 track, Ai se eu te pego (Ah, when I get my hands on you). Sertanejo songs regularly feature at the top of the charts of the most-listened tracks on the radio and are among the most downloaded tracks on the internet: five of the 15 most popular albums on Brazilian iTunes are of sertanejo music.

Araújo’s death provides yet another demonstration of the class divides that exist among Brazil’s 200 million inhabitants.

With its roots going back to the early 20th century, sertanejo has become as synonymous with Brazil as the samba and bossa nova. The genre's biggest figures are without doubt the brothers Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano.

But for many – those who didn’t know who Araújo was until Wednesday – popular Brazilian music is still represented by artists such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

Their fans usually come from the traditional middle classes who live in big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. They are aware of sertanejo because they have heard it played at parties, but don’t listen to it every day – they are “just familiar with it.”

But for the music industry, this audience becomes less important each day.

‘Sertanejo’ songs regularly feature among the most-listened-to tracks on the radio and are among the most downloaded tracks on the internet

Sertanejo has been attracting a growing fan base since the 1990s as a new generation – comprising about 40 million people, according to government estimates – has emerged from poverty to join the middle classes and become important consumers of pop culture.

In an interview with the daily O Estado de São Paulo, anthropologist Hermano Vianna, one of the foremost experts on Brazilian music, explained that the new emerging middle-class has created a digital revolution within the recording industry.

“The world of the record companies, which controlled the global music market, has practically imploded. Thousands of small studios have popped up on the scene. Their products are now distributed through the internet and they have become more popular without the need for radio, television or print media.”

At the same time, according to Vianna, the new middle class is “extremely diverse when it comes to lifestyles and outlooks.”

The music style has been attracting a growing fan base since the 1990s as a new middle class has emerged

“Those who don’t travel to the interior of the country are not aware of this phenomenon. When I visit some place, far away from the state capitals, I often find people who are highly articulate and involved in social and cultural projects, which many times have more visibility abroad.

“Pop music from the outlying, rural areas is one of the newest Brazilian cultural trends in the last two decades.”