Tom Ze’s Fabrication Defect and the ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’: A Postmodern/Postcolonial ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto’’ J. Griffith Rollefson
On his 1998 album Fabrication Defect the Brazilian composer-performer Tom Zé
articulates the discourses of postmodernity and postcoloniality. More than simply
touching on various aspects of ‘‘post-ness,’’ Zé forges from them an updated manifesto
premised on Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto.’’ The former Tropicália
musician proposes an ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’ as a way to appropriate and then
reformulate the products of Western techno-capitalism. In this discussion, I will argue
that the composer reconfigures the modernist and colonial tropes of primitivism and
cannibalism in a subversively technophilic postmodern and postcolonial fashion—an
oppositionality embodied in the album’s ‘‘defective android’’ figure.
On his 1998 album Com Defeito de Fabricação (Fabrication Defect) the Brazilian
composer-performer Tom Zé comments on subalternity, hybridity, agency, and a
host of other focuses in the discourses of postcoloniality and postmodernity. As the
central idea of this concept album, the ‘‘Fabrication Defect’’ stands in as a metaphor
for the postcolonial agency of the Third World underclass. Zé argues that, despite
their domination by multinational corporations, these ‘‘mechanized’’ wage laborers
have managed to find a voice through artistic creation. As Zé writes in the album’s
provocative liner notes: ‘‘these ‘androids’ reveal some inborn ‘defects’: they think,
dance, and dream.’’ The ‘‘defect’’ that Zé speaks of is thus essentially a rupture in
Western capitalist hegemony—an anomaly present throughout the history of
colonialism in Latin America.
On the album, Zé also proposes an ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’ as a way to
appropriate and then reformulate the products of Western capitalism and its
Popular Music and Society Vol. 30, No. 3, July 2007, pp. 305–327
ISSN 0300-7766 (print)/ISSN 1740-1712 (online) # 2007 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/03007760600834853
electronic media. This second pillar of Zé’s concept album deals directly with the
postmodern discourses of digital technology, fragmentation, recombination, and re-
signification. While the postmodern condition has been theorized in novel and
despairing terms by Euro-American cultural theorists and ethnomusicologists—most
notably Fredric Jameson (‘‘Postmodernism,’’ Postmodernism) and Veit Erlmann—
Latin American scholars such as Chela Sandoval and Renato Ortiz have found
elements of postmodernity to be at the same time familiar and hopeful. Zé’s
Fabrication Defect and its ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’ speak the language of this latter
postmodernism fluently and in a way that is both artistically innovative and steeped
in a ‘‘New World’’ intellectual tradition that anticipated the postmodern moment
long before Jameson’s theories set off alarms in the Euro-American academy.
Rather than touching on various aspects of the discourses of ‘‘post-ness,’’ Zé thus
forges from them a unified ideology—an updated manifesto premised on the
Brazilian modernist Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto.’’ In this
discussion of Zé’s sonic manifesto, I will argue that the composer redeploys the
modernist and colonial tropes of primitivism and cannibalism in an aggressively
oppositional and subversively technophilic postmodern and postcolonial fashion.
Where de Andrade focuses on the cannibal, Zé focuses on the android. In the end,
Zé’s project attempts not only materially to undermine First World economic
hegemony but ideologically to destabilize Western logocentrism and the discursive
practices that privilege the First World’s answers to Third World problems.
Tropicália and the Legacy of Cannibalism
In 1928, the Brazilian modernist poet Oswald de Andrade published a widely
influential declaration of anti-colonial principles under the title ‘‘Manifesto
Antropófago’’ (Cannibalist Manifesto). The manifesto took its name from the
legend of the Tupinambá Indians of Brazil ‘‘who were believed to ritually cannibalize
vanquished enemies in order to absorb their physical and spiritual powers’’ (Dunn
Brutality Garden 18). The Brazilian people, argued de Andrade, should rise up, wrest
the technological and institutional control from the hands of the colonizers, and
appropriate—or devour—their modernity to harness the power of their oppressors.
To add insult to injury, the resulting regurgitated cultural products should then be
sold back to the oppressors as exports, thus undermining their cultural and economic
hegemony. The Cannibalist movement’s political and esthetic strategy of appropria-
tion and deformation is nicely encapsulated in de Andrade’s irreverently catachrestic
appropriation of William Shakespeare, symbol of Western literature par excellence.
Referencing the man-eating Indians de Andrade writes: ‘‘Tupi or not Tupi, that is the
question’’ (Bary 38). Though focused on Brazilian poetry, de Andrade’s project has
had far-reaching effects on the discourses of Brazilian culture at large.1
The trope of cannibalism served de Andrade with a perfect metaphor with which
to articulate a radically anti-colonial cultural nationalism without resorting to an
essentializing, isolationist, and ultimately untenable pre-colonial position. Indeed, de
306 J. G. Rollefson
Andrade defined his Cannibalist movement largely through its opposition to one
such nativist movement: the Brazilian ultranationalist Verdeamarelismo
(Greenyellowism). The Greenyellowists maintained an economic and cultural
protectionist stance while proclaiming a unifying ‘‘essence of feeling’’ among the
Brazilian folk (Dunn Brutality Garden 17). Inspired by the technology-glorifying
Italian Futurist movement, however, de Andrade believed that the Brazilian people
could turn imported modern technologies back on their oppressors, the reticent
colonial interests in Brazil after ‘‘independence’’ in 1822 (Bary 35). As the Brazilian
musician Caetano Veloso remarked, de Andrade’s project offered Brazilian
nationalists an ideology premised on ‘‘an aggressive attitude, not a passive and
defensive nationalism’’ (quoted in Perrone ‘‘Topos and Topicalities’’ 6).
In 1968, 40 years after the ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto’’ was published, the Tropicália
movement emerged in Brazilian politics, art, and most visibly in music. The early
Tropicalists, including the musicians Zé, Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and the
band Os Mutantes (The Mutants), looked to de Andrade and the ‘‘Anthropofagists’’
for tools of political dissent against a new postcolonial hegemony comprised of a
rightist military dictatorship with strong ties to multinational capital.2 The
Tropicalists employed de Andrade’s critical formulation of ‘‘the forest and the
school’’ which described imperial exploitation as a brutal combination of the
decimation of Brazil’s natural resources (the forest) and the embedding of colonialist
ideologies in Brazil’s people (the school). The Cannibalist project thus called for the
liberation of Brazil’s colonialized minds and post-encounter lands that would take
what it wanted from the colonizers to build a modern nation. As Christopher Dunn
writes in his Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian
Counterculture, the Tropicalists seized upon de Andrade’s vision wherein ‘‘the forest
and the school, the primitivist and the futurist, the natural and the technological, the
local and the cosmopolitan, and the past and the present exist simultaneously’’ (16–
17). In short, the Tropicalists saw no conflict of interest in appropriating Western
ideas for their own political aims or otherwise collapsing binaries as long as they
maintained their oppositionality.3
At the heart of de Andrade’s studied malapropism ‘‘Tupi or not Tupi’’ and its
resonance with the Tropicalists is the widely remarked-upon historical condition of
doubleness in Latin American life. De Andrade’s injection of Third World Brazilianness
into this marker of First World Englishness is at once primitive and modern, new world
and old world, vernacular and cultivated. Brazilian sociologist Renato Ortiz (Ortiz
Mundialização e cultura) describes this ‘‘sentido duplo’’ as a fact of the Latin American
experience of cultural duality since 1492—a cultural and political condition that
resonates deeply with W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘‘double consciousness.’’ Notably, it is the self-
conscious deployment of the tension inherent in this hybridity that provides the
platform for the cultural critiques of de Andrade and the Tropicalists.
The Tropicalists fashioned their critiques through the appropriation and
deployment of a wide array of cultural and political signifiers. While their music
was grounded in the rhythms of samba and other Brazilian idioms, the Tropicalists
Popular Music and Society 307
also looked to the music of countercultural movements in Europe and the US for
their protest strategies. Despite their appropriative attitude towards Western pop
culture, however, this Brazilian new school maintained oppositionality toward the
West via de Andrade’s formulation. Veloso, the most visible and outspoken member
of the Tropicália movement, explains in his memoir, Verdade Tropical (Tropical
Truth): ‘‘The idea of cultural cannibalism fit us, as tropicalists, like a glove. We were
‘eating’ the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Our arguments against the defensive attitude of
the nationalists found here a succinct and exhaustive formulation’’ (247).
The Tropicalist musicians appropriated the electric guitar-driven style of Western
rock and roll, styled their cultural critique after European Dadaist absurdity, and
infiltrated the commercial recording industry as popular artists. All the while,
however, their music sounded a covert protest through symbolic language and
musical allusions that escaped understanding by the military regime’s legion of
censors. In effect, the strategy cast the musicians as wolves in sheep’s clothing as the
Tropicalists used an often saccharine form of seemingly harmless popular music as a
means to counterhegemonic ends. With the model of Oswald de Andrade’s
‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto’’ Tropicália became the popular music of the Brazilian youth
and thus helped to garner immense opposition to the military regime across racial,
ethnic, and class lines.
As with de Andrade’s Greenyellowist adversaries, the Tropicalists also positioned
themselves in contrast with their older rival, the nationalist musical movement dubbed
Música Popular Brasileira (MPB). The MPB ideology looked exclusively within Brazil’s
borders for its ‘‘traditional’’ musical style and esthetics. As Dunn notes, MPB artists like
their Verdeamarilist forebears ‘‘promoted the politics of cultural authenticity and
rejected the international rock movement’’ that the Tropicalists engaged in
(‘‘Tropicália’’ 73). Where the MPB movement used nativist and essentialist rhetoric
in an effort to exert a Brazilian national subjectivity, the Tropicália movement worked
within a framework that both accepted pop culture contingently and deployed
essentialist authenticity only where strategically practicable. Through these tactics, the
Tropicalists forged a Brazilian subjectivity that reflected the multiplicity of their Latin
American reality and rejected the politics of separatism.
At the outset of the Tropicália movement its most experimental member, the
conservatory-trained composer and guitarist Tom Zé gave powerful poetic voice to
de Andrade’s anti-nativist ideological lineage. A former participant in the MPB
movement, Zé’s conflicting attitudes about the political economy of ‘‘tradition’’
finally led him to help found the Tropicália movement with Veloso, Gil, Costa, and
Os Mutantes. In his 1968 song ‘‘Quero Samba Meu Bem’’ (I Want to Samba My
Dear) Zé proclaimed: ‘‘I want to samba too, but I don’t want to wallow in the pits of
embalmed tradition’’ (on Tom Zé 1968). Here Zé directs his critique at the staunch
nativist/essentialist stance of MPB and the official status conferred upon this
‘‘traditional’’ music by Brazil’s military regime.4 In his 1972 song ‘‘Sr. Cidadão’’ (Mr
Citizen) Zé foregrounds the symbiotic relationship through which nativism and
militarism prop each other up, singing: ‘‘How many kilos of fear [does it take] to
308 J. G. Rollefson
fashion a tradition? Mr Citizen, I want to know’’ (on Se O Caso É Chorar). Typical of
the Tropicalist attitude toward conventional nationalist ideologies, Zé’s music echoed
the progressive nationalism of de Andrade’s dynamic, hypercritical, and always
In her Methodology of the Oppressed Chela Sandoval describes a type of tactical
multiplicity of identity similar to that which the Tropicalists used not as ‘‘double’’ or
‘‘duplo,’’ as Du Bois and Ortiz, but rather as ‘‘differential’’ consciousness. As
Sandoval asserts, differential consciousness arises out of a historical need to navigate
a vastly inequitable world by continually questioning the order of things—and the
very meaning of that order. She writes:
Differential social movement finds its expression through the methodology of the oppressed. The technologies of semiotic reading, deconstruction of signs, meta- ideologizing, differential movement, and moral commitment to equality are its vectors, its expressions of influence. These vectors meet in the differential mode of consciousness, which carries them through to the level of the ‘‘real’’ where they can impress and guide dominant powers. So too differential oppositional consciousness is itself a force that rhizomatically and parasitically inhabits each of these vectors, linking them in movement, while the pull of each vector creates the ongoing tension and re-formation of the liberal, revolutionary, supremacist, or separatist ideological forces that inscribe social reality….Each technology of the methodology of the oppressed creates new conjunctural possibilities, produced by ongoing and transforming regimes of exclusion and inclusion. (Sandoval 181)
As the automotive and mathematically derived term implies, differential
consciousness is thus a recalibration and recalculation of one’s identity at each
point along one’s trajectory that, in turn, redirects power and reinscribes reality.
While the meaning of ‘‘truth’’ must be reconsidered at each point along the
trajectory, oppositionality and equality provide compass points to orient such
seemingly floating subjectivity. Her methodology is, in short, a morally grounded
post-structuralism. ‘‘Differential consciousness’’ thus provides a fitting theoretical
lens through which to analyze the Latin American hyper-political artistry of de
Andrade, the Tropicalists, and the contemporary work of Tom Zé. Indeed, Sandoval’s
Methodology of the Oppressed is a framework built through the articulation—in the
Hallian sense—of postmodernism and postcoloniality.5
From Modern to Postmodern, Colonial to Postcolonial
It is within this context of postmodern/postcolonial cultural discourse that I hope to
position Zé’s concept album Fabrication Defect and its attendant ‘‘Esthetics of
Plagiarism.’’ In the following sections, I will argue that with the album Zé is
redeploying the ideas of de Andrade’s ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto’’ in a manner that is
both postmodern and postcolonial. While much scholarly attention has been paid to
the cannibalist legacy of the Tropicália movement Zé has recently denied direct
influence from de Andrade’s ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto.’’ Yet Zé’s Tropicalist past and
‘‘plagiarist’’ present indicate an ideological indebtedness to the vastly influential
Popular Music and Society 309
modernist project of de Andrade. While we might easily take Zé at his word that he
‘‘never read Oswald de Andrade,’’ a critical inquiry into the similarities between Zé’s
plagiarism and de Andrade’s cannibalism should prove illuminating (Dunn Brutality
My postmodern/postcolonial theoretical apparatus takes its lead both from Zé’s
theoretical lexicon and from the analogous relationship between the ‘‘dangerous
others’’ that both de Andrade and Zé employ as fonts of oppositional power. Where
de Andrade looks to the colonial period’s trope of the ‘‘primitive cannibal,’’ Zé draws
upon the power of the equally overwritten ‘‘subaltern wilder,’’ the violent urban thief
of the postcolonial period. A notable alteration is evident in Zé’s rhetorical strategy.
His esthetic tension is no longer located between the city and the jungle but between
the city and its peripheries—the favelas or suburban slums of Rio, Brasilia, Bahía, and
São Paulo. A related shift in Zé’s formulation is a move from the primitivist
fetishization of the modernists, de Andrade included, to the electronic media
fixations of self-fashioned postmodernists such as Zé. It is this update for which Zé
installs the android figure.
In short, I argue that the shifts from cannibalism to plagiarism and primitives to
androids represent a fundamental shift from the modern to the postmodern—from
the colonial to the postcolonial. The method of strategic appropriation and
reformulation first deployed by de Andrade, reiterated in the Tropicália movement,
and currently audible in Zé’s work constitutes a remarkable historical continuity of
Brazilian opposition to First World hegemony. The responses to the social realities
that de Andrade and Zé are engaged with, however, reveal notable differences within
this history. It is my contention that the qualities of Zé’s cultural critique tell us
something about the changing needs of late twentieth-century oppositional
movements—notably the increased importance of information technology to such
efforts. Where de Andrade’s modernism and primitivist rhetoric gestured to the
material embodiment of opposition (the proto-human cannibal figure) Zé’s self-
consciously postmodern and post-structural critiques take place in the realm of the
disembodied ideal (the post-human android figure).
Essential to Zé’s project is an understanding that the ‘‘post’’ in the postmodern/
postcolonial dyad is a hopeful gesture and not an indication that Zé believes that the
machinations of modernism and colonialism have disappeared (see McClintock).
This hope is represented by the ‘‘defect’’ of human agency that permeates Zé’s album.
In the following sections, I will read Zé’s Fabrication Defect within the contexts of
Brazilian cultural discourse and the discourses of ‘‘post-ness.’’ The first and second
sections will situate Zé’s manifesto within a theoretical framework, focusing on the
concepts of the ‘‘Fabrication Defect’’ and the ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’ respectively.
The third section will then discuss the lyrical and musical content of selected songs
from the album to analyze their protest strategies. Ultimately, through a discussion of
Fabrication Defect, I hope to foreground the discourses of postmodern and
postcolonial theory with which Zé’s creative, elegant, and often bitingly satirical
socio-political critique are in dialogue.
310 J. G. Rollefson
Agency in a Third World of ‘‘Defective’’ Androids
Ze’s Fabrication Defect is a collection of 14 songs, each numbered as a successive
‘‘defect’’ inherent in the overwritten and exploited masses of the Third World. In the
liner notes, Zé explains this first premise of his project and the underlying concept for
The Third World has a huge and rapidly increasing population. These people have been converted into a kind of ‘‘android,’’ almost always analphabetics. It has happened here in Brazil—in the slums of Rio, São Paulo and the Northeast of Brazil, and in the Third World in general. But these androids reveal some inborn ‘‘defects’’: they think, dance and dream—things that are very dangerous to the First-World bosses. Let me explain: in the eyes of the First World, we in the Third World who think these things, and who explore our reality on the planet, are like ‘‘androids’’ who are essentially defective.
As the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak argues in her article ‘‘Can the Subaltern
Speak?’’ Western political, economic, and cultural processes of ‘‘othering’’ have
produced a reified image of the Third World as a mass of voiceless individuals who
need to be spoken for. Zé’s South American picture of these processes is remarkably
similar to Spivak’s South Asian perspective with one notable exception: in the
‘‘fabrication’’ of its others, Western capitalists have failed in their attempt to create
true automatons. Their androids have turned out to be defective—they can speak.
The defect that Zé speaks of is the much-debated ‘‘agency.’’
In his description of human agency as a defect, Zé sees a process that resonates
with Homi Bhabha’s poststructural description of the ‘‘ambivalent space’’ between
desire and fulfillment. Also South Asian, Bhabha describes this space as ‘‘a mutation’’
(111) in much the same way that Zé introduces his concept of the ‘‘Fabrication
Defect’’. The two metaphors result from similarly fluid models of acculturation and
are premised on the indeterminacy of human action—the ruptures, frayed edges, and
anomalous outcomes of incomplete and dynamic hegemony. Indeed, Bhabha’s
concept of ‘‘mimicry’’ mirrors the Cannibalist and later Tropicalist position of
cultural appropriation—a topic that I will discuss in detail in the following section.
The Ghanaian-British philosopher Kwame Appiah further explicates this miracle
of agency in spite of oppression and overwriting in chapter seven of his In My
Father’s House, ‘‘The Postcolonial and The Postmodern.’’ He writes:
Despite the overwhelming reality of economic decline; despite unimaginable poverty; despite wars, malnutrition, disease, and political instability, African cultural productivity grows apace: popular literatures, oral narrative and poetry, dance, drama, music, and visual art all thrive. The contemporary cultural production of many African societies—and the many traditions whose evidences so vigorously remain—is an antidote to the dark vision of the postcolonial novelist. (Appiah 157)
Though Appiah is here addressing the African novel, this ‘‘cultural productivity’’ is
very much what Zé sees when he speaks of the ‘‘defects’’ of thinking, dancing, and
dreaming. In addition, both Appiah and Zé are commenting on a discourse of
Popular Music and Society 311
postmodernism that Fredric Jameson has dubbed the ‘‘death of the subject’’
(‘‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’’ 114). In this formulation the subject
position, and therefore agency, is revealed to be a myth of the European
Enlightenment project. This is the ‘‘dark vision’’ Appiah describes in the above
excerpt. In many ways, both Appiah and Zé are reacting against this tide of opinion
flowing from Jameson’s reading of postmodernism by giving voice to the material
effects of people’s actions in the world—the ‘‘real’’ world where people’s ideas enter
the geography and reflexively shape their environments—in a word, Marx’s concept
Similarly to the work of Bhabha and Appiah, Latin American theorizations of
postcoloniality and postmodernity have also tended to challenge Jameson’s vision
while at the same time challenging the very terminology of ‘‘post-ness’’ so popular in
Asian and African discourses. Employing a Third World feminist approach,
Sandoval’s Methodology is in fact built upon an opposition to Jameson’s postmodern
vision—its first chapter speaks directly to his totalizing theories. In doing so,
Sandoval also answers Spivak’s evocative question ‘‘Can the Sublatern Speak?’’ in the
affirmative. But for the anthropologist Néstor García Canclini, the so-called
‘‘post’’modern condition in Latin America is not the result of modernism’s downfall,
but rather a continuous navigation of pre-modern and modernizing terrains. As he
half-jokingly remarks in Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving
Modernity: ‘‘if it were not so awkward, we would have to say something like post-
intra-modern’’ (268). For García Canclini, Jameson is among ‘‘those who continue to
adhere to the modernist project’’ whose visions of postmodernity do not account for
the dynamic and incomplete modernizations of Latin American countries (8).
Regarding colonialism, Sandoval is similarly uncomfortable with the terminology,
noting the ‘‘utopian’’ implications of the prefix ‘‘post’’ (185). The eschewal of the
term ‘‘postcolonialism’’ in much Latin American scholarship can be viewed as a
function of hemispheric political differences. Where colonial occupation in Africa
and Asia lasted well into the 20th century, the majority of South and Central
American colonies won independence in the 19th century. The post-revolutionary
period in Latin America did not qualify as complete independence, however, as
European political domination was quickly replaced by Monroe Doctrine
paternalism and US commercial domination (García Canclini Consumers and
Citizens 15–34). As such, when employing the term ‘‘postcolonial’’ Latin American
scholars are quick to note the legacy of colonialism that continues to this day—a
legacy in which it is not uncommon for the First and Third Worlds to coexist within
the borders of the same nation-state. As with Garcı́a Canclini’s ‘‘post-intra-modern,’’
Sandoval thus tends to prefer the term ‘‘neocolonialism.’’ As we will see, Zé’s project
on Fabrication Defect does indeed engage the discourses of ‘‘post-ness’’ but keeps the
meanings of his ‘‘posts’’ attuned to the incomplete ‘‘neo’’ and ‘‘intra’’ realities of
Latin American life.
Both Sandoval and Ortiz (Mundialização e cultura) have also commented on the
usefulness of African American conceptualizations of postmodernity in Latin
312 J. G. Rollefson
American studies. As with the unfinished and unequal project of modernity that
García Canclini describes, theorists such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Houston Baker
define a post-structural condition that arose from the collision and cohabitation of
First and Third Worlds in the Americas. Gates’s term ‘‘signifyin(g)’’ has been
particularly influential in describing the practices of appropriation and reformulation
that African Americans have developed as strategies of mental resistance to
oppression in an inequitable society. Notably, many North and South American
theories locate the genesis of postmodernism in subaltern and working-class colonial
communities long before Jameson’s late capitalist stage 1980s.
Just as Ortiz echoes Du Bois’s ‘‘double consciousness’’ in his conceptualization of a
Latin American ‘‘sentido duplo,’’ his view of resistance in an inequitable society also
echoes Gates’s ‘‘signifyin(g).’’ As a mode of living within and without modernity,
Ortiz sees processes of relocalization that can use the ‘‘deterritorialized’’ artifacts of
Western modernity—those multinational mass-produced consumer goods—to
refashion tools of opposition (‘‘Diversidade’’ 105–45). Rather than becoming
beholden to capitalist interests by using such commodities, Ortiz echoes Zé’s post-
structuralist belief in arguing that such goods can be re-inscribed and redeployed to
politically equitable ends. Where Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart famously
argued that Disney comics were complicit in Latin American domination by North
American capitalists in their How to Read Donald Duck, Ortiz countered that Donald
is in fact not a tool of oppression that colonizes the native mind. Such icons of what
Ortiz calls ‘‘international-popular culture’’ are not static symbols but are instead re-
localized in each instance of viewing, listening, or use. Essentially, each popular icon
is owned by the person engaged with it insofar as it is re-imagined and re-signified by
that person. The argument continues: if Donald is in my comic book or on my TV,
then he is mine (Ortiz ‘‘Madonna and Donald Duck’’). This is the postmodern and
post-structural agency that Zé has in mind.
In his discussion ‘‘The Postcolonial and the Postmodern’’ Appiah recognizes the
dangers of the overwriting processes that Spivak speaks of when he notes that
postcolonial intellectuals ‘‘are always at risk of becoming Otherness-machines’’
(157)—further commodifying difference and misrepresenting the masses. Notably,
Appiah’s critique of this type of mechanization also echoes the model that Zé deploys
in his critical formulation of Third-World ‘‘android’’ workers. While Zé and the
authors discussed above disagree with Jameson about the issue of agency, the
discourses of postmodernism that foreground electronic information and automa-
tion resonate deeply with Zé. Jameson suspects that the technologies of the Western
‘‘society of the media’’ and its attendant ‘‘globalization’’ have created a new, but no
less sinister, hegemonic structure that subsumes and commodifies difference—a sort
of ‘‘Benetton Effect’’ (‘‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’’ 113).7 Zé, however,
finds that these same technologies, though designed to oppress and exploit, hold
countless oppositional possibilities.
It is this belief in the ruptures within electronic media hegemony that prompted Zé
to commission the art on the disc itself that makes the CD look like yet another
Popular Music and Society 313
cracked—that is to say defective—electronic medium of the First World (see
Figure 1). As we will see, from his metaphorical use of the android figure to his quasi-
ironic glorification of sampling technology and electronic media, Zé has a distinctive
and positive view of the subversive potentialities inherent in the overdeveloped
West’s electronic technologies.
The ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’’ and the Practice of Cultural ‘‘Arrastão’’
The second primary concept behind Tom Zé’s Fabrication Defect is described as the
‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism.’’ Zé writes:
The esthetic of the fabrication defect will re-utilize the sonorous civilized trash (everyday symphony), be they conventional or unconventional instruments (for example: toys, cars, whistles, saws, hertz orchestra, street noises, etc.)—all of this put into a rhythmic dance music format, with choruses, and within the parameters of popular music. It will recycle an alphabet of emotions contained in songs and musical symbols of the First World….They will be put to use in small ‘‘cells’’ of ‘‘plagiarized’’ material. This deliberate practice unleashes an esthetic of plagiarism, an esthetic of arrastão* that ambushes the universe of the well-known and
Figure 1 CD art on Tom Zé’s Fabrication Defect—a ‘‘defective,’’ cracked CD. Source: reproduced by kind permission of Luaka Bop Records
314 J. G. Rollefson
traditional music. We are at the end, thus, of the composers’ era, inaugurating the plagi-combinator era.
Zé includes a footnote defining the concept of arrastão:
*Arrastão – A dragnet technique used in urban robbery. A small group fan out and then run furiously through a crowd, taking people’s money, jewelry, bags, sometimes even clothes. Translator’s note: A type of ‘‘wilding’’ with a purpose, i.e. robbery.
The esthetic of plagiarism, then, is premised on a violently oppositional idea that
both steals from the West and recycles its trash—both sonic and physical.
It is in this esthetics of plagiarism that Zé’s project most resembles Oswald’s
cannibalist artistic project. Zé instructs would be ‘‘plagi-combinators’’ to rob the so-
called ‘‘intellectual property’’ of the First World media conglomerates like a thief
running through the city streets. In doing so the plagi-combinator calls upon a rich
‘‘alphabet of emotions,’’ which is to say, an easily referenced shorthand for a wealth
of meanings that people world-wide can access—what Stuart Hall calls ‘‘the infinite
plurality of codes’’ (‘‘On Postmodernism’’ 48). This tactic of cultural arrastão
appropriates the cultural identities of the First World through a violent wresting of
control of cultural products from the hands of the enemy. In this way the ‘‘cells’’ of
plagiarized material are appropriated into the body of the Third World and can be
used to combat its oppressors; in Zé’s view the creative ‘‘defect’’ thus becomes an
asset for the subaltern plagi-combinator. As Robert Stam writes in his ‘‘Tropical
Detritus: Terra em Transe, Tropicália, and the Aesthetics of Garbage’’ (85), this
tactical move of turning a defect into an asset is the premise of jujitsu—here we have
a sort of subaltern cultural jujitsu.
Just as Oswald sought to create a ‘‘poetry for export’’ through his re-sale of
cannibalized products back to the West, Zé’s recent projects, including Fabrication
Defect and the preceding album, The Hips of Tradition, have targeted Euro-American
markets. With the help of the iconoclastic American artist David Byrne, Zé has
produced scathing criticisms of First World oppression and exploitation through the
seemingly hypocritical medium of popular music CDs. Although Byrne’s indepen-
dent Luaka Bop record label is essentially in partnership with Zé in producing the
album, the multinational Warner Bros distributes the commercial ‘‘product,’’ the
CD. In light of Zé’s blatant opposition to such corporate interests the question of
hypocrisy demands resolution. Can one maintain oppositionality while lining the
pockets of the purported oppressor? Is the medium—the commodity—the only
As Louise Meintjes suggests in her critique of Paul Simon’s similar international
collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the economic and political inequities
between the two parties render this music incapable of opposition to capitalist
hegemony (66). Indeed, in this view the infamous ‘‘collaboration’’ is actually a
paternalistic gesture and may be complicit, as per Jameson and Erlmann’s ‘‘Benetton
Effect’’ formulations, in the subjugation of the very people that it is presumed to aid.
Popular Music and Society 315
Focusing on the primary metaphor of Frantz Fanon’s 1951 landmark work Black
Skin, White Masks in constructing her argument, however, Sandoval puts forth
another compelling answer to this conundrum. As she notes, Fanon’s argument
suggests that the mask does irreparable harm to the native implicated in colonial
domination—the so-called ‘‘comprador.’’ Sandoval, however, reminds us of another
valence of masks that enables the ‘‘tactical deception of the impostor who controls’’
Similarly, it is through the updated version of de Andrade’s cannibalism and the
Tropicalists’ ‘‘cultural jujitsu’’ that Zé fashions his ingenious response. Zé may not be
a mechanized subaltern wage laborer himself, but by donning the mask of this mestizo
android he fashions a strategic essentialism that may be reconfigured and redeployed
at any moment. Although he seems to render subaltern wage laborers monolithic, by
casting them in the wild fiction of the android figure he keeps his argument fluid and
dynamic. In brief, the argument is not a matter of pure essence or pure positionality
but rather engaged in the reflexive processes of praxis—an argument that Gilroy
refers to as an irreducibly hybrid ‘‘anti-anti-essentialism’’ (99–101). If it seems that
Zé wants to have it both ways, it is because that is exactly what he thinks it will take to
undermine the Manichean processes that reproduce inequality.
The over-consumption and greed of the First World represented by what Zé calls
the ‘‘sonorous civilized trash’’ of popular cultural products is a reminder that the
multinationals like Warner Bros will disseminate anything as long as it makes them
money. As indicated through the rhetorical strategies on Fabrication Defect, it is Zé’s
belief that if this waste can be plagiarized and re-sold—that is, cannibalized and
regurgitated—to the First World, the Third World can gain a tactical advantage. By
reaching First World audiences with deformed reflections of their own exploitative
culture, Zé believes the Third World ‘‘androids’’ can begin to wrest control from the
First World. Through the powerful fabrication defect of artistic expression the
subaltern can regain their voices and thereby reassert their humanity.
Each piece on the album, in addition to being labeled a ‘‘Defect,’’ also has a
designation as an ‘‘Arrastão of’’ a certain historical figure or figures—from
Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov to Saint Augustine, Alfred Nobel, Gustave
Flaubert, ‘‘the Provençal Troubadours and their echoes,’’ and ‘‘the anonymous
musicians who play in the São Paulo night.’’ The ‘‘great men’’ of the West, and the
anonymous musicians of ‘‘the Rest’’, once appropriated, are critically redeployed to
battle Euro-American hegemony on the album. The songs, which I discuss in the
following section, draw upon both musically and lyrically plagiarized cells, often
deconstructing their original formulations through catachrestic word play or ironic
intertextual juxtaposition. The discursive play that Zé is engaging in on Fabrication
Defect reflects the Tropicalist predilection for absurdity and the movement’s
foundation in the linguistically rich satirical critique of de Andrade’s ‘‘Cannibalist
Manifesto.’’ The catachrestic strategy of de Andrade’s ‘‘Tupi or not Tupi, that is the
question’’ is reborn in Zé’s phonetic translation of Jimi Hendrix into the Brazilian
equivalent ‘‘Jimmy, Renda-Se’’ (Jimmy, Give Up) (Tom Zé 1970).8
316 J. G. Rollefson
In his ‘‘Tropical Detritus,’’ Stam also describes the foundations of Tropicália’s
interest in trash as prototypically postmodern (83–93). In fact, Stam notes that the
term ‘‘postmodernism’’ may have been coined not by a Northern European but by a
Spanish American, Federico de Onís, in the 1930s.9 Therefore, the postmodern make-
up of the Tropicalist movement—‘‘their constitutive hybridity, their palimpsestic
temporality, their redemption of detritus, and their ‘aesthetic of mistakes’’’ (Stam
85)—is not an appropriation at all, for the idea of postmodernism developed
alongside postcoloniality in the Americas.10 While Stam’s claim for a Latin American
genesis of postmodernity per se would be difficult to establish with any certainty, it
does seem clear that the postcolonial condition is tightly interwoven with the
instabilities and ruptures of postmodernity.
Another discourse of postmodernity that continually surfaces in Zé’s Fabrica-
tion Defect is the concept of ‘‘pastiche’’ and the related question of authorial privi-
lege. Zé’s concept of the ‘‘plagi-combinator’’ is essentially an oppositionalized
bricoleur or pastiche artist. Whereas Jameson describes pastiche as ‘‘blank parody,’’
Zé deploys the esthetics of piecemeal recombination as active commentary. Jameson
Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without parody’s ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without the still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared to which what is being imitated is rather comic. (‘‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’’ 114)
Jameson’s conclusions are descriptive of the kind of alienation that mass consumer
society and its cultural commodification have come to cause in the First World. Zé,
however, sees this alienation and uncertainty as a by-product and symptom of
Western modernity—that what Jameson considers a global disease is in fact limited
to First World cosmopolitans. Zé’s cultural critique posits that perhaps it is not that
history is dead, but that Western history is dead—not that citizens of the world can
no longer find meaning, but that citizens of the ‘‘Global Village,’’ in the sense of
overdeveloped media society, have lost their subject positions. As Zé writes in the
notes to Fabrication Defect, ‘‘We are at the end of the composer’s era, inaugurating
the plagi-combinator era.’’ That is to say, the Western modernist model of authorship
Similar to Sandoval’s challenging of Fanon, Bhabha asserts in The Location of
Culture that the appropriative tactics of hybridity and mimicry decenter and
ultimately undermine the authority of the West. In this eschatological reading of
postmodernity, the postcolonial world is both an end-time environment and a
rebirth of the world from the empty shell, the rotting corpse of the West. In addition,
Bhabha’s refiguration of culture as ‘‘enunciative’’ rather than ‘‘epistemological’’ (178)
reasserts agency in the subaltern and mirrors Zé’s vision of the agent’s creative defect.
As Bhabha’s enunciative take on culture implies culture is an active process
tantamount to a constant re-imagining of our selves, our identities.
Popular Music and Society 317
As Zé’s garbage esthetics collide with his plagiarist/cannibalist esthetics, it seems
that we might describe this redeployment of the ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto’’ as a
scavenging and carrion eating posture akin to the hyena’s feeding practices. Where de
Andrade’s Cannibalism sought to devour the colonial processes that continued in
spite of Brazil’s independence since 1822, Zé’s rhetorical strategies devour the
postcolonial, that is to say the dead, the decaying remains of the colonial legacy. As we
turn to take a closer look at individual songs from the album, the hyena metaphor
seems especially appropriate to Zé’s ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism,’’ replete with the
laughter that accompanies his satire.
Perhaps the most aggressively oppositional song on Fabrication Defect, ‘‘Defect 3:
Politicar’’ tells First World intellectuals, economists, and moralists where and how
they can ‘‘shove it.’’ In doing so, Zé introduces the listener to these three main
enemies of the oppressed in his project’s discursive framework. Over a driving guitar
and bass funk groove Zé’s backup singers declare: ‘‘Daughter of Practice/Daughter of
Tactic/Daughter of Machinery/This shameless cave/of the entrails/is always
accommodating.’’ In a sinister, then playful, and later mock-nostalgic tone Zé sings:
Shove your grandiosity in the corner bank Shove it up your verb you son of a letter Shove your usury in the multinational Shove it up your Virgin you son of a cross.11
Zé’s critique of multinational corporations on one side and academics and religion
on the other echoes the two-fold ‘‘forest and school’’ formulation of de Andrade’s
critique of material and ideological exploitation. Indeed, Zé has issued a powerfully
fiery poetic dismissal to the three Western institutions most commonly indicted in
postcolonial discourses: the corporation, the school, and the church. In addition, Zé’s
scatological insinuations on ‘‘Defect 3: Politicar’’ (e.g. ‘‘cave,’’ ‘‘entrails,’’ ‘‘shove it’’)
carry the conceptual residue, so to speak, of the Cannibalist’s inevitable biological
functions. The violently sexual language carries an oppositional message—a jeremiad
of sorts—that dovetails the biological and mechanical symbolism in the song’s final
rhyme: ‘‘spread the Vaseline/Shove, push, cram it into/your tank of gasoline.’’
With ‘‘Defect 3: Politicar’’ Zé establishes the symbolic language of his android
laborer trope and sets the tone for the album with the ironic juxtaposition of a violent
tirade against the oppressor over an upbeat African American style funk groove
replete with jazzy flute licks. In addition, Zé assigns to this song the quizzical
designation: ‘‘arrastão of Rimsky-Korsakov and of the anonymous musicians who
play in the São Paulo night.’’ While there seems to be no direct quotation from
Rimsky Korsakov’s oeuvre in ‘‘Politicar,’’ a later song entitled ‘‘Defect 9: Juventude
Javali’’ (Young Havalina/Pig) described as an arrastão of Tchaikovsky actually
employs a melody from the composer’s D Minor Violin Concerto (see Figure 2).
Unlike Defect 9’s brutally ironic juxtaposition of a disturbing quasi-religious sadist
318 J. G. Rollefson
scene against a lyrical Tchaikovsky melody, it seems that Zé constructs Defect 3’s
arrastão to highlight the inequity of authorial voice between the singular ‘‘great
composer’’ Rimsky-Korsakov and the anonymous voices of the masses of street
minstrels. In bringing the two modes of musical production together, Zé empowers
the voiceless and destabilizes the authority of the great orchestrator, Rimsky-
The more subtle indictment of intellectuals on the album might seem curious
given Zé’s apparent engagement in the intellectualized discourses of postmodernity
and postcoloniality. Indeed, carefully worded position statements and ubiquitous
footnotes appear throughout Zé’s liner notes. Within the context of the album,
however, the references to language in the above lyrics (‘‘shove it up your verb/you
son of a letter’’) are Zé’s shorthand for the academics, the history writers who have
been largely complicit in the fabrication of the underclass since the colonial period.
Zé’s suspicion of the history writers and theoreticians, even those who speak in the
jargon-laden prose of leftist scholarship, is confirmed on ‘‘Defect 6: Esteticar
(Backbone Song)’’ as he sings: ‘‘Oh, lick me, inter-semiotic translation.’’ While Zé is
clearly suspicious of the logocentric theorizing of Western scholarship, it seems that
his catachrestic word play does share an (anti)intellectual position akin to Derrida’s
deconstruction (Margins 213). Following Derrida’s ‘‘I love words too much because I
have no language of my own,’’ the anti-logic of Fabrication Defect delves into a
‘‘poemusical’’ manifesto rife with word play directed at nothing less than the
destabilization of Western hegemony (quoted in Young 421).12 Zé’s iconoclastic
treatment of the ‘‘great men’’ of European history throughout the album serves to
unseat the logic and continuity of ‘‘the West.’’ In a sense, then, Zé’s ‘‘digestion’’ of
the forms and figures of the Western canon ultimately yields fractured artifacts and
Figure 2 Tchaikovsky meets Zé on ‘‘Juventude Javali’’—transcription of Zé’s lyrics and melody adapted from the D Minor Violin Concerto. Source: reproduced by kind
permission of Luaka Bop Records
Popular Music and Society 319
deformed heroes—products which facilitate myriad open-ended alternative anti-
On ‘‘Defect 6: Esteticar’’ Zé speaks in the first person as the subaltern android, the
antagonist of his oppositional project on Fabrication Defect. Here he describes how
we see him as a worthless nobody—an ‘‘empty-headed little monkey’’ and a
‘‘hillbilly’’ as well as an ‘‘automaton.’’ On the track, Zé engages in the sort of anti-
logical jujitsu described above, turning his defect into an asset. Zé sings:
Hold onto your seats milord, the mulatto Baião …
Tuxedo-izes himself in the esthetic of the arrastão
Ca esteti ca estetu … Ca esteti do plágio-iê
You think I’m a mad android laborer a mere mongoloid mongrel mameluke.
As the esthetic principles of arrastão describe, the urban thief runs ‘‘furiously through
a crowd, taking people’s money, jewelry, bags, sometimes even clothes.’’ As Zé’s alter
ego, the mulatto android, ‘‘tuxedo-izes’’ himself in this scene he is engaging in a
ritual appropriation of the symbolic upper-class power of his oppressor—again, a
postmodern vision of de Andrade’s ritual cannibalization.
Although not in the original Portuguese, Alex Ladd’s translations in the liner notes
for the US release capture much of the word play and alliteration. In addition, he
offers us a translation and thorough context of caboclo in a footnote as: ‘‘Inlander: A
copper-colored person (Brazilian Indian mixed with a white person).’’ In the context
of economic exploitation, he introduces the strategy of racial oppression symbolized
by the ‘‘mulatto…mongoloid mongrel mameluke.’’ Notably, Zé’s use of the term
‘‘mameluke,’’ shorthand for the historically yellow or brown warrior slaves of Islamic
regions, conjures up both the commonplace ‘‘miscegenation’’ in Brazilian society and
the oppositional potential that Zé finds among the racially mixed ‘‘skin and bones
tribe.’’ As Ladd describes in another footnote, the word play on estetica is a ‘‘play on
‘esthetics of plagiarism’ in Portuguese.’’ The alternation between ‘‘esteti’’ and
‘‘estetu’’ phonetically translates roughly as ‘‘this is yours’’ and ‘‘this is you.’’ Zé seems
to be saying that this esthetic of plagiarism is not only for the oppressed masses but is
indeed, of them. He is thus imploring the deployment of such plagiarism.
That Zé utilizes the simple rural musical style of baião to deliver his message
underscores the ‘‘slow-wit,’’ ‘‘hillbilly’’ stereotype of his oppressed worker while
again contrasting with the urban and futuristic android figure. On the song, a quaint,
lilting rhythm is supported by accordion and bochexaxado or Brazilian mouth harp—
among the simplest of instruments and symbol of the ‘‘hillbilly’’ music of American
Appalachia. It is quite likely that Zé intends to use this musical marker to capitalize
on stereotypes of the rural south and activate a subaltern analogy between the poor of
both (or all) countries. Thus, ‘‘Defect 6’’ the ‘‘Backbone Song’’ outlines the album’s
protest strategy through song as Zé dons the nonsensical, seemingly powerless
character of the mulatto android, engages in the violent arrastão strategy described in
the liner notes, and then steps outside character to challenge the oppressed to activate
the oppositional potential of their defect.
320 J. G. Rollefson
On ‘‘Defect 11: Tangolomango’’ Zé indicts the ‘‘native’’ rich complicit in the
oppression of their compatriots. Echoing Ortiz’s work on globalization, here Zé
reminds us of the historical reality of First and Third Worlds coexisting within the
same national boundaries. On the song, described as an arrastão of latin music, Zé
uses the symbol of the exotic but ‘‘classy’’ tango to represent those who have
swallowed the lies of Western capitalism and now live in gated communities in the
midst of subaltern gloom. With typically searing irony Zé sings:
The rich arrive at the dance arm in arm
The devil stuffs his belly arm in arm
… All reverence to the dollar, skirt hiked up
That’s the Tangolomango
Nowadays the rich man, poor thing
Is imprisoned, totally surrounded, all fenced in
Doormen, guards and alarms
Lord, find him a haven where he won’t be corralled
A cozy little place where he’ll live in peace
The passage is clearly intended to portray the ironic circumstances of the ‘‘golden
handcuffs’’ that will generate little sympathy from the poor. Zé, however, adds a
Faustian layer to the satire as we see the rich native arrive at the dance ‘‘arm in arm’’
with the foreign devil. While the musical style of the piece is not a traditional tango,
the prototypically fiery Argentine/Latin American dance music is often associated
with the Faust story as in Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale)—a
piece with which the conservatory trained Zé is no doubt familiar.
Zé further localizes the Faustian bargain by adding a second designation for the
piece: an arrastão ‘‘of the reductio ad absurdum of Father Antonio Vieiras’s sermon to
Saint Benedict.’’ The reference is to the infamous ‘‘Judas of Brazil,’’ a Jesuit engaged
in numerous colonial political and economic dealings in seventeenth century Brazil.
De Andrade mentions Vieiras by name in the ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto,’’ writing:
Down with Father Vieira. Author of our first loan, to make a commission. The illiterate king had told him: put that on paper, but without a lot of lip. The loan was made. Brazilian sugar was signed away. Vieira left the money in Portugal and brought us the lip. (De Andrade, ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto,’’ trans. Bary 39)
Zé is using the example of Vieiras on ‘‘Tangolomango’’ to highlight the brazen
hypocrisy of this prototypical Brazilian sell-out and his church.
In his reference to the reductio ad absurdum of Vieiras’s sermon, Zé is also
indicting the logical and refined rhetoric that Vieiras employed to sell his lies to the
Brazilian people. With his distinctly Derridian flair for textual deformation, Zé
criticizes Vieiras’s logocentrism in the concluding lines of the song, proclaiming: ‘‘But
the verbá, verbey/The verbiology of this politishitology/….And the cardio-philoso-
circusassology/Is the tangolomango.’’ It seems that de Andrade shared Zé’s distaste for
Vieiras’s rhetorical strategies, as Leslie Bary describes in her annotated translation of the
‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto:’’ ‘‘A noted orator and writer, Vieira is associated with formal,
Popular Music and Society 321
elegant rhetoric—a language directly opposed to the poetic idiom Oswald is forging for
Brazil. Nunes writes that Vieira ‘is for Oswald the strongest of all emblems of Brazilian
intellectual culture’’’ (45).13 Whether or not Zé ever read de Andrade, the two seem to
have arrived at remarkably similar positions on a variety of points: the distaste for
intellectual culture, the appropriation and deformation of the oppressor’s culture, the
eschewal of protective nativism and belief in cultural exportation, and the overarching
belief in subaltern agency. Zé’s Plagiarist project clearly owes an (anti)intellectual debt
to de Andrade’s Cannibalist project.
The deformed language of ‘‘Tangolomango’’ appears on the album cover in a blurb
issuing from the neck of Zé’s guitar (see Figure 3). In addition, we can see an excerpt
from the ‘‘Fabrication Defect’’ position statement from the inside of the liner notes
(right side: ‘‘some ‘inborn’ defects’’) and other terminologies from the album’s
lexicon: ‘‘plagi-combinator era’’ and ‘‘mad android.’’ Zé is here depicted by artist
Chris Capuozzo as the android with bolts on his right forearm, stitches in his left
forearm, and circuitry around his midriff.
Figure 3 Cover art on Tom Zé’s Fabrication Defect—the ‘‘mad android’’ Tom Zé.15
Source: reproduced by kind permission of Luaka Bop Records
322 J. G. Rollefson
Before concluding, I should like to point to one last ‘‘Defect’’ that captures the anti-
intellectual power, the vivid and brutal elegance of Zé’s poemusical project on Fabrication
Defect. On ‘‘Defect 13: Burrice’’ (Stupidity) Zé indicts the officially sanctioned Brazilian
‘‘celebration’’ of national diversity. Tongue in cheek, he describes the national project thus:
See how beautiful
In several colors … in various flavors: Stupidity is the subject
It’s taught in schools …
In the academies of laurels and letters it is present
On ‘‘Burrice’’ Zé gets to the heart of the matter of ‘‘agency.’’ The stupidity he sees is a
nation (and a world) that recognizes its need to work for social equity that can do no
better that engage in a hypocritical national campaign to celebrate diversity, without
adequately addressing the needs of the poorest people on Earth.
In the stirring conclusion of the piece, Zé exhorts his audience as though at a rally:
‘‘Ladies and gentlemen: if on this occasion I do not propose a commemorative
holiday to celebrate the sacrosanct glory of the national stupidity, it’s because every
day, thank God, from Oiapoque to Chúi, from the Pampas to the rubber tree jungles,
it is already celebrated, most gloriously celebrated.’’
As Ortiz commented in a 2004 Forum Barcelona talk, ‘‘There is no doubt that
cultural diversity is a fact. The problem is not being different, the problem is being
subordinate’’ (‘‘Madonna and Donald Duck’’). In both his and Zé’s view there are
simply two versions of ‘‘multiculturalism,’’ the kind that is implicated in political and
economic domination and the kind that is not. As Zé so eloquently states, for all our
postmodern/postcolonial intellectual theorizing and ethical hand-wringing—
Sandoval, Appiah, Spivak, Bhabha, Ortiz, García Canclini, Hall, Jameson, Erlmann,
and mine included—it is not for us to confirm or deny the humanity of any person.
As he argues, such inane claims celebrating human agency fuel the sadly ineffective
PR machine that multiculturalism has largely been reduced to.
As Walter Johnson wrote in a recent piece for the Journal of Social History entitled
‘‘On Agency,’’ the job of scholars is to ‘‘re-immerse ourselves in the nightmare of
History rather than resting easy while dreaming that it is dawn and we have
awakened’’ (121). That is, Johnson fears that in scholarly debates about the inherently
Western liberal notion of agency ‘‘we [academics] are using our work to make
ourselves feel better and more righteous rather than to make the world better or more
righteous’’ (121). As Zé argues, the defect of humanity will continue to express itself
despite the insidious over-writing of our own logocentric hegemony and regardless of
all attempts to understand, explain, represent, or celebrate it. For Zé, the ‘‘Fabrication
Defect’’ will ultimately undermine the fabricator.
Conclusion: Postmodern Platos
In 1999, only a year after the release of Fabrication Defect, Zé released his follow-up
project Postmodern Platos (Postmodern Dishes). On the album, Zé presents
Popular Music and Society 323
‘‘plagiarized’’ versions of his own songs from Fabrication Defect that are covered,
sampled, and otherwise reconfigured by other musicians including Amon Tobin, The
High Llamas, and John McEntire of Tortoise in a manner consistent with Zé’s
esthetics of arrastão. Although one might conclude that Zé’s project lacks the violent
oppositionality of the urban arrastão thief, his gesture towards an exchange of ideas
unmediated by international copyright law nonetheless subverts the multinational
corporations that stand to benefit most from the current economy.
As indicated by the ongoing intellectual property and file-sharing debates, the
recording industry is acutely aware of the tenuous control it has over its products.
Designed as a packaged product for individual sale, the CD and the binary code on which
it operates, is proving to be rife with ‘‘defects’’—it is too easily shared, its content too
difficult to control. As just one recent rupture in the multinational music industry’s
hegemony, the example of DJ Dangermouse’s worldwide free dissemination of the
plagiaristic Grey Album provides a prime example of artistic creation surmounting the
commodified media system—ironically via its own technologies.14 Perhaps then, Zé’s
project on Postmodern Platos does prove potentially catastrophic for the powerful and
the ‘‘fair use’’ laws designed to stabilize the inequity between the haves and the have-nots.
Clearly Zé sees his ongoing project as a redefinition of authorship and destabilization of
norms. Indeed, Zé’s 2000 follow-up album Jogos de Armar (Lying Games) is a similar
project that encourages the remixing of material through its inclusion of a second
‘‘auxiliary CD’’ containing audio samples used on the main album’s final song versions.
As he wrote in the position statement defining his ‘‘Esthetics of Plagiarism,’’ ‘‘We are at
the end, thus, of the composers’ era, inaugurating the plagi-combinator era.’’
With the album title Postmodern Platos, Zé once again (possibly unwittingly)
gestures to de Andrade’s Cannibalism. By regarding the reconstituted songs as
‘‘Platos’’ (Dishes), Zé throws into high relief the digestive and regurgitative qualities
of his plagiaristic endeavors. In light of Zé’s creatively technophilic project, its
engagement with Latin American theorizations of colonial modernity, and the plagi-
combinator’s pronouncement that the era of Western high artistic subjectivity has
ended, it seems appropriate to speak of Fabrication Defect as a kind of postmodern/
postcolonial ‘‘Cannibalist Manifesto.’’ Zé refashions and redeploys the Cannibalist
ideas in a manner consistent with the needs of a world vastly changed since de
Andrade’s modernist neocolonial epoch. While the political economy of con-
temporary society differs greatly from that of the past, the essential components
persist: oppression, subordination, exploitation, and poverty. Articulating a wide
array of postmodern and postcolonial discourses into an ideologically unified
‘‘manifesto,’’ Zé’s project on Fabrication Defect works with new tools to undermine,
deflate, and reconfigure the current socio-political hegemony such that these
ingrained cycles that reproduce subalternity might no longer function.
Thanks to Yale Yevelev at Luaka Bop Records for assistance.
324 J. G. Rollefson
 Bary writes: ‘‘the MA (Manifesto Antropófago) has retained more immediate scholarly and even popular interest as a cultural, as well as purely literary manifesto.’’
 For further discussion of the cannibalist lineage in Brazilian music and Tropicália, see Harvey, Moehn, Galinsky, and Perrone (‘‘Pau-Brasil’’).
 Similarly, Bary writes of de Andrade: ‘‘The MA (Manifesto Antropófago) challenges the dualities civilization/barbarism, modern/primitive, and original/derivative, which had informed the construction of Brazilian culture since the days of the colonies.’’
 For a discussion of the ‘‘antinomies’’ of musical nativism, see Tejumola Olaniyan, ‘‘The Cosmopolitan Nativist.’’ Another conservatory-trained musician turned political activist, the late Fela Kuti exemplifies the oppositional potential of musical nativism. Special thanks to Teju for inspiring this article and help with an earlier draft.
 See Hall (‘‘On Postmodernism and Articulation’’ 52). Hall speaks of ‘‘articulation’’ as ‘‘the connection that can make a unity of two different [discursive] elements.’’
 Chris Jenks writes ‘‘the practice of getting acquainted with reality reflexively involves the action of shaping, formulating and changing reality. This is Marx’s notion of ‘praxis’ and is instructive in understanding a Marxist approach to culture.’’
 See Hall (‘‘Old and New Identities’’). Hall describes this new hegemony as ‘‘a way in which the dominant particular localizes and naturalizes itself and associates with a variety of other minorities’’ (67). For a description of this view as applied to music, see Veit Erlmann’s ‘‘The Aesthetics of the Global Imagination’’ and Timothy Taylor’s Global Pop.
 See also Dunn (Brutality Garden 196–97) for a discussion of such ‘‘consciously ‘mispronounced’ names.’’
 A noted scholar of Spanish literature, Federico de Onís founded the PhD program in Latin American literature while a professor at Columbia University.
 Similarly, a recent article by Luis Madureira argues that de Andrade’s Cannibalism anticipated postmodernism.
 All translations from the original Portuguese reproduced here are from the liner notes by Alex Ladd.
 See Young (ch. 28) for a concise discussion of Derrida, catechresis, deconstruction, logocentrism, and post-structuralist thought.
 Bary is citing Benedito Nunes’s discussion in his French translation of the manifesto.  Joanna Demers’s work has examined the legal issues involved with Dangermouse’s remixing
of the Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album.  The album art on Fabrication Defect is by Chris Capuozzo at Funny Garbage.
de Andrade, Oswald. ‘‘Manifesto Antropófago.’’ Revista de Antropofagia 1.1 (May 1928). Appiah, Kwame. ‘‘The Postcolonial and the Postmodern.’’ In My Father’s House. New York: Oxford
UP, 1992. Baker, Houston A. Jr. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago,
IL: U of Chicago P, 1984. Bary, Leslie. Introduction to English translation of ‘‘Oswald de Andrade’s ‘Cannibalist Manifesto’.’’
Latin American Literary Review 19.38 (1991): 35–47. Bhabha, Homi. ‘‘Signs Taken for Wonders.’’ The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. Demers, Joanna. ‘‘The Grey Album and the Mainstreaming of the Remix Underground.’’ Paper
presented at the Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music US, University of Virginia, 16 October 2004.
Derrida, Jacques. Margins – of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P, 1983. Dorfman, Ariel and Armand Mattelart. How to Read Donald Duck. New York: I.G. Editions, 1975. Du Bois W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folks. Ed. David W. Blight and Robert Gooding-Williams. New
York: Bedford Books, 1997.
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Dunn, Christopher. Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 2001.
———. ‘‘Tropicália, Counterculture, and the Diasporic Imagination.’’ Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization. Ed. Christopher Dunn and Charles A. Perrone. Gainesville, FL: UP of Florida, 2001.
Erlmann, Veit. ‘‘The Aesthetics of the Global Imagination: Reflections on World Music in the 1990s.’’ Public Culture 8 (Spring 1996): 467–87.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Galinsky, Philip. ‘‘Maracatu Atômico’’: Tradition, Modernity, and Postmodernity in the Mangue Movement of Recife, Brazil. New York: Routledge, 2002.
García Canclini, Nestor. Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. Trans. George Yúdice. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2001.
———. Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity. Trans. Christopher L. Chiappari and Silvia L. López. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 1995.
Gates, Henry Louis Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.
Hall, Stuart. ‘‘Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities.’’ Culture, Globalization and the World System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity. Binghamton, NY: State U of New York P, 1991.
———. ‘‘On Postmodernism and Articulation: An Interview with Stuart Hall.’’ Ed. Lawrence Grossberg. Journal of Communication Inquiry 10.2 (1986).
Harvey, John J. ‘‘Cannibals, Mutants, and Hipsters: The Tropicalist Revival.’’ Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization. Ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn. Gainesville, FL: UP of Florida, 2001.
Jameson, Fredric. ‘‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society.’’ The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Ed. Hal Foster. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1983.
———. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991. Jenks, Chris. Culture: Key Ideas. New York: Routledge, 1993. Johnson, Walter. ‘‘On Agency.’’ Journal of Social History 37.1 (2003): 113–24. Madureira, Luis. ‘‘A Cannibal Recipe to Turn a Dessert Country into the Main Course: Brazilian
Antropofagia and the Dilemma of Development.’’ Luso-Brazilian Review 41.2 (2004): 96–125.
McClintock, Anne. ‘‘The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-Colonialism.’’ Social Text 31– 32 (Summer 1992): 32–67.
Meintjes, Louise. ‘‘Paul Simon’s Graceland, South Africa, and the Mediation of Musical Meaning.’’ Ethnomusicology 34 (Winter 1990): 37–73.
Moehn, Frederick. ‘‘Good Blood in the Veins of This Brazilian Rio, or a Cannibalist Transnationalism.’’ Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization. Ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn. Gainesville, FL: UP of Florida, 2001.
Nunes, Bendito, trans. ‘‘Le manifeste anthropophage’’ (Cannibalist Manifesto). Surréalisme périphérique. Ed. Luis de Moura Sobral. Montréal: U de Montréal, 1984.
Olaniyan, Tejumola. ‘‘The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity.’’ Research in African Literatures 32.2 (2001): 76–89.
Ortiz, Renato. ‘‘Diversidade cultural y cosmopolitismo.’’ Cultura y globalizacíon. Ed. Jesús Martín Barbero, Fabio Lopez de la Roche and Jaime Eduardo Jaramilla. Bogotá: U Nacional de Colombia, 1999.
———.‘‘Madonna and Donald Duck Have Stopped Being American Symbols. They Belong to the Imaginary Worldwide Group.’’ Address at Forum Barcelona 2004. 20 Sept. 2005. <www.barcelona2004.org/eng/actualidad/noticias/html/f044764.htm>.
———. Mundialização e cultura. São Paolo: Editora Brasiliense, 1994. Perrone, Charles A. ‘‘Pau-Brasil, Antropofagia, Tropicalismo: The Modernist Legacy of Oswald de
Andrade in Brazilian Poetry and Song of the 1960s–1980s.’’ One Hundred Years of Invention:
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Oswald de Andrade and the Modern Tradition in Latin American Literature. Ed. K. David Jackson. Austin, TX: Abaporu Press, 1992.
———. ‘‘Topos and Topicalities: The Tropes of Tropicália and Tropicalismo.’’ Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 19 (2000).
Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2000. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ‘‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’’ Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial
Theory. Ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman. New York: Columbia UP, 1994. Stam, Robert. ‘‘Tropical Detritus: Terra em Transe, Tropicália and the Aesthetics of Garbage.’’
Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 19 (2000). Taylor, Timothy. Global Pop: World Music, World Markets. New York: Routledge, 1997. Veloso, Caetano. Verdade Tropical. Sao Paulo: Companhia de Letras, 1997. Young, Robert J. C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001.
Zé, Tom. Com Defeito de Fabricação (Fabrication Defect). Luaka Bop, Warner Bros Records 946953-2, 1998.
———. Jogos de Armar. Luaka Bop, Trama Records TESN/111-2, 2000. ———. Postmodern Platos. Luaka Bop, Trama Records T010/063-2, 1999. ———. Se O Caso É Chorar. Gravações Electricas LP 2-07-405-288, 1972. Re-released as Tom Zé:
Série dois Momentos. Continental 857384242-2, 2000. ———. The Hips of Tradition. Luaka Bop 2-45118, 1992. ———. Tom Zé. RGE XRLP-5351, 1970. ———. Tom Zé. Rozemblit 50010, 1968.
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