Daily blog: 29 November – Rocinha

A few days beforehand, Activity X on the 29th of november was announced to be a tour through the infamous favelas. The favelas are the slums of Brazil’s large cities, and are known for their violence and gang activity. Today was the day we were going to visit one of the best known favela of Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha.

Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro

We were picked up at our hostel by Renato da Silva, who is one of the founders of the organization that gave the tour. He took us to the favela by bus, where we disembarked. One of the first things we saw was a group of policemen armed with heavy FAL rifles. Since the 2014 World Cup, the police has tried to be in control of the main streets of the favelas by patrolling them in force and is quite successful, although the drug dealers still control most of the alleys in the favelas.

The first part of the “Favela adventure” took place at an indoor football court, where several matches were played, both by USB14.0 vs Rocinha and by mixed teams. Meanwhile, Dembore prepared another Brazilian barbecue for us and the local kids.


With the stop at the football court over, we embarked on our Favela adventure. Favelas are quite different from the slums in other parts of the world. For example, almost everyone lives in a house made of stone. The favela’s have stopped expanding horizontally, as there is simply no more available land surrounding Rio. Instead, they started growing vertically. If you are in need of a house, you can find a part of the favela where you would want to live and buy someone’s roof. You simply build an extra storey on the building and you have a home.

The favelas are often built against a hillside. The houses at the bottom of the hill are often more expensive, and cheaper housing is found at the top. Although the houses at the top have a better view, more room and less noise, doing groceries and buying furniture and appliances is more difficult, as retailers refuse to deliver to the top of the favelas and most people don’t own a car. For groceries you can take one of the many motorcycle taxis, which take you to the top of the favela for R$3, for anything larger you need to look for someone in the community with a van.

Another thing that’s different in favelas is the availability of electricity, sewage and, once a week, running water. There is a pumping station at the bottom of the hill that turns on the water for Rocinha for a few hours once a week. The inhabitants use this water to fill large blue storage tank on their roofs, which are a common sight.

Dembore took us to the DJ school that is funded with some of the money they earn by giving the favela tours. At this school, local kids can learn how to work with music. The school receives old equipment and support from DJs all over the world. Most of the work at the school is done by Renato and Dembore, who played us a sample of the music he makes. His Soundcloud page contains some samples of the music that is played here (https://soundcloud.com/djdembore-1)


The favelas have developed their own music genres throughout the years. Some of these genres are now known as Baile Funk, Funk Carioca, Favela Funk and Favela Tech. This music is often played at local favela parties, which used to be very rough:

“At these parties, it’s not uncommon to see 16-year-old kids with AR-15 and AK-47 automatic rifles in front of gigantic walls made of subwoofers.”


Speaking of parties, after the tour ended, some of the participants decided to check the Lapa district, a neighbourhood of Rio with lots of bars and clubs. Unfortunately, there was no Favela Tech, but a local band that covered Portuguese rock music. There were no guns either, except for Scofield’s Robin’s.