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Translating the Language of Love

Brazilian Soul Singer Liniker Barros Brings Love into Focus

Like the softest Nappa leather, Liniker Barros’ voice shapes and cradles listeners like a second skin. It is such an honest and pure sound that you it takes a moment to notice the words are Portuguese and even your grammar school Spanish-language classes leave some interpretations, short. And at first glance, the band Liniker e os Caramelows, who keep pace with Liniker, offer a classic Bohemian, neo-soul vibe – but they are far and beyond any group of performers in recent history.

“I was put in the mind of Curtis Mayfield or some Rose Royce when I first heard the song Zero, and I was floored by the smooth delivery. It was a totally ‘chill’ feeling and Liniker is my go-to for Sunday afternoon relaxation,” Stanton Russell, a D.C.-based guitarist told Acumen. “This sound is what music was meant to be – even though I don’t understand one damned bit of it!”

With more than 1.5 million YouTube views of the Zero video in its first week, music lovers across the globe are taking notice of Liniker… and like Russell, many are moved beyond their own understanding.

“We’ve heard from people who say that while they can’t understand everything, they really feel the music,” she told NOW magazine. “Our lyrics talk about love, about the freedom to love, and it’s really beautiful when we see that we manage to touch people independent of what language they speak.”

That love was on full display at a Union Stage concert on D.C.’s Waterfront, August 29. Kicking it in cut-off denim shorts and combat boots, Liniker worked the room from the entrance, posing for selfies and chatting with fans, before taking the stage and tearing the house down!

Some, were easily moved to tears with the song Tua (Yours), the lyrics of which capture the emotions of being in love:

I thought of a song, my darling

That spoke of love, so c'mon

Gimme a kiss, cause I want your smell

Clinging to my sheets

I teach myself to have patience

The science who instigates myself

Already gone

I wanna walk around, with nothing,

Next to a good wine...

As a trans-Black woman, Liniker also brings the language of love from a truly unrepresented space. Raised by a single mother, Liniker recently told National Public Radio (NPR) that being Black, poor and queer has proven empowering, as society often overlooks the humanity of those outside the hetero-normative.

In Brazil, which has one of the world’s highest rates of anti-trans violence. At least 445 LGBT Brazilians were murdered -- victims of homophobia -- in 2017; a 30 percent increase from 2016, according to LGBT watchdog group Grupo Gay de Bahia.

“We need representation. Society tries to [make invisible] and de-legitimize our existence. It's extremely important — not just for me, but for each of us — to be occupying all positions, the stages and the countries to continue to resist and exist," she said. “[My] visibility as a singer helps me occupy spaces that aren’t the usual ones for transwomen. That representation is so important. Brazil remains a very transphobic, chauvinist, racist country, with a lot of hate speech. When a transwoman takes the stage, that alone is political.”

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