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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 23:54 GMT
Stinging rebuke for slap song
Dancers perform a mock slapping routine to the Slap On The Cheek song
Slap On The Cheek has become a big hit in Salvador
While Eminem's lyrics about domestic violence has been causing controversy in both the UK and the US in recent days, in Brazil a song about slapping a woman has brought protests ahead of Mardi Gras week.

Slap On The Cheek (Tapa na Cara) is about a woman inviting her lover to hit her and has been an instant success in Salvador, the country's former colonial capital.

But as the BBC's Tom Gibb reports, it is a slap in the face for campaigners against sexism and machismo.

The city's mayor has called for it to be banned, some radio stations have refused to play it and women's groups have protested that it promotes domestic violence.

"When we make love, what does she ask for? S-S-Slap in the face," sings Alex Xela, the 19-year-old male vocalist of the samba group Pagod'art.

"Come on, I'll let you have it, Mama," the lyrics continue.

The row echoes the controversy over Eminem's lyrics
In an accompanying dance, men pretend to slap their partners, women sway right and left as if reeling from the fake blows.

But "slaps turn into punches, and things get really ugly," according to Jose Barreto, a press spokesman for the mayor's office in Salvador.

'Women are furious'

He says: "A lot of women are furious with the song."

So Mayor Antonio Imbassahy made an appeal to performers, radio stations and carnival organisers not to play Face Slap.

Many stations took it off the air, and hometown star Daniela Mercury refused to perform it.

If a slap is normal, what's next: rape?

Congresswoman Lara Bernardi
But another of Brazil's top singers, Carlinhos Braun, says he will be performing Tapinha Cara during carnival.

He denies it is a slap on the cheek for the mayor and says it is just giving the people what they want.

Xela said the song was based on a relationship with a former girlfriend who had asked him to hit her while they made love.

'It's affectionate, not violent'

"But it was affectionate, not violent," he said in a television interview, adding that he had asked his mother for advice on the issue.

"She said: 'Hit her, she'll like it,"' said Xela.

The row has echoes of the controversy over US rapper Eminem's lyrics, which critics say are homophobic, misogynistic and likely to encourage to violence towards women.

The theme of physical violence - especially toward women - has become more common in Brazilian pop music in recent years.

Much of it comes from a rap-influenced style of music called "funk" which has spread from the shantytowns to middle-class dance halls.

The government's National Council of Women's Rights issued a public rebuke of songs which trivialise violence against women.

It's all make-believe - pretend sex and pretend pain.

Anna Veronica Mautner
Congresswoman Lara Bernardi said: "If a slap is normal, what's next: rape?"

But Anna Veronica Mautner, a sociologist and psychoanalyst from Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo, believes the dance trend is harmless.

She says: "It's all make-believe - pretend sex and pretend pain.

"The woman joins the dance as an equal, provoking the man but ducking away from him. It has the same spirit as the apache dance."

Carnival in Brazil means four days of drinking, dancing

The government has handed out 22 million free condoms in an attempt to promote the safe sex message in a country where Aids and teenage pregnancies are growing problems.

See also:

22 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem: Courting controversy
07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem: Poet or bigot?
06 Mar 00 | Americas
In pictures: Rio Carnival
15 Feb 99 | Americas
Dancing the samba beat
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