Unicamp researchers have created a channel in which frogs sing and dance parodies and original songs with lyrics that reflect the results of research on toads, frogs and tree frogs for children; musical partners even include the grandson of Luiz Gonzaga (image: Papo de Sapo/broadcast)
April 13, 2022
André Juliao | FAPESP Agency – Born in Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, Raoni Rebouças had the opportunity to meet one of his musical idols, fellow countryman Elomar Figueira, when he was still learning to play the guitar at the age of 16. The musician’s reaction to the then-teenager’s first chords, however, was not encouraging. “It’s very bad. Aren’t you ashamed?”.
Despite the idol’s lack of encouragement, nearly 20 years after the episode, Raoni has become not only a musician, but also a designer and scientist. Shortly before the pandemic, challenged by a group of students from the Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia (UESB), where he is giving a lecture, he decides to show that he is capable of disseminating the research he is conducting on the natural history of amphibians to a wider group than that of researchers in the field.
The result is the channel talking frog on YouTube, in which Rebouças and a growing group of collaborators, even outside Brazil, make animated clips with fun scientific content.
In them, scientifically accurate frogs sing mainly rock, but also baião, moda de viola and vaneira to report the findings made at the Natural History Laboratory of Brazilian Amphibians (LaHNAB), coordinated by Professor Luis Felipe Toledofrom the Institute of Biology of the State University of Campinas (IB-Unicamp).
Rebouças holds a post-doctorate at LaHNAB, where he is one of the researchers of the project “The chytrid mushroom in Brazil: from its origin to its consequences”, supported by FAPESP and coordinated by Toledo.
“We had just published a work on the differences in sizes and vocalizations of frogs on the islands during the virtual walk for science. So I composed the the giant frog blues, I recorded all the instruments and called a colleague to record the vocals. This was the starting point for the first video, which eventually led to a spike in views for the article. I realized that I couldn’t stop,” says Rebouças, who has been drawing since childhood, but took an animation course before launching the channel.
“The channel advertises our work in a very neat and fun way, without ceasing to take scientific information seriously. Now I get videos of kids singing songs and, in a way, sharing science knowledge between other kids and the non-academic audience that used to be limited to scientists,” Toledo says.
From baião to meringue
Until early April 2022, the channel had ten clips. Five characters based on common frog species in Brazil take turns singing and playing instruments.
Rebouças composes the lyrics, plays almost all the instruments and coordinates the animation. Since the first video, however, several collaborators have joined the team, from the educational psychologist Denise Viana, who analyzes the lyrics of the songs before recording, to partners in animation, script, review of scientific information and voice.
It also stands out Natalia Aranha, member of the LaHNAB team. A master’s student at Unicamp’s LabJor, Aranha intends to use animations in amphibian conservation projects.
Another partner was Daniel Gonzaga, son of singer Gonzaguinha and grandson of Luiz Gonzaga. THE original songcomposed by Rebouças, speaks in forró rhythm of the the description of the kind Pithecopus gonzagaiin honor of the King of Baião, located north of the São Francisco River.
One of the clips was even sent to Lulu Santos, composer of suddenly california. Rebouças says he contacted the musician’s producer after composing suddenly, Noronhaon the introduction of the cane toad (Diptych of Rhinella) in the archipelago, at the end of the 19th century. “She assured me that he looked at it and that he liked it,” says Rebouças.
More recently, the group entered into its first international partnership. “We wanted to talk about the many species of colorful frogs in the Amazon. As in most countries where the forest is located, Spanish is spoken, so we thought of a rhythm that was common to all these places. The closest thing to it was the meringue,” says the researcher.
For the voices of the song, a parody of “La Billirrubina”, by Juan Luis Guerra, they invited the Ecuadorian pedagogue living in Switzerland Cesar Vera Lahuatte. The partner also recorded brass and piano and participated in the mixing.
The video, which ran for five months, is considered one of Rebouças’ favorites. The evolution of the team, which today uses some of the most advanced animation techniques, made them take the risk of producing an animated series intended for television broadcast.
In the team’s next attempt, characters from the clips, such as Filó (a cheerful little frog from the phyllomedusa) and Rã-zinza (the band’s macambúzio percussionist) embark on adventures in which they use their knowledge of the biology of the species and leave behind lessons on the importance of biodiversity.
“There are many cartoons with animals, but we wanted to make the first one which, in addition to being fun, provided precise scientific information”, he concludes.
The Papo de Sapo channel can be seen on: www.youtube.com/channel/UCPF7U3_O7kAtUc8URjl7lNQ/videos.