Born in Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, Raoni Rebouças had the opportunity to meet one of his musical idols, fellow countryman Elomar Figueira, while 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 Papo de Sapo YouTube Channelin which Rebouças and a growing group of collaborators, even outside of 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 Luís Felipe Toledo, of the Institute of Biology from the State University of Campinas (IB-Unicamp).
Rebouças is a postdoctoral researcher 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 the Fundação de Amparo at Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp) and coordinated by Toledo.
“We had just published an article about the differences in sizes and vocalizations of frogs on the islands when the Virtual Walk for Science took place. So I composed the Giant Frog Blues, 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 highlights our work in a very well done and playful 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.
Also worth noting is Natalia Aranha, who is part 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 song, composed by Rebouças, speaks in Forró rhythm of the description of the species Pithecopus gonzagai, in honor of the King of Baião, found 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, Noronha, about the introduction of the cane toad (Rhinella diptycha) in the archipelagoalways at the end of the 19th century. “She assured me that he had looked at it and that he had 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 common rhythm in 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 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 happy frog of the genus Phyllomedusa) and Rã-zinza (the band’s macambúzio percussionist) embark on adventures in which they use their knowledge of biology of the species and 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.
*With information from the SP Government Portal