Born in Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, Raoni Rebouças had the opportunity to meet one of his idols in music, 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 is very bad. You do not have shame?”.
Despite the idol’s lack of encouragement, almost 20 years after the episode, Raoni became not only a musician, but also a designer and scientist. Shortly before the pandemic, challenged by a group of students from the State University of Southwest Bahia (UESB), where he was giving a lecture, he decided to show that he was capable of disseminating the research he carried out on the natural history of amphibians to a broader group than that of researchers in the area.
The result is the channel frog talk on YouTube, where Rebouças and a growing group of collaborators, even from outside Brazil, make animation clips with fun scientific content.
In them, scientifically accurate frogs sing mainly rock music, but also baião, viola moda and vaneira to report discoveries made at the Laboratory of Natural History of Brazilian Amphibians (LaHNAB), coordinated by professor Luis Felipe Toledofrom the Institute of Biology at the State University of Campinas (IB-Unicamp).
Rebouças is a postdoctoral fellow at LaHNAB, where he is one of the researchers in the project “The chytrid fungus in Brazil: from its origin to its consequences”, supported by FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation) and coordinated by Toledo.
“We had just published a job on the differences in sizes and vocalizations of frogs on islands when the Virtual March for Science took place. So I composed the Giant Toad Blues, I recorded all the instruments and called a colleague to record the voice. It was the starting point for the first video, which eventually led to a spike in hits on the article. I realized that I couldn’t stop”, says Rebouças, who has been drawing since childhood, but took an animation course before starting the channel.
“The channel promotes our work in a very well-done and fun way, while taking scientific information seriously. Now I receive videos of children singing the songs and, in a way, disseminating among other children and the non-academic public scientific knowledge that was once limited to scientists”, says Toledo.
From baião to meringue
Until the beginning of April 2022, the channel had ten clips. Five characters based on frog species common in Brazil take turns singing and playing the 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 psychopedagogue Denise Viana, who analyzes the lyrics of the songs before recording, passing through partners in animation, script, review of scientific information and vocals.
It still stands out Natalia Aranha, part of the LaHNAB team. 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 a forró rhythm about the description of the kind Pithecopus gonzagainamed after the King of Baião, found north of the São Francisco River.
One of the clips was even forwarded to Lulu Santos, composer of suddenly california🇧🇷 Rebouças says that he contacted the musician’s producer after composing Suddenly, Noronhaon the introduction of the cane toad (rhinella diptycha) in the archipelago, at the end of the 19th century. “She assured me that he watched it and liked it”, says Rebouças.
More recently, the group made its first international partnership. “We wanted to talk about the many species of colorful frogs in the Amazon. As in most of the countries where the forest is located, Spanish is spoken, so we thought of a rhythm that would be common to all these places. The closest we got 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 based in Switzerland Cesar Vera Lahuatte. The partner also recorded brass and piano and was part of the mix.
The video, which took five months to complete, is considered one of Rebouças’ favorites. The evolution of the team, which today uses some of the most advanced animation techniques, made them risk producing an animation series to be shown on TV.
In the team’s next venture, characters from the clips, such as Filó (a cheerful frog of the genre Phyllomedusa) and Rã-zinza (the band’s glum percussionist) live adventures in which they use knowledge about the biology of species and leave lessons on the importance of biodiversity.
“There are many cartoons with animals, but we wanted to make the first one that, in addition to being fun, brought accurate scientific information”, he concludes.
The Papo de Sapo channel can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/channel/UCPF7U3_O7kAtUc8URjl7lNQ/videos🇧🇷
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Cartoon narrates scientific discoveries about amphibians in a fun way – Guarulhos Hoje
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