If there is one word can define the 1990s, that is globalization. With Brazil’s growing openness to the globalized nineties’ culture, greatest influence of foreign musical trends was unavoidable. The youth of that period would increasingly enjoy dancing -in night clubs- to the new electronic rhythms, such as techno, trance and house.
Globalization also made easy for Brazilian music to gain worldwide recognition. After pioneers like Carmen Miranda, many other names gave Brazilian popular music international publicity during that decade.
In the 90s, other styles like funk carioca and hip hop became popular among young people of the country’s Southeast, whereas the brega style “resisted” and was renewed, remaining popular especially in the North and Northeast regions.
These are the songs I chose from this period:
74) João Gilberto – “Eu Sambo Mesmo ” (1991)
One of bossa nova’s fathers, João Gilberto is a consummated artist since the fifties, with enormous international recognition since then.
His 1991 album João, with orchestrations by Clare Fischer, featured songs in English, French, Italian, and Spanish, plus old sambas and his version of Caetano Veloso’s “Sampa”. This song (“I Really Samba”) is the opening track of this wonderful album.
“Magalenha” was composed by musician Carlinhos Brown and is the second track of Sergio Mendes studio album Brasileiro. The energetic vocals by Carlinhos and the explosive rhythm of the Bahian percussionists are just electrifying … I dare you not to dance when you listen to it!
“Magalenha” appears in the soundtrack of the 1998 film Dance with Me .
76) Daniela Mercury – “O Canto da Cidade” (1992)
“The Queen of Axé”Daniela Mercury is well known for popularizing axé music, not only throughout Brazil, but also internationally. As a matter of fact, she enjoys a goddess-like worship in Salvador da Bahia.
Her second album, O Canto da Cidade (1993) was a national phenomenon, establishing her as the most popular Brazilian performer of the early ’90s. The title track of this album (“The tune of the city”), a celebration of her native Salvador, became a sensation and topped the charts. Not only was O Canto da Cidade the first Brazilian album to top a million in sales, but it remains her best-selling album to date, with millions of copies sold -and it continues to sell today.
77) Timbalada- “Beija Flor” (1993)
In the late 1980s the talented drummer Carlinhos Brown started to form percussion ensembles in his hometown Salvador; he simply gathered people in the streets and taught them basic percussion patterns. Eventually these gatherings grew into a band called Timbalada.Timbalada is credited with the revival of the timbal (a kind of drum used in candomblé), which had been nearly extinct before they began featuring it. Moreover, the band melted the rhythms of Bahia with those of Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean origin, such as samba reggae and axé and added some pop elements; the result is an interesting, extremely prototype sound. The band’s aesthetics also has a distinctive character: the vocalists make heavy use of body painting, which provides a tribal touch and adds to their originality. Timbalada is also well known for its regular participation in Salvador de Bahia’sCarnival.
Due to their innovative music and particular aesthetics, it didn’t take long until the band caught the attention of Brazilians -and the entire world, gaining deserved, huge popularity. Their first album, released in 1993, has one of their major hits, Beija-flor (“Hummingbird”).
He did release his own version of “Madalena” in his 1993 Minha História; in here though I include this marvellous, live version with Elis Regina, featured in the album Elis Regina e Ivan Lins – Juntos (Ao Vivo).
79) Chico Science & Nação Zumbi – “Da Lama Ao Caos” (1994)
From the mud flats of his natal Recife, Chico Science began to experiment with music, blending maracatu with reggae, funk, rap, and rock. The mixture of ancient folkloric Northeastern rhythms with world pop and electronic music would become referred as mangue beat (“mud beat”). Mangue beat eventually grew into a musical movement, one of the most characteristics of Brazil’s musical scene of the 90s.
80) Mamonas Assassinas – “Pelados em Santos” (1995)
Characterized as a satirical rock band, Mamonas Assassinas‘s sound consisted of a mixture of pop rock with influences of popular genres such as sertanejo, brega, pagode, forró, and vira. The only studio album recorded by the band, Mamonas Assassinas, with the hits Pelados em Santos“, “Vira-Vira” and “Robocop Gay” had a meteoric success, rapidly becoming diamond-certified.
Unfortunately, their career was tragically interrupted in March 2, 1996, when the group was the victim of a plane crash which caused the death of all its members, and a great national commotion. In spite of their brief success, the band continues influencing the national musical scene and being celebrated even now, more than two decades after its end.
81) Carlinhos Brown – “A Namorada” (1996)
Not only a talented percussionist, Carlinhos Brown is also a greatly praised composer and vocalist. After his success with Timbalada (see above), he decided to display all his musical virtues in his solo album Alfagamabetizado. For the album’s release, Carlinhos Brown performed many shows throughout Brazil, The United Status, Japan and Europe. The track “A Namorada” was the biggest success, even being included on the soundtrack of the film Speed 2, where he also made a cameo appearance performing the song.
82) Skank- “Garota Nacional” (1996)
Belo Horizonte band Skank became one of the most popular bands in Brazil in the ’90s. Mixing influences of pop music, reggae, ska and rock & roll, Skank reached the market with their first eponymous album. Their 1996 album O Samba Poconé includes one of their greatest hits, Garota Nacional. Although “Garota Nacional” literally translates to “national girl”, the song is not about the women of Brazil, as usually believed: it refers to the “girls of Bar Nacional”, a bar and nightclub in Belo Horizonte famous in the early 1990s for its beautiful female patrons.
83) Simone and Martinho da Vila – “Ex-Amor” (1996)
One of the greatest Brazilian female artists of all time, Simone is a sensuous singer with a signature low, mellow voice. Although having a more activist repertory in her beginnings, she later abandoned it in favor of more mainstream, romantic songs, with which she has enjoyed international success.
In this song she unites her voice with that of another iconic MPB and samba singer/composer: Martinho da Vila.
84) Chitãozinho e Xororó – “Luar Do Sertão” (1996)
With a 30 year-career, 30 released albums and the impressive 30,000,000 sold copies, Chitãozinho e Xororó are a real phenomenon in Brazil. The two singers were the first artists to successfully promote the fusion of “redneck music” (caipira) with urban pop, opening the field for a millionaire craze which would become known as sertanejoromântico, a genre that ultimately took all regions of Brazil -and many other countries. Indeed, Chitãozinho e Xororó have performed with artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Reba McEntire and the Bee Gees.
This song, Luar do Sertão (Hinterlands Moonlight in English) is a popular, old Brazilian song, one of the most recorded Brazilian songs of all time. Its simple verses praise the life in sertão (English: hinterlands or countryside). It appears in their album Classicos Sertanejos and counts with the participation of Simone.
“A felicidade” has had many re-recordings throughout the years; I love this one by the Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum, which features Antonio Carlos Jobim’s son, guitarist/vocalist Paulo Jobim, and his grandson, pianist/vocalist Daniel Jobim, along with cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and his wife, vocalist Paula Morelenbaum. With the exception of Daniel, all of the group’s members were members of Jobim’s final band before his death in 1994.
86) Ney Matogrosso – “Poema” (1999)
Famous for his singular countertenor voice, but mostly for his provocative stage costumes, make-up and daring movements, Ney Matogrosso has always been regarded as a controversial character. What nobody can deny is that Ney is an extremely talented artist. In fact, he was ranked by Rolling Stone as the third greatest Brazilian singer of all time.
He is best known as a member of the glam rock group Secos & Molhados, a phenomenon band during the 1970s. After the band split up, Ney pursued a successful solo career in Brazil and abroad, obtaining several Gold and Platinum records.
This song (“Poem”) belongs was released in Olhos de Farol, an album that celebrated 25 years of Ney’s solo career.
Brazil’s music transition into the 70s was marked by the consolidation of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira, Brazilian Popular Music) which now incorporates into its repertoire different rhythms, not only from Brazil’s different regions (such as the northeastern baião), but also from foreign countries (like Jamaican reggae). Standout artists of the 70s MPB are, among others, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Simone, Elis Regina, Rita Lee and Maria Bethânia.
The Jovem Guarda had already made its appearance in the 60s and was still very popular in the beginning of the 70s. Nevertheless, Brazil was under military dictatorship at that time, and the cultural elites accused these artists of being “alienated” from the country’s social and political problems; as a result, the movement soon lost its strength.
Without the presence of the nonchalant Jovem Guarda, a different genre of popular romantic music emerged, which would gain the pejorative epithet “cafona“, then replaced by “brega” (both words meaning “tacky”). Once the name got accepted by its fans, brega music became a trend and won a wide audience. Many artists belong to this genre, although its fame was consolidated by Waldick Soriano. Since the end of the Jovem Guarda, Roberto Carlos also approached a more romantic, brega style; nevertheless, he managed to establish his position as the country’s most popular singer.
The decade of the 70s, together with the 60s, gave some of the most beautiful and timeless songs of Brazil’s cultural legacy. I really had a hard time to choose just a few among the many great songs of this period. This is the list I finally put together:
32) Maria Creuza, Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes – “Eu sei que vou te amar” (1970)
This incredibly beautiful song (English: “I know I will love you“) was composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. Although initially recorded by Maysa, it would become a classic when performed live in Buenos Aires by Vinícius de Moraes, together with two iconic artists of Brazil’s music stage of the 70s: Vinicius’s favourite vocalist Maria Creuzaand his long-time partner, singer and guitarist Toquinho. He would later include it on his 1970 album En ‘la Fusa’ con Maria Creuza y Toquinho (also known as “Grabado en Buenos Aires con Maria Creuza y Toquinho”). The amazing melody by Tom Jobim, and Vinicius’ impassioned lyrics on the immortality of love would establish “Eu sei que vou te amar” as one of Brazil’s quintessential songs. Indeed, it was voted the best Brazilian song of all times in a survey organized by Revista Bula.
33) Wilson Simonal – “País Tropical” (1970)
“Tropical Country” was composed by Jorge Ben Jor, but it became a hit when singer Wilson Simonal released it on his 1970 Album, Simonal.
Over the years, the song would be increasingly credited to its author, overshadowing the success of the first version by Simonal. It has also been adapted by many composers and singers like Sergio Mendes, Ivete Sangalo, or even Shakira, but also by Jorge Ben Jor himelf, on his album Tropical in 1976.
34) Paulinho da Viola – “Foi um Rio que Passou em Minha Vida” (1970)
“It was a river that passed in my life” is the song that gives the name to the second album of carioca sambista (samba composer) Paulinho da Viola.
35) Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho – “Tarde em Itapoã ” (1970)
This is another fruit of Toquinho’s long partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, which would last until Vinicius death in 1980. Composer and performer with 50 years of sucessful career, Toquinho has to date 84 records released, over 450 compositions and about 8,500 shows in Brazil and abroad.
This song (“Afternoon in Itapoã”) immortalizes Itapuã as a serene, romantic and exuberant place, located 20 km from the center of Salvador de Bahia. Unfortunately, spending an afternoon in Itapuã is no longer the quiet program Vinícius and Toquinho described: the neighborhood became Salvador’s noisiest and one of the most polluted.
36) Chico Buarque – “Construção” (1971)
Brazil in the early 1970s was a land of paradoxes: under military government, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle” promised record economic growth; as a result, construction was booming. Workers though, would spend endless hours at the constructions and earned very little.
This was also a period when censorship hampered artistic freedom of expression. Fearing persecution, Chico Buarque spent a brief period of exile in Italy; but longing his beloved Brazil, he returned determined to show his disagreement with the situation. And he managed to create a masterpiece.
“Construction” is the chronicle of the life and death of a construction worker. The character of the song leaves the house, kisses his wife and children and goes to work. There he works “as if he were a machine”. Finally, he falls from the scaffolding in the middle of the street “like a package, disrupting the traffic”.
The lyrics are truly brilliant, written in dodecasyllable verses with each sentence ending with a proparoxytone word (that is, stressed on the antepenultimate syllable). The stanzas are repeated three times, with some keywords being changed position; these changes make the understanding of the lyrics ambiguous as it is not clear whether the worker dies as a result of the bad working conditions or he commits suicide, desperate in the face of his scant life prospect.
“Construction” would not be so overwhelming without the symphonic, imposing arrangement conceived by Rogério Duprat, who uses the orchestra as a sinister component, emulating the chaotic noises of the metropolis, its horns and buildings under construction.
The song is a strong critic of workers’ alienation in a modern, urban capitalist society; it is still a reference song to understand a thorny period of Brazil’s history. Deservedly, “Construção” was selected by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest Brazilian song of all times.
37) Maria Creuza – “Você Abusou ” (1971)
The BaianosAntônio Carlos and Jocáfi composed and first sung this beautiful song (“You abused”), which was successful with the sultry voice of Maria Creuza -who later married Antônio Carlos.
It became an international hit, particularly in France, where it was later adapted by Michel Fugain with the name “Fais comme l’oiseau”; other famous versions are those by Celia Cruz and Stevie Wonder.
38) Nara Leão – “Insensatez” (1971)
“How foolish” is a bossa nova song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. The song resembles Chopin’s prelude in E minor.
Latin pop superstar Roberto Carlos is a major figure in Brazil – and worldwide: his popularity as romantic ballad singer is perhaps rivalled only by Julio Iglesias.
During the 60s he initiated a major revolution; in a period when the Beatles were taking over the world, Carlos became their Brazilian counterpart as the leader of the Jovem Guarda. Initially a TV show, this “Young Guard” soon became not only a musical style, but also a behavioral, fashion and language influence to an entire generation. With his light music and simple lyrics, he was a deep contrast to “serious”, “somber” MPB. Managing to pursue a successful career throughout the years, Roberto Carlos is arguably the most successful romantic artist in Brazil, gaining the title of “The King”.
Together with his longtime partner Erasmo Carlos, he composed this timeless ballad whose lyrics are, according to Rolling Stone Brazil: “…among the most beautiful in the history of music, in any of the five continents”.
40) Gal Costa – “Vapor Barato” (1971)
Arguably one of Brazil’s most amazing voices, a representative figure of the Tropicália movement, an indisputable timeless icon. Gal Costa is a star that keeps shining for over 5 decades.
Back in the 70s, things were not easy for Gal. While all her friends had gone away, exiled by the dictatorship, she decided to stay in Brazil, as part of the “resistance”. And she managed to become the muse of Tropicália with the show Gal a Todo Vapor. Directed by Wally Solomon, the show was recorded in her outstanding double album Fa-Tal.
“Vapor Barato”, included in Fa-Tal is about the disenchantment of the post-1968 years, of course expressed in a very poetical, metaphorical way so as to remain under the radar of censorship. Although now considered a timeless song, it had been almost forgotten until filmmaker Walter Salles “rescued” it by including it in the soundtrack of the film Terra Estrangeira (Foreign land).
41) Jorge Ben – “Filho Maravilha” (1972)
Brazilians’ passion for football (soccer) is not a secret; therefore, a song devoted to a football player comes to no surprise. “Filho Maravilha” is a song written by one of the most important Brazilian artists, singer and songwriter Jorge Ben (later renamed Jorge Ben Jor), and refers to Brazilian football player João Batista de Sales, better known as “Fio Maravilha”.
Always innovative and open-minded, Jorge Ben has been a member of most of the important movements of 20th Brazilian popular music. He is the author of two of the most legendary samba songs: “Mas Que Nada” and “País Tropical“.
42) Sérgio Sampaio – “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (1972)
Sérgio Sampaio was not a mainstream artist. His elaborate lyrics, often with literary references (he was an admirer of Franz Kafka) did not enjoy much commercial success. Nevertheless, his enormous talent and his irreverent manners were invariably praised by critics and a selected public.
He did have one big hit, “Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua” (I want to throw my troops on the streets), a song that refers, as many songs of that period, to the military dictatorship and Sampaio’s wish that everybody goes out and express anything they had keep to themselves.
43) Milton Nascimento – “San Vicente” (1972)
Milton Nascimento is one of Brazil’s most talented and influential artists, with a sublime tenor voice “that often slips into an ethereal falsetto, (…) as that of an angel”, the New York Times once wrote.
San Vicente is one of his greatest classics; it has become an anthem, both in Brazil and other Latin America countries. Recorded in 1972 in the double collective album Clube da Esquina, it is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful songs of the Brazilian popular songbook. Milton has interpreted it with many other artists, of which those with the remarkable Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and the Argentinian iconic singer Mercedes Sosa are just marvellous.
This song was part of his masterful 1973 album “Fingers”, and was composed together with Uruguayan artist Hugo Fattoruso. What Airto probably never imagined was that “Tombo In 7/4” would become a huge mainstream success, until German group Bellini sampled it in 1997 to create the super hit “Samba de Janeiro”.
This song belongs to their third record, Novos Baianos F. C.; it displays the enormous talent of the band, particularly through the voice and violão (acoustic guitar) of Moraes Moreira, and the electric guitar of virtuoso Pepeu Gomes.
46) Raul Seixas – “Metamorfose Ambulante” (1973)
Raul Seixas is without any doubt one of Brazil’s fundamental rock musicians. In spite of his premature death at 44 years old in 1989, “Raulzito” –his nickname- remains a strong influence to popular music and a timeless idol for Brazilian people.
His expressive and existentialist discography was heavily marked by his collaboration with the outstanding novelist Paulo Coelho. From his numerous hits I find this song (“Walking metamorphosis”) is one of the most beautiful; it was released in his acclaimed debut album Krig-ha, Bandolo!
47) Fagner – “Canteiros” (1973)
Raimundo Fagner (or just Fagner) is a singer, composer, musician, actor and music producer. He has managed to remain highly successful from the beginning of his career in the 70s till nowadays, not only in Brazil, but also abroad -particularly in Spanish-speaking countries.
During his long career he has recorded in several countries and collaborated with many international artists, leading to the release of -so far- 35 albums (the last one in 2014). This song belongs to his debut album, Manera Fru Fru, Manera.
48) Nelson Cavaquinho – “A Flor e o Espinho” (1973)
Nelson Cavaquinho is -together with Cartola- the most talented and prolific samba composer: he left 600 compositions that have been recorded by some of the greatest interpreters of Brazilian music.
Cavaquinho composed the tune for this beautiful samba and Guilherme de Brito wrote the lyrics, which are among the most heartbreaking of Brazilian music: “Get your smile out of the way, ‘cause I want to go by with my pain”. Its tone is typical of the pair, usually pessimistic about love and life.
49) Secos & Molhados – “Rosa de Hiroshima” (1973)
Formed in 1971 by Ney Matogrosso, Gerson Conrad and João Ricardo, Secos & Molhados is one of few bands who led Brazil from bossa nova through Tropicália and then to Brazilian rock. Much of the group’s success, apart from their masterful first eponymous album (one of the biggest selling phenomena of the 1970s), was their extravagant stage presence, with heavy use of makeup and dramatic elements, and of course Ney’s signature counter-tenor voice.
“Rosa de Hiroshima” was originally a poem by Vinicius de Moraes. Its very powerful lyrics are a criticism to war; the poetic tone managed to fool censorship and became a huge success during the seventies.
50) Os Originais do Samba – “Saudosa Maloca” (1973)
Appreciated for their particular blend of traditional samba and humor, Os Originais do Samba became a commercial success, achieving three gold records during their long-lasting career. Their fame in Brazil extended abroad: they were the first samba group to perform and record at the Olympia in Paris; they also performed in the USA.
This song (“Nostalgic Shed”) belongs to the great paulista composer Adoniran Barbosa; it has been performed by many artists including Adoniran himself, but this version by Os Originais do Samba is my favourite.
51) Benito De Paula – “Meu Amigo Charlie Brown” (1974)
With his fancy dressing and emotional interpretations, Benito di Paula became the father of a new samba style, which would be known as sambão-jóia, a romantic and commercial genre precursor of contemporary pagode romântico.
52) Elis Regina and Tom Jobim – “Águas de Março” (1974)
“A a stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road”… “Águas de Março” describes the beginning of the rainy season in Brazil, the month of March, which also marks the end of the summer (in the Southern Hemisphere). The element of water is a metaphor for a rebirth, a promise of life. Both the lyrics and music have a constant downward progression much like the water torrent from the rain.
Tom Jobim wrote both the English and Portuguese lyrics. Although there were previous recordings, this is the version that many consider definitive; it was recorded by Elis Regina and Tom in the album Elis & Tom.
“Águas de Março” was named as the all-time best Brazilian song in a poll conducted by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, and the second greatest Brazilian song by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone .
53) Tim Maia – “Imunização Racional (Que Beleza)” (1975)
Musician and songwriter known for his humorous and ironic musical style, Tim Maia is regarded as one of the biggest icons of Brazilian music. Mostly acknowledged for introducing soul into Brazil’s musical scene; he also contributed to a wide variety of musical genres, such as funk, bossa nova, disco, romantic ballads, pop, rock, jazz, baião and MPB.
This song belongs to his fifth album, Tim Maia Racional Vol. 1. Although not well received by the critics at that time, it is now regarded as one of the best albums of all times, ranking 17 in Rolling Stone’s list.
54) Clara Nunes – “Juízio Final” (1975)
“Queen of Samba” Clara Nunes is considered one of the greatest of her generation. She was the first female singer in Brazil to sell over 100,000 copies of a record, and at the peak of her career she would sell more than a million copies of each album she released. Nunes was researcher of the rhythms and folklore of Brazil and the roots of black music, she even converted to Umbanda in her later life. She died in 1983 at the age of 40 years old; nevertheless, she remains one of the most popular singers in Brazil.
This song (the title means “Last Judgment”) was written by Nelson Cavaquinho, and belongs to her album Claridade.
55) Cartola – “Preciso me Encontrar” (1976)
Cartola is one of the most wronged cases of Brazilian music: he became known only at advanced age, although his songs had been often recorded by other singers. Nevertheless, he is considered one of Brazil’s quintessential artists.
This particular song, sophisticated and delicate as most of his songs, was released in his masterful second disc Cartola II. It was included in the soundtrack of the highly acclaimed film Cidade de Deus (City of God), and lately in the TV series 3%.
56) Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque – “O que Será (A Flor da Pele)” (1976)
57) Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento– “Caxangá” (1977)
Elis Regina is certainly one of the most talented singers to emerge from Brazil, often deemed the greatest Brazilian singer of all times. With her explosive personality and her sublime voice, she gained the respect not only of the Brazilian people, but also of the nation’s leading songwriters, who would line up to have one of their songs recorded by her. Elis’ death at the age of 36 shocked the whole country; nevertheless, she remains as popular after death as she was in life.
This beautiful song is interpreted together with Milton Nascimento, and belongs to her album Elis.
58) Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa– “Sonho Meu” (1978)
Maria Bethânia is one of Brazil’s biggest voices, with a long and successful career: she is among the 10 best-selling music artists in Brazil, having sold more than 26 million records. Talent seems to run in her family’s veins: Bethânia is the sister of the singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and of writer-songwriter Mabel Velloso, as well as being aunt of the singers Belô Velloso and Jota Velloso.
From her album Alibi comes Sonho meu (“My dream”), where her unique voice blends with another, incredible one: Gal Costa’s.
59) Caetano Veloso – “Sampa” (1978)
It is curious that in a city with great musical representatives like Os Mutantes and Demônios da Garoa, no one could decipher São Paulo better than the baianoCaetano Veloso. “Sampa” (short for São Paulo) is Caetano’s tribute to the city of São Paulo, known for its characteristic drizzle and the large number of migrants, especially from the Northeast region of the country (pejoratively called “baianos”).
Pollution, the reception to migrants, the multiple cultures and the dreams of their inhabitants are pictured in the elegant lyrics, so intense to make the song an all-time classic and transform the intersection of Ipiranga and São João Avenues in one of the most famous spots of the city. In the song, from the album Muito (1978), Caetano is accompanied by the group Outra Banda da Terra.
60) João Bosco – “O Bêbado e a Equilibrista” (1979)
A civil engineer-turned-singer/songwriter, João Bosco would become one of Brazil’s most formidable songwriters, with songs recorded by the country’s greatest artists. During his early career, he supplied Elis Regina with some of her best material; since Elis’ death he started to perform his own songs, becoming an emblematic figure in Brazil’s musical scene.
This is his most personal protest song (English “The Drunkard and the Tightrope Walker”), which was selected as the theme song of Amnesty International. I love this version, sung by Bosco himself, although “O Bêbado” was made famous mostly by Elis Regina. Written during the last years of a military dictatorship, it is a deeply metaphoric, poetic song, not easy to understand on a first read. The drunk represents the artists, poets and musicians who dared to raise their voices against the dictatorship, the Equilibrist is the hope for democracy, which at every “event” that disturbed the military (marches, etc), saw its existence threatened.
61) Gilberto Gil– “Toda Menina Baiana” (1979)
Already a star from the 60’s, Gilberto Gil is known not only for his innovative musical style, but also for political and environmental activism.
Beth Carvalho’s name is synonymous with samba, particularly the MangueiraScola do Samba. Singer, guitarist, cavaquinist and composer, she began recording in the mid ‘60s; her interpretation of “Andança” earned her the third place at the III Festival Internacional da Canção and became a classic of MPB, re-recorded by many great singers like Maria Bethânia, Elis Regina, and Nana Caymmi.
Her 1979 album No Pagode is considered a masterpiece, and featured this song, her biggest hit of all time. In the late ‘90s, the song was even sent to outer space in the space probe Pathfinder!
As the bossa nova movement evolves in the early 1960s, Brazil’s original aestheticism gives way to the introduction of political themes. The politicization of popular music would take shape under Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964 leading to the so-called “protest song“, of which one of the most emblematic is Caminhando (“Walking”) by Geraldo Vandré. It is the time of great musical festivals, when a “university” generation of composers and singers appeared. Artists such as Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo would be idolized by intellectuals and were instrumental in the creation of Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music) or MPB, a movement initially linked to political engagement against dictatorship.
The Tropicália movement was also a form of protest song that appeared during the same period; it was characterized by the eclectic blend of pop culture elements -such as rock- with the elite culture -the modernist and concretist schools of visual arts- having a more erudite and experimental character. The Bahians Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were the main exponents of this movement.
The Iê-iê-iê style (Brazil’s rock’n’roll of the 60s, the equivalent of France’s yé-yé) was “softer” in Brazil than in the USA or UK, adopting a more romantic style. This movement came to be known as Jovem Guarda(Young Guard) and had huge commercial success. Its more representative artists were Roberto Carlos, Erasmo Carlos, Tim Maia and Wanderléa, among others.
These are some of the greatest songs of this period:
11) João Gilberto – “Corcovado” (1960)
“Corcovado” was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim in 1960 and refers to Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Corcovado mountain. An English version was later released with the title “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars“.
This song was included in the album Brazil’s Brilliant João Gilberto, which was released in the United States in 1960. It was the record that introduced João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and bossa nova to the American audience, before Stan Getz scored a hit with “Desafinado”.
12) Carlos Lyra – “Minha Enamorada” (1960)
This song (“My beloved”) is the most successful fruit of Carlos Lyra’s partnership with “El poetinha” Vinicius de Moraes.
“Minha Namorada” was released during the bossa nova boom, but in terms of rhythm and melody it does not have much to do with it. It is a romantic, tender and sincere ballad; Lyra and Vinicius wrote other emblematic songs, but few were as perennial as this one.
13) Maysa – “O Barquinho” (1961)
One of Brazil’s most charismatic divas, known as “the Janis Joplin of Bossa Nova” due to her tumultuous personal life, Maysa would become influential for a whole generation of Brazilian artists.
This song (the title means “Little boat”) was reportedly composed by Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli while being with friends on a boat; suddenly the engine broke down, and the sound of the motor when they were trying to restart the boat made the tune for “O Barquinho”. It was re-recorded many times, but this is one of the most successful and beautiful versions.
14) João Gilberto and Stan Getz – “So Danço Samba” (1962)
Só Danço Samba became in instant classic with hundreds recordings over the decades. With English lyrics provided by Norman Gimbel, it gained immediate international popularity under the titles Jazz Samba, Jazz ‘n’ Samba or occasionally I Only Dance Samba (literal translation of the original Portuguese title).
15) Antônio Carlos Jobim – “Água De Beber” (1963)
“Drinking-Water” was composed by Brazil’s towering figure of bossa nova and one of the great songwriters of the centuryAntônio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by another fundamental figure in Brazilian music, the co-father of bossa nova, Vinicius de Moraes.
This was reportedly the first song composed in the new Brazil capital, Brasilia, while it was still being constructed. It has had many re-recordings; some great versions are those by Astrud Gilberto, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.
16) Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz – “The Girl from Ipanema” (1964)
This is arguably Brazil’s most iconic song; the sound of an era in which bossa nova was the lingua franca of the country and this song its anthem.
Summer 1962, Rio de Janeiro. The story goes that Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting at a bar near Ipanema Beach in Rio, when they saw the most beautiful woman walking by, and they immediately wrote this song down on a bar napkin! (not quite exactly the truth, though, read more here). The original version, Garota de Ipanema was released in 1962. Nevertheless, while an Ipanema girl named Heloísa inspired the song, it was another Cariocawho made it famous worldwide.
Astrud Gilberto was the wife of singing star João Gilberto, when she entered a New York studio in March 1963. João and Jobim were making a record of the song with tenor saxman Stan Getz. The idea of a verse in English came up, and Astrud was the only one of the Brazilians who spoke English. The song with the name “The Girl from Ipanema” was released and it rapidly became a huge worldwide hit. Indeed, it is the second most re-recorded song in history after The Beatles’ “Yesterday”.
17) Demônios da Garoa – “Trem das onze” (1964)
This song (English: “The 11 P.M. Train”) was composed by São Paulo singer and composer Adoniran Barbosa; it portrays, in a tragicomical way, the drama of a lover who lives in a distant suburb of São Paulo, and who cannot stay longer with his beloved woman because the last train will be departing soon, at 11 p.m, and his mother won’t sleep until he gets home. “Trem das Onze” is an example of both samba paulista (samba developed in São Paulo) and samba-de-breque (here).
It was released in 1964 and made famous that same year by the samba group Demônios da Garoa. It is one of the best known Brazilian popular songs and considered of the most representative cultural symbols of the city of São Paulo.
18) Moacir Santos – “Nanã – Coisa Número 5” (1965)
“Coisas” (“Things”) is the debut album by composer, maestro and multi-instrumentalist Moacir Santos. It was released in 1965; the ten tracks of the album were named as “Things” – numbered from 1 to 10. The LP was chosen by the Brazilian Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 100 best Brazilian records of all time.
19) Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 – “Mas que nada ” (1966)
If you want to hear good, uplifting samba, this is the song! Mas que nada (the English translation would be “come on” or “yeah! Right”) was the first hit of an artist who would became a real school within Brazil’s popular music, Jorge Ben (later, Jorge Ben Jor). It was an impressive hit in 1963, and the beginning of Jorge Ben’s career.
But I have to say I love this version by another great artist, Sergio Mendes. With this song he managed to go beyond Brazil’s borders in 1966, and then again in 2006 when he re-recorded with The Black Eyed Peas…
20) Walter Wanderley Trio – “Samba de Verão” (1966)
Although immortalized as an “easy listening” or “lounge music” artist, Wanderley music was at that time innovative and revolutionary. The percussive rhythms reminiscent of a Brazilian black tradition were not dear to many Brazilians; in fact most of his successful career took place in the United States.
21) Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes – “Canto de Ossanha” (1967)
In candomblé (an Afro-American religious tradition), there is no ceremony without the presence of Ossanha, the entity that holds the magic force – the axé– necessary in every ritual. Perhaps this is the reason why “Canto de Ossanha” is the opening track of Os Afro-Sambas, the third album emerged from the partnership between the music of Baden Powelland the lyrics of Vinicius de Moraes.
This syncretism of Brazil with Africa via Bahia, now so natural, was not taken for granted in the 60s. “Canto de Ossanha” helped the sound of Afro-Brazilian religions, systematically persecuted until two decades before, become an inextricable part of Brazil’s music and culture.
A great cover of this song was released in 2006 by Jurassic 5.
22) Caetano Veloso – “Alegria, Alegria” (1967)
“Happiness, Happiness” is a song written and performed by Caetano Veloso. Often referred to as “the Brazilian anthem of 1967”, it later appeared on his influential eponymous 1968 album.
This was the song that introduced the Tropicália movement to Brazil. The ideal exposed by the song lyrics was first presented at a memorable live performance in 1967, reinforced by the Argentine group Beat Boys, who added visual aesthetics. It was a hit at the time, and was often sung during public manifestations in favor of impeachment.
23) Wilson Simonal – “Nem Vem Que Não Tem” (1967)
An emblematic figure of Brazil’s popular music, Wilson Simonal was a singer with great success in the 1960s and 1970s, although he was relatively unknown outside of South America.
This is his biggest international hit (the title would be translated as “Don’t even think about it!”); it was adapted and recorded by French singer Zanini, who made a hit with the song “Tu veux ou tu veux pas”.
24) Edú Lobo and Marília Medalha – “Ponteio” (1967)
A singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer, Edú Lobo is one of the driving forces behind the MPB movement. He has worked with the most important Brazilian artists and his songs were covered by big names of international music such as Sarah Vaughan and Earth, Wind & Fire.
This is one of his most famous songs, performed here with Marília Medalha; with this song they were the winners of the III Festival de Música Popular Brasileira/FMPB in 1967.
25) Chico Buarque and Mpb4- “Roda Viva” (1967)
Arguably one of Brazil’s most renowned songwriters and singers, Chico Buarque is an iconoclastic figure in post-bossa nova Brazilian music. With his distinctive voice, elegant phrasing, and considerable skill at lyric writing, Buarque became extremely popular in the 1960s –particularly among women, as he was very handsome. However, Buarque resented the role of pop star and chose to be seen as a serious artist.
Roda Viva (“The wheel of life”) is a song that Buarque wrote for the eponymous play; it was a criticism to the obsessive fan culture. During the play, the pop star protagonist was literally torn apart and his flesh consumed by his fans; the performers would also offer the audience pieces of the dead pop star’s flesh to eat (it was chicken meat). Needless to say, the military dictatorship in charge those years did not like the idea of the play and soldiers were sent out to disrupt the performances, destroy sets and assault performers; Chico Buarque himself was briefly jailed.
26) Os Mutantes – “Panis Et Circenses” (1968)
Os Mutantes(“The Mutants”) are one of the most talented and influential Brazilian psychedelic rock bands that were linked with the Tropicália movement. Their unique blend of psychedelic rock, bossa nova, tropicália and samba has inspired many contemporary American and European artists, who cite Os Mutantes as a major influence. With many changes from the original line-up featuring Rita Lee, Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias, the band has been active since then, with their last album being released in 2013.
The title of this song means “Bread and Circuses”, and it is an allusion to the classical poet Juvenal, who scorned ancient Romans for their easy and predictable manipulation through bread and circus. The song, in turn, is a satire of bourgeois conventions. In the lyrics, a first-person poetic voice tries desperately to alarm the family, to snap them out of their mental and physical stagnation; the attempt is futile. During these early years of military rule in Brazil, when economic liberalization brought quick financial boons to the complaisant and complicit upper middle class, expressions of rejection of these mores were frequent in Brazilian music.
27) Caetano Veloso – “Tropicália” (1968)
The opening track of the first tropicalista album by Caetano Veloso, “Alegria, Alegria”. It was very popular upon its release in Brazil, and the Brazilian press used the song title “Tropicália” to christen the larger artistic movement it represented “Tropicalismo”, to the disdain of Caetano himself. Later it was re-recorded by Gal Costa and inspired a homonymous song, released by the American Beck, declared lover of the movement.
Although Caetano has expressed displeasure with the album, it often shows up on lists of greatest Brazilian albums, and was inducted into the Latin Grammy Award Hall of Fame in 2001.
28) Geraldo Vandré – “Pra não dizer que não falei das flores” (1968)
Also known as “Caminhando” (“Walking”; or “Not to say that I haven’t spoken about the flowers”), it was composed by Geraldo Vandréand was presented at the III International Festival of Song of TV Globo in 1968 where it ranked second (the winner was “Sabiá”). It caused a great controversy at that time because the public, mostly students thirsting for protest songs, booed the jury’s decision and made the explosive “Pra Não Dizer…” a sort of anthem of a generation.
The song was considered by the dictatorship a mockery of the armed forces; public playing of the song was forbidden, all the registers of Vandré’s presentation at the festival were deleted, and Vandré became one of the most hunted persons in the country, forced eventually to flee the country. The song was finally released 11 years later, with the end of dictatorship.
Walking is still used to remember the situation the country was going through at the time and to keep alive the memories of those who were victims of the hard times of dictatorship. It has been re-recorded many times, of which one of the most iconic is the one by Simone; the latter was lately sampled by Reboot and Federico Scavo.
29) Gilberto Gil – “Domingo No Parque” (1968)
With this song (“Sunday at the park”) Gilberto Gil got the second place at the 1967 III Festival of Popular Music, accompanied by Os Mutantes; it was later released in the album Gilberto Gil (1968). Gil, together with Caetano Veloso, became the leader of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement. His musical style provided a more universal sound to the music played at that time, mixing electric guitar with traditional Bahian elements, such as the sound of the berimbau. He is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s, and the world’s most celebrated singer/songwriters, with a musical career that has successfully spanned six decades and hits in each one.
30) Noriel Vilela – “Dezesseis Toneladas” (1969)
With his signature deep bass voice, Noriel Vilela made a career first as a member of the samba vocal group Cantores de Ebano. His 1969 solo album “Eis o Ôme” is a succession of sambalanço songs with strong afro influence. This was Vilela’s greatest hits, which is a Portuguese version of the American classic “Sixteen Tons” by Ernie Ford and Merle Travis.
The latest years Vilela enjoys a cult revival among fans of sambalanço. In 2014 “Dezesseis Toneladas” was used for a famous beer commercial, and since then it has been re-recorded several times.
31) Erasmo Carlos – “Sentado à Beira do Caminho” (1969)
The song describes the despair and hopelessness of a lover waiting for his beloved; it became an instant hit and was adapted in many languages, the most famous version being the Italian by Ornella Vanoni with title “L’appuntamento”. Vanoni’s version was included in the musical score of the film Ocean’s Twelve.
In my previous post I presented an overview of Brazil’s music history and styles. This article will focus on the music of the first half of the twentieth century.
During this period, Brazil’s Teatro de Revistabecame a very popular genre, inspired by European operetta. It reached its peak in the 30s and revealed talents like Carmen Miranda, Wilza Carla, Dercy Gonçalves and Elvira Pagan, who had immense success.
Also in the late 1930s, the so-called Radio Era began in Brazil. As the process of recording discs was still primitive with poor quality results, the radio became the preferred circulation channel for new productions. This communication medium played an important role on the diffusion of popular music until well into the 1950s, but it quickly lost space when television became popular. Some performers that conquered the national audience were Dolores Duran, Dalva de Oliveira, Cauby Peixoto, Nora Ney, Emilinha Borba, Marlene, Vicente Celestino and Ângela Maria.
During this period the popularity of samba intensifies, and by the end of the 50’s bossa nova starts making its appearance.
These are 10 representative songs of the 30s – 40s – 50s:
1) Francisco Alves – “Aquarela do Brasil” (1939)
Known in the English-speaking world simply as “Brazil“, it’s one of the most famous Brazilian songs, written by Ary Barroso. With this song, he created the genre known as samba exaltation for speaking of Brazil’s great qualities. “Aquarela do Brasil” became successful after being included in Walt Disney’s animated film Saludos Amigos. Since then, it has been recorded numerous times throughout the years, and was featured prominently in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil.
After “Garota de Ipanema”, it is the most recorded Brazilian song in the four corners of the planet. This wonderful original version was performed by Francisco Alves; other great covers are those by Elis Regina and João Gilberto.
2) Dorival Caymmi – “O Mar” (1940)
No other composer of Brazilian music portrayed the sea as well as Dorival Caymmi. Among all his songs this one is certainly one of the greatest classics and has been recorded in other languages by interpreters from all over the world. The vastness of the sea of his native Bahia was Caymmi’s greatest inspiration for this song.
3) Carmen Miranda – “Tico-Tico No Fubá” (1947)
Although first presented in 1917, it reached the peak of popularity in the 40s. One of its most successful versions is the one by Ademilde Fonseca in 1942. This is one of the songs that contributed to the internationalization of Brazilian music, mostly since it featured in several American films, such as Copacabana (1947), in which it was eternalized by the iconic fruit-basket head-dressed Carmen Miranda.
4) Luiz Gonzaga – “Asa Branca” (1947)
Written by Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Teixeira, asa branca (“white wing”) refers to a bird of the parched sertão (the semi-arid region in Northeastern Brazil ). The picazuro pigeon symbolizes peace, longing and exile. But the evocative lyrics of the song speak of the difficult conditions of sertanejo’s life. The bird flaps wings to find a better life and the protagonist of the song does the same. But he promises to his love that someday he will return, when the rain falls again. There are more than 300 versions of this song, but no interpretation beats the one by Gonzaga.
5) Waldir Azevedo – “Brasileirinho” (1947)
Waldir Azevedo is one of the most famous cavaquinho players of Brazil. This song, representative of the choro genre, would become a reference for all the instrumentalists of Brazil and was a huge success from the moment it was released.
6) Noel Rosa – “Conversa de Botequim ” (1950)
Launched in 1935, this samba perpetuates one of the lightest and most relaxed lyrics of that time. It was written, however, in a tense time – marked by the 1930 Revolution in Brazil and by the crack of the New York Stock Exchange. The most acclaimed versions are by Aracy de Almeida, Chico Buarque and by Noel himself, one of its authors.
7) João Gilberto – “Chega de Saudade ” (1958)
This song is often considered to be the first recorded bossa nova song. The music was composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and the lyrics were written by Vinícius de Moraes. João Gilberto‘s version is the most famous, although the original one was recorded one year later.
The title can be translated roughly as “enough longing,” though the Portuguese word saudade carries a far more complex meaning. The word implies an intensity of heartfelt connection that is yearned for passionately. Chega means no more, enough.
8) João Gilberto – “Desafinado” (1958)
There are countless recordings of this classic bossa nova song, but this one arguably surpasses all the others. Composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim, it was released in João Gilberto‘s seminal album Chega de Saudade. Its strange melody, its deliberate debauchery and the incomparable guitar sound had never been heard before. Although Brazil had already exported some songs before this one, nothing compared to the impact that “Desafinado” had when it was recorded in 1962 by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd for the album Jazz Samba. It was the music that definitively put bossa nova in the international scene and took Brazilian music to an era of modernity.
“Desafinado” means “out of tune” and was a response to critics who claimed that bossa nova was a new genre for singers who can’t sing.
9) Dolores Duran – “A Noite do Meu Bem” (1959)
This samba-canção is the most famous song of carioca Dolores Duran and the one that best defines her particular style. A successful singer in a country that, at that time, had no tradition of women composers, Dolores gained more popularity after her death at age 29, one month after releasing this song.
10) Luiz Bonfá – “Manhã De Carnaval ” (1959)
The most notorious composition of carioca violinist Luis Bonfá was used in the soundtrack of the film Orfeu do Carnaval (Black Orpheus) directed by Marcel Camus. The film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960, after which this beautiful song conquered the entire world.