100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 6: The 1990s

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.

On the other hand, Brazilians revalorized their own historical roots. The great originality and variety of the nation’s music is observed in the creative fusion of diverse influences such as samba, sertaneja, Brazilian rock, samba-reggae, baião, forró, lambada, axé, electronic music, among many others.

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.

 

75) Sergio Mendes – “Magalenha” (1992) 

Sergio Mendes doesn’t need much introduction. Superstar from the 60’s, with a prolific career and enormous international success, he is “indelibly identified with the pop side of the bossa nova boom”.

“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’s Carnival.

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”).

 

78) Ivan Lins – “Madalena” (1993)

Songwriter, vocalist, and pianist, Ivan Lins came to fame in Brazil in 1970 when Elis Regina recorded his song “Madalena” and made it a hit. He has been an active performer and songwriter of Brazilian popular music and jazz since then, with numerous of his compostions recorded by remarkable Brazilian and foreign and artists, such as George BensonMichael Bublé,  Ella FitzgeraldQuincy Jones, Sarah VaughanSting and Barbra Streisand.

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.

After being recognized in his region, Chico Science joined Nação Zumbi; their first collaborative album, Da Lama Ao Caos, was released in 1994, from which the eponymous track was a major hit.

 

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 sertanejo romântico, 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.

 

85) Quarteto Jobim Morelenbaum – “A Felicidade” (1999)

A felicidade (“Happiness”) was composed in 1958 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes for the film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). The theme of this mesmerizing bossa nova song is the fragility of happiness: “Tristeza não tem fim. Felicidade sim” (“Sadness has no ending. Happiness does”).

“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.

 

Coming soon:

  • The 2000s – 2010s

 

100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 4: The 1970s

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 Creuza and 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.

The song was a huge success, being sung by the masses during Rio’s carnival, and became Brazil’s biggest hit of the 1970, projecting Paulinho nationally.

 

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 Baianos Antônio 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 nameFais 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.

It has been re-recorded many times by Brazilian and foreign artists such as Olivia Newton-JohnLiberace, Iggy Pop, and Pat Metheny. Nevertheless, I love this version, performed by “the muse of bossa nova”, Nara Leão.

 

39) Roberto Carlos – “Detalhes” (1971)

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.

 

44) Airto Moreira – “Tombo In 7/4” (1973)

The most iconic percussionist of the 70s –and still one of the world’s greatest, Airto Moreira (or just Airto) helped make percussion an essential part of modern jazz; he has collaborated with the greatest names of jazz such as Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Chick Corea.

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”.

 

45) Novos Baianos – “Samba da Minha Terra” (1973)

Os Novos Baianos is regarded as one of the most important and revolutionary groups in Brazilian music. They had a primordial role in the fusion of rock with Brazilian folklore rhythms, helping along the evolution of MPB. Formed in Salvador, Bahia in the late ’60s by Paulinho Boca de Cantor , Pepeu Gomes , Moraes MoreiraBaby Consuelo and Luiz Galvão.

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.

This was one of di Paula’s greatest hits; it was covered by artists like Two Man Sound and Sylvia Vrethammar.

 

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)

O Que Será (What may it be?) was composed by Chico Buarque for the film “Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos”, based on the book by Jorge Amado.There are three versions of this song: “O que será? (Abertura)“, performed by Simone; “O que será? (À flor da terra)“, sung by Chico Buarque; and the mesmerizing “O que será? (À flor da pele)“, in which Buarque is accompanied by the incomparable Milton Nascimento. The song has a deeply passionate tone, although there are many interpretations of its lyrics.

 

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 baiano Caetano 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.

This song (“Every girl from Bahia”) is a tribute to women from Bahia, and was reportedly inspired by Gil’s teenager daughter; it appeared in his album Realce.

 

62) Beth Carvalho – “Coisinha do Pai” (1979)

Beth Carvalho’s name is synonymous with samba, particularly the Mangueira Scola 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!

Coming soon:

  • The 1980s 
  • The 1990s
  • The 2000s – 2010s