17 February 2010

A Taste of Brazilian Music

Chris sent our class some examples of some of his favorite Brazilian musical styles. We hope you enjoy this small taste of some Brazilian music!

1. João Gilberto: “Eu Vim da Bahía” (Gilberto Gil), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WA_eG5Lliw. To begin, I would recommend a couple of songs that go back to the period when the style of music known as bossa nova was invented. Bossa nova, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, took the traditional form of music and dance known as samba and wedded it to jazz harmonies presented in a soft, cool, personal form. This, my first choice, is a performance by one of the inventors of Bossa Nova, João Gilberto. The title of the song means “I came from Bahia” (in other words, from Salvador and the region roundabout). It is a celebration of the beauty of Bahia. It also takes note of the fact that, although the people have nothing to eat, “they don’t die of hunger, because in Bahia they have Mãe Yemanja and, on the other side, Our Lord of the Good End, who help the Bahian to live, to sing, to samba, for real—to die of joy,” and so on. We will be discussing the orixá Mãe Yemanja (an object of Candomblé devotion) as well as Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good End). Both are important to the religious orientation of many Brazilians, and certainly of many Bahians. The song is written by Gilberto Gil, in his own right a crucial figure in Brazilian music of the last fifty years. (The accompanying YouTube video is a bit incongruous: old black and white footage of Rio—rather than Bahia.)

2. Miúcha (and Tom Jobim): “Samba do Avião” (Antonio Carlos Jobim), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8a0-yEY9gs. “Samba of the Airplane” is another song from the Bossa Nova period. This one is by the most famous of modern Brazilian songwriters, Antonio Carlos (or Tom) Jobim. If my first recommendation celebrates Bahia, this is an equally enthusiastic encomium to the beauty of the city into which we will first be flying (“My soul sings, I can see Rio de Janeiro …”). In fact, we will arrive in an airport named after the composer of this song. The singer is Miúcha, wife of João Gilberto (not to mention sister of the great Chico Buarque and mother of Bebel Gilberto).

3. Chico Buarque: “Samba de Orly” (Chico Buarque de Hollanda, Toquinho, Vinícius de Moraes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfpjEeK1Jeg; and “Apesar de Voce” (Chico Buarque de Hollanda) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7xRtSUunEY. Two from Chico Buarque. What can one say about him? Strongly influenced by Bossa Nova, Chico Buarque was one of the mainstays of the group of singer-songwriters who shaped what is known as Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB) in the 1960s. A musician, poet, dramatist, novelist. My two selections are from the political Chico. That is to say, the lyrics are not explicitly political, but they reflect the always cleverly subtle protest necessitated by the brutality of the military regime that ruled Brazil for about twenty years following the coup of 1964. “Samba of Orly” from 1970 (Orly was then the main Paris airport) speaks in the voice of one tearfully enduring exile, asking his friend, returning to Brazil, to “kiss my Rio de Janeiro.” “Apesar de Voce” (“In Spite of You,” 1978) is an equally clever statement of defiance of someone who is trying to suppress “our euphoria,” an effort the singer insists will finally be unsuccessful (“In spite of you, tomorrow will be another day.”) The YouTube video that accompanies this song undermines whatever subtlety there is in the lyrics. Both of these selections from Chico Buarque reflect the kind of samba (including instrumentation) one would hear in the streets during Carnaval.

4. Several by Jorge Ben: “Fio Maravilha,” “Mas Que Nada”, “Zazueira”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_LbzxOWZqs; “ Xica da Silva,”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P-85wYV-e8. Jorge Ben is an eclectic musician-songwriter who began in the 1960s writing in a Bossa Nova-Samba-Jazz idiom and gradually moved more in the direction of funk. Ben (who later changed his name to Ben Jor) influenced many who sought to wed Brazilian styles to the soul and funk of North American Black music. These videos represent his core output from the 1960s as well as new directions in the 1970s.

5. Marisa Monte: “Carinhoso” (Pixinguinha / João de Barro), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vp2y_Doe4w. To move now in a slightly different direction (and further back historically): This is a beautiful love song by Pixinguinha (the title means “Affectionate”) from the 1940s, sung by the popular contemporary singer (and songwriter) Marisa Monte, with accompaniment by Paulinho da Viola. This song has the feel of the choro (literally, “cry”), a traditional Brazilian song form.

6. Orlando Silva: “A Jardineira” (Benedito Lacerda-Humberto Porto), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThS6JhclDg4&feature=related. Going back a little further, this is a Carnaval song from 1939, sung by one of the great singers of the 1930s, Orlando Silva. The song form is called a marchinha (not a samba)—a very distinctive and popular style for Carnaval street dancing. You can hear in it the distinctive marching-dancing beat (with an emphasis on the downbeat).

7. Aloysio Oliveira: “Aquarela do Brasil” (Ary Barroso) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mQHr8bAojU,; Grupo Aquattro: “Aquarela do Brasil”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAPIw7l07mY. Finally, one very popular Brazilian song, one that had broad international exposure beginning in the 1940s with the Disney treatment you see in the first video. (It also includes a beginning instruction in samba, along with a choro treatment of the classic by Zequinho de Abreu, “Tico-Tico no Fubá.”) The video is from the 1942 Disney short film, Saludos Amigos. Somewhat of a stereotype: one wouldn’t want one’s only exposure to Brazilian music to be this particular song, but it’s worth experiencing it. Choro (or chorinho) is a very important traditional style of music, one particularly associated with Rio. You can see some of the usual chorinho instruments in the second selection here, a live performance of “Aquarela do Brasil” (or “Watercolor of Brazil”) by the fabulous Grupo Aquattro.


  1. Thanks for sharing this great post on A Taste of Brazilian Music.

    Download Music

  2. Now that I've seen live samba, I'm even more thankful for this blog, to take me back to those great memories!