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Acknowledgements: iii Introduction: 1 Samba, Modernity, and the Evolutionary Line: 9 Bossa Novaʼs First & Second Generations, Iê-iê-iê, & Protest Song: 42 Tropicália: 65 Post-Tropicália MPB: 99 Bibliography: 118 Biography: 125
My three thesis advisors seemed to hover over me while I wrote. Chris Dunnʼs extraordinary book was among the original catalysts for my interest in Brazilian music, and without his trailblazing work, extensive library, and guidance, this thesis would certainly not exist. Dan Sharpʼs consistent and subtle emphasis on the heterogeneity of music is one of the major themes of this thesis, and his perspective has continued to shape my broader perception of music. Like the tropicalists discussed in this paper, Matt Sakakeenyʼs seminar on the interrelation of music and politics made me more interested in the latter because of how profoundly they influence the former. I can think of no better group of people with whom to study the subject at hand, and would understand little of Brazilian popular music without their time, generosity, guidance, kindness, humor, and expertise. I am duly indebted to the numerous musical scholars cited herein, each of whom profoundly deepened my understanding of Brazilian culture. I extend my continued gratitude to Profs. Raymond Hedin, David Ward-Steinman, David Shorter, Edward Gubar, Hannah Hinchman, Robert Schmuhl, and Mark Gunty, each of whom offered me invaluable support and encouragement as an undergraduate and beyond. I would finally like to thank my Brazilian family and friends--the Oukawa family, Guilherme Boechat, and Carolina Jardim—my classmates and friends at Stone Center--Barbara Carter, Debra Singleton, and Jimmy Huck--and finally, my family--I could not ask for a better one.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Fan: Do you distinguish between classical music and pop? Antônio Carlos Jobim: I donʼt make any distinction, but it exists.1
In 1966 Caetano Veloso, the musician and co-founder of the tropicália movement, publicly referred to the need within Brazilian popular music to “recapture the evolutionary line.” 2 His statement hearkened to the musical tradition in Brazil initiated by samba, continuing through bossa nova, and leading to tropicália and beyond. The tropicalist movement is this thesisʼ main focus, and I find that the most productive method of understanding it is in relation to this formulation of an “evolutionary line.” As a deep understanding of the movement requires nuanced attention to its causes and effects, I seek here to delineate the evolutionary line with a focus on how it and tropicália relate. In other words, I want to show how tropicália dealt with the music that preceded it, informed musical developments that followed in its wake, and distinguish it from each. One
Veloso, Caetano, Tropical Truth, 274. All further footnotes for Veloso are from Tropical Truth unless otherwise noted. 2 Barbosa, 378.
of tropicáliaʼs main aesthetic strategies was “syncretism” between culture popular and erudite, domestic and international, modern and traditional.3 My overarching objective in this thesis is to highlight the perennial cultural syncretism in Brazilian popular music as a precursor to tropicáliaʼs self-conscious, critical, deliberate, and “amplified” syncretism. Another central objective is to call attention to the extraordinary relationship between popular music and Brazilʼs larger political, social, and cultural zeitgeist throughout the twentieth century, as tropicália also magnified this tendency. After some brief historical foregrounding, I will begin to trace the evolutionary line beginning with two seminal events whose resultant trajectories progressed roughly in parallel: the creation and rise of samba, and artistic modernism, inaugurated in Brazil at the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna [Week of Modern Art] exhibition in São Paulo. The shadow of samba falls over the vast majority of Brazilian culture, and its various permutations constituted the bulk of popular music in Brazil during the first half of the twentieth century. I will discuss the key players involved in sambaʼs creation and advancement, and the many social, cultural, and political currents that informed and were informed by it. The Brazilian modernistsʼ mission of creating a globally informed and uniquely Brazilian culture was no better fulfilled within the domain of music than through the projects of bossa nova and tropicália. My thesisʼ second portion will proceed from the creation of bossa nova, using João Gilbertoʼs “Chega de Saudade” (1958) as the first bookend to “the
sixties” as a cultural era. Bossa nova represented a major rupture within the samba tradition and was one of the most profound paradigm shifts in the history of Brazilian popular music. The unique circumstances of its creation, the complicated cultural ties it formed with the United States, its integration of popular and erudite musical and lyrical modes, and its innovative approach to rhythm and harmony each contributed to a radical break within Brazilʼs cultural status quo. The tropicalists revisited each of these developments and critically engaged with the tensions they created. Through the 60s, bossa nova evolved
into a more diverse and politically conscious iteration via its “second-generation,” a folk protest song movement swept across Brazil and Latin America at large, and the simultaneous influence of the Beatles and Anglo popular music in general spurred a commercial pop-rock movement known variously as the jovem guarda [young guard], iê-iê-iê, or simply Brazilian rock.4 The rise of these disparate styles led to an increasingly heated debate over the character of the música popular brasileira [MPB], an umbrella term that emerged in the sixties to corral together the venerated strains of Brazilʼs rapidly broadening popular music. Tropicália gestated in the crowded, contentious atmosphere that these competing genres created, selectively appropriated components of each, and ultimately broadened the spectrum of what MPB could encompass in the process. The fourth chapter of this thesis will entail an in-depth examination of the tropicália movement itself. The tropicalists incorporated an extraordinarily broad
Iê-iê-iê translates to “yeah yeah yeah,” in reference to the refrain of the Beatlesʼ “She Loves You.”
range of aesthetic influences, utilized experimental recording, writing, instrumental, and lyrical techniques, innovatively engaged with mass media, staged televised “happenings” in various settings, and publicly challenged prevailing social conventions despite working under increasingly oppressive
military rule. Perhaps most interestingly and uniquely, in lieu of siding with one of the numerous established factions of the cultural left, they satirized both ends of the political spectrum, irreverently responding to the right-wing military dictatorship as “no less than an expression of Brazil,” and ultimately confronted the tragedy, absurdity, inequality, and violence in their country with astonishing humor and imagination.5 Despite working within an increasingly tense and repressive atmosphere, the tropicalists were able to simultaneously celebrate and irreverently poke fun at Brazil, ultimately creating one of the nationʼs most distinguished collections of popular music. The fifth and final chapter of this thesis will finally examine how the tropicalist movement altered the landscape of Brazilian popular music. This is where I will finally discuss whether the tropicalists indeed “recaptured” or conversely exploded the evolutionary line: in other words, whether the tropicalists indeed carried the line forward, fundamentally and irrevocably changed its character, or perhaps a bit of both. Tropicália also cleared a space for MPB to grow and broaden relatively unhindered in the wake of stifling musical nationalism. After tropicáliaʼs “healthy destruction of hierarchy” and “broadening and diversification of the market,” popular musical styles were increasingly
subsumed under MPBʼs more inclusive umbrella.6 As a result, an extraordinary level of cross-fertilization within MPB could occur between musicʼs supposed high, middle, and low realms, and fewer lines were drawn between them. I will bookend the sixties and illustrate the cultural climate of MPB post-tropicália through the example of Milton Nascimentoʼs Clube da Esquina (1972), an ambitious collaborative album whose stylistic eclecticism would have been unthinkable ten years prior. This thesis also locates the creators of bossa nova and tropicália as the greatest musical heirs of Brazilian modernism, and seeks to situate their respective projects together as a complimentary fulfillment of the modernist initiative in Brazil. I see bossa and tropicália as a kind of complimentary yin and yang, each containing traces of the other, but with contrasting orientations. My
final chapter will argue that bossa nova largely reconciled Brazilian popular music and musical modernity and represented a kind of “quantum leap” technically. Tropicália, especially through its critical engagement with foreign culture, strove to reconcile Brazilian music and globalization, and its radical syncretism represented a musical quantum leap conceptually. Brazilian philosopher Antonio Cícero has made a similar argument--that “the conceptual elucidation effected by tropicalism shows that MPB has no pre-set limits”—and the final chapter will discuss his conclusions in more detail.7 It must be stressed that none of these binaries—technical versus conceptual, globalization versus modernity, bossa
Veloso, 175 Cícero, “Tropicalism and MPB.”
nova versus tropicália—are absolute; each contain traces of the other, and vice versa. Chapter five is dedicated in part to exploring the relation of these dichotomies in greater depth. To conceive of an evolutionary line, itself a broad concept, one has to
examine to a certain extent the history of Brazilian music in total. Though one can get an idea of the big picture through the extant literature on Brazilian music, it has to be compiled from myriad sources. Some of the value in writing this thesis is simply getting the facts straight, sorting them out chronologically, delineating cause and effect, finding patterns and even archetypal players as they recur, and organizing them in one place. But the tropicalist movement remains the main focus of this thesis throughout, both implicitly and explicitly, and developments are discussed in proportion roughly to the extent to which they ultimately influenced the trajectory of the movement itself. The first chapter, for instance, foregrounds the genesis of samba with a brief discussion of music in colonial Brazil because its cross-continental, crossclass, cross-race development demonstrates that cross-fertilization has practically been a constant in popular Brazilian music from the beginning. The early travels of the Brazilian modernists through the interior state of Minas Gerais to “discover deep Brazil” or the musicological expeditions of Mário de Andrade can be seen as precursors to Noel Rosaʼs trips through Rioʼs favelas to locate “authentic” soul of Brazilian culture, or tropicalist Gilberto Gilʼs transformative trip
through the countryʼs Northeast. 8 Erudite composer Heitor Villa-Lobosʼ embrace of Brazilian popular music foreshadows a similar gesture on the part of tropicalist arranger Rogério Duprat. Carmen Mirandaʼs mixed reception both at home and abroad is at a birdʼs-eye level not unlike the domestic and international response to bossa nova; moreover, each example led the tropicalists to critically engage with the dynamics of center-versus-periphery and the facts of making music in an increasingly global context. In short, this thesis consistently seeks to locate the tropicalist movement as the continuation or culmination of many recurring cultural processes, many of which had been developing since the turn of the century. My understanding of the tropicalist movement before writing this thesis was of a fundamental, revolutionary, and most of all unprecedented paradigm shift—despite its clear and myriad invocations of Brazilian cultural history--that definitively “exploded” the evolutionary line. In the process of writing, I discovered that, again, the distinction isnʼt so simple or clear-cut. The tipping point in my perception shift was largely the result of seeing loose patterns like those mentioned above while tracing the trajectory of MPB through the twentieth century. The many protagonists in the story of twentieth century Brazilian popular music could be presented in a manner reminiscent of cover of The Beatlesʼ Sgt. Pepperʼs Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that frequently elicits comparisons to the centerpiece of the tropicália movement, the collaborative group album
Vianna, Hermano, The Mystery of Samba, 68. All further footnotes for Vianna are from The Mystery of Samba unless otherwise noted.
Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circensis. This thesis likewise follows the tropicalistsʼ own broad pantheon of influences, with whom their engagement was extraordinarily direct, critical, and self-conscious. The thrust of this paper is to examine how such a diverse and wide-ranging cast of characters related to one other, and how their collective influence subsequently manifested in the tropicalist movement. The structure of this thesis will allow me to plunge into what I came here to study—tropicália—relate it back to what Iʼve learned about the larger context of Brazilian popular music—samba, bossa nova, the music of the sixties, and MPB as it evolved thereafter—and tie it back to the original catalyst for my interest in Brazilian music—Clube da Esquina. Its ultimate purpose is to solidly internalize the history of Brazilian popular music and its complexities, incongruities, and side alleys; in other words, a reflection of what Iʼve learned in two years of graduate study.
Chapter 2: Samba, Modernity, & the Evolutionary Line
Velosoʼs invocation of the evolutionary line in Brazilian popular music mostly referred to the tradition of samba, and though the first registered samba, “Pelo Telefone [On the Telephone]” was recorded in 1917, diverse popular music existed in Brazil long before. 1 The precise origins of samba even today are still a matter of debate. This chapter begins with some back-story on how the samba came to be, and continues to trace its development over the course of the first half of the twentieth century. My first aim in this chapter is to demonstrate that cross-fertilization—between classes, races, nations, regions, and otherwise—has been a constant in Brazilian music. Recognizing this, the tropicalists selfconsciously amplified radical hybridization as one of their central aesthetic strategies in response to musical nationalists who sought to aesthetically police the parameters of popular music. This chapter also seeks to demonstrate the broader and extraordinary interrelation of twentieth-century Brazilian popular music and politics, social class, race, and the dynamics of global cultural exchange, as the tropicalist oeuvre also implicitly and explicitly magnified this tendency.
10 During the first half of the twentieth century, through cultural transactions
enacted between individuals from the highest echelons to the humblest portions of society, samba would famously migrate from the folk music of Afro-Brazilians in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the state-sponsored emblem of the entire Brazilian nation. Many of the same cultural mediators who brokered sambaʼs rise to national patrimony were also modernists who endeavored to pull Brazil into the future, recognizing in popular culture a manifestation of their vision for the Brazilian nation. This chapter is concerned with the lopsided transactions enacted overlapping worlds. Through subsequent decades, the samba would evolve into new permutations, each reacting to and building upon the last. The evolutionary line of samba is now a fairly well-known foundational myth in Brazil, but I will discuss it at some length here for two reasons: first, because it bolsters an in-depth understanding of tropicália and MPB in general, and second, because the tropicália movement would come to represent both a radical break with the venerable samba tradition and a resolution of age-old cultural tensions within that tradition.
Sambaʼs Origins & Cultural Cross-Fertilization
The earliest styles of popular music in Brazil evolved primarily in the northeast, where the colonial capital, Salvador, was established on the coast of the state of Bahia. The Portuguese colony founded there depended heavily on
slave labor to develop, to the extent that the quantity of imported slaves eventually surpassed that of Brazilʼs indigenous population. There, to a greater extent than anywhere in North America, racial mixture—or mestiçagem— primarily between Europeans and Africans, and to a lesser extent indigenous Brazilians, quickly became a fact of life, a circumstance often attributed to a
shortage of women in the enormous, fledgling Portuguese colony. The politics of racial mixture would forever be a central issue in Brazilian life; it and the oftencontrasting musical contributions of Africans and Europeans would profoundly and continually influence the genesis of Brazilian music. When the Portuguese court later migrated to Brazil to evade Napoleonʼs army in 1808, the colonial capital moved with it from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. Rio would remain the capital through independence from Portugal and the formation of the Brazilian republic until the new capital, Brasília, was constructed in 1960. The transfer of the stateʼs central operating base from the north would thereafter entail faster population and economic growth in the nationʼs south; metaphorically, the north has since been likened by tropicalist Tom Zé to Brazilʼs “old testament,” and the south, the new.2 In addition to decline in northern sugar and cocoa production, a gold rush in the state of Minas Gerais drew European immigrants increasingly to greater economic opportunities in Brazilʼs south. As a result, the north of Brazil remained and still remains more African and less developed, and the south, more European and modern. The unevenness of exchange and fundamental differences between these two regions will also
become a recurring theme in Brazilian culture, chronicled in song from samba to tropicália and beyond. Popular music in Brazil entailed cultural exchange between nations, classes, and races from the very start. In colonial-era Salvador, local elites loved the modinha, a more lyrical Brazilian interpretation of the already creolized Portuguese moda, often preferring it to strictly European classical styles.3 A complex dialogue between continents subsequently ensued: the modinhaʼs pioneer composer was a priest of mixed race, Domingas Caldas Barbosa (ca. 1740-1800), who brought the modinha to appreciative audiences in Europe, where it became “the first song from the colony to gain popularity in the metropolis, becoming well-known internationally as a distinctively Brazilian genre.”
In Europe the modinha was adopted by elite composers and even “Italianized”
in musical conservatories, then brought back to Brazil with new adaptations.5 Sambaʼs roots are often traced back to a mixture of the modinhaʼs lyricism and melodicism and African rhythm; together these form an early iteration of the fabled mixture in Brazilian music of Iberian and African, black and white. When the modinha made its return to Brazil around 1808, its popularity continued to spread, this time from the central base of Rio, a city of a markedly different character than the heavily-African Salvador.6 The modinhaʼs popular dissemination began between 1839-61, largely at the printing press of mestiço
Vianna, 17-18 Dunn & Avelar, 9 5 Seigel, 67-94 6 Vianna, 19
Francisco de Paula Britto, whose enclave in downtown Rio hosted a slew of disparate characters: black popular musicians, consecrated authors like Machado de Assis, José de Alencar, and Gonçalves Dias, statesmen, ambassadors, and Bahian Tias [aunts], each representative of a wide array of
races, classes, occupations, and cultural dispositions.7 The same kind of diverse milieu that thrived there continued to drive popular culture forward through the twentieth century. The development of the modinhaʼs “cousin,” the lundu, also entailed crosscontinental, cross-class mixing: the lundu dance was a mix of the Spanish fandango and the batuque, a broader and more heavily percussive ring dance genre that evolved among Afro-Brazilian slaves. The modinha and batuque embody perennial contrasting threads within Brazilian music: the batuque emerged in an Afro-Brazilian, rural context, emphasized percussion, and had a folkloric orientation divorced from commercial imperatives, and the modinha was performed mostly in the ballrooms of Brazilians of European descent, emphasized strings and woodwinds over a bed of subtler percussion, had a popular orientation that courted the growing music market, and was performed in an urban, “civilized” context.8 The modinha gestated in the elite sphere of society and moved “down,” where the batuque originated in the humblest faction of society and moved “up.” In 1819, the lundu would become “the first Africanderived song form to enter the European concert tradition,” when performed by a
Vianna, 20-22 McCann, Hello, Hello Brazil, 46. All further footnotes for McCann are from Hello, Hello Brazil unless otherwise noted.
student of Haydn.9 These two styles would later be fused with the “Brazilianized” European polka and Cuban habanera to create the maxixe, the fabled backbone of samba; whether “Pelo Telefone” was actually a maxixe or a samba has been a matter of debate since the song was recorded.10 Though associated with the peasant classes of Europe, the waltz had also become popular among the upper classes of Brazil throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. This paved the way for the importation of the polka, which began to be performed in Brazil in 1845. Through rhythmic “Brazilianization” by Afro-Brazilian performers, the polka and would evolve into “Brazilʼs first distinctly national urban musical genre,” the maxixe.11 The maxixeʼs African constituency gave it a reputation of indecency among Brazilʼs European, white elite, so much so that its foremost composer, Ernesto Nazareth, resorted instead to labeling his compositions with the more socially benign “Brazilian tango.” When the maxixe was subsequently exported to Europe, where it too met wide popular acceptance, the style was unsurprisingly confused with the stylistically dissimilar Argentine tango. This brief whirlwind tour of pre-twentieth century music is included simply to demonstrate that cultural evolution in Brazil has always entailed contributions of various nations, classes, and races. Imported musical styles were popular as far back as the colonial era, and were often “Brazilianized.” Cultural and social tension and disparity between European and Afro-Brazilians was marked, but so
Fryer, 146 McGowan, 30 11 Dunn & Avelar, 10
were the cultural fusions of their respective aesthetic sensibilities. All of this will be important to keep in mind through our later discussion of the 1960s, during
which musical nationalists sought to define and police the parameters of “pure” or “authentic” Brazilian music, which had never explicitly existed in the first place. In response, the tropicalists would amplify the perennial syncretism of Brazilian culture in efforts to “recapture” the evolutionary line.
The Turn of the Century, the Development of Samba, & Artistic Modernism
In 1888, Brazil became the last nation in Latin America to abolish slavery. Though the institution had been in decline since independence from Portugal, abolition did little to amend the uneven social structures it helped to spawn. Combined, these and other factors left most Afro-Brazilians marginalized politically, socially, geographically, and ideologically. By the turn of the century, migration was increasing from the drought-stricken and economically stagnant Afro-Brazilian north to the more developed South. In 1904, spurred by rapid growth, Rio underwent a massive redevelopment campaign that began to transform the character of the previously heterogeneous, mixed-race residential downtown into a more homogenous commercial space. Urban disruptions would continue to transform the character of the city until the centennial of
independence in 1922 and beyond. In response to urban upheaval, cariocas 12
with the money to do so—mostly whites—relocated to the beachfront Zona Sul, newly accessible by a tunnel under one of the cityʼs many morros [hills]. Poorer residents, mostly of mixed race, moved along commuter lines to the cityʼs north. The poorest were forced to move to hillside favelas, which at the turn of the century retained a distinctly rural character and lacked basic infrastructure despite the surrounding bustle of the city. Most favelados were Afro-Brazilians; even by the end of the 1940ʼs, favelas were 95% black.13 Though the character of Brazilʼs central cultural “melting pot” in downtown Rio was irrevocably changing, the heterogeneous cultural transactions it facilitated would continue. The early decades of the twentieth century found the newly minted Brazilian nation in the midst of an identity crisis. As the United States was surging towards worldwide economic dominance, Brazil was just getting around to abolishing slavery and becoming its own republic. Brazilʼs inferiority complex when looking towards America would become a prominent theme through the rest of the century, and was eventually re-confronted by both bossa nova and tropicália. Moreover, rather than a collection of united states, Brazil was more a loose amalgamation of distinct, semi-autonomous regions in which the strings of power were plucked primarily by coffee oligarchs. To make matters worse, Brazilian elites largely posited that Brazilʼs significant African and indigenous constituency was the source of the nationʼs “backwardness”; after all, Europe and
A carioca is an inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro. Shaw, 6
the United States, where miscegenation was far less common, were rushing towards the future. Racist pseudo-scientific studies—frequently exemplified by
anthropologist Nina Rodriguesʼ practice of measuring skulls to bolster theories of inherent, genetic racial difference—tried to uphold these speculations, and would in part lead towards later state-issued immigration mandates designed to systematically engineer a “whitening” of the Brazilian population.14 In this atmosphere, the music of Afro-Brazilians was seen by the upper classes as a threat to social order and decency. In the realm of culture, Brazil was looking to France, with Paris yet the cultural bastion of the Western world, for an example to follow. Brazilian visual art, classical music, and literature at the time largely imitated what passed muster in Europe. But, as fate would have it, in late “belle époque” Paris, a vogue for the primitive and exotic was sweeping through the upper echelons of culture. This was spurred, among other things, by Picassoʼs “discovery” of African art and Gauguinʼs infatuation with the art of Japan and the Pacific Islands. Through the European lens, Brazil was looking pretty exotic, and a certain group of elite Frenchmen were eager to visit. The diplomatic visits of composer Darius Milhaud and writer Blaise Cendrars in the 1910s and 20s were particularly key in the evolution of Brazilian culture to follow. The Frenchmenʼs tour guide to Rioʼs vibrant cultural life was Heitor VillaLobos, who would become the most venerated composer of classical music in Brazil. Villa-Lobos himself had been to some extent exoticizing Brazil since the
turn of the century, venturing into its interior for musical inspiration.15 Though classical music was yet the only respectable musical path to follow for an
individual of his social strata, he was entranced by the “disreputable” music of the favelas, and would venture into them for adventure, inspiration, and to participate in vernacular music making on guitar, which he would practice clandestinely.16 Villa-Lobos brought the visiting French emissaries to the favelas, where they too were entranced by Rioʼs endemic music. The exchange of culture also went both ways: the visiting Europeans introduced Villa-Lobos to French impressionism in music, whose innovative approach to harmony the composer would gradually “Brazilianize,” paving the way for Antônio Carlos Jobimʼs groundbreaking harmonic interventions in bossa nova.17 Around this time, the maxixe was turning into the samba in Rioʼs transforming downtown Cidade Nova neighborhood, particularly around Praça Onze, Rioʼs “Little Africa.” Among the original leading figures of the incipient genre was Sinhô, Rioʼs first “king of samba,” who not only mastered the cornucopia of competing styles popular throughout the city, but successfully promulgated them throughout the upper sphere of society, enacting another cultural transaction between the poor blacks and mestiços of Rio and its white elite. 18 Villa-Lobos and his friendsʼ experience of the favelas would have been markedly different without mediators like Sinhô or Tia Ciata, then the most
See Peppercorn, 1972 Ibid. 17 See Reily, Tom Jobim & the Bossa Nova Era. 18 Vianna, 85
prominent candomblé priestess in Rio, whose cooking, marriage to a police officer, and proximity to Praça Onze made her home the nucleus of cultural
mixture in the Brazilian capital. As legend has it, “respectable” parties were held in the front of her house, and more raucous, Afro-inflected musical gatherings took place in the back. It was from these gatherings that “Pelo Telefone” emerged. That the renowned Villa-Lobos and his dignified foreign guests were paying attention and conferring such respect to music made by poor AfroBrazilians went a long way in changing the minds of the Brazilian establishment towards the music of the favelas. The influence of cultural elites was such that when the legendary and mixed-race Oito Batutas were criticized in the press after performing at the elegant Palais Theater, a veritable whoʼs who of the upper crust showed up in their support.19 Helmed by Donga and Pixinguinha, themselves consecrated Afro-sambistas and frequent guests at Ciataʼs, the Batutas would go on to represent Brazil abroad, performing to appreciative audiences in Paris, further developing the close cultural ties between the two nations. There they also caught on to American jazz, leading Pixinguinha to integrate the saxophone into his performances, prefiguring the later and greater adoption of jazz by Brazilian musicians in the bossa nova era.20
Enter the Modernists
Vianna, 81. Bastos, 3-4
This is a critical juncture in Brazilian cultural history, where the popular conception of music as a disreputable profession for “vagrants” begins to transform into something more respectable and central. Much of the work in effecting this change was undertaken by the Brazilian modernists, and not in Rio, but the growing metropolis of São Paulo. Their emergence onto the cultural and even political scene is usually dated to 1922, by all accounts a pivotal year for Brazil in varied arenas: it was the nationʼs centennial of independence from Portugal, witnessed the arrival of radio, hosted a military revolt against the prevailing republican state and the founding of the Brazilian Communist Party, and hosted the Semana da Arte Moderna in São Paulo that entailed the public arrival of artistic modernism in Brazil. São Paulo would remain the central hub of Brazilian modernism, and the cityʼs cultural profile would steadily grow throughout the century. The subsequent “crusade” of modernism is most associated in Brazil with Mário de Andrade, Brazilʼs quintessential 20th-century polymath, accomplished musician, photographer, writer of fiction, poetry, and essays, and pioneering ethnomusicologist who, like John and Alan Lomax, plunged into Brazilʼs interior to record, preserve, and learn from sounds, songs, and dances on the verge of extinction. Andrade saw Brazilian culture as the primary vehicle for asserting “Brazilian exceptionalism” in the larger world and making a dignified transition from the global margins and “backwardness” into modernity. He championed
cultural miscegenation in his “Ensaio sobre a música brasileira,” a foundational text of Brazilian musical nationalism. This and other writings, which vigorously
defended popular music—and by extension the creations of mixed-race and AfroBrazilians—were hugely instrumental in garnering state and popular support for samba. These interventions place Andrade prominently in a tradition of elite culture brokers mediating the many transactions made between poor Brazilians and the often-distant elite. Eventually, Andrade would facilitate these exchanges in an official capacity, working somewhat uneasily for the Vargas state in the creation and promotion of national culture. Andradeʼs Paulicéia Desvariada (Hallucinated City) was the first collection of modernist Brazilian poetry, founding a tradition in the written word that would continue through both bossa nova and tropicáliaʼs modernist lyrical innovations. His novel Macunaíma: A Hero without Character plays on the foundational Brazilian myth of Iracema, a Brazilian equivalent of the North American Pocahontas story in which an indigenous Brazilian falls in love with a blonde Portuguese soldier, initiating the fabled process of mestiçagem. Macunaímaʼs protagonist is also an indigenous Brazilian, and Andrade uses the novel and its heroʼs journey into the modern Brazilian city as a vehicle to probe tensions between white, black, and indigenous, the European and indigenous, civilized and natural--each were themes that the tropicalists would revive. The protagonistʼs explicit lack of character is an allegory for the yet-undefined Brazilian nation, and the novel as a whole reflects ambivalence towards the
Brazilian nationʼs character and the pitfalls entailed in its construction. Beyond the heterogeneous racial constitution of the Brazilian nation, one of the storyʼs main preoccupations is cannibalism, which would become one of the central metaphors of Brazilian modernism as well as tropicália. Oswald de Andrade (who is of no relation to Mário), another 1920s polemicist, took up the theme of cannibalism with even more aplomb. His 1924 “Manifesto Pau Brasil [Brazilwood Manifesto]” was the first of the authorʼs two treatises that informed the tropicalistsʼ aesthetic strategy. The manifesto
lamented the fact that Brazil supplied only raw materials for the developed world instead of sophisticated finished products, and posited, through fragmentary, Joycean poetic language, that the nationʼs emergence into modernity would be effected through ceasing imitation of Europe and crafting unique “finished products” through modern technology. Andrade called for “poetry for export,” or art grounded in the local that looked outwards towards the wider world. Both the creators of bossa nova and the tropicalists would implicitly and explicitly work towards this very goal. The Andradesʼ injunctions become surprisingly ironic when placed in context: a crucial point of inspiration for both writers in their celebration of “authentic” Brazil was a trip they made into the interior of Minas Gerais led by Blaise Cendrars—the Frenchmen!—which for the modernist group entailed a “discovery of “deep Brazil.” 21 In gratitude for playing tour guide to his own
country, Oswald dedicated his poems in his book Brazilwood to Cendrars.22 The central prerogatives of Oswaldʼs text were the toppling of Eurocentric elitism, dismantling of the profoundly uneven Brazilian status quo, and a celebration and definition of Brazil as a crossroads of contradictory opposites: past and present, local and global, European and African, and “the forest and the school,” or the natural/indigenous and the civilized/modern. These gestures—particularly antielitism and the fascination with oppositional binaries—would be central to the tropicalist project. Even more than “Pau Brasil,” Andradeʼs 1928 “Manifesto Antropófago [Cannibalist Manifesto]” provided an intellectual/philosophical foundation for the tropicalist endeavor. Published the same year as Macunaíma, its central theme is “cultural cannibalism.” Within, Andrade invoked the practice of the indigenous Tupínamba who ritualistically devoured their conquered enemies in order to absorb the powers of the vanquished. Andrade turned the practice into an aesthetic metaphor by which Brazilians would devour both their own culture and that of Europe for the purpose of creating a unique, internationally informed, hybridist national culture. In Oswaldʼs view, the “disastrous legacy of colonialism” (the “school”) could be surmounted through employing modern technology and re-introducing in society elements of the more natural, utopian, pre-colonial state (the “forest”) that had been lost.23 Rather than revering, rejecting, or imitating
Dunn, Brutality Garden, 17-20. All further footnotes for Dunn are from Brutality Garden unless otherwise noted.
European culture, foreign influence would be systematically “devoured” within a larger constellation of influences on a subsequently more even playing field, precluding the growth of a new kind of nation. Forty years later, the tropicalists would “devour” and “digest” The Beatles, Andy Warhol, Jean-Luc Godard, the “high” and “low” ends of Brazilian popular music--and more. Where Andradeʼs work was produced and mostly remained in his relatively erudite domain, the tropicalists revived and completed the modernist cycle by putting his strategy very tangibly in practice, and within a more populist domain. While Andradeʼs exhortation was to take Europe, and particularly France, off the pedestal, the tropicalists used similar strategies to undermine in their own country the cult of nationalism and supposedly “pure” Brazilian music that grew largely in response to the global proliferation of American culture. In other words, similar means are used towards somewhat contradictory ends. The tropicalistsʼ alignment with Andradeʼs work gave their position a clear precedent and a philosophical foundation. This seems to go without saying, but is quite novel in the history of popular music, Brazilian or otherwise.
The Vargas Era & the Creation of the Brazilian Nation
There is an aphorism attesting that art is usually a few years ahead of the rest of society, and it seems to follow in Brazil that the ideological breakthroughs of the modernists would be followed by more general revolutions in culture at
large. The broader sea change in Brazilʼs self-perception was largely put into motion by the work of Gilberto Freyre, a white from the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco who had been educated in Europe and the United States. His 1933 masterwork, Casa Grande e Senzala [The Master and the Slaves],
explored the relationship between the colonial big house and slave quarters in his native northeast. Within, Freyre proposed that sexual relations between masters and their slaves initiated the process of creating a race uniquely adapted to life in the tropics. His formulation turned the dilemma of Brazilʼs racially precipitated “backwardness” into the very source of the nationʼs identity, uniqueness, and potential. In other words, Freyre was a key figure in formulating what is now referred to as the “myth of racial democracy,” in which Brazil—unlike its rival, the United States—was a place where racism fundamentally didnʼt exist. Freyre also upheld a novel esteem for Afro-Brazilian and mestiço culture in general, as exemplified by articles with titles like “On the Valorization of Things Black.” 24 His prerogative was informed by the French vogue negré brought to Brazil by figures like Cendrars, as well as his studies at Columbia University under the famed anthropologist Franz Boas. The degradation of Afro-Brazilian culture, Freyre prophesied, would only mean bad things for the Brazilian nation. At the same time, he problematically took the material exploitation of Afro-Brazilians as a kind of given. This is one of myriad problems of his text; the dismantling of his often-patrician theories in the following decades became somewhat of an academic cottage industry. The most
succinct critique of his writing is that the celebration of Afro-Brazilian and mestiço culture obscured or masked real racial inequality, confounding attempts to point it out.25 This essentially integrated Afro-Brazilians into Brazilian society ideologically, but not socially or economically. Hermano Vianna has demonstrated that The Masters and the Slaves nevertheless ideologically filled “a void that desperately needed to be filled” in Brazil. 26 Its rise in the Brazilian intellectual and popular imagination was so “meteoric” that it the racial democracy concept is commonly invoked colloquially to this day. Freyreʼs work went a long way in validating the samba, and this is no coincidence: he came along on the 1926 favela trips with Cendrars, Villa-Lobos, and his French colleagues, and the vitality of samba culture there inspired his work. The gestation of Freyreʼs writings was coincident with epochal and interrelated cultural and political events: the revolution of 1930, which catapulted Getúlio Vargas to presidency, the popularization of radio, and the formation of the first samba school. Samba, meanwhile, had been flourishing in the 1920s while simultaneously being repressed by society at large. Afro-Cariocas in Rioʼs favelas were largely marginalized until Carnival, where culture—music, dance, and costume—facilitated a temporary inversion of the established social order. That Afro-Cariocas wanted their voices to be heard more within society at large is evidenced by the name of the first samba school, Deixa Falar [Let (Us) Speak], which was formed in 1928. The first samba school is emblematic of the
McCann, 43 Vianna, 53-54
burgeoning “second generation” of samba, the leading proponents of which were Ismael Silva, Nelson Bastos, and Alcebíades Barcellos, all working-class AfroCariocas from Estácio da Sá, a socially heterogeneous neighborhood adjacent to the Cidade Nova. They crafted the downtown samba into a form more appropriate for dancing and parading by emphasizing off-beats and syncopation, moving away from the 2/4 downbeat-emphasis of Sinhô.27 They also added the indelible cuíca, surdo, and tamborim to the standard string/percussion template, lending the genre a new rhythmic depth. Though the group coined the “school” moniker partly in jest, it is significant that music was the chosen vehicle through which marginalized Brazilians could give voice to oppositional political sentiments. As samba schools proliferated, their function spread beyond music towards community organization and social advancement. Throughout the first decades of the century, disorganized and often-violent blocos de sujos (“groups of the dirty”) had been a notable anarchic carnival-time manifestation of Brazilʼs urban social tensions. The manner in which they descended from the favelas to the larger city contributed to the elite establishmentʼs fear of the morros, provoking police censure and indirectly associating the music of the favelas with violence and societal disruption. But nascent samba schools began to take cues from the middle-class carnival ranchos and organize for larger purposes than carnival activity. Portela, the second samba school and its leader Paulo Benjamim de Oliveira, “the civilizer of
samba,” notably led this charge, working through music and dance to elevate the status of favelados in the eyes of those who didnʼt live on the morro.28 A long tradition of music as a central vehicle for social change was coalescing, and it was an opportune time to happen. Afro-Brazilian samba de morro was the most popular music in the nationʼs capital, which was also home to the nascent broadcast and recording industries. When Getúlio Vargas became president in 1930, his foremost initiative was the unification of Brazil, still less a nation than an assemblage of distinct and semi-autonomous regions operating to various extents under latifundismo. The new technology of radio was spreading through the country—its popularity exploded particularly after the founding of Rádio Nacional in 1936—and the state quickly realized that it was a golden medium for communicating with and uniting the nationʼs far-flung masses, many of whom were illiterate. Vargas subsequently co-opted Gilberto Freyreʼs racial democracy rhetoric, championed samba as its embodiment, and popularized this conception of Brazil via the radio, essentially courting popular support with popular culture. Radio and the state were intertwined from the start, and their collective mission was twofold: “promoting cultural sophistication and patriotic idealism.” 29 Vargas also wasted little time in bringing the newborn samba schools under the umbrella of state patrimony: they were already in friendly public competition
Raphael, 86-87 McCann, 38
during carnival by 1932, and sponsored directly by the government by 1934.30
The money that government sponsorship provided also came with guidelines for instrumentation, various parading mandates (such as those prohibiting woodwinds or requiring that each troupe contain parading Bahianas), and the directive that schools had to base their themes around patriotic subjects designed to educate the viewing public. As the decade continued, the governmentʼs involvement with music would only increase. The 1930s witnessed a popularization of the new Estácio sound less by its Afro-Brazilian or mestiço creators and more by the Bando de Tangarás [Band of Toucans], a group of middle-class white sambistas who would each eventually become famous in their own right: Noel Rosa, Almirante, and Carlos Braga (aka João de Barro), all from the neighborhood of Vila Isabel, a place that would come to be synonymous with sambaʼs golden age, as well as its migration into the middle class.31 The Tangarásʼ social class, whiteness, and fortuitous location would provide them better access to the nascent recording and broadcast industries, while the black composers of Estácio samba would mostly have to sell their compositions “up” to white interpreters.32 The exploitative nature of these cultural transactions is a matter of debate. Whites clearly won out economically in sambaʼs popularization; very few singers in the first half of the century were black, and many of sambaʼs black pioneers fell into obscurity for decades before their respective contributions were publicly validated. But this situation is not as simple
McCann 59 McCann, 48 32 Davis, 23
as black and white; the recording industry was exploitative in general, and blacks and mestiços often gamed the system as well, selling the same song to multiple buyers, for instance. The legendary Mangueira sambista Cartola experienced both sides of this situation; he sometimes exploited the poor hand heʼd been dealt, engendered cultural transactions between the favela and the larger city of Rio, and labored mostly in obscurity until his creations were valorized much later in life.33 Furthermore, the “congenial” relations between races and classes eulogized by Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda and Freyre can be no better exemplified than the genuine friendship, collaboration, and informal torch passing between Noel Rosa and Estácio favelado Ismael Silva.34 The particular influence of Noel Rosa on the history of Brazilian music, from samba to tropicália, is incalculable. Rosa was white and of the lower middleclass, but located the heart and soul of Brazil in the favelas, where he eventually spent most of his time. Rosa was a watershed figure in lending lyrical sophistication to Brazilian music, particularly through subtle metaphorical or allegorical social critique. In other words, he began the process of creating popular music in Brazil as something aspiring towards a “higher” art—as opposed to, say, a mere commodity, entertainment, or an incidental soundtrack to Carnival—a torch carried on later by Vinícius de Moraes, Chico Buarque, and the tropicalists, among myriad others. Rosa was also part of a long tradition in Brazilian popular music to come “down” in class to locate the most essential,
authentic, or pure representation of national culture. He became famous through performances on the Programa Casé, pioneering live performance on Brazilian radio. Rosa, among others, contributed to the genreʼs growing expressive and rhythmic bag of tricks by pioneering the stop-start samba de breque [break samba] with his partner on the show, the teenage Márila Batista. Rosa was her senior by many years, and the two traded witty, improvised lines that often played off their difference in age and life experience. At the time, samba was still mostly considered a disreputable endeavor for whites, particularly those of Batistaʼs class. The foray of a white Carioca into the “black” world of samba led both to the programʼs allure and its elevation in social standing outside of the morro.35 Rosaʼs lyrics are heralded for being extraordinarily economical, conveying complex situations in few syllables or lines. His allusive depth was partly achieved through the frequent lyrical inclusion of the archetypal malandro [hustler] character, usually a black favelado, who in Rosaʼs compositions often mediated between the still-rural favela and urban city. The malandro represents a beloved marginal archetype, somewhat of a cross between a pimp and a less altruistic Robin Hood. He lived by his wits, epitomized the Brazilian concept of jeitinho, or “knack” for subverting problems, and hustled a living instead of participating in an inherently unjust system in which it was nearly impossible for a black to get ahead. Rosaʼs fascination with the malandro was such that Wilson Batista, who was in many ways a real Afro-Brazilian malandro, challenged
Rosaʼs authority on malandragem, initiating a public feud through song.36 Their
back-and-forth led to the paradigmatic “Feitiço da Vila [Spell of the Vila]” in which Rosa definitively established his neighborhood as central to the evolution of samba in the very tradition of the Cidade Novo and Estácio, where “the bacharel [baccalaureate] does not fear the bamba [authentic sambista].”37 In other words, Rosa portrayed his neighborhood a place where popular and erudite culture meet to create a national art worthy of consecration. It was both a huge hit and one of the first “meta-sambas,” pioneering a tradition of self-reflexivity that would be reinvigorated by bossa nova. In Rosaʼs age, Vargasʼ regime was in its authoritarian Estado Novo period and notorious for its censorship and manipulation of culture. The themes censored most within music were retrospectively relatively benign, and mostly related to moral and social codes. The state correspondingly disapproved of the malandro as an object of veneration, and this contributed to a gradual decline in Rosaʼs style of critical sambas. In the wake of censorship, major incentives were offered to musicians who glorified Brazil and by implication, the Vargas state. This situation paved the way for the emergence of samba exaltação, which is most often characterized by grand orchestral arrangements that supported colorful, upbeat paeans to Brazil. Samba-exaltação was itself a modification of the template of samba-cancão, a somewhat more pan-Latin American and romantic style of exuberant singing that flourished in the golden age of radio. It
McCann, 54-58 McCann, 56
was associated with the Brazilian middle class and its preeminent singers: Orlando Silva, Mario Reis, Francisco Alves, and Sílvio Caldas. Caetano Veloso
later remarked that Silva particularly was a key precursor to bossa nova and later tropicália in that he “...was at once a mass phenomenon and an artist of the utmost refinement, [which] made him a key point of reference for anyone who sought to address the issue of art for the masses and at the same time meet the challenge of bossa nova.” 38 The artist most associated with the samba-exaltação genre proper is Ari Barroso, who, in another symbolic torch passing, delivered the eulogy at Noel Rosaʼs funeral. Barroso, who was patriotic, white, and unambiguous in his unstinting love for Brazil, represents a sort of inversion of the malandro. But, like the malandro, Barroso still mediated between the favela and the city. His lyrics exalted the favela and the Afro and mestiço Brazilians who pioneered the samba, but his compositions, arrangements, and harmonies, backed by the jazz-inspired harmonic innovations of arranger Radamés Gnattali, were very much of the city. Barroso has likened himself to a Brazilian Gershwin, who through Porgy & Bess translated jazz into the idiom of Western classical music.39 In 1939, his most famous composition, “Aquarela do Brasil [Watercolor of Brazil],” would become one the nationʼs unofficial national anthems. The song roughly coincided with the government takeover of Rádio Nacional in 1940, an event that made the growing medium and popular music
Veloso, 165 McCann, 73
even more popular; gross revenue at the station would grow by 700% between
1940-46.40 This transition evidences the migration of popular music under Vargas from a domain more oriented towards the “folk” into a larger, more commercial sphere created by technological advances and the burgeoning recording industry. “Aquarela do Brasil” inspired a slew of cloying, less nuanced imitations, and as a result the exaltação genre was on its way out of fashion by the fall of the Estado Novo in 1945. As Bryan McCann has shown, the growing mannerism of the samba-exaltação ultimately influenced the sparseness of bossa nova and gave way to a rebirth of critical samba in the vein of Noel Rosa, led primarily by Wilson Batista and Geraldo Pereira. The latter of these two figures was particularly prescient in identifying the duplicitous side of the racial democracy discourse, taking the critical tradition of Rosa a step further. Race is central in Pereiraʼs compositions; one of his central preoccupations was how profoundly it determined oneʼs lot in life. His “Golpe Errado [Unfair Blow]” resurrects the malandro figure, this time as a two-timing anti-hero who lives not off his own cunning, but the money his faithful wife makes working as a maid for a white woman in Rioʼs Zona Sul. He peppers his lyrics with references to color: brown mistress, black wife, white suit, white employer.41 “Cabritada malsucedida [Unfortunate Goat Stew]” likewise describes a samba party squelched by the state, where police agents unfairly arrest a favelado for eating a meal of a stolen goat, cynically prompting the persecuted to call upon
McCann, 36 McCann, 83
the patronage of a white from a higher social class to get him out of trouble.
Other sambas chronicled the lives of favelados that began with promise but were squandered for lack of opportunity in society at large. Fascinatingly, Pereira was accused of persecution anxiety by some of his contemporaries, who were more apt to ride the racial democracy wave. This locates the pessimistic sambista in a retrospectively surprising minority, and demonstrates how pervasive the concept of racial democracy already was by the 1940s.42 Pereiraʼs bold and ironic lyricism nevertheless paved the way for both the second-generation of bossa nova, who practically shouted their protest from the rooftops, and tropicália, whose oppositional sentiments had to be camouflaged to evade censorship. Pereiraʼs first hit, 1944ʼs “Falsa Bahiana [False Bahiana],” laments the placating effects of carnival on the losers in Brazilʼs racial landscape. The song focuses on a rich white woman who dons the costume of a Bahiana during carnival, mocking her for her lack of spirit and inauthenticity. Pereira implicitly casts the valorization of Afro-Brazilian culture within the racial democracy discourse as superficial, like a mask. The song provides an irresistible segue to the international phenomenon of Carmen Miranda, who found herself in the middle of a renewed debate surrounding cultural nationalism, this time in response to the ubiquity of American culture and Brazilʼs uncertain place in a rapidly globalizing world. The shifting tides of this debate will take us to bossa nova, through the sixties, and reach their apogee in tropicália. Miranda was an
“emblem” of the tropicália movement, “an over-determined sign of its
contradictory affections” that appeared in Velosoʼs song-manifesto “Tropicália.” 43 Miranda was Portuguese by birth, but grew up in Rio de Janeiro. She became a star by the 1930s, and was one of the few females to run with the cityʼs top and overwhelmingly male sambistas. Her engagement with the developing cultural conversation between the US and Brazil is evident in her early hit, “Goodbye,” which proudly asserted her Brazilianness and playfully mocked her countrymen who adopted phrases in English as means of signifying cultural capital. McCann has pointed out that the song doesnʼt evince the unilateral, xenophobic nationalism growing in Brazil at the time, but displays proto-tropicalist “bicultural mastery” and “transnational confidence.”44 Significantly, the song mirrors the tightrope walk many cultural players in Brazil, including Miranda, had to continually perform: acknowledge and absorb American culture, but do so critically and selectively, in a manner subordinate to an allegiance to Brazil and its homegrown culture. Mirandaʼs tellingly titled last film in Brazil, 1939ʼs Banana da Terra [Banana of the Land], featured her performing “O que é que a baiana tem? [What is it that the bahiana has?],” wearing a stylized Bahiana costume that prefigured the caricatured costumes she would wear in America, epitomized by the huge banana hat she wears in The Gangʼs All Here. Banana da Terra and its feature song highlight the cultural appeal of performing an exaggerated, Africanized,
Veloso, 167 McCann, 136
folkloric Brazilianness in the late 1930s and 40s, despite the fact that Miranda
was neither “Afro” nor truly Brazilian. Dorival Caymmi, the songʼs composer, was born in Bahia but lived most of his life in Rio. He too exploited the cultural currency that “authentic” Brazilianness had attained by their era, especially as signified by Afro- or mestiço-Bahianness. Miranda amplified symbols of Bahianness through dress, dance, lyric, and musical style, and brought it overseas. Caymmi too appealed to a generation of northeastern migrants who found themselves dislocated in the urbanizing south by invoking the folkloric imagine of coastal northeastern fishermen, appearing in press photos wearing fishermenʼsʼ attire and relaxing in hammocks. In many ways, the pescador [fisherman] was to Caymmi as the malandro was to Rosa, and demonstrates the shift in the zeitgeist from the 1930s to the 40s: where Rosaʼs sambas were critical, Caymmi operated in the celebratory vein of samba exaltação, celebrating the Brazilian nation through the vein of idealized regionalism. Luiz Gonzaga, another northeastern migrant who became the most successful Brazilian recording artist of the early 1950s, came to exceed even Caymmiʼs popularity.45 Gonzaga represents a crucial detour on the evolutionary line; the style of music with which he would become associated had little to do with samba, but passed muster with musical nationalists because it came from the fabled backlands of Bahia. Though he started performing a wide variety of popular styles after migrating south, he truly began to find success when performing the northeastern baião on accordion while wearing the stylized dress
of a cangaceiro [northeastern bandit].46 His public character too capitalized on national and regional pride as the surge of northeastern migrants continued to
flood the southern metropolises. Where Caymmi portrayed a character based on coastal inhabitants of Bahia, Gonzagaʼs persona was unabashedly rural, folksy, and divorced from the larger urban samba tradition, all factors that distinguished him from a marketplace saturated with elegant male singers in tuxedos. Gonzaga began his career playing urban styles, but his popularity increased exponentially when he performed in the guise of a northeastern bandit, an ironic state of affairs, as he had once been in a cangaceiro-hunting battalion after Vargasʼ Revolution of 1930.47 The examples of Miranda, Caymmi, and Gonzaga each testify to the power of constructed, folkloric representations in an era marked by nationalism and mass migration. The tropicalists, who were both amused and fascinated by this dynamic, would irreverently play with the contradictions it implied when confronted with a their own generationʼs cult of authenticity. Increasingly, as the first major Brazilian entertainer to achieve international fame, Miranda found herself at critical crossroads of debates surrounding Brazilian nationality and its response to globalization, particularly vis-à-vis the United States. Though American music had represented a portion of carnival hits as far back as the turn of the century, Hollywood was increasingly exporting its films throughout the world, and cinema became the primary means by which Brazilians received American music. Most of the resultant musical fare was
McCann 119. McCann, 111
skewed towards the upper and middle classes—Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra,
Glenn Miller are good examples—as opposed to, say, more consecrated idioms like hot jazz or swing. This led to largely dismissive appraisals of American culture on part of the cultural establishment. 48 American cultureʼs presence in Brazil increased throughout the decade with the introduction of Franklin Delano Rooseveltʼs Good Neighbor Policy, which was designed to promote friendly relations between the US and Latin American nations and prevent South Americans from falling on the side of the Axis in the prelude to World War II. It was announced in 1933 and had visibly gained traction in Brazil by 1939, and in part led to Miranda being sent on a highly publicized diplomatic mission to the United States as a cultural emissary of Brazil. Miranda quickly became a Broadway and then film star in the US, but the story of her first return to Brazil during a surge of nationalist xenophobia is more relevant to this discussion. Though the same legions of middle-class fans that saw her off when she departed were waiting at the harbor in Rio to greet her when she returned, Mirandaʼs poorly received performance at the Cassino da Urca days later has since become the stuff of legend. She appeared onstage before a well-heeled audience headlining a show for a charitable organization organized for the benefit of orphaned girls, helmed by no less than first lady Darcy Vargas, who was in attendance. The audience received Miranda coldly when she greeted them in English, and even more so after she opened with “South American Way,” a rhumba with lyrics about an idealized Latin continent. A
succession of American-penned numbers followed, each met with frigid
disapproval from the audience. Though Miranda eventually returned to the earlier, familiar portion of her Brazilian catalog later in the show, it was already too late, and the audience never budged. Miranda left the stage devastated, and largely retired from the public spotlight for two months thereafter.49 Miranda returned to the same stage two months later to perform her triumphant retort, this time accompanied by Grande Otelo, then the nationʼs most famous Afro-Brazilian actor. Her new program “self-consciously celebrated AfroBrazilian roots,” and the highlight of the night was “Disseram que voltei americanizada [They said I came back Americanized],” which re-asserted Mirandaʼs Brazilianness in the face of what would come to be called American cultural imperialism.50 The audience went wild, and the story ends happily. But despite the triumphant victory in this battle, Miranda ultimately lost the war, and the remainder of her career tends to follow a sad arc. Despite continuing to be a savvy cultural negotiator and becoming the highest-paid woman in America upon her return to the north, she was pigeonholed into playing increasingly absurd and exaggerated stereotypes of Latin women, backed further and further into a corner by the Hollywood star system. Interpersonal troubles exacerbated her problems, and she died of an overdose in 1955. Miranda was sent to succeed in a culturally and economically dominant nation and did so spectacularly, but largely on the USʼs terms. Mirandaʼs career is a cornerstone example of the dynamics of
McCann, 148-150. McCann, 149
uneven cultural exchange; Caetano Veloso has since said that whenever a Brazilian performs abroad, the ghost of Miranda is in the room.51
That ghost would have an increasingly busy schedule in the coming years: around the time of Mirandaʼs death, the cultural fallout of the Good Neighbor Policy was in full effect, the rate of the musical exchange between Brazil and the United States in Rio in particular was increasing, and the seeds of bossa nova were germinating. This brings us to the twilight of the first half of the century, one so profoundly characterized by the Vargas regime. Soon, the social, political, and cultural roller coaster of the sixties would commence. The subsequent presidency of Juscelino Kubitscheck would re-define the Brazilian nation and consolidate its plunge into modernity, giving way to a brief period of João Goulartʼs liberal rule. His regime would soon collapse in the face of a military coup, and longfermenting musical debates would reach a fever pitch and culminate in tropicália. These developments are the subject of the proceeding chapters.
See Veloso, “Carmen Mirandada.”
Chapter 3: Bossa Novaʼs First and Second Generations, Iê-iê-iê, & Protest Song
This chapter chronicles perhaps the most significant disruption(s) of the evolutionary line: the largely coincident emergence of bossa nova, Brazilian rock, and protest song through the 1960s. The appearance of these three styles led to the creation of the term MPB, which in itself highlights the broadening of the popular music landscape in Brazil. As the 60s progressed, the fans and creators of these respective genres would become increasingly opposed, and from the contentious atmosphere that arose in their wake, tropicália was born. In response to the social, cultural, aesthetic, and political climate of the late 60s, the tropicalists would synthesize the instrumentation and populism of commercial rock, formally simplify the cosmopolitan, forward-thinking modernism of bossa nova, invert the defiant stance of protest song, infuse the resultant hybrid with their own critical aesthetic strategies, and ultimately reinvigorate and broaden MPB in the process. Tropicália itself build upon bossa novaʼs own reconciliation of samba with “the information of musical modernity,” and this chapter will delve more deeply into what this entails.
The “Holy Trinity” and the Creation of Bossa Nova
The end of Vargasʼ Estado Novo, like many currents in Brazilian music, coincided with a changing tide in music. Vargas was succeeded by the populist Juscelino Kubitscheck, whose modernizing platform sought “fifty years of progress in five” and symbolically constructed a new capital in Brasília to demonstrate Brazilʼs modernity to the wider world. In 1961, the three-year presidency of liberal reformist João Goulart would represent the last period of leftist rule in Brazil until the 1990s. During Goulartʼs term, the political climate in Brazil, as in much of the world, became increasingly fractured and contentious. Goulartʼs leftist platform and allegiance with various communists both in Brazil and abroad led to a right-wing military coup in 1964 that established a dictatorship which would remain in power until 1985. This transition was viewed favorably by the United States government, and the dictatorship would become one of Americaʼs most reliable South American allies in ensuing years. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Good Neighbor Policy was bearing fruit. American musicians were infiltrating Brazil and vice versa, and both parties traveled between continents spreading musical ideas. For a certain circle of Brazilian musicians and fans, musical nationalism was somewhat of a moot point; many were quite keen on jazz and eager to absorb its harmonic lessons. American jazzmen in turn were captivated by Brazilian rhythms, which, after all,
had sprung from a similar but appealingly different cultural wellspring of the newworld African diaspora. American culture was increasingly present in Brazil particularly in the period following World War II. For a time, saturation of American culture in Brazil was such that some scholars have claimed that “the average Brazilian knew more of American jazz than domestic samba.” 1 Brazilian participation in the war effort led to a greater national sense of participation in the world, causing a brief and relative relaxation of cultural nationalism that cleared the way for international influences to creep in. Fan clubs dedicated to Frank Sinatra and his “Brazilian equivalent,” Dick Farney, were notorious incubators of the future producers and fans of bossa nova.2 Before the Rat Pack and bebop, doo-wop was also a beloved style in Brazilian musical circles; João Gilberto himself was a member and leader of vocal groups indebted to it.3 West-coast “cool” jazz was also popular among connoisseurs of music, many of whom frequented record stores debating music or reading the Revista da Música Brasileira, which, curiously enough, dedicated in-depth articles to subjects as diverse as ragtime and Fats Waller.4 Chet Bakerʼs voice and phrasing in particular would clearly influence the development of the bossa.5 Stan Kenton, with whom Brazilian Laurindo Almeida recorded Brazilliance (1953), an album that prefigured bossa nova, also had a coterie of admirers. The Brazilian record industry meanwhile
Moreno, 135 Castro, 61-63 3 Castro, 23 4 McCann, “Blues & Samba,” 28 5 Castro, 118
churned out jazzy dance-oriented albums for more middlebrow audiences, complete with covers displaying gentlemen in tuxedoes and ladies in elegant evening gowns.6 The atmosphere of 1950s Zona Sul has been characterized by cultural fertility and rapid exchange, where practiced musicians prided themselves on being able to effortlessly switch between a myriad of American and Brazilian styles.7 There, contrary to the nationalist discourse, “to listen to and know jazz was a sign of status, culture, cosmopolitanism, and participation in North American culture – a cultural passport to belong to the global elite.” However, especially later, involvement with American culture within these circles would
again become “a sign of alienation and disregard in relation to Brazilian culture.” 8 The Brazilian Alfredo Jos da Silva--better known by his stage name, Johnny Alf-was the don of the Zona Sul music scene in the years before bossa nova; today heʼs known as the father figure to the genre. On any given night, one could hear Alf playing the tunes of Nat King Cole, George Shearing, Farney, and a number of Brazilian sambas.9 Rumblings of bossa nova—and the intense debate surrounding nationalism in music that followed in its wake--were heard in Tom Jobimʼs soundtrack for Orfeu Negro [Black Orpheus], the film adaptation of Vinícius de Moraesʼ play Orfeu do Conceição. The French film was lauded practically
McCann, 27 McCann, 29 8 Piedade, 56 9 McCann, 33
everywhere but Brazil. On one hand, it was the first glimpse of Brazil for many viewers in the wider world, who delighted in the filmʼs sumptuous, Technicolor portrayal of Rioʼs carnival and Brazilian song and dance. On the other, the majority of Brazilians could scarcely believe that the nationʼs best composers would lend their talents to a film that flagrantly romanticized favela life.10 Orfeu Negro, as we shall see, was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg; Brazilian music would continue to be misconstrued abroad. The foundation of bossa nova was cultivated first and foremost by João Gilberto. In a now-mythical story in which he repeatedly locked himself in a bathroom for hours to hear his intonation perfectly echo from the showerʼs tile walls, he pioneered the bossaʼs intimate vocal delivery and the violão gago, or “stammering guitar,” whose novel approach to rhythm gave the genre its
fundamental sound. The genre went from idiosyncratic and singular invention to a broader genre when Gilberto linked up with Antônio Carlos Jobim and his collaborator Vinícius de Moraes. Though Gilberto could and did write songs, his real skills were as an interpreter, vocalist, and guitarist. “Tom” Jobim, on the other hand, was a professional, seasoned songwriter. Jobim lent bossa nova much of its harmonic and melodic sophistication, a task in which he was in artistic debt less to jazz and more to Villa-Lobos, who had previously synthesized the harmonic innovations of turn-of-the-century French impressionism with Brazilian popular and Western-classical music.11 Jobim fortuitously happened to
Veloso, 159 Reily 10.
be in a longer-term collaboration with Moraes, the poet/diplomat whose affiliation with music would bolster its status and claims towards high(er) culture. When Jobim met Gilberto, the stage was set: bossa nova had its quintessential composer, lyricist, and stylist-interpreter. Through a sequence of fortuitous negotiations at many levels of the recording industry, Gilberto was able to record “Chega de Saudade” and “Bim Bom” with Jobim arranging. The record was promoted heavily—especially in São Paulo—and became a hit, despite record company reservations that it was beyond the general publicʼs taste.12 Eventually, “Chega de Saudade” would become another of Brazilʼs unofficial national anthems, and would represent for the next generation of Brazilian popular musicians a revolutionary paradigm shift, or “one minute and fifty-nine seconds that changed everything.”13 David Treece eloquently describes the unique aesthetic harmony and balance achieved in the bossa nova as “ecological rationality.” In other words, every constituent element in a song or recording are given equal treatment; the guitar and voice, for example, are weighted equally in the mix, and the lyrics are composed with as much rigor as the harmony. One of the genreʼs hallmarks is self-reflexivity, or the words commenting on the music, and vice versa. This had scarcely been seen in previous Brazilian popular music, and certainly never with such an ingenious and economical manner as its “manifesto” songs: “Desafinado,” “Samba de Uma Nota Só,” and “Corcovado.” This was a shot of rarified high-modernistic artistic
Castro, 133-138 Castro, 125
innovation that distinguished bossa nova from the less conceptual bulk of global popular music at the time, paving the way for tropicáliaʼs continued experimentations with song text and lyrics. Harmonic modulation in bossa nova often feels circular. Song structures tend to move between themes of tension and release that are echoed in lyrics describing romantic conflict and resolution. While the vocal stylings of João Gilbertoʼs classic bossas clearly hearken to Chet Baker, the nasality of his vocals are also notably reminiscent of Northeastern caboclo music, which Gilberto may have heard growing up in Bahia.14 While in samba the guitar had mostly been a second-string entity that was drowned out by percussion and other stringed instruments, it becomes an almost magical, sacred entity in bossa nova. Where jazz “swings,” bossa novaʼs equivalent is “balanço,” a word that also refers to swinging, but “swaying” seems more appropriate—Béhague describes the bossaʼs particular swing as “oscillatory.” 15 Bossa nova condensed classic samba to a bare, spare incarnation while simultaneously stretching its harmonic and rhythmic elements. The style effectively “elevated the entire level of Brazilian popular music and encouraged the development of dormant artistic talent,” after decades of musicʼs association as a vocation for “degenerates.” 16 It also “made the emergent middle class more critical in general, open for the first time to
Béhague, 212 Béhague, 213 16 Moreno, 134-137
analyze competently the new directions their culture was taking,” as the 60ʼs would increasingly become more culturally and politically charged.17 The bossa novaʼs many innovations were so novel that it was initially
difficult for many Brazilians to realize that the genre was still essentially a highly modern iteration of samba. Bossa nova in part resulted as a reaction to the perceived stylistic excesses of samba canção and exaltação, the most manneristic iterations in the canon of samba, and can be thought of as inverting the nationalist exuberance of samba-exaltação by “showing” rather than “telling” of Brazilʼs greatness. In other words, the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic sophistication of bossa nova negated the need for musical theatrics, melodrama and bombast by self-evidently speaking for itself, and by extension, the Brazilian nation. The bossaʼs sound was revolutionary in its era. Harmonies of its kind had scarcely entered the popular realm, and it then represented perhaps the biggest undeniable, fundamental paradigm shift in the history of Brazilian popular music. The achievements of the bossa are all the more astounding when one considers the average gap between the erudite and popular worldwide, both then and now. The bossa represents one of the most graceful and significant aesthetic mediations between these two spheres of the past century. Another of the genreʼs disruptions of the established samba paradigm was that, rather than arising through the collective collaboration by a large group of disparate individuals over a considerable period of time, its creation is largely attributed to three collaborators, and its subsequent development mostly conscripted to a
relatively contained Caroica music scene. It must, however, be reiterated: bossa nova could not have existed without building upon the template and foundation of samba, and it emerged from a broader milieu in which global—especially American—musical innovations were avidly devoured. From the start, the genre had its feet planted on two continents, and this would very much serve to intensify cultural debates in Brazil surrounding globalization and musical nationalism. The larger historical moment of bossa nova is indeed where the issue of globalization in Brazil quite rapidly begins to become unavoidable and heated.
The Emergence of Bossaʼs “Second Generation”
Bossa nova emerged in the heyday of president Juscelino Kubitschekʼs rhetoric of “fifty years of progress in five,” his administrationʼs mission to rapidly modernize and economically invigorate Brazil in hopes of shedding its banana republic image and becoming a major player in the larger world. Though these initiatives would eventually leave the nation in massive debt and partially contribute to the political turmoil of the sixties, the era is still remembered as a kind of golden age of national optimism. Bossa nova, as it coincided with the socioeconomic and political zeitgeist, became the eraʼs soundtrack. Kubitschekʼs term entailed grand modernization efforts, the construction and migration of the capital to Brasília, the celebration of a modernist avant-garde aesthetic
throughout the arts and architecture, and the continued, rapid growth of Rioʼs
Zona Sul that more broadly evinced the emergence of a sizable Brazilian middle class, at least in Brazilʼs southern half. Kubitscheck was succeeded by João Goulart, whose liberal reformist platform set the tone of the brief, more stridently progressive, and idealistic era of the early 1960s, before the military dictatorship consolidated power. Much can be said of bossa novaʼs curious and rather isolated creation at the hands of mostly white Brazilians who sprang from the upper and middle classes, as this is where that larger demographic definitively enters the picture in this story and begins to shape it. It has been argued that bossa nova represented the first time the Brazilian middle class, including Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque, had “genuinely responded to an indigenous musical form,” though the samba canção and choro had courted middle-class taste long before.18 The upper-class image of the genre is bolstered by the story of its propagation at the exclusive beachside family apartment of the bossaʼs “muse,” the still-teenage Nara Leão, as well as the genreʼs co-optation in America by advertisers to sell “sophisticated” products to moneyed classes. Much ado has been made of the class element in bossa nova, but a distinction must be made between the music being a cultural product that inherently or deliberately appealed to middle class taste—which it was not--versus the skin color of its creators, the neighborhood in which it was popularized, the university audience it attracted, and the broader and coincident emergence of the Brazilian middle class. The original canon of
bossa nova in and of itself had less to do with social class than the eventual discourse that surrounded it. Bossa nova is still associated with Rioʼs largely white, privileged zona sul, but this also happened to be the area of town where most paying music gigs were happening. Had the texture of Rio de Janeiro not
been disrupted in the first decade of the century, or if the nucleus of cutting-edge musical invention in the city (and indeed the country) had remained in the favelas, Gilberto, Jobim, and Moraes might have been retracing the steps of Rosa, Cendrars, or Villa-Lobos. Nevertheless, this partly superimposed condition has taken on a life of its own. In the intervening decades, bossa nova, particularly abroad, has come to be associated with the upper-class, as opposed to the broader middle class from which it actually sprang. This has largely led to its current association outside of Brazil, which sadly has less to do with aesthetic innovation and more to do with elevator music. Even the pensive connoisseurs of jazz in America were hostile to the imported genre. In the wake of the pivotal 1962 concert at Carnegie Hall that established bossa novaʼs arrival on American soil, DownBeat Magazine dedicated an entire hostile issue to dealing with the crisis bossa nova posed towards the hegemony of American jazz.19 Even the few committed to popularizing the genre and chaperoning its romance with jazz, mostly notably Verve Recordsʼ Creed Taylor, couldnʼt help but package the “exotic” genre in suave tropical clothing, further dislocating it from its original context and distorting
the trajectory of its legacy abroad.20 The examples of both Carmen Miranda and bossa nova in the United States in general demonstrate the difficulties in translation between center and periphery, more “raw material” to be used in the tropicalistsʼ later project. The classist interpretation of bossa nova nevertheless carried weight on home soil, and to some extent cannot be denied. Ruy Castroʼs study, for instance, does fair justice to the explosion of demand for guitars and guitar teachers in Rioʼs south zone in the wake of “Chega de Saudade.” 21 But a “second generation” of bossa novistas from Rioʼs Zona Sul was springing up as soon as 1962, united by the imperative to discard the genreʼs middle-class perspective and defend Brazilian music from the invasion of Anglo rock. The growing consciousness among Brazilʼs middle class led to a desire to musically integrate Brazilian social reality in song, with all its unevenness, inequality, complexities, and contradictions. Their assertion was that the genreʼs original template as produced by the so-called Gilberto-Jobim-Moraes “holy trinity” was more concerned with “love, flowers, and the sea” than, say, Brazilʼs horrific social inequalities. Of course, the beauty of tropical nature, the trials of love, and beachcentric metaphors had been common tropes in Brazilian popular music long before bossa nova; this much was confirmed by one of the bossaʼs eventual musician-critics, Carlos Lyra, who said that the bossa was “just a musically new way of repeating the same romantic and inconsequential things that were being
Gevers, 10-25 Castro, 147
said long since.” 22 Lyra, among others, would eventually lead the charge of bossaʼs second generation, but his grander musical-political ambitions would
largely be stymied. It was the tropicalists who would arguably have more success saying “more consequential things” at the end of the decade, and they succeeded by doing so less didactically than their rival factions. Nara Leãoʼs infamous disavowal of the “bourgeois introspection” of bossa nova so beautifully conveys the sentiment of its second generation that she deserves to be quoted at length: “Enough of Bossa Nova. No more singing some little apartment song for two or three intellectuals. I want the pure samba, which has much more to say, which is the expression of the people, and not something made by one little group for another little group…I don't want to spend the rest of my life singing “The girl from Ipanema” and, even less, in English. I want to be understood, I want to be a singer of the people.” 23 Leão would brazenly cross class and racial boundaries throughout the decade, working for the revolutionary-minded Centre of Popular Culture, hosting the leftist “Show Opinão” that followed in its wake (in whose opening sequence she appeared flanked by two semi-literate Afro-Brazilians), and starring in Vinícius de Moraesʼ play Pobre Menina Rica [Poor Little Rich Girl], a role that was knowingly true to life. 24 Her later collaboration with venerated favela sambistas Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Zé Keti on her 1963 and 1964
Treece, 12 Treece, 17 24 Dunn, 55
albums, “definitively split the bossa nova movement” soon after the political rightʼs military coup.25
Carlos Lyra would also increasingly become an outspoken catalyst for the bossaʼs foray into social consciousness and politics. Claiming that aesthetic concerns had divorced bossa nova from Brazilʼs popular traditions, Lyra split from his previous songwriting partner Roberto Bôscoli, who politically leaned a little towards the right, and commenced a public competition in which the two former partners ended up on rival labels competing for fans.26 Shortly thereafter, Lyra officially coined the term “sambalanço” for his own particular brand of “jazzless,” “authentic” bossa nova. This gesture has been described alternately as a marketing ploy and sincere nationalist gesture, and it seems most prudent to conclude that it was a bit of both.27 His subsequent “Influência do Jazz” was a manifesto of sorts in which the samba, which had “lost its way” in assimilating foreign influences, returned to its roots in the favelas for cultural renewal. Lyraʼs similarly famous “Feio não é bonito [Ugly Ainʼt Pretty]” also revolves around the favela, juxtaposing a de-romanticized celebration of marginalized favela culture with a refrain that ironically employed the samba-exaltação style. Lyra also worked to genuinely unite disparate social classes through music; he has been cited as the first major bossa nova musician to collaborate with favelas sambistas.28 Lyraʼs more politicized creations, however, are representative of the
Treece, 17 Castro, 199 27 Milstein, 179 28 Milstein, 186
basic equation musical nationalists would increasingly support in defining the
character of MPB: MPB minus foreign influence equals “authentic” MPB.29 It was against this sort of simplistic and restricting rendition that the tropicalists would react. In the early 1960s, Lyra began earnestly working at the Centre of Popular Culture (CPC)—later re-christened the Popular Center of Culture—where he and others would compose a manifesto for socially conscious music. Its members decried the inward orientation that bossa nova had developed at the expense of communicating with “O Povo” [The People], and encouraged musicians to free themselves from “bourgeois attitudes.” 30 The organization, whose musical arm also founded strong interdisciplinary ties with leftist cinema and theater, was strongly aligned with and representative of president Goulartʼs liberal reformist political platform in the early 1960s. But the CPC faced myriad internal problems from the start. Member Ricardo Martins recalls being frustrated, coming from bossa novaʼs sophisticated formal aesthetic, at the homogenizing tendency that occurred when trying to create music for a broad audience and “delivering the organizationʼs message in such a simplistic way.” 31 Most importantly, Lyra expressed the organizationʼs concerns about romanticizing the misery of poor Brazilians and could never divorce himself from the fact that he was of middleclass and trying to appeal to an unfamiliar working-class constituency.32 This
See Santos, Tropical Kitsch, pp 35-61. Treece, 14 31 Castro, 185 32 Milstein, 177-184
issue was never quite resolved. The 1964 military coup ultimately disbanded the organization and systematically cut ties between the middle class and the proletarian constituency it hoped to forge an allegiance with. Soon after, Lyra went into voluntary exile, only to return in 1971, thus ending the lionʼs share of the bossaʼs political flirtations.33 While a faction of bossa novaʼs progenitors stuck to João Gilbertoʼs solitary, existentialist-inspired model, another took it in a jazzier, “harder” direction in a direct acknowledgment of their awareness of American hard bop. McCannʼs study shows that “even musicians in Ipanema distanced themselves from the “cool” bossa of the so-called holy trinity, identifying it as faddish, calling their own “hotter” variant of improvisation-heavy creations samba-jazz.” 34 Jazz elements were inevitably creeping into bossaʼs original template: many Brazilian drummers adopted an American jazz approach to playing cymbals, and continued distilling sambaʼs syncopated polyrhythms to the solitary percussionistʼs drum set, an instrument conspicuously absent from the bossaʼs original template.35 Vestiges of the samba-canção even began to seep in, due in no small part to the sheer exuberance of the soaring vocals of Elis Regina, a genre-defying artist in her own right. Regina would become host of “O Fino” after her successful interpretation of Edu Lobo and Vinícius de Moraesʼ “Arrastão” at the TV Excelsiorʼs Brazilian Popular Music Festival in April 1965.36
Milstein, 187 McCann, “Blues & Samba,” 26 35 Gevers, 28 36 Treece, 23
Lobo was another mediator in this increasingly contentious atmosphere, blending the northeastern regionalism of the protest singers with bossaʼs advanced harmonic palette. His work built on the creations of Baden Powell, another collaborator of Moraes who came of age in the Mangueira favela and composed formally sophisticated bossa nova. Of their many collaborations,
“Berimbau” integrates one of the most iconic northeastern traditions with a postbossa aesthetic, supplanting the golden age bossaʼs “ecological rationality” and tendency towards circular resolution with a primarily two-chord oscillating motif and lyrics that foreshadow tropicália in their construction of binary opposites. To fit the spirit of the times, the song ultimately calls for “integrity and solidarity.” 37 Chico Buarque, another musical figure who became a bit of a movement unto himself, would also articulate his own subtle, socially aware, bossa-influenced take on more traditional hardline classic samba, spurred in 1964 by his first success through the wildly popular marçha “A banda,” whose simplicity was formally the antithesis of orthodox bossa. Lobo, Regina, and Buarque, among others, would come to represent bossaʼs gradual absorption and broadening into música popular brasileira throughout the 1960s.
The Jovem Guarda & Protest Song
While bossaʼs second generation was coalescing, Anglo-style rock was arriving and inspiring Brazilian variants as early as 1960. Its appearance
politically divided MPB between engajado [engaged] and aliendao [alienated]
factions and provided a new front upon which Lyra and the protest singers would wage musical and ideological battles. Bôscoli and Lyra composed “Lobo Bobo” to counteract rock, which at the time had grown the extent that it was reputedly selling 70% of the Brazilian market; they claimed in its wake that that song pulled the market back to a 50/50 equilibrium.38 Brazilian rock had come to prominence almost simultaneously with bossa nova; Nora Ney, one of its first performers, had recorded a version of “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955. The first true Brazilian rock composition was Cauby Piexotoʼs recording of Miguel Gustavoʼs “Rock and Roll em Copacabana” in 1957, which revived the 1930s trend of recording Portuguese “versions” of American hits.39 One of the first “home-grown” Brazilian rock stars was Celly Campello, who was promoted heavily via the radio, lent her voice to advertising jingles, and whose likeness was immortalized via a childrenʼs doll. Around this time, rock-oriented magazines aimed at the teen market began appearing on newsstands. By 1962, the market for versions was booming and Brazilian rock was claiming a growing presence on television. One of the first, “Reino da Juventude,” struggled to compete with the bossa while confined in a daytime slot. Later, “Clube do Clan” landed a hallowed prime-time spot on Rádio Nacional. A fierce competitor, it tried to dismantle the venerable tradition of free airtime for Brazilian music, a gesture that provoked the nationalist camp to rally through protest and
Treece, 13 Treece, 12
ultimately spelled its demise. Between 1965-68, Roberto Carlos skyrocketed to fame in the Beatlesʼ wake through his television program “Jovem Guarda.” The showʼs moniker was eventually applied to the entire Brazilian rock movement, and Carlos in turn became its figurehead. The tropicalists would privilege his example above all others in the jovem guarda camp, and their adoption of his songs and enthusiasm for his music in general would represent major
provocations of the cultural left. Fascinatingly, Carlos started as a working-class sambista before moving to rock partly because it was opportune. Television slyly “smoothed out the edges” of rock largely through his image, branded its stars as reformed rebels, and lent the snowballing genre an even broader, all-ages appeal.40 This provoked the ire and anxiety of both the nationalists, whose movement rock was suffocating, as well as the politically committed, who feared that it alienated Brazilʼs youth from the grave political concerns of the day. Though the bossa camp gained its first mass audience via “O Fino,” it eventually lost out in ratings to the ascendant iê-iê-iê and went off the air. For some, meanwhile, bossa novaʼs modernity came to be associated with America, and by extension, capitalism and cultural imperialism, and pop-rock smirked even more flagrantly of “American decadence.” In response, a growing faction of Brazilian musicians largely disregarded the traditions of both bossa and samba altogether and created a protest song movement heavily indebted to the northeastʼs folkloric music. This was expedient, as large volumes of poor northeastern migrants were continuing to move to southern Brazil in droves, still
on the hunt for work. The resulting zeitgeist was ultimately much like the politically charged folk protest music then sweeping more broadly through the
Americas both north and south. One of the earliest tide changes with respect to this trend entailed Caetano Velosoʼs sister, Maria Bêthania, replacing Nara Leão on Show Opinão in December 1964, the eve of the military coup. Her performance of João do Valeʼs “Cacará,” which has since become legendary, lyrically linked rural north-easternersʼ resilience with the bird of prey for which the song is named. The titleʼs semi-shouted delivery was highly provocative in itself, and represented yet another instance of “anti-bossa,” whose dissonant chords Bêthania described at the time as “wishy-washy.” 41 Despite being quickly censored, the first pressing of the single sold out in three days.42 The musician ultimately most associated with protest song, however, was Geraldo Vandré, a migrant from Paraíba in Brazilʼs northeast. He was moving into the limelight as early as 1963 by cultivating a strident take on northeastern rural folk song. His position was consolidated through the success of his anthem “Disparada,” which tied Buarqueʼs “A banda” for first place in the same epochal TV Record Festival that hosted the public coming-out of tropicália. These festivals were a crucial aesthetic and ideological battle ground in 1960s Brazil, but will be examined in more depth vis-à-vis tropicália in the next chapter. They became infamous for hosting the emergence of sharply divided factions of spectators and their competitive, derisive jeering, a practice that would escalate
Treece, 18 Treece 17.
partly for its own sake in future festivals.43 In the increasingly tense aesthetic and political atmosphere promoted by the rise of the dictatorship in 1964, “Disparada” exemplified a “new didacticism,” or antagonism between singers and their opposed constituencies within the fractured public sphere.44 Vandré is noted throughout Caetano Velosoʼs memoir as both a sympathetic individual and a strident opponent of tropicália, denouncing Gal Costa publicly after the recording of “Baby,” and blockading proposed tropicalist spectacles.45 Capitalizing on “Disparadaʼs” success, Vandré by early 1967 was hosting a television show in its name. His on-air rivals further demonstrate the splintered popular music landscape: Chico Buarque and Leão hosted “Pra vera Banda Passar,” Gilberto Gil and Bêthania, “Ensaio Geral,” the “old guard” of bossa, “Bossaudade,” and Elis Regina and Jair Rodrigues, “O Fino da Bossa.” 46 Vandré would ride the wave of political dissent through the sixties to its apex, which found the singer before a stadium audience of 30,000 singing along to his encore performance of the militant “Caminhando” at the TV Globoʼs Third International Festival of Song in September 1968. The government-rigged jury voted against his entry despite clear audience support and elicited a storm of protest from the crowd. Vandréʼs song was subsequently banned, and the performance led to his exile following the military governmentʼs Fifth Institutional Act. Though admired for its good intentions, the protest song movementʼs
See Terra & Calil, Uma Noite em 67 Treece, 25 45 Veloso, 175, 97-99 46 Treece, 18
efficacy has been widely debated. Any semblance of a broader, bona-fide popular movement in its wake was effectively stifled by the military regime, and an ideological critique of its prerogative is better expressed by Brazilian critic Walnice Galvão, writing from the vantage of 1968:
“…despite the new song's commitment to 'an everyday, present reality, to the "here and now,"ʼ it did little more than replace the obviously ideological, 'escapist complacency' of bossa nova, and its mythology of 'sun, sea and sand', with a new and equally reassuring mythology. Its ubiquitous theme, 'The day will come,' substituted the redemptive power of the song itself for any kind of real action, which was postponed to some hypothetical, utopian future. The 'people' were thus consigned to passivity as 'listeners', absolved of responsibility and denied any agency as the subjects of history.” 47 Scholar David Treece apologizes somewhat for this critique, saying that Galvão perhaps “misses the point,” reminding readers of the extent to which the socio-political climate of Brazil in the late 1960s was circumscribed by the state, leaving the political left disembodied and unable to form a popular movement that posed a viable counter-solution to that of the dictatorship. In turn, he argues, there was little else musicians could do but “vent their frustration.” 48 Discussion of these competing cultural strains—bossa novaʼs second generation, iê-iê-iê, and protest song—could go much deeper. Their importance to this thesis is demonstrating the definitive disruption of sambaʼs relatively linear evolution and the emergence of MPB as a still-nebulous concept. The tropicalists would soon engage each of the major competing factions in Brazilian musical culture and transcend the divisions they created, transforming MPB in the process. In the mid-sixties, the dictatorship was still seen as merely temporary
Treece, 5 Treece, 28
threat that would soon be overcome. The tropicalists would operate under a more strict iteration of the regime, resorting by necessity to oblique protest in the face of censorship. How they did so is the focus of the next chapter.
Chapter 4: Tropicália
This chapter traces the output of the “Bahian group”—Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Zé—as well as the group of cultural allies they gathered in the task of reinvigorating Brazilian music. The tropicalists advanced their aesthetic ideas primarily through their albums, live performances, and televised “happenings.” Many of those involved with the movement were also lucid interpreters of their own output and the larger cultural scene in 1960s Brazil, elaborating on their work and othersʼ through polemics and interviews. Caetano Veloso has summed up the directives of the movement as such: “Tropicalismo wanted to project itself as the triumph over two notions: one, that the version of western enterprise offered by American pop and mass culture was potentially liberating—though we recognized that a naive attraction to that version is a healthy impulse—and, two, the horrifying humiliation represented by capitulation to the narrow interests of dominant groups, whether at home or internationally.” 1 Of course, it was much more than that.
The broader “tropicalist moment” of 1968 was presaged by developments in other disciplines as well as the core tropicalistsʼ releases inaugural releases.
Both phenomena shed light on the cultural transitions enacted between the mid and late-sixties and impending transformation within Brazilian music. Veloso and Gal Costaʼs first collaborative album, Domingo, took a “radical joãogilbertist stance” in reifying golden-era bossa nova in performance and eschewed the political pretenses of second-generation bossa while hinting in the liner notes at a sort-of musical revolution to come.2 On the other hand, Gilberto Gilʼs first album, Louvação, was more in step with the protest arm of bossa nova; indeed he and future tropicalists Tom Zé and Carlos Capinan had worked with the CPC while in Salvador.3 In the interim between Louvaçãoʼs recording and release, Gilʼs popularity grew via televised performances on the show O Fino da Bossa. Around this time, Gil also made a performance-oriented trip to Pernambuco in Brazilʼs northeast, where he was exposed firsthand to a broader tradition of traditional Brazilian music. The journey would be transformative, and Gil returned to the urban south as a sort of an evangelist, intensely attuned to “the violence of poverty and the power of artistic invention.” 4 His basic forthcoming idea was to juxtapose the competing strains of Brazilian music on an even playing field, making music that “was more commercial so it could better serve as a vehicle for revolutionary ideas.” 5 Gil subsequently called a meeting of those comprising the core Bahian group and beyond—including Chico Buarque, who ultimately wasnʼt interested, Sérgio Ricardo, a holdover from bossaʼs second-generation, as well
Veloso, 57, 94. Dunn, 57 4 Veloso, 78. 5 Veloso, 80
as other key cultural players, musicians and otherwise—to discuss “subverting the MPB status quo.” 6 This scene highlights something interesting and slightly lesser known
about the tropicalists: how intimately they were tied to the power barons of mass culture in realizing their project, and vice versa. A common conception of avantgarde art privileges the artistʼs disconnection from--and often antagonism towards--established power structures in efforts to subvert or critique them, but avant-garde art often comes to prominence in the first place through complex negotiations with empowered representatives of these very structures. Tropicália is no exception in this regard. Guilherme Araújo, the manager of the Bahian group, was the key intermediary for the tropicalists in these transactions. Though his influence on the movement is seldom noted in the same breath as the concrete poets, the Música Nova composers or Roberto Carlos, he should be. He has been cited by Veloso as the “co-idealizer” of tropicália, largely acted as the groupʼs stylist, cultivated their star power, and worked behind the scenes on the movementʼs behalf. As companion to Gil on his formative trip to the northeast, Araújo is credited with influencing the singer to have the courage to give voice to his own revolutionary aesthetic ideas. But even Araújo wanted to be a cultural game-changer, and his vision was very much in line with the tropicalists, who worked with him despite his “questionable” entrepreneurial abilities.7
Veloso, 85 Veloso, 79
Business executives and producers as much as artists shaped the
direction of Brazilian popular music in the 1960s, often very much from on high. The tropicalists both called and attended pivotal meetings with top-shelf music business executives and other artists; scenes from Velosoʼs memoir find factions as diverse as Chico Buarque, Elis Regina, Jorge Ben, Roberto Carlos, Edu Lobo, Sérgio Ricardo, and Geraldo Vandré with the tropicalists under one roof. 8 Gatherings like these created entities like the “Broad Front of MPB,” a brainchild of elite music industry players developed primarily as a defensive money-making publicity stunt. In the period just before tropicáliaʼs public inauguration, the groupʼs momentary formation found Gilberto Gil, despite sympathies very much to the contrary, marching through the streets with Elis Regina, Geraldo Vandré, and Jair Rodrigues, united in protest against the electric guitar, the jovem guarda, and anti-nationalist cultural forces in general. Veloso and Nara Leão watched the “sinister procession” from the window of a hotel above, ”horrified.” 9 These episodes of cultural power brokering cast the tropicalistsʼ spectacles, happenings, and polemics in a markedly different and revealing light. Without ties to the higher realms of the music industry and the resources they entailed—intimacies unthinkable to, say, the majority of favela sambistas—the tropicalistʼ work might have never reached a broader audience, or perhaps even developed in earnest at all.
Veloso, 96 Veloso, 97
On this note, it is not much of a stretch to see these brokerings as an
updated version of cross-class transactions in the earlier days of samba, updated to the context of mass media. The tropicalists were some of the savviest and most perceptive artists of their generation in enacting their side of the bargain. Their movement was very much conceived as a response to mass culture in its multivalent forms: television, advertising, the promotion of consumerism, and the emergence of overarching pop culture as itʼs now known. This component of the movement had a particularly sharp political edge; by the late 1960s the Brazilian state was increasingly using the mass media to promote its ideology, exert social control, and encourage consumerism in support of its dubious “economic miracle.” TV Globo, Brazilʼs first national network and today one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, was inaugurated by the military regime with support from American capital, and by 1968 was reaching its first mass audience, all developments of which the tropicalists were well aware.10 What would only later become known as the broader tropicalist movement was meanwhile coalescing in other disciplines. In 1967, Hélio Oiticicaʼs “Tropicália” installation, after which Veloso would name his song-manifesto and eventually the movement itself, was exhibited at the “New Brazilian Objectivity” exhibit at Rioʼs Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit comprised an installation in which spectators wandered through “penetrables” in a synthetic tropical environment that included colorful favela-esque structures, tropical plants, pathways of sand, and live parrots. After moving through a dark tunnel,
spectators arrived before television set, a symbol of Brazilʼs emergent middle
class and aspirations towards global modernity. Part of the Oiticicaʼs mission, like that of the rising musical faction of the tropicalists, was to divorce avant-garde art from the elite and make it approachable to the popular classes. Another incisive component of his work was to “suggest that underdevelopment was inscribed in the process of conservative modernization in Brazil.” 11 Oiticica followed the footsteps of Villa-Lobos into Rioʼs favelas as a source of inspiration and camaraderie, vocally placed his work in the line of Oswald de Andrade, and in one penetrable inscribed his thesis, “Pureza é um mito [Purity is a myth],” a sentiment very much in line with the tradition of modernism in Brazil from the 1920s to the late 60s. In theater, the most crucial tropicalist stimulus was the Teatro Oficinaʼs premiere of Oswald de Andradeʼs The Candle King. The play was written by Andrade in 1933, during the eve of the censorship-heavy phase of Vargasʼ regime. It was sidelined in the wake of Estado Novo censorship only to be resurrected in the theater a generation later. The late-60s version of the play took place on a rotating stage, was deliberately anarchic, grotesque, carnivalesque, and most of its characters were despicable. True to the zeitgeists of both the 1920s and 60s, it satirized both ends of the Brazilian political spectrum, the capitulation of the military regime to foreign interests, and the class preservationism and exploitation of the poor by the Brazilian elite--each of which would become hallmarks of the musical tropicalist oeuvre. Its production also
included an imperialist American tourist character, demonstrating that wariness towards North America was not confined to music alone. The playʼs director,
José Celso Corrêa, would later assist in staging tropicalist happenings, and was inspired notably by the military dictatorshipʼs false marketing of Brazil, particularly towards America, as a bucolic tropical paradise. Caetano Veloso has reminisced that seeing the play made him realize “that there was indeed a movement afoot in Brazil…that transcended popular music.” 12 The tropicalist oeuvre is indeed extraordinary in its integration of this larger cultural zeitgeist. José Agrippino de Paulaʼs novel Panamérica too played on a charged center-versus-periphery global dynamic, placing American movie stars in a Brazilian setting. The novel was noted for its provocative vulgarity, attack of elitism, its attention to “the emergence of 20th century myths,” self-consciously locating itself on the periphery of the global economy, and implicitly questioning the value of avantgarde art in Latin America. Glauber Rochaʼs 1967 film Terra em Transe was equally foundational, depicting the northeast of Brazil as a setting for a political allegory representing the death of traditional leftist populism in Brazil. It dramatically enacted the central conflict of the CPC: a well-meaning middle class clumsily attempting to speak for the disenfranchised. Veloso described the film as “the catalyst of the [tropicalist] movement” which “confirmed…that unconscious aspects of our reality were being revealed,” and admitted to wanting to be “a little Glauber and a little
João [Gilberto].” 13 The filmʼs emphasis on the rift between Bahia and the metropolitan south, its indictment of various factions of the political left, and its rough aesthetic style would largely dictate the crest of the avant-garde in film throughout the decade. The tropicalists appreciated Rochaʼs Bahian vision of a
chaotic, contradictory, geographically divided, and surreal Brazil, and Veloso later professed to aligning with Rocha to “destroy the Brazil of the nationalists…and pulverize the image of Brazil as being exclusively identified with Rio.” 14 Rochaʼs example of provocative political brazenness paved the way for tropicáliaʼs strident disavowal of the orthodox leftʼs culturally stultifying political correctness. 1967 also saw the release of The Beatlesʼ landmark Sgt. Pepperʼs Lonely Hearts Club Band, which introduced the world to the conceptual pop album. Gil has said that the tropicalists wanted “not to replicate the musical procedures of the Beatles, but rather their attitude in relation to what popular music really meant as a phenomenon.” 15 Though music criticism is rife with both thoughtful and thoughtless comparisons between the tropicalist project and Sgt. Pepperʼs, Veloso maintains that their group didnʼt know the Beatles well, beyond Gilʼs admiration for “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Gil particularly saw in the British group the opportunity to enact “…an alchemical transformation of commercial trash into an inspired and free creation, as a way of reinforcing the autonomy of the creators—and of the consumers.” 16 The phrase “commercial trash” here is
Veloso, 57-60 Veloso, 30 15 Veloso, 103 16 Veloso, 103
indicative. Today, after decades of scholarly re-assessment of popular culture, it sounds inappropriate. But taken in context, it highlights the centrality and importance of music in Brazilian culture, and how staunchly it was defended by its practitioners. The many similarities between the Beatles and the tropicalists make the latterʼs statements downplaying the formerʼs influence somewhat suspect. Nevertheless, Veloso has said that at the onset of the tropicalist project, rock was “relatively contemptible,” and bossa nova, rather, was the “the sound of rebellion.”
This evidences Velosoʼs own nationalist bias, despite his sentiments that
Brazilian cultural nationalists had “naive good intentions” and that Brazilian Americanophiles in turn were “ridiculous.” 18 The tropicalists too were ultimately nationalists, but presented their version of nationalism in a different way than the various sectors of the orthodox left. Veloso has described the tropicalistsʼ approach to nationalism as “aggressive” as opposed to “defensive;” their project has also been described as “oscillating [...] between critical and radical nationalism.” 19 It is crucial, on this note, to add that the tropicalists were not concerned with developing their careers abroad.20 Veloso was later even more lucid regarding Brazilʼs position in the global sphere: “I felt I lived in a homogenous country whose inauthentic aspects—and the various versions of rock certainly represented one of them—were a result of social injustice (which
Veloso, 31 Veloso, 20 19 Dunn, 73 20 Dunn, 202
fomented ignorance) and of its macro-manifestation, imperialism, which imposed its styles and products.” 21 Though Roberto Carlos is eminently enjoyable especially after acquiring the patina of fifty years, the tropicalistsʼ embrace of his aesthetic in Brazilʼs nationalist climate was a bold move. It required the tropicalists “leaps of imagination” to listen “with love” to Roberto Carlos and other commercial music, even if domestically produced. Their position towards the jovem guarda was inspired, ironically enough, by Maria Bêthania, who didnʼt participate in the tropicalist movement formally but is characterized as whispering sage aesthetic advice into the tropicalistsʼ ears from the sidelines. She made her own separate tropicalist gestures in “dislocating” and performing innovative renditions of música cafona—loosely: tacky, sentimental songs--and would later be a major creative force in composing “Baby,” one of the highlights of the tropicalist catalog.22 A decade into the new millennium, this tactic is now fairly common, but in the context of 1960s Brazil, this dismantling of dividing lines in culture was groundbreaking work.
The Inauguration of Tropicália
The TV Recordʼs 1967 Third Festival of MPB in São Paulo has been considered the formal, public inauguration of the tropicália movement. There
Veloso, 161 Veloso, 171
Veloso debuted “Alegria, Alegria [Happiness, happiness],” the movementʼs “open sesame,” backed by the Argentinian Beat Boys. Gilberto Gil in turn premiered “Domingo no Parque” with Rogério Duprat and Os Mutantes. It is indicative that Veloso originally wanted to perform with Robert Carlosʼ band, RC7, but upon seeing the Beat Boys, who were devotees of British neo-rock, “knew they were it” and hired them because they “represented in the most strident way everything that the MPB nationalists hated and feared.” 23 Veloso appeared on stage wearing a blazer with orange turtleneck in a festival in which performers usually wore tuxedos, a fashion statement that would look timid in light of what was soon to come. He was initially booed by the crowd, but his song eventually won the audience over, and Veloso was subsequently cheered off the stage. His entry, a mixture of a Bahian marçha and international pop, was deliberately composed to “both critique and accept television as a medium,” and was composed be easy to sing and remember by the festivalʼs audience.24 The song was inspired by Chacrinha, a television personality whose carnivalesque program was both host and inspiration to the tropicalists, whom most of the Brazilian left denounced as a “reactionary lout.” 25 The phrase “alegria, alegria” was borrowed straight from the host, who himself lifted it from Wilson Simonal, a musician who Veloso refers to as “a samba singer on his way to vulgar commercialism (though no less delicious for that),” a salient illustration of the tropicalistsʼ aesthetic strategy.26
Veloso, 102 Veloso, 101. 25 Dunn, 125. 26 Veloso, 100
76 Velosoʼs song narrates a languid stroll through urban Rio de Janeiro as a
vehicle for conveying an ironic affection towards the mass media. He peruses a newspaper whose front-page contains stories about subjects as diverse and global as an Italian movie star, crime, the space race, Brigitte Bardot, and Ché Guevara. The singer enjoys the December sunshine while living “without books and without guns, without hunger, in the heart of Brazil,” an ambivalent citation of increasing state violence, the leftʼs counter-productive, bookish intellectualism, and Brazilʼs wider social inequality. The Beatlesʼ “Fixing a Hole” is quoted, as is Sartre: Veloso walks with “nothing in his hands or pockets,” a phrase lifted directly from the French author, but here is invoked in reference to his identification papers, a gesture of indifference to the military presence on the streets.27 Veloso drinks Coca Cola as he walks, a symbol of America, pop, and globalization which he has said “defines the composition.” 28 Veloso among others have fascinatingly pointed out that, lyrics and motivations aside, both Chico Buarqueʼs “A banda” and “Alegria, Alegria” are extraordinarily similar songs, or even inversions of one another. Eventually the press would gradually, exaggeratedly paint Buarque as a bitter rival of tropicália and particularly Veloso. Though less notorious, the sentimental marçha “Paisagem útil” was composed in conjunction with “Alegria” and was really the first tropicalist song.29 Its title is a winking inversion of Tom Jobimʼs “Paisagem Inútil,” a bossa that reflected upon the natural landscape of Rio de Janeiro and considered it “useless”
Veloso, 101 Veloso, 100 29 Veloso, 68-69
in the absence of a lover. Veloso alternately contemplates the built environment of his adopted and still-expanding city, painting the expansion of one of its avenues as a symbol of Brazilʼs plunge into Western-style modernity. Veloso replaces Jobimʼs moon with the hovering oval of an Esso gas station, a highly ambivalent symbol of multinational capitalism, surrounded by “cars that seem to fly.” Like much of the resultant tropicalist oeuvre, it exhibits a preoccupation with modernity and the encroachment of globalization, employs collage aesthetics, resurrects outmoded musical genres and lyrical conventions, and a selfconsciously references its beloved predecessor, bossa nova. Gilʼs companion piece in the song festival was “Domingo no Parque [Sunday in the Park],” which mixed rural and “folkloric” styles with modern or classically oriented arrangements and electric guitars. The song narrates a crime of passion between two friends who shared a mutual love interest one Sunday at an amusement park. The juxtaposition of violence at the usually innocent and then-exotic, modern environment of a fair can be been read as a metaphor for state-sponsored violence in the midst of what was being over-hyped as a tropical paradise. The songʼs lyrics are non-sequential, and each line presents a different scene from varying perspectives in a technique that has been likened to cinematic montage.30 The Mutantes provided the versesʼ call and response vocals, themselves an invocation of northeastern Afro-Brazilian music, inverted here by being sung by young white rock musicians from São Paulo. The night the song premiered, Gil was terrified to perform, broke out in a cold sweat, hid in his
hotel room, was eventually persuaded out by a friend, and finally went on and
performed as if the prior episode had never happened.31 His fear again evinces the central role of music in Brazilian culture; a year later, Gil admitted to Veloso that it was rooted in the fear that they were “messing with dangerous things.” 32 In the songʼs debut performance, Gil himself played a nylon-stringed guitar—the venerated instrument of bossa nova—with an orchestra behind him, an electric guitar played by Sérgio Baptista of Os Mutantes on one side, and a berimbau on the other, visually reinforcing the juxtaposition of the popular and erudite, and folkloric and commercial, Brazilian and foreign, modern and traditional, an argument for the broadening of MPB and the destruction of limiting cultural boundaries. The songʼs dynamic arrangement was provided by Rogério Duprat, a composer of the irreverent Música Nova group, a group of classically-trained composers who banded together in response to the lack of popular and state support for art music, endeavoring instead to create avant-garde art music, advertising jingles, and practically everything in between. Like Villa-Lobos before them, the group stepped down from erudite musicʼs exclusive domain to engage with popular music. But there was also something new in their boundary crossing: Villa-Lobos fraternized and was inspired by favela sambistas, but didnʼt collaborate directly with them. Duprat, on the other hand, involved himself with the tropicalists on relatively equal footing. Though there wasnʼt necessarily a
Terra & Calil, Uma Noite em 67 Veloso, 112
major social leap involved for either party here, it is significant that Duprat collaborated directly, self-consciously, and equally with the popularly-oriented tropicalists, appearing with them in photographs and in public, adding his
signature to their project. That he self-represented as a collaborator, rather than, say, an aloof, paid arranger operating in the background, was significant and innovative.
The Tropicalistsʼ Albums
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gilʼs tropicalist, self-titled second albums were released in March, Os Mutantesʼ in June, and the central tropicalist collaborative concept album arrived in July. Along with their festival performances, the tropicalist albums are the core products of the movement. Gilʼs 1968 album warrants as many Sgt. Pepperʼs comparisons as the group Tropicália concept album. The cover depicts Gil in the Peppers-esque attire of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, which comprised forty peer-elected “immortals,” all of whom happened to be white. Gilʼs spectacles are reminiscent of those worn by Machado de Assis, one of Brazilʼs most consecrated writers, who was the academyʼs first and only black president; the satirical album cover was innovative in being integrated into an larger conceptual scheme in an era when such details were usually an afterthought. While Velosoʼs album is primarily concerned with the modern Brazilian city and tends towards ironically integrating the aesthetic of
iê-iê-iê, Gilʼs soul respectively remains in the northeast, and the resulting album is more inflected with the flavor of his native region than the rest of those in the tropicalist pantheon, save Tom Zé. Dupratʼs arrangements particularly enliven “Luzia Luluza,” which narrates the quotidian story of a movie theater ticket vendor who fantasizes about be an actress, blurring the lines between real life and the fantasy of life on the big screen. James Bond is lyrically cited amid a more generalized lyrical flurry of mass culture. Modernity and the urban environment of São Paulo is initially a confining element for both characters in the songʼs mini romance: the boy is trapped in a taxi cab in “horrible traffic,” and the girl is confined day after day working in a ticket window, but, upon their reunion, both are able, at least temporarily, to break free. More than most songs in the tropicalist catalog, “Luzia Luluza” capitalizes on Dupratʼs appropriately sweeping, cinematic arrangements, which repeatedly and significantly alter the songʼs tone, mood, and rhythm, a far cry from simpler prevailing song forms in both American and Brazilian pop music. Divorced from the serial/atonal realm, music concréte elements in the song serve to heighten its drama and poignancy in a true fusion of high and low, and the arrangement ennobles the song without negating its accessibility. “Marginália II” likewise fuses a cinematic, brass-heavy orchestral arrangement with a traditional northeastern berimbau rhythm juxtaposed with tragicomic lyrics based in the “triste tropique” mode of Levi-Strauss. It joins a long succession of parodies of the romantic poem “Canção do Exílo [Song of Exile]”
by Antônio Gonçlaves Dias, substituting the poemʼs ruminations on Brazil as an Edenic tropical paradise with subtle references to violence under the military dictatorship. By the time the military dictatorship rolled around, Freyre, who supported the right-wing takeover, was “anathema” to the left.33 The tropicalist project both critically contradicted and ironically embraced Freyreʼs idea of racial democracy. On one hand, the tropicalist group was racially diverse, celebrated and practiced rampant “musical miscegenation,” and was implicitly affectionate towards Brazilʼs many and often problematic contradictions. On the other, while the tropicalist agenda focused more on aesthetics than social issues, the tropicalistsʼ lyrics work to expose the blatant contradictions of the concept of racial democracy, from the street to the state; “Marginália II” punctures Freyreʼs invocation of a mythologized tropical paradise. Among the songʼs many other references is the classic carnival samba “Sim, nós temos bananas” [Yes, We Have Bananas],” composed originally as a response to “Yes, we have no bananas,” a North American song that celebrated “banana republic” stereotypes.34 Gilʼs refrain intones the lyric, “The end of the world is here,” which Perrone has suggested that this carries both “apocalyptic connotations” in relation to the nuclear age in the distant first world, besides being a local expression for “weʼre in the middle of nowhere,” again calling attention to Brazilʼs marginality in the global context.35 Even the sung vocables, “Oh, lê lê lê lá lá”—which are usually used in a festive, carnival context, are used
Dunn, 128. Perrone, 100 35 Perrone, 120
ironically, consistent with the song as a whole functioning simultaneously as a lament and celebration of Brazil. The lyric “I know my history well / it begins under the full moon / and ends before the end of the story” could be read as a
reference to the “evolutionary line,” with romantic songs giving way to censorship, violence, and an overall clamping down on personal and artistic expression by way of the dictatorship. Gilʼs “Ele Falava Nisso Todo Dia” is about a middle-class young man who was prematurely obsessed with insurance policies, which his family subsequently collects after his tragic, unexpected death. Gil has referred to the song as an assault on middle class values and the obsessive cultivation of security against “the storms of life” versus the actual uninhibited living of life.36 At the same time, he confers respect to a man who goes to such lengths to protect his family, marveling at the irony of his early death and how his family merely collects a kind of material consolation prize in his wake. Though the verse of the song harmonically simple, the chord progression of its chorus is stately, and Gil delivers lyrical lines in rapid-fire succession, a technique lifted from emboladeros, competitive street singers of Brazilʼs northeast. The bridge reverts to a full-on orchestral, “noble,” “Eleanor Rigby”-esque approach, with Gilʼs vocals supported by a string quartet. Gil lifted the basic premise of the songʼs story from the newspaper; the Beatlesʼ “A Day in the Life” was similarly inspired. “Procissão,” also with Os Mutantes, is a remake of Gilʼs own earlier version from Louvação, concerning poor northeastern farmers who cope with
hard-scrabble lives through religious veneration. Gil originally interpreted this situation aesthetically through a Marxist lens via the CPC. 37 His lyrics
empathetically attest to both the beauty and innocence of the rural devout in the northeast and the often pitiable hopelessness that defines lives dictated by drought and poverty. Gil obliquely calls for social change in a region where little ever seemed to change. The second version of the song palpably evidences the musical sea change brought about by tropicália—the first version in instrumentation and arrangement was squarely in the tradition of secondgeneration bossa nova, and the second has a fast, raucous electric rock arrangement that speeds up, re-contextualizes, and “psychedelicizes” the original, again integrating the contrasting aspects of Brazilʼs north and south and stridently confirming the tropicalist embrace of a popular, cosmopolitan aesthetic. Velosoʼs first album begins with “Tropicália,” a “national allegory” centered on Brasília, the modernist capital that had shifted from a national symbol of hope and progress in the bossa nova years to one of repression and violence in the hands of the dictatorship after 1964.38 Veloso has made the connection clear: “Brasília, without being named, would be the capital of the freakish songmonument Iʼd raise to our sorrow, our delight, and our absurdity.” 39 He refers the city being made of “paper maché and silver,” depicting its glittering facade as a thin veil that barely obscures a corrupt state and its ignorance towards social inequality. The track begins with a serendipitous, accidental, and ultimately ironic
http://www.gilbertogil.com.br/sec_musica_sel.php?id=28 Perrone, 88 39 Veloso, 117
sonic snippet of Velosoʼs drummer theatrically reading, originally as a mere test for the sound engineer in the studio, an excerpt from the letter written to the King of Portugal by the “discoverer” of Brazil, Pedro Alvarez Cabral. The speech is dubbed over “primitive” sounds of birds, bells, and hand percussion, before a modern, dramatic symphonic string and brass arrangement dramatically kicks off the first verse, which itself somersaults into a giddy samba rhythm in the refrain. Veloso references a cornucopia of tropicalist influences: Brigitte Bardot, Carmen Miranda, dada, and his left and right hands as coded references towards the political left and right. “Soy loco por tí, América (Iʼm crazy for you, America)” is sung in portunhol, a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, “cannibalizes” a bevy of Latin American and Caribbean rhythms, and promotes Latin American solidarity via indirect opposition to the Monroe Doctrine and a subtle salute to Ché Guevara, whose name was banned in the media by the dictatorshipʼs censors. “Superbacana (Supercool)” sounds like a jingle or theme song for a comic book hero or television game show, and its comic book-esque lyrics parody consumerism by inventing and then celebrating absurd “super” products (“super-peanut butter” and “biotonic spinach”) in the parlance of advertising. To record the track, Veloso finally used Roberto Carlosʼ band, RC7, a significant conceptual gesture thatʼs not evident from the original album sleeve.40 The centerpiece or manifesto of the tropicalist movement, finally, was the 1968 group album Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circensis. The title refers to the
Roman poet Juvenal chiding the Roman public for complacent lives tampered by “bread and circus,” or empty food and entertainment, a knowing wink at the subversion of MPB through pop aesthetics. The albumʼs cover includes the core participants in the tropicalist movement: Gil, Veloso, Costa, Duprat, Zé, Os Mutantes, and the poets Torquato Neto and José Carlos Capinan, who contributed lyrics. The photograph parodies bourgeois generational family portraits, and the songs within likewise veer between parody, pastiche, and sincerity. Nara Leão, too, appears on the cover in a photograph as the “personification of modern Brazilian music.” 41 Despite her relative lack of involvement in the movement, Veloso reports that she always supported their work, and her participation in the album and on the cover is a clear torch passing from bossa novaʼs first and second generations towards MPBʼs broader future. Its liner notes appear in the form of an imaginary film script that finds João Gilberto watching the tropicalist project from his adoptive home in New Jersey, a cheeky and complex metaphor for their particular stance towards the evolutionary line. The albumʼs opening track, “Miserere Nobis,” begins with a church organ, segues into the songʼs main acoustic guitar riff with the sound of a bicycle bell, and, like many of Gilʼs tropicalist compositions, laments complacency or helplessness in the face of social inequality, poverty, and state injustice. Religious imagery serves as an ambivalent symbol of the national status quo. “Coração Materno,” is a sincere, straightforward cover of a melodramatic radio hit
that predated bossa nova. Veloso knew the song by heart, and it represented the opposite of bossa; its inclusion is a deliberate provocation of “good taste.” The song chronicles a poor man who kills his mother as she kneels at her prayers, and while running to bring her heart to his lover as proof of his love, trips and falls. Dupratʼs arrangement ennobles what the tropicalists saw as a ridiculous, sentimental song; Veloso has remarked that it represented an aesthetic to which the tropicalists “felt vastly superior,” a statement indicative of the tropicalistsʼ relatively exalted position. 42 The theme of putting an end to “smothering, matricidal love” within functions as a metaphor for both Brazilian cultureʼs excessive veneration of its own past, as well tropicáliaʼs playful, irreverent approach to its creatorsʼ beloved bossa nova; they had to make music that represented its opposite in order to be faithful to it.43 “Panis et Circesis” humorously takes middle-class domesticity to task, references Bob Dylan through a lyric about people in the living room “busy being born and dying,” and indirectly alludes to military repression and bourgeois complacency through a narration detailing stymied efforts towards personal expression and freedom. Both the songʼs beginning and end evince the novel approach towards the LP as a “total” or conceptual work of art: in one of many examples of inventive segues between tracks, the track has a false ending marked by a slowing down of the vocals as one can produce by putting their finger to vinyl on a turntable. This precedes the trackʼs accelerated coda, which
Veloso, 183-5 Dunn, 18.
ends abruptly with a breaking of glass and a brief music concréte sonic collage, over which Gil spells “Brasil-faith-rifle-cannon” with the order of the letters scrambled, dancing around the specter of the dictatorship without attacking it directly. Sonic experiments such as these had never been undertaken in MPB.44 The stately bolero “Lindoéia” was sung, commissioned, and suggested by Leão, and was based on a Brazilian pop-art painting of a real-life woman whose mysterious disappearance, either at the hands of domestic abuse or state violence, was featured prominently in the news.45 The story makes reference to the hopeless plight of the urban poor and alludes to the intimidating police presence on the streets. The song is a “Brazilianized” Cuban bolero, a style which was then ideologically the opposite of bossa nova and redolent of kitsch and bad taste--another pointed jab towards the orthodox cultural left. Like the “Mirandada” synthesis from Velosoʼs “Tropicália,” the title itself combines linda and feia [ugly and pretty]. The original painting that inspired the song was adorned with flowers in a mock-bourgeois manner; this has a musical analogue in the campy, dramatic tone of the song. The songʼs female protagonist, like Gilʼs “Luiza Luluza,” seems to live, dreamlike, somewhere between real life and the way itʼs presented on television; a song of this style is one she may have listened to. An image of fruit on the ground “bleeding” is often read as another emblem of the supposed tropical paradise gone awry.
See Moehn. Veloso, 171.
88 “Geléia Geral,” performed by Gil singing concretist Torquato Netoʼs lyrics,
parodies literary and state pretensions through references to Frank Sinatra, Chico Buarque, nineteenth century Brazilian literature, Oswald de Andrade, among others. The song celebrates clichés, juxtaposes tropical lushness with the growing industrial complex, and hearkens to Oswaldʼs binary between the forest and the school.46 The northeastern folk pageant, bumba-meu-boi, is synthesized with iê-iê-iê, engendering a collision of the traditional and modern, north and south. The ornate lyrics mock the pompous edicts of the state, a comic effect heightened by Gilʼs exuberant vocals. Veloso has described the song as “Torquatoʼs version of tropicália,” which presents an opportunity to note the influence of the concretists on the tropicalist musicians, who can be credited with inspiring the musical group to challenge the aesthetic hegemony of the cultural left. 47 The concrete poets, via Augusto de Campos, approached Veloso as the tropicalistsʼ work became more popular, and would become some of the musiciansʼ earliest and most fervent critical champions. The concretists suggested affinities between their work and those of the tropicalistsʼ, pitted themselves ideologically against retrograde nationalists, and led the tropicalists to engage with the modernists of the 1920s, whose work they were in the process of reviving. When the tropicalists and concretists began to meet with some regularity, their collective mission became to allow the popular and erudite
Dunn, 95 Veloso, 185
to commingle, primarily through the means of mass media, which they sought to exploit through poetic means. This prompted a fascination with “instant communication” as in advertising, which led both camps to experiment with “verbivocovisuality,” or the “simultaneity of verbal, vocal, and visual signification” as seen in “Bat macumba.”48 The songʼs lyrics, which when printed visually resemble a bat in flight, employ another concretist aesthetic strategy: the songʼs syllables are combined to form nonsensical words that conjure the American comic book superhero, a generalized, pop-occult variant of Afro-Brazilian candomblé [macumba], and iê-iê-iê—a fusion of readily intelligible secular and sacred elements. Tom Zéʼs “Parque Industrial” targeted the dictatorshipʼs celebration of rapid industrialization with more lyrics in comically formal language and elliptical references to advertising billboards and tabloid magazines over the sound of pompous military brass. It is worth noting that the tropicalist stance towards industrial development was ultimately ambivalent: rather than criticizing development in and of itself, the tropicalists questioned the governmentʼs promotion of a simplistic faith that it would be the singular vehicle to redeem the country.49 Zé was perhaps the most strident and consistent voice of the northeast among the tropicalists; he would claim “I am Bahian, and I am foreigner” as an evocation of Bahian marginality in the southern metropolises.50 Portraying the struggles of adjusting to city life in São Paulo with acerbic wit and sly humor
Dunn, 69 Dunn, 107-9 50 Veloso, 30
became his central motif. The stereotype of northeastern migrants, especially
those from the interior, was of country bumpkins, but Zé, of course, was anything but. He had studied at the University of Salvador, and counted among his instructors such luminaries as Hans Joachim Koellreuter, one of the nationʼs foremost orchestral composers, and Walter Smetak, a pioneering figure in inventing a variety of experimental and microtonal musical instruments. The university more generally was a bit of an artistic oasis in the larger northeast in the sixties, serving as an incubator for generation-defining artists in music, film, and theater, all of whom would respectively move southward to advance their collective vision. “Baby,” written by Veloso and Bêthania and sung by Gal Costa, is a sweet-sounding song that slyly critiques the encroachment of consumerism and American culture in Brazil through modern slang and intimations of advertising: “you need to know / of the swimming pool, of margarine, of ʻCarolina,ʼ”—the romantic song by Chico Buarque—of gasoline,” and later, “that song by Roberto [Carlos].” Costa sings that her companion “need[s] to learn English,” which, in addition to referring to the growing ubiquity of American culture and represented another provocation of musical nationalists, refers to a common rite of passage and upward mobility for middle-class Brazilian youth. The songʼs rhythm is driven by a simplified violão gago, but follows an extremely simple chord progression. This dynamic is complemented by Dupratʼs lush string arrangements, which themselves suggest the seductive aspects of popular music.
91 “Três Caravelas” is a giddy, tongue-in-check mambo paean to the original
European imperialist figure, Christopher Columbus, sung in both Spanish and Portuguese. “Enquanto seu lobo não vem” perhaps engages Brazilʼs political situation most directly by characterizing the military dictatorship as a wolf and the Brazilian public as Little Red Riding hood on a “clandestine” walk through “The United States of Brazil,” through guerillas and street protests. Costa repeatedly intones “The clarions of the military band” in the background beside the militaristic trills of Rogério Dupratʼs trumpets. Next, “Mamãe, Coragem” is sung in the form of a letter from a northeastern migrant who writes back home to say heʼs seduced by the novelty of the city, claims heʼll never return and, absurdly, tells his mother to read a romance novel to keep from crying. The albumʼs final track is a rendition of the official, sacred hymn of the famous, Catholic Bonfim Church in Salvador, Bahia, closing with a liturgical theme that opened the album, an invocation reminiscent of the Old Testament to propose a sort of New Testament in Brazilian song.
Tropicalist “Happenings” and Later Works
The autumn of 1968 was the movementʼs “most polemical” period, during which the tropicalists staged happenings at Rioʼs TV Globo International Song Festival and for a brief period appeared weekly on “Divino, Maravilhoso [Divine, Marvelous],” an experimental television show that ran until the movementʼs end.
Veloso and the tropicalists initially didnʼt want to participate in the seasonʼs song festival; they considered the event “a pale imitation of the Paulista festivals,” that “subjected the work of the best Brazilian composers to a judgment informed by criteria so broad and amorphous as to be meaningless.” 51 Araújo insisted they participate, and they did, on the pretext that they use the festival as an opportunity to make a spectacle. The festival was perhaps the most contentious meeting of MPBʼs opposed musical camps, and its heated environment provided an excellent setting for what may have been the tropicalistsʼ most vitriolic provocation of the cultural status quo. Veloso submitted “É proibido proibir,” its title borrowed from the phrase student demonstrators in Paris had recently taken to via graffiti. Araújo had strongly encouraged the initially reluctant Veloso to write a song based on the slogan, and in song it became an anchoring refrain amid a succession of anarchistic lyrical images. Duprat bolstered the songʼs arrangement, and Veloso performed the piece at the festival sashaying suggestively and sporting a green and black plastic suit, outrageously long hair, and necklaces of electrical wire and animal teeth. The Mutantes formed Velososʼ backing band and appeared on stage wearing futuristic costumes lifted as if from science fiction. The performance of the song began with squalls of noise, over which Veloso introduced the song with a recitation of a Fernando Pessoa Sebastianist poem concerned with the coming of a “new world.” He proceeded to chant the phrase “God is loose”—an inversion of the common phrase “the devil is loose”—as a
hairless American hippie appeared onstage, screaming incomprehensibly. As
expected, the audience responded to Velosoʼs deliberately loaded gestures with jeering, but the judges passed the song on to the final round. Gil appeared on stage wearing a dashiki, the first of the artistʼs many subsequent Afro-centric gestures. His submission, “Questão de Ordem,” borrowed its performance style from Hendrix and its title from a clichéd slogan of the political left, “watered down and sugarcoated with a Beatlesy refrain, ʻin the name of love.ʼ” 52 Perplexingly, despite being by Velosoʼs admission far superior to his own, the song failed to advance. When Veloso subsequently appeared on stage to re-present his song for the final round after Gilʼs disqualification, the audience in unison turned their back on Veloso and his band. The Mutantes responded by turning their backs and continuing to play. Veloso capitalized on the audienceʼs gesture and denounced the crowd and jury for—here, literally— being backwards. His speech is worth quoting in full, as it simply presents the intentions of the tropicalists both at the festival and at large:
This is the youth that says it wants to take power? . . . Youʼre the same youth that will always, always kill the old enemy who died yesterday. You understand nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing! . . . Today I came here to say that Gilberto Gil and I had the courage to confront the structure of the festival . . . and explode it . . . the problem is the following: you want to police Brazilian music . . . I want to say to the jury: disqualify me. I have nothing to do with this. . . Gilberto Gil is here with me to put an end to the festival and the imbecility that reigns in Brazil . . . We only entered the festival for this reason. . . We, he and I, had the courage to enter all of the structures and leave them. And you? If you are the same in politicals as you are in aesthetics, weʼre done for! Disqualify me with Gil. The jury is very nice, but incompetent. God has been set free.53
Veloso 187. Dunn 136.
In response, the crowd turned back around and began to hurl objects at both Veloso and Gil. Both were rattled, afraid that their irreverence might have “touched deep structures in Brazilian life.” 54 Their peers nevertheless congratulated and reassured both Veloso and Gil when they safely returned home, and Velosoʼs zeitgeist-capturing speech was later released as a single. This would prove to be their last major spectacle at the sixties festivals. Soon afterwards, in early October 1968, Gil, Veloso, and Os Mutantes began a series of shows at the Boate Sucata [Scrap Box] club in Rio. It was, according to Veloso, “possibly the most successful tropicalista enterprise. Or at least the one that best reflected our aesthetic interests and our capacity for putting forth truly accomplished work.” 55 Their run there would mark the beginning of the end of the tropicalist movement in music. Hélio Oiticicaʼs “Seja marginál, seja heroí! [Be a criminal, be a hero!]” banner was on display at the club, though not prominently, and nevertheless offended a conservative local judge who had attended a show there. He subsequently used his political connections to end the tropicalistsʼ booking, close the club itself, and most importantly, report the incident to the military censors, who henceforth monitored the tropicalists with more scrutiny. The tropicalists subsequently moved to start their own weekly television program, “Divinho, Maravilhoso,” on TV Tupi in São Paulo. On one of the showʼs
Veloso, 190 Veloso, 191
last episodes, the collective, following a “last supper” of bananas, held a mock funeral for the movement on national television, solemnly eulogizing over a casket inscribed, “Here lies Tropicalismo,” attesting to the deliberately brief
nature of the movement as a cultural intervention. Nevertheless, the happenings continued. In what would be the last program, Veloso appeared singing “Boas Festas,” a beloved Brazilian Christmas song, while pointing a revolver at his head. This naturally prompted a flurry of angry viewer letters and led to the showʼs cancellation. On December 13, the Fifth Institutional Act [AI-5] was instated by the military government, initiating what would become the harshest period of rule, otherwise known as anos de chumbo [leaden years] or o sufoco [the suffocation].56 Two weeks later, Veloso and Gil were arrested in their apartments for mostly vague charges: of being “drug addicted,” suspected plans of singing part of the International Communistsʼ Hymn on national television, and the public denunciation of a Department of Political and Social Order agent who reported the tropicalists at the Sucata Club.57 Both Gil and Veloso were detained in prison for two months, and after a period of house arrest and a farewell concert in Salvador, exiled to spend the next two and a half years in “swinging” London.58 That same month, Tom Zéʼs first album, Grande Liquidição, would be released; Gal Costaʼs self-titled solo debut album and Jorge Benʼs own tropicalist-style offering would soon follow. With Veloso and Gil sidelined, Costa
Dunn 149. Dunn 143-7. 58 Dunn 150.
became the central figure of tropicália in its proper twilight.59 As an interpreter
who chose songs from a broader repertoire rather than composing, she was able to manifest the tropicalist aesthetic on her self-titled debut solo album as a kind of curator. Rogério Duprat lent musical direction and strong arrangements throughout. In addition to songs penned for her by Gilberto and Veloso, she also performed Jorge Benʼs “Que Pena [What A Shame]” Roberto Carlosʼ hit “Se Você Pensa [If You Think],” which defiantly valorized Carlos and all he represented in the face of musical purists, and even a raucous, modernized, electrified version of the northeasterner Jackson do Pandeiro forró hit, “Sebastiana.” Of particular note is Costaʼs interpretation of “Saudosismo,” Velosoʼs love paean to bossa nova and particularly João Gilberto, which cites the classic bossas “A felicidade,” “Lobo bobo,” “Desafinado,” and “Chega de Saudade” before drowning a chanted intonation of the latter in squalls of dissonant feedback. Like Gilʼs latter version of “Procissão,” it evinced the changes that the tropicalists were effecting in popular music. The lyrics refer to an “Ash Wednesday” in the country, as if the glory days of bossa nova had been supplanted by the dictatorshipʼs extended dark era; incidentally, Veloso would later be released from prison on Ash Wednesday before his subsequent exile. The song has some of bossa novaʼs altered chords, but less of its sophisticated progressions. Within, a João Gilberto record is “girando na vitrola sem parar [spinning on the record player without end.” “Saudosismo” seems to almost sample from the bossa oeuvre and re-combine its constituent parts with new elements in simplified form.
97 Jorge Benʼs self-titled 1969 album should be understood in the larger arc
of his career, in which he was able to anticipate or ride the various trends of 1960s MPB like a chameleon while branding each with his own idiosyncratic stamp. Benʼs aesthetic throughout the sixties didnʼt neatly fit in the bossa or samba traditions, so he operated between camps, and would largely continue to do so throughout his career. His stint on “O Fino da Bossa” was jealously terminated after he appeared on the rival program “Jovem Guarda,” and he resurrected his career performing on the tropicalistsʼ largely-improvised “Divinho, Maravilhoso.” 60 Gil in particular loved Benʼs songs—the two would eventually collaborate on a spontaneous acoustic album--and Ben is credited with winning the tropicalists over to American music.61 Though his 1969 “tropicalist” album was largely devoid of the larger movementʼs loaded references, provocations, and conceptual intellectualism in general, it evinces the movementʼs growing currency in the popular arena and melded tropicáliaʼs broad aesthetic with his own, from the music, to the lyrics, and the albumʼs colorful and overtly tropicalist cover, with Dupratʼs orchestral arrangements as the synthesisʼ binding agent. What is perhaps most noteworthy about Benʼs tropicalist period was his adoption of negritude, or black pride, itself inspired by American soul and rhythm and blues. Ben is depicted on the albumʼs cover wearing broken shackles and within celebrates the beauty of black women and promotes gestures of solidarity with an “irmão de cor [brother of color].” Ben had previously engaged with
Dunn 143. Veloso 125-6.
American modes in his music, as exemplified by the 1965 track “Jorge Well,” which the singer partly performs in endearingly poor English. However, Benʼs
embrace of black American music and culture can be interpreted as a tropicalist gesture within the larger socio-political matrix of the late sixties. His identification with black pau [black power] would become increasingly strident over the course of his career, influencing a larger trend of black awareness in Brazil in the 1970s and 80s. As a somewhat peripheral figure within the movement, his 1969 incursion was both a musically and philosophically important addition to the tropicalist pantheon. By the time Costa and Ben were performing their tropicália work live, the movement had become somewhat mainstream, inspiring the broader emergence of a counterculture in Brazil. The popularization of the tropicalist aesthetic also marked the culmination of the fierce cultural nationalism debates that began in 1922, encouraging a wider engagement with global culture on Brazilian terms. The next chapter will discuss more concisely the aesthetic, social, and cultural aftermath of tropicália.
Chapter 5: Post-tropicália MPB
Despite the dictatorshipʼs effective annulment of the tropicalist movement shortly after its “funeral,” the tropicalists paved the way for a broader definition of popular music in Brazil, the development of a broader counterculture, and pioneered within popular music the modernist objective of creating a stridently Brazilian cultural product informed by a broader global perspective. Despite this, the world largely wouldnʼt catch on to the tropicalists for a number of decades, and most of the audience they would find abroad were already keen to international developments in what could loosely be called avant-garde popular music. Though the wider international trajectory of the tropicalist oeuvre is a fascinating chapter in the larger story of MPBʼs travels abroad, this chapter is primarily concerned with the more immediate aftermath of the movement within Brazil. Herein I will discuss the immediate aftermath of the tropicalist movement, the clearing of musical space it engendered within MPB, and it and bossa novaʼs subsequent effects on the evolutionary line of popular music within Brazil.
The Aftermath of Tropicália
100 The consequences of “the sixties” in Brazil were both remarkably similar to
those in North America, and naturally entail significant differences. The dictatorship, which would last until 1985, was perhaps the biggest determining factor here, but Brazilʼs extant marginality in the global scene and its relative underdevelopment certainly played parts as well. Around 1969 Gil and Veloso, along with many of the other trailblazing artists of the era, would be forced into exile both directly or indirectly. The early seventies entailed the harshest period of military rule, during which censorship prevailed with a frequency and intensity previously unheard of. Curiously, as noted by Veloso, the height of the dictatorship was also the height of the Brazilian counterculture.1 Most artists of the post-tropicália era reacted to the socio-political climate by side-stepping political content in their creations, though some, most notably Chico Buarque, mastered fresta, or double entendre, to make ingenious veiled criticisms of the Medíci regime. But even Buarque was briefly imprisoned and subsequently went into exile.2 The disillusionment caused by the lack of civic freedom under military rule led to a “dropout” culture of disengagement from mainstream society—a reversal of the initiatives of bossaʼs second generation and protest song—that led formerly politically engaged middle-class youth to turn inward. Hallucinogenic drugs, Eastern religions, and mysticism began to enter countercultural circles,
Veloso 229. Dunn 162.
part of a wider introspective phenomenon some have referred to as escapist.3
When Veloso and Gil returned to Brazil, they too largely cut themselves off from political engagement, and their work—especially in the case of Veloso—became increasingly experimental.4 Though their de-politicization was partly a result of resigned disillusionment, most of the tropicalists had originally professed a lack of interest in politics before the movement itself took off; the climate of the sixties simply had made political engagement on the part of both avant-garde and popular artists practically inescapable.5 The tropicalistsʼ work throughout the seventies to some extent rode the countercultural wave created in their wake, emphasizing the positivity-centric stance of the wider hippie phenomenon. The liberal wave of politics in the 60s migrated to the social and interpersonal realms, leading to openings in society with respect to race, sexuality, and gender. Veloso and Costa particularly would cultivate sexually ambiguous or androgynous public images, and Gil and Ben would become increasingly involved in exploring issues of Afro-Brazilian identity, forging cultural alliances with a wave of Afro-diasporic cultural groups that arose to challenge Brazilʼs prevalent racial democracy discourse. Tom Zé would continue to carry the tropicalist torch forward, laboring mostly in obscurity for
See Dunn, 174 Dunn, 172 5 Veloso 198.
decades before his career was resurrected through the intervention of David Byrne, another fascinating chapter in MPBʼs ever-complex global travels.6 On this subject, it is interesting to note that tropicália didnʼt necessarily
entail a more widespread adoption of Brazilian music on part of the larger world. Sérgio Mendes, Carmen Miranda, Sepultura, and Seu Jorge were and still are variously better known internationally than the tropicalists, and while bossa nova has practically become a household name, the names of its creators--not to mention an understanding of what the movement really entailed--are very much less so. Nevertheless, the cultural shake ups bossa nova and tropicália entailed within Brazil are arguably without rival. The prevailing hegemony of MPB has since been challenged by Afro-centric movements, Brazilian rock, and hip hop groups, each of whose respective contributions have been important additions to the canon of Brazilian popular music, and often filled gaps within its landscape that clamored to be filled. Their wider respective influences, however, were arguably not as deep or paradigmatic as those at the beginning and end of the sixties. Nevertheless, the tropicalist movement faded from the national spotlight in the wake of the military stateʼs cultural suffocation, and its figureheads gradually became better known for their evolving of-the-moment work as opposed to their early tropicalist output. Later, though, a curious “tropicalist revival” in the 1990s occurred, which entailed public commemorations of the movement in Brazil, a
See Dunn, “From Mr. Citizen to Defective Android: Tom Zé and Citizenship in Brazil,” in Brazilian Popular Music & Citizenship, pp. 74-95.
Tropicália II project by Veloso and Gil, and American musicians like Beck, Tortoise, Stereolab, and Superchunk name-checking the tropicalists and discussing their discovery of the movement as an inspiration.7 These developments provided the movement with its first truly widespread and
international audience since the early 1970s. Part of tropicáliaʼs renewed cultural relevance, particularly outside of Brazil, was due to its hybridist aesthetic strategy foreshadowing the rampant cultural appropriation and signification entailed by sampling, which in the 90s was coming to broader use outside of hip hop. This particular innovation was appreciated within Brazil perhaps most of all by Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, the tropicalistsʼ clearest heirs. The Pernambucan collective embraced the tropicalistsʼ stylistic eclecticism and pointed engagement with modernity, updated their mode to the context of the 1990s, and condensed tropicalismoʼs national focus to the local context of Recife. The eternal difficulties of cross-cultural translation re-resurrect the ghosts of Orfeu Negro, Carmen Miranda, and bossa nova when analogies are made outside of Brazil attempting to compare paradigmatic Brazilian artists to possible Anglo counterparts. Both Chico Buarque and Veloso have been compared in the press to Bob Dylan, but usually a litany of proceeding qualifications quickly arises, a testament to the substantial differences between the three artists. Veloso has at least as much in common with, say, David Bowie, and Buarque with Leonard Cohen. These comparisons, however frequently invoked, are ultimately
See “Cannibals, Mutants, and Hipsters: The Tropicalist Revival” in Dunn & Avelar, Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization.
unproductive. More illuminating analogies might be made between the tropicalists and Andy Warhol, whom Veloso cited in the 1960s as an inspiration.8 Even here, the differences outweigh the similarities. Warhol went so far as to embody mass or pop culture in art and life, blurring the boundary between the two. The tropicalists by contrast reveled in popular culture, but more solidly established a critical distance from it in their work and through their polemics. Though “pop” in orientation, Warholʼs corner of the art world largely remains the domain of the educated elite, a place largely removed from the bulk of even most avant-garde American popular music. Taking this into account, we again find the tropicalist movement bridging the high-conceptual realm of elite art and the more accessible, populist world of popular music, with Warholʼs example as a close precedent. While addressing these cross-cultural discrepancies, it is striking that Veloso, Gil, and Buarque respectively represent different versions of the “public intellectual/rock star,” an archetype which again finds no ready equivalents in the still-dominant Anglo context. In a globalizing world, this seems a healthy development, and their broad roles as intellectual and popular artists may be as important as their most representative works. On this note, Jean-Luc Godard might be a better cross-cultural cousin; Veloso has said that the French director led him to “pay attention to the poetry of American mass culture, Hollywood, and advertising,” and that the tropicalist project was aimed at approaching an
aesthetic more similar to Godardʼs than even Glauber Rochaʼs.9 Both the French director and the tropicalists employed pop aesthetics and imagery to produce more rarefied popular art, responded critically to the ubiquity of American culture, and became variously entangled in politics. But the tropicalistsʼ work is still more accessible than Godardʼs, and more congenial and less cynical than Warholʼs. The lesson here, as with all art, is to appreciate the tropicalist oeuvre on its own terms. The Legacy of Tropicália in Clube da Esquina
Perhaps above all, the post-tropicália canon of MPB was less inhibited and more apt to draw from a multitude of sources. This is no better exemplified than by Clube Da Esquina, the 1972 popular magnum opus of Milton Nascimento and his Corner Club, a loose collective of musicians from Belo Horizonte whose contributions to popular music in Brazil generated a broader aesthetic movement in their name in the 1970s. To compare the work of the tropicalists and the clube da esquina collective is somewhat difficult and problematic, so it seems most prudent to first highlight their differences. As Charles Perroneʼs work shows, Nascimentoʼs work is highly individualistic, and the composer had already been drawing from a wide range of sources before the tropicalistsʼ work became widely known.10 Nascimento emerged into public consciousness in the song competitions of the late 60s, but artistically came of age during the cultural
Veloso, 63 See Perrone, 130-164.
“suffocation” at the height of the military dictatorship. His work makes only very oblique references to Brazilʼs political situation--even when compared to the subtle, coded messages of the tropicalists--does so from what could be described as an “emotional-individual” standpoint, rather than the highly premeditated, subtly defiant mode of Veloso, Gil, or Zé. Simply put, Nascimentoʼs sentiments are less oppositional, more deeply personal, less rooted to their specific socio-historic time frame, and more “otherworldly” or “spiritual” than the tropicalists, whose feet in the sixties were for the most part planted firmly on the ground. Spiritual is indeed a commonlyevoked adjective when describing Nascimentoʼs music—he frequently cites the long tradition of church music in Minas Gerais as an early and formative influence, employs somber organs throughout his oeuvre, frequently adorns the backgrounds of his compositions with reverb-soaked vocables, and perhaps most tellingly, would later collaborate with large choirs in making sacred, if not explicitly denominational work. On this note, where the tropicalist stance towards the church was highly ambivalent, Perrone points towards a loose espousal of Christian values in Nascimentoʼs work.11 Nascimentoʼs orientation furthermore is “popular,” where the tropicalistsʼ was “pop,” a semantic and qualitative difference the tropicalists themselves noted. Rather than the tropicalistsʼ profoundly nationalist focus, Nascimentoʼs work is highly regional without being folkloric in orientation. His home state, Minas Gerais, is culturally distinct from the contrasting north-south axis represented by Rio, Sao Paulo, and Salvador/the
larger Northeast. Indeed, Nascimentoʼs regional pride and cultivation of an
explicitly local music scene did much to put his home state culturally on the map. Finally, Nascimento is a musicianʼs musician. His work has very little of the tropicalistsʼ self-conscious intellectualism; his work is distinguished by formally broadening the palette of MPB without largely operating in the vein of bossa nova. This aspect of Nascimentoʼs work, however, is a good segue into how it relates to tropicália; it represents a similar kind of tropicalist “lateral move” that champions heterogeneity and a more measured mix of reverence for and deviance from the established canon of Brazilian popular music. Both iterations of Clube da Esquina—a second volume followed the epic first—demonstrate a stylistic eclecticism that retrospectively seems unimaginable in the aesthetic climate of mid-sixties Brazil. But here, rather than being a calculated, defiant, and even counterintuitive statement directed towards the larger musical establishment, Nascimentoʼs eclecticism feels natural and almost inevitable. This is indicative of the atmosphere that tropicália helped create--no small feat, considering the dictatorship and the cultural hegemony of the orthodox left. Clube da Esquina can also represent the effects of tropicáliaʼs challenge to sambaʼs leading position in the evolutionary line: the samba rhythm and violão gago in Clube da Esquina are for the most part markedly absent, with the notable exception of an powerful rendition of an older standard, “Me Deixa em Paz,” whose arrangement in three composite sections moves stylistically through
golden age bossa, second-generation bossa, and finally a climatic, poly-rhythmic, carnival-esque samba-bossa hybrid. Otherwise, electric and acoustic instrumentation are used throughout Clube da Esquina in relatively equal measure. The standard Western 3/4 and 4/4 meters are the norm, though they sometimes fluctuate according to Nascimentoʼs idiosyncratic whim. Acoustic guitars sound more pan-Latin American than explicitly Brazilian throughout. Orchestral arrangements are more oriented towards establishing rich background harmonic texture for its own sake than, say, establishing a tangible link to the erudite avant-garde or presenting a cinematic, almost cartoon-like pop-”classical” aesthetic as in, say, Gilʼs “Marginália II.” Finally, though some tropicalistsʼ statements about a “spirit of underdevelopment haunting the recording studios” in 1967-68 reek of understatement and perfectionism towards recordings that have by most accounts held up remarkably well, Clube da Esquina is an undeniably virtuosic recording. 12 Its hard pans, rich, dense mix, sparkling guitar tone, and sumptuous reverb make it one of MPBʼs first definitive “headphone albums.” Clube da Esquina is not a concept album per se—it lacks an explicit unifying theme, narrative arc, or aspirations towards a “total work of art”--but it musically has the scope and grandeur of one. Throughout his career, Milton would further consolidate his reputation as a musicianʼs musician while demonstrating the considerable space within MPB for movement between the poles of popular and erudite. Clube da Esquina is the most indebted to a popular aesthetic of Miltonʼs oeuvre; he would migrate
throughout his career into increasingly esoteric territory more inclined towards
progressive jazz. But even this can be read as a sort of cycle repeating itself: if tropicália was the conceptual yin to bossa novaʼs formal yang, and Clube da Esquina takes tropicáliaʼs central conceptual innovation—pointed musical syncretism--and drives it forward formally (or technically). Many musicians would follow Nascimentoʼs path in succeeding decades. Though Clube da Esquina doesnʼt represent a cultural watershed to the extent of bossa nova or tropicália, it epitomizes the broader changes in popular music that the two movements largely brought about, the heterogeneous richness of MPB after tropicália, and the continued resilience of Brazilian popular music under the military dictatorship.
Bossa Nova, Tropicália, & The Evolutionary Line
I initially saw tropicaliaʼs foremost contribution to MPB as an explosive broadening of its parameters through radical hybridization, and bossa novaʼs, a duly explosive heightening of those said parameters though its sophisticated musical and poetic innovations. The character of these respective contributions make the bossa seems like the culmination, or “peak” of a tradition, and tropicália, because it contrasted so sharply with the larger landscape of MPB, seem like the genesis of a new one, suggesting the latterʼs “explosion” of the evolutionary line. But this isnʼt a sufficiently nuanced or accurate representation, and deserves a treatment more in line with Oiticicaʼs position on purity. As outlined in previous
chapters, sophisticated orchestral arrangements were made by Radamés
Gnattali before Tom Jobim, and ingenious lyrics were penned before Vinícius de Moraes by Noel Rosa. Likewise, protest song, iê-iê-iê, and various regional traditions sharply contrasted with and threatened the samba-centricity of what was only beginning to be called MPB before tropicália. This is not to discount the achievements of tropicália and bossa nova; it is where the yin and yang analogy again becomes useful. The bossaʼs innovations were not purely technical, and tropicaliaʼs were not purely conceptual. Innovative conceptual fusions were made before tropicália when bossa nova grafted a “high” modernist aesthetic to the template of “middle-brow” Brazilian popular music. The tropicalist catalog too included harmonically advanced and technically complex songs. Where tropicália more broadly, critically, and explicitly addressed the issue of globalization, the bossa nova composers too were digesting their own diet of global musical culture, though less critically so, and in a less contentious atmosphere. Finally, the imaginative instrumentation of the tropicalist oeuvre could conceivably fall into the technical realm, with Gilʼs “Domingo no Parque” as perhaps the best example. The songʼs conceptually provocative juxtaposition of electric guitars, an orchestra, a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, and a berimbau isnʼt the only factor in making the composition such a pivotal event in the history of MPB—itʼs also the sophisticated way these unlikely, contrasting entities were successfully melded to create music that is pleasurable to hear even forty years later.
111 Many of the less obvious differences between bossa nova and tropicália
seem to flow from the latterʼs exceedingly self-conscious and programmatic nature. The tropicalists had a “manifesto mentality” inherited from the tradition of high 20th century modernism that is relatively common in literature or painting, but markedly absent in the tradition of popular music; this critical edge makes the movement among the most programmatic of popular music in the twentieth century. The original bossa nova composers were not as programmatic, despite their relative erudition and the self-reflexivity of their lyrics and music. They did produce a corpus of “manifesto songs,” but these convivially called attention to the new styleʼs novelty and sophistication, a far cry from the tropicalistsʼ provocative, multifaceted, and “aggressive” approach towards “cannibalizing” the larger social, cultural, and political zeitgeist in Brazil. Though the original “golden age” bossa nova compositions did coincide with the larger socio-political zeitgeist, this wasnʼt explicitly one of their creatorsʼ main objectives. Though they fully and even self-consciously appreciated the innovation and larger aesthetic ramifications of the music they created, the original bossa nova composers didnʼt necessarily set out to create a broader, reactive, critical, or supra-aesthetic movement in the manner of the tropicalists. Bossa novaʼs first generation has indeed been portrayed, most notably by Ruy Castro, as developing to some extent within a relative cultural vacuum, intensely attuned to global and domestic innovations in music and little else. On one hand, Vinícius de Moraes did bring traces of literature, poetry, and high
theater to the bossaʼs original template, and his erudite lyricism pulled Brazilʼs popular music into closer proximity to the domain of literature. Jobim, on the
other hand, has been portrayed as living primarily in a bubble of music, and João Gilberto even more myopically so. Bossaʼs original lack of broader social or political concern led its second generation to focus, perhaps disproportionately, on integrating these elements into the genreʼs original template. Like the creators of bossa nova, the tropicalistsʼ foremost concerns were also aesthetic, and they too might have remained divorced from politics had the tropicalist movement transpired at a different or more tranquil time. The tropicalists simply came of age in a profoundly different era. Moreover, they enjoyed the benefit of capitalizing on the first generation of bossaʼs successes, and the second generationʼs respective failures. In addition to the social, cultural, and political turmoil of the sixties, the tropicalists were privy to a broad and rapidly evolving shift in the conception of popular music and its possibilities, itself a predicament influenced by wider global trends and the bossa nova itself. Whether or not the tropicalists “recaptured the evolutionary line” depends on oneʼs idea of the line itself; Caetano Veloso didnʼt explicitly make a delineation when he originally referred to the evolutionary line in 1966. The idea of an evolutionary line nevertheless had some wider salience, and its character has been debated since. Brazilian philosopher Antonio Cícero has provided the deepest extant analysis of Velosoʼs formulation, and also explores the concept of evolution in the arts more broadly. He contrasts erudite music, whose long history
from a birdʼs eye perspective entails steadily increasing complexity, with popular music, which must be evaluated on different terms, as it “has other resources and cultivates other ambitions.” Popular music particularly demonstrates that technical innovation and increased complexity are but two of many paths art may follow in its process of “recreation… renewal …[and/or] going a step further”--in other words, Cíceroʼs working definition of artistic evolution. In contrast to purely technical evolution, Cícero posits that advances may also be made through the “elucidation of the concept of art,” which may very well entail technical simplification, as exemplified even within erudite music by John Cage. Within popular music, the process of “going a step further,” Cícero contends, is essentially “synthetic,” that is, its evolution entails novel syntheses. He distinguishes at this point between the bossa nova being a mere simplification of erudite music--which it is not—and rather, a highly successful synthesis of erudite and popular music. Cícero perceptively invokes Kandinsky in his discussion of the evolution of art, noting that the painter perceived that the new values of one generation are often transformed by the next into “walls erected against tomorrow.” This, incidentally, is an excellent description of the second generation of bossa novaʼs relationship to the first. Cícero also links Kandinsky and Veloso in valuing the transformation of art as a “positive value.” More incisively, he connects Kandinskyʼs embrace of “the joy of living” and its concomitant “introduction of new values” in art with “Alegria, Alegria,” the inaugural tropicalist composition that introduced new values into MPB, partly in
response to the “seriousness” into which bossa nova [in its second generation] had so swiftly “withdrawn.” Before composing this thesis, my own conception of the “evolutionary line” up to tropicália was that which I had learned in class: the deceptively clear progression of favela samba to the cidade nova, to Estácio, to the “golden age” samba of Vila Isabel, to samba canção and exaltação, and finally, bossa novaʼs first and second generations, with parallel developments like the baião somewhere on the periphery. To be explicit, this formulation was simply the most logical way of telling the story, as opposed to a way of saying samba exaltação was somehow esthetically superior to or “more evolved” than Estácio samba (this discrepancy is duly addressed by Cícero). The formulation of the evolutionary line that positions samba as Brazilʼs central genre was definitively “exploded” by the tropicalists: even by the mid-60s, sambaʼs progeny was clearly not the only game in town, and particularly after tropicália, a broader and more nebulous conception of MPB with less strict adherence to the samba paradigm would increasingly represent the main channel of Brazilian popular music. But “recaptured” too might not retrospectively be the best word to describe the tropicalist project either; it suggests a “return to form,” which tropicália did not necessarily entail. The samba-centric formulation is a useful way of conceptualizing the evolution of popular music in Brazil, it quickly falls apart. For example, it privileges the Vargas-sanctioned, urban, southern-Brazil centric version of the
story, largely fails to include the separate traditions of the frevo or people like Luiz Gonzaga (another discrepancy that Cícero addresses), and to a certain
extent implicitly shies away from acknowledging the complexity of samba-canção, which was not always stridently, “purely” Brazilian. Even the issue of whether or not bossa nova could appropriately be included in the “line” of samba had vocal critics, most notably José Ramos Tinhorão, who called its form American and likened its alleged borrowings from jazz to the foreign capital used to construct Brasília.13 Unsurprisingly, the often-crusty critic ballyhooed tropicália as well. His samba-centric conception of the evolutionary line was perhaps “recaptured,” or better yet carried forward, to a far greater extent by Chico Buarque. Like Noel Rosa before him, Buarque placed himself squarely in a tradition and worked within it, where the tropicalists eschewed orthodox adherence to dividing lines. Indeed, today Buarque is a heralded successor of Noel Rosa, innovating largely within the constraints of a more traditional paradigm. Taking heed of the complex, globally informed evolution of popular music before samba, the cosmopolitanism of groups like the Oito Batutas, the pan-Latin American elements within the samba canção, and other developments discussed herein, Velosoʼs quip is astute. It was made in a climate where MPB was an emergent term whose definition was vigorously debated. Even today, after decades of various movements in, say, metal or hip hop, the usefulness or relevance of the term MPB in the definition or description of a distinct genre is
widely debated.14 Velosoʼs remark, again, was made in response to increasingly vocal musical nationalists who sought “pure,” “authentic” Brazilian popular music; Veloso also points in his memoir to a profusion of “slick samba” in the 1960s and a “disguising of lack of musical skill beneath regional styles,” on the part of aspiring protest singers.15 The controversy tropicália subsequently engendered, and its ultimate “de-provincialization and de-folklorization” of popular music, was largely a result of its claims to membership in the heralded and increasingly guarded canon of MPB. Iê-iê-iê, Cícero notes by contrast, posed no genuine threat to MPB because it harbored no pretensions of belonging in its ranks. Here, the words “purity is a myth” again come to mind. If the original sambistas had no qualms about participating in the larger world, why should the creators of bossa nova or tropicália? Even if only a small portion of bossa novaʼs original template was inspired by anything American (or French), the tropicalists appreciated the fact that its creators were open enough to work unhindered by nationalist prejudice. The tropicalistsʼ gushing affection for bossa nova, therefore, is all the more understandable. In the words of Tom Zé, the bossa nova “invented” Brazil and represented its first sophisticated and exportable “finished product.” 16 Veloso claimed that it “infused” the tropicalists with “self-assurance [...] making us feel capable of creating things wholly our own.17 In turn, the way for MPB to ultimately “progress” for the tropicalists was to confront head-on bossaʼs first and
See Avelar, De Milton Ao Metal: Política e Música em Minas.” Veloso, 132 16 Dunn 25. 17 Veloso, 35, 25
second generations, the jovem guarda, protest song, the military dictatorship,
and the phenomenon of America-centric globalization, and the sixties otherwise with an aesthetic that was often the opposite of bossa nova. To use Cíceroʼs terms, both the bossa and tropicália “elucidated the concept of popular music in Brazil” by using “the information of musical modernity” for the purpose of the “renewal” of Brazilian music, but in distinctly different ways. This is how they can represent a contrasting-yet-unified yin and yang to one another. Crucially, Cícero observes that tropicália didnʼt stop at cannibalizing musical modernity, but “the information of modernity pure and simple: the musical, poetic, cinematographic, architectonic, pictorial, plastic and philosophical etc.”— in other words, the broader zeitgeist. This hearkens to Sartreʼs conception of “being in the world,” which was noted by Caetano Veloso as a formative influence. A deep investigation into the tropicalist movement reveals how extraordinarily the tropicalists were indeed “being in the world” of 1968, cannibalizing the larger matrix of their era from a Brazilian perspective and digesting it in song. Tropicáliaʼs engagement with the broader zeitgeist indeed remains one of its most remarkable distinctions, and even from the vantage of 2012, one that seems largely unrivaled since.
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Alec Robert Quig was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. He designed his own major, “Horizontal Integration in the Arts,” through the Individualized Major Program at Indiana University in Bloomington. This program of study was concerned with the interrelation of the arts across disciplines both in theory and practice, and particularly focused on cross-disciplinary art movements, which the subject of this thesis, tropicália, is a fine example. Before graduating from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans, he worked as a designer, writer, interviewer, and photographer for BOMB Magazine, a cross-disciplinary arts interview magazine in Brooklyn, The Chicago Tribuneʼs Redeye, and The Portland Mercury.