Socialist Worker

Bossa Nova and the rise of Brazilian music in the 1960s

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2242

The album

The album's cover

In 1958 a 17-year old former street kid by the name of Pelé scored two goals against Sweden to help Brazil lift the World Cup.

It was moment that epitomised the hopes of millions that countries emerging from colonialism would transform the world, politically and culturally.

In Brazil, as the economy boomed and the cities grew there was a sense that life was improving, even among the poor majority.

Out went the old Portuguese-style mansions and in came modernist flats and offices. And out went the old-style Samba music that reflected the ossified tastes of the ruling class and in came something fresh—Bossa Nova.

This new “beat sound” combined Brazilian poetry and traditional guitars with modern jazz—a new, imported element from the US.

The impatient yearning for the new world to arrive can be heard in Bossa Nova’s first recording, Joao Gilberto’s Chega de Saudade—which roughly translated means no more blues, or enough longing.

Within months of this release Bossa Nova swept Brazil, and hundreds of new and young artists took up the style.

In packed nightclubs and parties teenage groups—led by future superstars like Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil and Sergio Mendes—heralded a new era.

Like the cities they inhabited, these pioneers came from a range of ethnic and class backgrounds.

But their music reflected a feeling that modernity meant no longer being defined by your origins.

You can catch the spirit on Baden Powell and Vinicius De Moraes’s Canto De Ossanha.

With its beautiful uplifting chorus and simple guitar and flute backing its crescendo is a near-religious experience—even if you don’t understand a word of what’s being sung!

No wonder that upon hearing the new sound American jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, flocked to Brazil to get a taste of the action.

But by 1964 both the modernist dream and the music were dying. A military dictatorship took power and ruled over Brazil for the next two decades.

The artists that pioneered Bossa Nova were dispersed across the world. The musical styles they created now were infused with the artistic and musical radicalism of the late 1960s.

This compilation charts many of Bossa Nova’s high points and is guaranteed to leave you wanting more.

Bossa Nova and the rise of Brazilian music in the 1960s
Soul Jazz Records, £9.99

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Sat 12 Mar 2011, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2242
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