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A Look at The Music, Artists and Legacy of Brazilian Tropicalismo


Photo Courtesy Universal/Polygram

Tropicalia: Ou Panis Et Circensis

Photo Courtesy Universal/Polygram

Tropicalia, also known as Tropicalismo, has been one of the most important movements in the history of Brazilian music. Born in the late 1960s, this movement sparked a musical revolution at a time when Brazil was going through a brutal dictatorship. Brazilian Tropicalia was, in fact, a movement that went beyond music touching the social and political spheres of the country.

Tropicalismo in Brazil embraced the same values promoted by the hippie revolution of the sixties and its music was deeply influenced by the most popular genres of that era. With its musical innovation, Tropicalia was a rebellious movement that changed Brazilian music forever.

The Music

The content and sounds of Tropicalia music were quite different from Brazilian rhythms such as Samba and Bossa Nova. Although it retained basic elements from traditional Brazilian music, Tropicalismo was heavily influenced by Psychedelic Rock. In this way, Tropicalia brought a very experimental sound that opened a new window for the development of modern Brazilian music.

The content of Tropicalia music was also innovative. Unlike the traditional and beautiful world exalted through Bossa Nova, Tropicalismo brought a new concept in terms of lyrics. Being a rebellious movement, the songs were heavily charged with words that questioned the establishment as it was. In fact, the lyrics that adorned some of the classic tracks from that era were very often the result of works involving musicians and intellectuals such as the poet Torquato Neto.

The Artists

The Tropicalia movement was born in the state of Bahia. As a matter of fact, Tropicalismo in Brazil was led by two of the most famous Brazilian artists from Bahia: Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. They brought together a group of artists that included stars like Gal Costa, Nara Leao, Tom Ze and the legendary band Os Mutantes.

'Tropicalia Ou Panis Et Circensis'

In 1968, the most prominent tropicalistas got together for a memorable collaboration work. Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes and Gal Costa, among others, released their musical production Tropicalia Ou Panis Et Circensis, which is considered the manifesto piece that marked the music of the whole movement.

The album takes its name from "Panis Et Circensis," the song interpreted by Os Mutantes on this work. It also includes other famous tracks like "Baby" by Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso and the Bahian hymnal "Hino do Senhor do Bonfin."

The Legacy of Tropicalia

Tropicalismo in Brazil fell victim to political repression and its own existence was brief. However, the movement left a permanent mark in the making of modern Brazilian music. Thanks to its experimental style, Tropicalia created room for additional innovation in Brazilian music.

Tropicalismo was also responsible for bringing into Brazilian music some of its most influential artists. The influences of the movement were also felt outside Brazil and modern artists like Kurt Cobain were seduced by the music produced during the Tropicalia years.

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