Six Brazilian Songs

[Texto do Granta] I first experienced Brazilian music subliminally when I was growing up in Lagos in the early 1980s. From his business trips to Rio de Janeiro, my father brought back videotapes of Carnival. My siblings and I were astonished by the spectacle of floats, feather headdresses and scantily clad bodies, but the samba that propelled the spectacle was there too, pulsing in the background. With college in the US came knowledge of bossa nova, at first through the ubiquitous Stan Getz and João Gilberto recording, and then from compilations during the ‘world music’ craze. Later on I visited Brazil and began to learn more – about MPB (música popular brasileira), choro, Candomblé, Tropicalismo, and the new electronic and funk subgenres – and the more I learned, the more there was to learn.

Is there a single characteristic that unites all Brazilian music? Perhaps not, but when I listen, I do sense a tilt, a feeling of the ground pitching underfoot, and I suspect that this slight unsteadiness is related to the openness of Brazilian Portuguese, the specific combination of cultures in the country, the openness to the international scene and the intelligent use of syncopated rhythms in all genres.

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