Q:Who is/are your favorite Brazilian singer/songwriters? I want to expand into Brazilian music, further than a general knowledge of the bossa nova's leak into American jazz and big band
Well, first, Brazilian music is a lot bigger than the “singer/songwriter” designation can hold. As with American and every other national music, Brazilian popular music has a storied history of brilliant songwriters writing for, or having their songs taken up by, superb singers. The trend of the person who wrote the song singing the song didn’t really take hold until the 1960s and even then was a lot less prevalent than the converse.
Second, I’m no expert. I know a very little bit about Brazilian music, most of what I know is from the period between 1930 and 1975, and I’m still working on getting the major players straight in my head. Take the following recommendations as sincere recommendations, but please don’t take them as in any way definitive, much less comprehensive.
Caetano Veloso is the number-one name you want to investigate. He’s sometimes described as the Bob Dylan of Brazilian music, but the analogy would only hold if Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Marvin Gaye were all the same person. He wrote “Baby,” and that’s him on counterpoint in the Gal Costa version I recently posted. He’s a prolific collaborator, but his solo albums of the 60s and 70s make up one of the finest musical bodies of work of the 20th century. Not that his 80s, 90s, and post-millennial work has been any worse (if anything, it’s better) — it simply can’t, due to the nature of history, be as seminal.
Veloso’s peers in the trópicalia movement of the late 60s, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, and Milton Nascimento, are all worth checking out too — Gil is easily Veloso’s peer in crafstmanship and prolificity, and experimentalist Zé, who has issued much less music, has inspired a much more devoted cult. Nascimento is less psychedelic or political than the other three, but he’s a great entrance into the world of Brazilian soul and funk. The three-piece pysch band Os Mutantes is the other cornerstone of the trópicalia movement, and their records up to the point where Rita Lee leaves the band are necessary to any rock listener.
Gal Costa didn’t write most of her songs, but I’d be betraying my deepest sympathies if I didn’t tell you to listen to her first two albums (both self-titled) religiously: if you have any interest in the blurry line between pure pop, psych, jazz, bossa nova, and noise as they swirled together in the late 60s, they are fundamental records.
More contemporary singer-songwriters like Marisa Monte, Carlinhos Brown, and Arnaldo Antunes are very much worth your while, as is the 2002 collaboration between the three of them under the title Os Tribalistas.
Currently, I’m very much digging Gaby Amarantos, an electropop/R&B singer from the Brazilian equivalent of the Jersey Shore and Paula Fernandes, a country singer probably best compared to Taylor Swift or Faith Hill, and I’ve even come to grudgingly accept the boot-scooting charms of Michel Teló’s inescapable (in Latin circles, at least) “Ai se eu te pego.”
If you’re looking to go further back in history, songwriters like Antônio Carlos (or Tom) Jobim, Dorival Caymmi, Vinicius de Moraes, and Noel Rosa sometimes recorded their own music, though rarely (to my mind) the definitive versions. Starting in the 1950s, samba-cançao singers like Dolores Duran and Nora Ney began to co-write much of their material, and even before that, stars of the 1930s like Carmen Miranda would commission songs for the princely sum of $80, or more if the last one was a hit.
Hope this helps a little, at least.
2 Notes/ Hide
- just-paul said: I’ve explored some of Gal Costa’s work which is what prompted the question, when I saw your post earlier. And I’m familiar with Antonio Carlos Jobim and his work with Stan Getz. I’ll have a lot to go off now, thank you!
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