World Cup fans rushing into the stadiums will probably pay little attention to the native music of Brazil. However, there is a wealth of music to discover beyond the country's typical samba.
The music of Brazil encompasses various regional music styles influenced by African, European and Amerindian forms. After 500 years of history, Brazilian music developed some unique and original styles such as samba, bossa nova, MPB, sertanejo, pagode, tropicalia, choro, maracatu, embolada (coco de repente), frevo, forró, axé, brega, and Brazilian versions of foreign musical genres, such as Brazilian rock and rap.
Samba has become the best known form of Brazilian music worldwide, especially because of the country's carnival, although bossa nova, which had Antônio Carlos Jobim as one of its most acclaimed composers and performers, have received much attention abroad since the 1950s, when the song "Desafinado", interpreted by João Gilberto, was first released.
The first four winner’s of the Shell Brazilian Music prize have each left a very important legacy on Brazilian music and are among the most important representatives of Brazilian popular music: Pixinguinha (choro), Antônio Carlos Jobim (bossa nova), Dorival Caymmi (samba and samba-canção) and Luiz Gonzaga (baião and forró).
Instrumental music is also largely practiced in Brazil, with styles ranging from classical to popular and jazz influenced forms, featuring composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos, Pixinguinha and Hermeto Pascoal. The country also has a growing community of modern/experimental composition, including electroacoustic music.
The first registration of musical activity in Brazil comes from the activities of two Jesuit priests in 1549. Ten years later, they had already founded settlements for indigenous people (the Reduções), with a musical-educational structure.
One century later, the Reduções of the southern Brazil, which were founded by Spaniard Jesuits, had a strong cultural development, where some music schools were founded. Some of the reports of that time show the fascination of the indigenous people for European music. The indigenous people also took part in the music, with both the construction of musical instruments and practice of vocal and instrumental performance. The musical styles were, naturally, from the European culture, and the purpose of the musicalization for the indigenous people was mostly for Catechism, with negligible original creative contribution by themselves. Later, the remaining Indians who survived the massacres and epidemics went to the more remote regions of Brazil, escaping from contact with the European settlers, and their part in the national musical life diminished, eventually almost completely disappearing.
In the beginning of the 20th century, there was a movement for creating an authentically Brazilian music, with less influences of the European culture. In this sense, the folklore was the major font of inspiration for the composers. Some composers like Brasílio Itiberê da Cunha, Luciano Gallet and Alexandre Levy, despite having a European formation, included some typically Brazilian elements in their works. This trend reached the highest point with Alberto Nepomuceno, who used largely the rhythms and melodies from the Brazilian folklore.
An important event, later, was the Modern Art Week, in 1922, which had a large impact on concepts of national art. In this event the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, regarded as the most outstanding name of the Brazilian nationalism, was revealed.
Villa-Lobos did researches about the musical folklore of Brazil, and mixed elements both from classical and popular music. He explored many musical genres such as concertos, symphonies, ballets, operas and other symphonic, vocal and chamber music. Some of his masterworks are the ballet Uirapuru, their choros and the popular symphonic series Bachianas Brasileiras.
Other composers of Brazilian national music of this era include Oscar Lorenzo Fernández, Radamés Gnattali, Camargo Guarnieri, Osvaldo Lacerda, Francisco Mignone, and Ernesto Nazareth.
The native peoples of the Brazilian rainforest play instruments including whistles, flutes, horns, drums and rattles. Much of the area's folk music imitates the sounds of the Amazon Rainforest. When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, the first natives they met played an array of reed flutes and other wind and percussion instruments. The Jesuit missionaries introduced songs which used the Tupi language with Christian lyrics, an attempt to convert the people to Christianity, and also introduced Gregorian chant and the flute, bow, and the clavichord.
The earliest music in what is now Brazil must have been that of the native peoples of the area. Little is known about their music, since no written records exist of this era. With the arrival of Europeans, Brazilian culture began to take shape as a synthesis of native musical styles with Portuguese music and African music.
The Afro-Brazilian sport of capoeira is never played without its own music, which is usually considered to be a call-and-response type of folk music. The main instruments of capoeira music include the berimbau, the atabaque and the pandeiro. Capoeira songs may be improvised on the spot, or they may be popular songs written by older, and ancient mestres (teachers), and often include accounts of the history of capoeira, or the doings of great mestres.
This type of music is played primarily in the Recife and Olinda regions during Carnaval. It is an Afro-Brazilian tradition. The music serves as the backdrop for parade groups that evolved out of ceremonies conducted during colonial times in honour of the Kings of Congo, who were African slaves occupying symbolic leadership positions among the slave population. The music is played on large alfaia drums, large metal gonguê bells, snare drums and shakers. An important variant is found in and around Fortaleza, Ceará (called maracatu cearense), which is different from the Recife/Olinda tradition in many respects: triangles are used instead of gonguês, surdos or zabumbas instead of alfaias. Also, important female characters are performed by cross-dressed male performers, and all African and Afrobrazilian personages are performed using blackface makeup.
Afoxê is a kind of religious music, part of the Candomblé tradition. In 1949, a group called Filhos de Gandhi began playing afoxé during carnaval parades in Salvador; their name translates as Sons of Gandhi, associating black Brazilian activism with Mahatma Gandhi's Indian independence movement. The Filhos de Gandhi's 1949 appearance was also revolutionary because, until then, the Carnaval parades in Salvador were meant only for light-skinned people.
Northeastern Brazil is known for a distinctive form of literature called literatura de cordel, which are a type of ballads that include elements incorporated into music as "repentismo", an improvised lyrical contest on themes suggested by the audience.
Similar to Repentismo, appears among the Caipira culture a musical form derived from Viola Caipira, which is called Cururu.
Eastern Amazônia has long been dominated by carimbo music, which is centered around Belém. In the 1960s, carimbo was electrified and, in the next decade, DJs added elements from reggae, salsa and merengue. This new form became known as lambada and soon moved to Bahia, Salvador by the mid-1980s. Bahian lambada was synthesizer-based and light pop music. French record producers discovered the music there, and brought it back with them to France passing by Portugal, where a Bolivian group called Los Kjarkas saw their own composition launch an international dance craze. Soon, lambada had spread throughout the world and the term soon became meaninglessly attached to multiple varieties of unrelated Brazilian music, leading to purist scorn from Belém and also Bahia.
Another form of regional folk music, bumba-meu-boi, was popularized by the Carnival celebrations of Parintins and is now a major part of the Brazilian national scene.
Choro (literally "cry" in Portuguese, but in context a more appropriate translation would be "lament"), traditionally called chorinho ("little cry" or "little lament"). Instrumental, its origins are in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Originally choro was played by a trio of flute, guitar and cavaquinho (a small chordophone with four strings). The young pianist Ernesto Nazareth published his first choro (Não Caio Noutra) in 1878 at the age of 14. Nazareth's choros are often listed as polkas; he also composed waltzes, schottisches, milongas and Brazilian Tangos. (He resisted the popular term maxixe to represent Brazilian tango.) Chiquinha Gonzaga was another important composer of choros and started shortly after Nazareth. Chiquinha Gonzaga composed her first success, the polka-choro "Atraente", in 1877. In the beginning, the success of choro came from informal groups of friends which played in parties, pubs (botecos), streets, home balls (forrobodós), and also the musical scores published by print houses. By the 1910s, much of the Brazilian first phonograph records are choros. The mainstream success of this style of music (By the 1930s) came from the early days of radio, when bands performed live on the air. By the 1950s and 1960s it was replaced by samba and Bossa Nova and other styles of Brazilian popular music, but was still alive in amateur circles called "rodas de choro" (informal choro gatherings in residences and botecos). However, in the late 1970s there was a successful effort to revitalize the genre carried out by some famous artists: Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo and Jacob do Bandolim.
In 1929, prompted by the opening of the first radio station in Rio de Janeiro, the so-called radio era began spreading songs – especially the novelty Samba in its current format – to larger masses. This period was dominated by few male interpreters – notably Almirante, Braguinha, Mário Reis, Sílvio Caldas, Francisco Alves and singer/composer Noel Rosa and even fewer chanteuses such as Aracy de Almeida and sisters Aurora Miranda and Carmen Miranda, who eventually came to Hollywood becoming a movie star.
Popular music included instruments like cuicas, tambourines, frying pans ('played' with a metal stick), flutes and guitars. Noteworthy Samba composers at this early stage included said Noel Rosa plus Lamartine Babo and, around World War II time, Ary Barroso.
MPB's early stage (from World War II to the mid-60s) was populated by male singers such as Orlando Silva, Nelson Gonçalves, Jamelão, Agostinho dos Santos, Anísio Silva, Ataulfo Alves, Carlos Galhardo, Ciro Monteiro, Ismael Silva, João Dias, Jorge Goulart, Miltinho, Jorge Veiga and Francisco Egídio and female singers started to mushroom: Nora Ney, Dolores Duran, Ângela Maria, Emilinha Borba, Marlene, Dalva de Oliveira, Maysa Matarazzo, sisters Linda Batista and Dircinha Batista, among others.
MPB's second stage – after the split Bossa Nova (1959) / Jovem Guarda (1965) / Tropicalismo (both 1967) – refers to mainstream Brazilian pop music. Well-known MPB artists include, among many others, singers such as Elis Regina, Nara Leão, Maria Bethânia, Mônica da Silva, Simone, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Roberto Carlos, Jorge Ben jor, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, João Bosco, Ivan Lins, Djavan.
The first bossa nova records by João Gilberto, in the last years of the 50s, quickly became huge hits in Brazil. Antonio Carlos Jobim and other composers helped further develop this fusion of jazz harmonies and a smoother, often slower, samba beat, which developed at the beach neighborhoods of Ipanema and, later, the Copacabana nightclubs. Bossa nova was introduced to the rest of the world by American jazz musicians in the early 1960s, and song "The Girl from Ipanema" remains probably the best known Brazilian musical export, eventually becoming a kind of jazz standard.
The musical style known in Brazil as "Brazilian rock n' roll" dates back to a Portuguese-version cover of "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954. In the 1960s, young singers like Roberto Carlos and the Jovem Guarda movement were very popular. The 60s also saw the rise of bands such as the "tropicalistas" Os Mutantes and the experimental (mixing progressive rock, jazz and Música Popular Brasileira) Som Imaginário.
The 1970s saw the emergence of many progressive rock and/or hard rock bands such as O Terço, A Bolha, A Barca do Sol, Som Nosso de Cada Dia, Vímana and Bacamarte, some of which attained some recognition internationally; Rita Lee, in her solo career after Os Mutantes, championed the glam-rock aesthetics in Brazil; Casa das Máquinas and Patrulha do Espaço were more bona-fide hard rock bands, and the likes of (Raul Seixas, Secos e Molhados, Novos Baianos and A Cor do Som) mixed the genre with traditional Brazilian music. In the late 1970s, the Brazilian punk rock scene kicked off mainly in São Paulo and in Brasília, booming in the 80s, with Inocentes, Cólera, Ratos de Porão, Garotos Podres, etc.
The real commercial boom of Brazilian rock was in the 1980s, with many bands and artists like Blitz, Gang 90, Barão Vermelho, Legião Urbana, Engenheiros do Hawaii, Titãs, Kid Abelha, Paralamas do Sucesso, and many others, and festivals like Rock in Rio and Hollywood Rock. The late 1980s and early 1990s also witnessed the beginnings of an electronica-inspired scene, with a lot more limited commercial potential but achieving some critical acclaim: Suba, Loop B, Harry, etc.
In the 90s, the meteoric rise of Mamonas Assassinas, which sold more than 3 million copies of its only CD (a record, by Brazilian standards) came to a tragic end when the band's plane crashed, killing all five members of the band, the pilot and the co-pilot. Other commercially successful bands included Jota Quest, Raimundos and Skank, while Chico Science & Nação Zumbi and the whole Mangue Bit movement received much critical attention and accolades, but very little commercial success – success that declined after the death of one of its founders, Chico Science. It was also in the 90s that the first seeds of what would grow into being the Brazilian indie scene were planted, with the creation of indie festivals such as Abril Pro Rock and, later in the decade, Porão do Rock. The band Pato Fu was considered by Time magazine one of the ten best bands in the world outside the United States. It is also known to re-record hits Brazilian and international versions of toy instruments.
Female singer Pitty is also very popular. The indie scene has been growing exponentially since the early 2000s, with more and more festivals taking place all around the country. However, due to several factors including but not limited to the worldwide collapse of the music industry, all the agitation in the indie scene has so far failed in translating into international success, but in Brazil they developed a real, substantial cultural movement. That scene is still much of a ghetto, with bands capturing the attention of international critics, but many playing again in Brazil when they become popular in the exterior, due to the lack of financial and material support which would allow for careers to be developed. One notable exception is CSS, an alternative electro rock outfit that has launched a successful international career, performing in festivals and venues in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Other unique example of success through independent music scene that made to the mainstream is the band Móveis Coloniais de Acaju. The band has its own style, somewhere between rock and folk, and is recognized as the most important independent band in Brazil. The record company Trama  tries to support some bands with structure and exposure, and can be credited with early support to CSS and later to Móveis Coloniais de Acaju.
The new Brazilian folk scene is not to be mistaken with folkloric Brazilian music. In recent years mainstream Brazilian artists have emerged playing a blend of classic Americana artists such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash alongside clear influences by Brazilian troubadours such as Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso. The first to break into the mainstream was internet phenomenon Mallu Magalhães, who played covers of her favourite artists in English and her own songs in both English and Portuguese (as well as other languages). Magalhães only released her first album in 2008, though by then she was already widely recognised as the voice of this sudden new Brazilian folk scene. Her ex-boyfriend Hélio Flanders is the lead singer of another Brazilian folk group called Vanguart. Though Vanguart had an album released before Mallu Magalhães, it was her emergence that consolidated them both and others as a fully recognised mainstream scene, topping charts and being featured in prime time television and advertising. Other acts emerged after the market was opened up to folk. Writing in English is more and more common among Brazilian rock and folk artists. This has been highly criticised by purists, though it has helped to promote Brazilian artists in other countries (CSS is a perfect example). The new Brazilian folk scene has just come to the public's attention and it continues to thrive.
Música sertaneja or Sertanejo is a term for Brazilian country music. It originally referred to music originating among Sertão and musica caipira. (Caipira music appeared in the state of São Paulo, and some the regions of Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás Minas Gerais, Paraná and Mato Grosso. Musical rhythm very spread out in the Southeastern and southern regions of Brazil.) For several years it was a category at the Latin Grammy Awards. Recently, a variation called "Sertanejo universitário" become popular because of its dancing and catchy lyrics. It is particularly well known outside Brazil with hits like "Ai Se Eu Te Pego", by Michel Teló.
North eastern music is a generic term for any popular music from the large region of Northeastern Brazil, including both coastal and inland areas. Rhythms are slow and plodding, and are derived from accordions and guitars instead of percussion instruments like in the rest of Brazil—in this region, African rhythms and Portuguese melodies combined to form maracatu and dance music called baião has become popular. Most influentially, however, the area around the state of Pernambuco, the home of forró, frevo and maracatu.
Southern music (Portuguese: Música gaúcha) is a general term used for the music originally from the Rio Grande do Sul state, in Southern Brazil. Some of the most famous musicians of this genre are Renato Borghetti, Yamandu Costa, Jayme Caetano Braun and Luiz Marenco, among others.
In the latter part of the 1960s, a group of black Bahians began dressing as Native Americans during the Salvadoran Carnaval, identifying with their shared struggles through history. These groups included Comanches do Pelô and Apaches de Tororó and were known for a forceful and powerful style of percussion, and frequent violent encounters with the police. Starting in 1974, a group of black Bahians called Ilê Aiyê became prominent, identifying with the Yoruba people and Igbo people of West Africa. Along with a policy of loosening restrictions by the Brazilian government, Ilê Aiyê's sound and message spread to groups like Grupo Cultural do Olodum, who established community centers and other philanthropic efforts.
Frevo is a style of music from Olinda and Recife. Frevo bands always play during the Carnival.
The core of a classic forró band is a trio consisting of zabumba, a triangle and an accordion. Forró is eminently danceable, and became one of the foundations for the lambada in the 1980s. Luiz Gonzaga was the preeminent early forró musician who popularized the genre in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in the 1940s with songs like "Asa Branca".
The band Olodum, from Pelourinho, are generally credited with the mid-1980s invention of samba-reggae, a fusion of Jamaican reggae with samba. Olodum retained the politically charged lyrics of bands like Ilê Aiyê.
Sambass is a fusion of samba and Drum & Bass. The most famous sambass musicians are DJ Marky and DJ Patife whose hit Sambassim might be the most known sambass track.
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: April 2014.
Photo Credits: (1) 'Samba Fever', (2) Dudu Tucci, (4) Bê Ignacio, (5) Sérgio Tannus, (6) Maria Rita, (7) Tiganá Santana, (8) Silvério Pessoa, (9) Natiruts, (10) Flavia Coelho, (11) Matuto.com (unknown/website); (3) Ceu (by Walkin' Tom).