The History of Brazilian Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (4/11/13)

Brazil is one of the largest nations on Earth in both geographic area and the amount of music sold. The country has its roots in a mix of European, African and South American styles. While the main language is more Portuguese than Spanish, Brazil also has a lot of Caribbean influence, particularly from Cuba. One of the traditional styles that has remained part of the country's pop culture has been samba. Other traditional styles that are still celebrated are maxixe, lundu and choro. Some of the more modern styles that have emerged the past century include bossa nova, tropicália, lambada, musica nordestina and frevo.

Samba was popularized in the 1930s, partly because of radio and partly because of samba schools. One of the most famous songs ever to come from the country was a samba called "Aquarela do Brasil," written in Portuguese by Ary Barroso in 1939. The song was first recorded in Brazil by Francisco Alves in 1939. In the United States and in other English-speaking countries the song was simply called "Brazil." Xavier Cugat had a big hit with the song in 1943 following the song's appearance in the Disney film Saludos Amigos. It was also covered by Jimmy Dorsey, Les Paul and Frank Sinatra. English lyrics were written by Bob Russell. Since then the song has been recorded by many artists from Brazil and other countries.

American jazz was a big influence on the entire world, including South America, resulting in Brazil's own brand of jazz mixed with samba called bossa nova, which began to surface in the 1950s. The music likely has its roots near the affluent shores of Rio de Janeiro, where the term "bossa" applied to fashion. The sound of bossa nova music was not as beat-oriented as traditional samba and relied more on harmony. Early artists who performed bossa nova in the late fifties included University Hebrew Group of Brazil, Nara Leão, Johnny Alf and João Gilberto. Some of the early bossa nova hits included "Bim-Bom" by João Gilberto, "Saudade da Bahia" by Dorival Caymmi and "Chega de Saudade" by Elizete Cardoso.

American jazz musicians began to pick up on the bossa nova style and began incorporating it in their music following the success of João Gilberto. The album that triggered worldwide interest in the style was called Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd in 1962. The album featured the hit "Desafinado," which had been composed by Gilberto in the late fifties. Then another album made samba even bigger around the world, which was Getz/Gilberto in 1964, featuring American jazz musician Stan Getz and Brazilian star João Gilberto. João's wife, Astrud Gilberto, sang a song on the album called "Girl From Ipanema," which became an international smash hit. The album has since been considered to be one of the most monumental jazz recordings of all time.

In the late sixties a movement called tropicália emerged that represented a mix of Brazilian tradition, experimentalism and other cultures. The result was a soulful rock fusion heard in artists such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa. The goal of the movement was to merge various styles to come up with a new sound, much like the psychedelic music going on in America. The landmark tropicália album of the late sixties was called Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis, recorded by Voloso and Gil. It included social commentary music that criticized the 1963 Brazilian coup d'état, in which the democratically elected President (although called a communist by right wing extremists) João Goulart was overthrown by a U.S.-backed military invasion. This new regime remained in power until 1985. The tropicália style went on to influence American artists such as David Byrne, Beck and Nelly Furtado.

From the late sixties on the acronym MPB, which stands for Musica Popular Brasilera, has been used as a blanket term for Brazilian pop music. Some of the top top MPB artists since that time haave been Simone, Roberto Carlos, Nara Leão, Maria Bethânia, Chico Buarque and Mônica da Silva. Although rock had been around Brazil since the fifties, it became very big in the eighies with artists such as Blitz, Gang 90 and Engenheiros do Hawaii. Some of the top Brazilian bands of the 90s included Mamonas Assassinas, Skank and Pato Fu. Pitty has been a female solo rock singer since 2003 and was one of the top sellers of the decade. In 2012 the IFPI ranked Brazil as the number 8 biggest music market in the world. The music industry in Brazil is represented by ABPD.

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