Brazilian sounds for free speech

Yohanna Figueroa

Daily Sundial

If you’re like me and have Gil, Veloso, Ben and Costa on separate albums, this new compilation is for you. Instead of constantly making mixed CDs to combine the best of Brazilian music from the genre-changing 1960s, the people at Soul Jazz records feel your pain. They did it for you and sprinkled some B-sides to shake it up.

The compilation, “Soul Jazz Records Presents: Tropicalia, Revolution in Brazilian Sound,” embodies the era these songs were produced in. The 1960’s were a time of musical revolution in Brazil, much like the changing music sounds of the United States.

In 1964, Brazilian Army General Castello Branco took power in a state coup, beginning the military dictatorship in Brazil that lasted until 1985. “Acto Instution 5” (AI5) was the 1968 temporary constitutional act that increased limitations on Brazilian free speech in music, film and literature. During the regime, military segregation of the poor and races was practiced, even on the performance stage.

Caetano Veloso was a Brazilian revolutionary leader, toting a guitar instead of rifle. His lyrics, much like his contemporaries, were challenging the regime and the current social political issues of the time.

Veloso, with Gilberto Gil, created a new genre of Brazilian music called “Tropicalismo.” It was a cultural movement that hoped to revolutionize traditional Brazilian music and also integrate non-Brazilian musical styles. Tropicalismo surpassed a simple label of pop music and adapted visual, performance art and literature into the dissident messages.

After the enactment of AI5 the government felt that the “Tropicalistas”, Gil and Veloso, were a threat to society. Their counter culture ideas expressed anger and distrust for social situations and the military regime. The military found their lyrics unlawful under the act and they eventually arrested and deported for continually performing and recording their music.

This musical movement has continually inspired artists for more than 25 years. Their influence can be heard in such modern musicians as Beck and David Byrne.

Os Mutantes was the “far-out” Psychedelic Rock band in the center of the “Tropicalismo” movement. “A Minha Menina” is the popular song on the album that perfectly describes the mixture of traditional Brazilian music and psychedelic rock. The cavacinho (a type of ukulele), commonly used in samba, can be heard competing with the heavily distorted electric guitar.

Jorge Ben’s “Take It Easy, My Brother Charles” lyrically crosses between Portuguese and English. Bongos, horns and ukulele groove together in the new noise that is “Tropicalia.”

“Tropicalia” mixed psychedelic rock, samba, funk and soul into a very rare combination. This is a great album that brings together all of the artists involved in the Brazilian “Tropicalismo” movement.

“Tropicalia” is available now through import.

Yohanna can be contacted at