Gilberto Gil Featured in The Independent

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Friday July 08, 2005

Gilberto Gil: The minister of cool

After four decades of taking his country’s music around the world, Gilberto Gil is making his mark on the Brazilian political stage.

By Phil Meadley

Gilberto Gil must be one of the coolest government ministers on the planet. Three years ago, after 40 years of iconic superstardom, he accepted the position of Brazil’s Minister of Culture from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. These days, music takes second place to intergovernmental meetings, but it hasn’t stopped him releasing his new live album, Eletracustico, and taking advantage of the annual summer recess to perform at some of Europe’s finest concert halls. It all seems a far cry from the heady days of the late-Sixties Tropicalismo movement, when Gil and his fellow musician Caetano Veloso fled to Europe after Brazil’s military government took exception to their radical mix of bossa nova, samba and loaded wordplay.

“It’s a whole different kind of work,” he says of his new life in the Brazilian Cabinet. “The first change was having to get up early, which I didn’t have to do as an artist. These days a normal week consists of a lot of office work, travelling as a representative of the Ministry inside and outside Brazil, and taking part in international meetings to sign agreements or discuss new deals. It’s more about instilling different concepts of administration and politics inside the government, for the people, and on the international platform. I enjoy it.”

Gil’s rise up the political ranks is an intriguing one, and speaks volumes for the government’s determination to appeal to its multicultural population. “I think President Lula was looking at my record as a public figure, and also as a cultural militant and environmentalist,” he says. “It was a personal choice, and I think the fact I’d been an ambassador for Brazil through my music helped. Also, I belong to a very popular middle-class sector of society which is of black descent, so I represent a very important demographic.”

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