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NYT's Essential Brazilian Playlist

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Wednesday August 03, 2016

From The New York Times

The Essentials of Brazilian Music for Olympic Listening
By: Jon Pareles, Ben Ratliff, Jon Caramanica, and Nate Chinen

Casual and seductive on the surface, ingenious and multilayered within — that’s the music of Brazil, which is about to get a new burst of global exposure as the Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a great moment to discover how much wider and deeper Brazilian music goes, beyond the stereotypes of gaudy carnival parades and suave bossa novas by the beach.

Brazilian music taps into national and regional traditions maintained over generations, with an ever-evolving mix of indigenous, European and African elements. At the same time, some Brazilians proudly describe their culture as anthropophagic or, more bluntly, cannibalistic: ready to swallow and digest whatever arrives. Even as they prize their roots, Brazilian musicians have assimilated jazz, rock, reggae, metal, hip-hop, electronic music and more; they also pack pop lyrics with complexly allusive poetry. Visitors to Rio — physically or virtually — can savor one of the world’s most creative and diverse musical cultures. Here, music critics of The New York Times offer a starter kit of 30 key Brazilian songs, historic and recent.

Caetano Veloso, “Tropicália” (1968)
Mr. Veloso and Gilberto Gil are heroes of Tropicália, a musical upheaval that pushed Brazilian pop into the psychedelic era, infusing the music with fuzz-toned rock and bringing literary modernism into the lyrics. The movement’s rise to popularity bewildered and alarmed the military dictatorship, which in 1968 imprisoned the two rising stars, and then exiled them to London (where they added more English, and English rock, to their vocabularies). “Tropicália” melts down a tuneful carnival march with eerie orchestration, while its lyrics obliquely sketch a nation’s cultural manifesto. (Pareles)

Gilberto Gil, “Expresso 2222” (1072)
The breakneck speed of Mr. Gil’s guitar syncopations is just right for a surreal train song that he wrote while in exile in London and released in 1972, the year he returned to Brazil. The express train he’s singing about starts out at an optimistically named station in Rio de Janeiro, Bonsucesso, and rushes not only into the future but also into the hereafter. From 2003 to 2008, Mr. Gil was Brazil’s Minister of Culture. (Pareles)

Marisa Monte, “Infinito Particular” (2006)
Marisa Monte sings with preternatural grace on “Infinito Particular” (“Private Infinity”). The song is a cerebral flirtation: “Just don’t lose yourself when you enter my private infinity,” she advises, enigmatically adding, “It’s only mystery, there’s no secret.” The arrangement enfolds her in amniotic bliss: woodwinds, strings and percussion all heard from a hazy distance, while her voice floats clear and close, caressing every sustained phrase. It’s a 21st-century affirmation of the Brazilian pop ballad. (Pareles)

To read the full article click here and click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify.