The Guardian Profiles Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso

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Thursday July 15, 2010

from The Guardian

Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso in London
By John Lewis

It’s August 1970 and there are 600,000 people in a field in the Isle of Wight watching the biggest music festival that has ever been held. They will, over the course of the five-day event, witness performances from the Who, the Doors, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and the last show by Jimi Hendrix. But headlining the second day are two anonymous Brazilians, joined by a troupe of naked dancers draped in red plastic. The pair start chanting in Portuguese, accompanied by African drums and jazz flute. Then they plug in their guitars and play a crazed set mixing psychedelic rock, funk and samba.

The two men are Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. It will be some time before they are filling arenas around the world or, in Gil’s case, serving as a minister in the Brazilian government. In the summer of 1970 they are merely exotic fixtures on London’s underground scene, jamming with Hawkwind and hanging out in art galleries, hippy communes and music festivals.

“I was astonished to discover how big these guys were,” says Nik Turner from Hawkwind. “They seemed so humble, so generous, so eager to jam with anyone.”

Only two years earlier, Veloso and Gil had been two of Brazil’s biggest pop stars, leading lights in the slyly subversive Brazilian psychedelic rock scene Tropicália. That was until the military dictatorship decided they were a threat. In December 1968 they were arrested in São Paulo. They had their heads shaved, spent two months in prison and a further four months under house arrest.

Read the entire article here