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Ten Top Brazilian Songs to Download on Your iPod

By John Fitzpatrick

Years ago I used to listen to a BBC radio programme called "Desert Island Discs" presented by a plummy-voiced Englishman, aptly called Roy Plomley, in which he asked guests to play eight records they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The program was phenomenally successful and ran for more than 40 years although the success was not due to Plomley who showed absolutely no interest in his guests and asked the exact same questions every week. Like every listener I made my own mental list although I used to break the rules and imagine my eight favourite pop songs, Scottish songs, classical pieces etc. The killer question was the final one - if you could only take one piece of music which would it be? Imagine having to face that choice? Apparently, the most popular piece over the decades was Ralph Vaughan Williams´ "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis". This does not surprise me since it is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. At the same time, as most of the guests were English, its unmistakably English sound would have taken them away from their palm-fringed tropical island to the peaceful countryside of England's green and pleasant land.

Nowadays I can literally go to my own "desert" island - Ilha Bela in São Paulo state or the scattering of islets in the Angra region of Rio, for example - and listen to my own favourite music on my iPod. Thank God, dreary Roy Plomley isn´t around to restrict me in terms of number of pieces or type of music. I've decided to draw up my own list of 10 pieces of Brazilian music which I recommend and hope will be as enjoyable to you as they have been and continue to be to me. The list is purely subjective and not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive. As far as I can see it´s the norm to download music for nothing in Brazil but if you have to pay a couple of dollars or pounds or euros I guarantee you'll get your money's worth. If not, I will buy you a chopp in a bar or on a beach if you can persuade me that the song was not worth the effort of downloading or buying. You can probably download some videos from YouTube.

Here we go:

1. "Aquarela" by Toninho. A charming, bittersweet number set to lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. It condenses Brazil like a pea in a pod.
2. "Perdão Você" by Marisa Monte. The clarity of Marisa´s voice is such that the subject matter and the backing music (which is often unworthy of her) don´t matter. She uses her voice and range effortlessly on this song.
3. "Lua de Mel" by Gal Costa. Gal´s voice is a gift from heaven. This may not be her best song but for personal reasons it´s my favourite.
4. "Sol de Liberdade" by Daniela Mercury. I saw her live about 15 years ago and thought she was terrible - just another "here today gone tomorrow" pop singer but she has produced two CDs over the last six or seven years - "Sol da Liberdade" and "Feijão com Arroz" - which make you feel as if you are in the middle of a Carnival parade. If you play this when the neighbors are around they'll either complain about the noise or ask to join the party.
5. "Colombina" by Ed Motta. I don´t know how to describe this - pop, soul or jazz - but it´s a fantastic performance by someone who deserves to better known abroad.
6. "Madalena" by Gilberto Gil. There's nothing politically correct about this glimpse of poverty in the Northeast as Madelena sits somewhere in the sertão eating dry flour meal. The answer to her misery? Go to the church, light a candle and pray to the saint whose name she bears.
7. "Oração de Mãe Meninha" by D. Ivone Lara. I defy anyone to listen to this classic by Dorival Caymmi and not hear the sound of Africa in the voices of the bahianos and the accompanying drums.
8. "Todas as Nossas Senhoras" by Roberto Carlos. I accept that many people are turned off by the "king's" religious side but I find this a rather touching ballad which highlights the fact that Brazil is still the biggest Catholic country in the world and the cult of the Virgin Mary which is strong here. I was taught at a Catholic school in Glasgow run by brothers from the Marist Order which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary so perhaps that's why it strikes a chord in me.
9. "Eu So Peço a Deus" by Beth Carvalho and Mercedes Sosa. Another song with a religious and political aspect sung by Beth Carvalho and the Argentinean singer, Mercedes Sosa, at a concert in Rio de Janeiro. How I wish I had been there the night this was sung.
10. "Aquarela do Brasil" by João Gilberto. Last but not least because its sums up the way Brazil used to be seen before the country became synonymous with the destruction of the Amazon, the plight of street children, violence, crime and corruption.

© John Fitzpatrick 2007

Do you have a favourite Brazilian music track, or even 10 favourite tracks? If so, please email them to us, and we‘ll add them to John‘s article.

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish writer and consultant with long experience of Brazil. He is based in São Paulo and runs his own company Celtic Comunicações. This article originally appeared on his site http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. He can be contacted at jf@celt.com.br.

Readers comments:

Inspired by John Fitzpatrick‘s Desert Island Disks Article, I couldn‘t be outdone by a fellow Scot and had to submit my own.

10) Edu Lobo - Upa Neguinho
I first heard this tune back in chilly Glasgow on a Blue Note Brazil Album and loved it. Many years and Portuguese classes later I discovered its politically incorrect lyrics and that the tune I thought was great, was considered ‘brega‘ by my Brasilian friends, oh well , still sounds great to me.

9) Joyce - Aldeia de Ogum
London 1995 and all things Brazilian were achingly hip, trying to shake off my terminally un-hip day job in the financial markets, I sought refuge in capoeira and Brasilian jazz. this tune was exploding and still sounds so joyful, I still dont really get the lyrics though.

8) Jorge Ben - O Homem de Gravata Florida
From, in my opinion his best album, Tabua de Esmeralda, this tune has everything, great cover, crazy lyrics and an overall cool vibe, love it !

7) A Paz - Gilberto Gil
What can you say, so tranquil , so beautiful. The song sums up holidays in Bahia and great beaches, what more do you need. Also played at my wedding on a wet Glasgow, June day, so special memories for me.

6) A Rita - Chico Buarque
After the discovery that no one in Brasil liked the ‘Brasilian Music‘ I had heard in the UK, this was my first discovery of a real classic that people actually rated. I love the way this chaotically bounces along and finishes long before you want it to, sort of reminds me of Rio, even when I‘m in Avenida Paulista.

5) Ando Meia Disligado - Os Mutantes
Wow !, 1960‘s Brasilian Psych rock, what a groover and one that always gets the party rocking, only narrowly beats ‘Baby‘ by the Mutantes onto the list

4) Racional Culture - Tim Maia
Really the whole two albums are amazing, and to my mind the best of his work, when he lost his mind and joined a religious cult, but this 12 minute funky workout in english, beats the lot.

3) Tudo Bem Malandro - Curumin
Quite simply, the coolest band playing in Sao Paulo today, combining funk, soul, samba, rock and hip hop into an amazing mix, check them out live as soon as you can.

2) Samba de Bencao - Bebel Gilberto
Although sometimes derided as being a bit international and poppy, this song captures the sensuality of brasilian music that I love. Its romantic without being drippy and it sounds like she really means it. ......sizzling !

1) Preciso Me Encontrar - Cartola
Ahhhh, I love the way this builds up into a lovely samba or is that chorinho (experts please correct me) its sounds sad, sinister, full of longing and a bit threatening all at the same time, anyway its great, order another chopp and enjoy !

-- Mark Hughes

Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on gringoes.com:

Lula Lets Brazilians Down by Failing to Exercise His Authority
Brazil: Laid Back Lula Finally Gets His Team (Almost) Together
The George W. Bush PR Show Comes to Brazil
Briefing Bush on Brazil the CIA Way
US Authorities Tackle Brazil´s White Collar Criminals
Brazil´s Opposition Parties Try to End Disarray
Lula Faces Arm-Wrestling Contest with New Congress
Brazil Waits for Lula to Return from Holiday
Around Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba
Brazilians Start to Stand Up for Their Rights
Darfur - Brazil´s African Side Show
Economics and Politics in Brazil - a Tangled Web
Brazil´s Strange Idea of Democracy
Brazil: John Pizzarelli - the Boy from Ipanema
Brazil‘s Stock Market: the Path to Riches or Rags?
Brazil: Lula Unlikely to Change Course after His Massive Victory
Brazil: Privatization - Lula and Alckmin Defend the Indefensible
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 2
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin Hits Lula but Lands No Killer Blow
Brazil: Lula Pays the Penalty for Complacency
Brazil: Does Lula Deserve to Win?
Brazil: Cardoso Writes a Poison Pen Letter
Monte Verde - Brazil's Green Mountain
Brazil‘s Gross Disappointing Product
Brazil‘s Election - Alckmin Hands Lula Victory on a Plate
Lula Hits Back at Congress
Brazil‘s Presidential Election May Not be a Walkover for Lula
Pity the Brazilian Voter
Brazil's Fainthearts Let the Nation Down
Now is the Winter of Brazil´s Discontent
World Cup brings Out the Best and Worst in Brazil
Brazil‘s Big Spender
Brazil: The Dogs of War are Unleashed in São Paulo
Brazil: Self-Righteous Indignation Marks Bolivian Nationalization
Brazil: Lula Still Vulnerable
Brazil: The PSDB Takes the Hard Road
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 3
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 2
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin the Hare Takes on Serra the Tortoise
Patronizing Brazilians the Politically Correct Way
Brazil: Election Gives Voters Chance to Clean Up Congress
Brazil: João Pessoa - a Victim of its Own Success
No Consistency in Brazil´s Foreign Policy
Brazil: Sitting in the Shadow of Sarney and Magalhães
Brazil: Gentrification Creeps Up On São Paulo
Dirt Flies as Brazilian Parties Aim for Presidency
Brazilians Vote for Guns and Death Not Peace and Love
Brazil‘s Gun Lobby Launches Hysterical Campaign Against Arms Ban
Jews and Arabs Find Success in Brazil
Brazil´s Politicians Start Looking Ahead to Next Year
Brazil: Lula Down but Certainly Not Out
Brazil's Congress Struggles to Cope with Ongoing Crisis
Brazil: Scandal Threatens Presidential Mandate System
Brazil: If Lula is to Survive He Needs to Change His Tactics
Brazil: Many Parties - Few Ideas
Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Helping the Helpless in Brazil
Pinheiros - São Paulo´s Best District
Growing Old (Dis)gracefully in Brazil
Canudos, Still With Us 100 Years Later
The Rise of the Brazilian Empire
Brazil and Portugal - The Samba and the Fado
Brazil - Just A State Of Mind
Brazil: For Lula, is Ignorance Bliss?
Brazil: Pay Day - or Pay Dirt?


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