By Pedro Souza
August 29th, 2016
The sixties in Brazil were marked by the beginning of a bloody dictatorship, which started in 1964 and went all the way from 1985. The repression didn’t affect only communists and other leftists, but it also arrested and tortured many artists from all different fields. Yet, one of the most vibrant musical movements in the history of Brazil emerged during this period. Known as tropicália or tropicalismo, it emerged at the end of the sixties, exploding into the artistic scene during the Festival de Música Popular (Popular Music Festival) that took place in 1967 organized by TV Record.
Characterized by its syncretism, it had an “everything goes” attitude, mixing musical styles such as rock, bossa nova, baião and samba among others. It is also responsible for the introduction of the electric guitar in the Brazilian musical scene, which provoked revolt among some classical musicians who complained that Braziliam music was being corrupted by North-American influences. The movement also pushed forward many aesthetic changes. Morals, behavior and sexuality were influenced by tropicália, and many aspects of the hippie counterculture were assimilated into Brazil, such as the colorful clothing and long hair.
Lyrically, the musicians that took part in it were very poetic, making social critiques and talking about ordinary things in an innovative way. Although there were social critiques in some of the lyrics, using music as a weapon against the dictatorship wasn’t among the top priorities of the movement. Because of this, its artists were often criticized by other musicians, which were using their music as a form of protest. In response, the proponents of tropicalismo argued that changing the face of music was revolutionary in itself.
The movement launched some of the most popular artists in the country, and many albums released during this time are now considered classics. Musicians such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Gal Costa and the psychedelic rock band Mutantes changed the Brazilian musical scene forever. With their TV appearances, organized events and collaborative albums, they quickly sent shockwaves through Brazil, leaving their mark in history. Despite its popularity, the movement was short lasted. Even though the musicians that took place in it weren’t as militant as other sectors of the Brazilian musical scene, its libertarian tendencies caused it to be repressed by the dictatorship. In 1969, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were arrested and sent in exile, which sent the movement tumbling down.
Thus ended one of the most notorious musical movements In Brazil. Yet, while it lasted only a few years, it changed Brazilian music and culture forever. Its influence can still be seen in Brazilian cinema and theater, and in the attitude and aesthetics of some parts of Brazilian counter-culture. Many contemporary artists such as Secos e Molhados and Nação Zumbi were also heavily influenced by tropicália. The movement also left us some of the best music that has been produced in Brazil, which is still widely listened and appreciated worldwide.