5 Brazilian songs every “gringo” needs

Throughout my many years of role playing, internet addiction and Tumblr presence (my little virtual baby is turning five on April!), I’ve met tons of people – some great, life changing people, some not so great – from all over the world. And every time I asked about their knowledge on Brazilian music, the majority of them didn’t know a thing about this vast, beautiful part of our culture, and the rest mentioned samba and whatever they thought was the music we danced to on Carnival. It is still samba, by the way, just a more specific kind.

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While I am happy none of them ever mentioned the disaster that was “Oh If I Catch You” ( I refuse to link it here, I’m sorry), it saddened me that people in my generation across the hemispheres knew nothing about our music. Maybe if they asked their parents and grandparents they’d mention – of course – Carmen Miranda, the “bossa nova” or even Sérgio Mendes. I mean, he sang with Black Eyed Peas, you guys – shame on you for now remembering this old, talented man and his piano!

So, as someone who feeds on music, I thought I’d share with you all five of my all time favorite songs. Some were released way before I was born, most of them actually, but what matters is their diversity and the representation of though times us Brazilians went through and won, using music as a way of staying strong and alive. We are such a musical country, we sing as we speak, and it felt important to me that you all knew even a tiny little bit of what music is to us and to me in special. Let’s get to it!

1) Anunciação, by Alceu Valença.

Ok, Alceu Valença is a freaking genius. If you’re on Spotify, go look for him because they have basically all of his albums and they are all amazing. He goes from the slowest, sweetest songs, to hardcore “forró” and strong northeastern roots in his works. My mom and dad are huge fans and I used to listen to him when I was a baby – and then I grew up and the beauty that is Spotify brought him back. “Anunciação” is my favorite song from him – along with another one called “Ciranda da Aliança” – and it is such a beautiful, heart-warming song. It was originally released in 1983, in his album called Anjo Avesso. If you have a chance go look for the lyrics translation, you won’t regret it. Here I link to you one of my favorite versions of it, one filmed during a special presentation Alceu did with the Ouro Preto Orchestra, and the public singing along gives me goosebumps!

2) Apesar de Você, by Chico Buarque.

Chico Buarque was one of the biggest voices to protest against the dictatorship we went through from 1964 to 1984. Yes, Brazil lived through twenty years of oppressive regime. Chico wrote “Apesar de Você” in 1970 after being exiled for a year from Brazil due to his acting in protests against the regime. Many of our artists were exiled during that period, MANY. And the government had an institution that merely served the purpose of censoring every single artistic and journalist production and making sure none of it spoke ill of the military ruling. “Apesar de Você”, a song about resisting the shackles of the regime and fighting through the lack of freedom, was censored and for years it couldn’t be played anywhere. Anywhere. It was then released in 1978 and remains to this very day as one of the biggest symbols of resistance we had in those twenty dark years of our history. Here is my favorite version:

PS: The first concert my parents attended together was a music festival where Chico was the main artist. It may have been a little bit illegal. Such rebels, my makers. ❤

3) Mortal Loucura, by José Miguel Wisnik and Caetano Veloso.

Caetano is unarguably one of the biggest artists we’ve ever had and still have. Promise me you’ll go straight to his page on Spotify after listening to this song, please! He was part of many movements against the military regime and also part of that list of exiled artists, along with his  buddy Gilberto Gil (another genius, I might add). In 2005 he joined Wisnik to compose one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Wisnik is a musician and retired professor of the Literature department at USP, my uni, and once I had the pleasure of watching one of his lectures. I remember he was talking about music and literature in 1930s here in Brazil and at a certain point he began humming a lovely song written by Heitor Villa-Lobos, one of our most prized conductors and composers. I can safely say that was one of the purest, most genuine and sweet moments I have ever had the pleasure to watch before my eyes. The whole room broke in applause and whistles and cheers and I was (of course) in tears. Here is the original version of the song, but this is my favorite:

PS¹: Maria Bethânia, another magnificent voice we have here, has her own rendition of the song and it is also breath-taking. Check it out.

4) Ai que Saudade D’ocê, by Geraldo Azevedo.

Ok, this song gets me dancing immediately. It is one of the many songs on my “Mom” playlist – meaning, one of the many songs we like to dance to together in the middle of the living room. Geraldo has such a lovely voice and great lyrics is it hard not to fall in love with all of his work. “Ai que Saudade D’ocê” not only gets you moving, but it is also a sweet song about missing the one you love and trying to send them all your love from a distance. It has my very favorite world in the the Portuguese language, saudade and it was first released in 1984, nine years before I was born. I hope you’re all dancing to it right now as you read this.

5) Preta Pretinha, by Novos Baianos.

This song is simply delicious. Included twice in the second album of the “Novos Baianos”, “Preta Pretinha” is one of those songs that instantly calms you down. It was written by two members of the group, Moraes Moreira and Luis Galvão and released in 1972, also during the military regime. That period was the most fruitful for our music, every artist find their way to protest the constant oppression the country was under. The entire “Acabou Chorare” album is like a soft touch, the hug of a dearest friend during tough times. This song is not even the one with the deepest lyrics, but it is still my favorite. Another one that reminds me of my mom for we used to sing it in the car together. I hope it will make you smile as quickly as it makes me. There you have it, the original 6:37 minutes version:

 

BONUS TRACK!

  • Dia Branco, by Geraldo Azevedo.

Why isn’t on the list?, you may ask. Well, for the simple reason that: this song makes me cry every single time I listen to it. Doesn’t matter the version, or where I am, if I got headphones and I’m on the comute to work or alone, cooking in my kitchen. I cry. It is the only one I didn’t listen to while writing this post. To me, it is a song about love, commitment to those you cherish and sticking together through thick and thin. It reminds me of my grandfather Antonio, the most loyal human being to ever walk this planet. It’s been seven years since I’ve lost him and he is still with me every day. So yeah, this song is highly emotional for me, and it is worth the 4 minutes, I promise. It was released in 1996, when I was only three years old and still had my grandpa around.

 

There you have it, my all time favorite Brazilian songs. If you have the time please go and read a bit more about each of these artists, listen to all of their work and add the songs to your playlist. There is so much more to our culture than these five songs and respective artists. There is so much more to us than just samba. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE samba. And it is really, really good! But we are so much more than that and I wanted to share with you all a part of my country that means a great deal to me.

Go dance now, go cry like I did, whatever ritual you have when listening to music, ok? For it is one of the most complete ways of expressing ourselves. Humans are freaky creatures, but sometimes we create marvelous things, don’t we?

Namaste,

Jules.

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