Brazilian Popular Music
The Roots of Urban Pop Music in Brazil
Música Popular Brasileira, or MPB, is a blend of traditional Brazilian styles fused with influences from around the world, resulting in a unique genre of world music.
Brazil has contributed countless styles and sounds to the music scene, from candomblé to samba. With these rhythms at the root of MPB, Brazilian pop stars are constantly expanding the genre by experimenting with rock, funk, rap, and everything in between.
The History of Brazilian Popular Music
To define the popular music of any culture is difficult, as pop music has several subgenres, all of which are constantly changing. Just as jazz was once considered American pop music, the evolving bossa nova in the 1960’s is widely considered to be the beginning of MPB.
During this time, MPB borrowed elements from the bossa nova, rock, and folk music, with heavy focus on guitar and percussion. American jazz was also an influence, from chord progressions to scatting.
The Tropicália Movement
In the late 1960’s, a left-wing artistic movement known as Tropicália grew from MPB. While this movement encompassed visual arts and poetry as well, it permanently altered the scope of Brazilian music.
The lyrics of Tropicália songs focused on political protest, repression, and social change in a time of military dictatorship following the 1964 coup d’état. In 1968, the movement’s leaders, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, were exiled by the Brazilian government after being arrested on false charges. Veloso and Gil returned to Brazil in 1972 after four years in London.
The Evolution of Samba
It was around this time that groups like Ilê Aiyê and Olodum in Salvador began to develop several subgenres of the samba, most notably samba reggae, which has dozens of variations in itself. Other rhythmic styles of Brazil, from Pernambuco’s maracatu to forró, a type of country music, can be heard in the songs of MPB artists today.
Brazilian Pop Stars
One of the biggest MPB stars in Brazil today is singer/actress Ivete Sangalo, known for her charismatic stage presence and upbeat axé songs. She is a Latin Grammy award winner and has sold over 12 million albums worldwide.
Fellow Latin Grammy winner Daniela Mercury heavily incorporates samba reggae into her music, and has performed with Ilê Aiyê and Olodum on dozens of occasions. Several of her songs revolve around these groups, including “Pérola Negra”, in which she refers to Ilê Aiyê as “the most beautiful of the beautiful.”
Ana Carolina, a singer and composer from Rio de Janiero, mixes rock with more traditional samba. Influenced by Brazilian artists as well as international stars, her deep baritone voice and aggressive style is instantly recognizable.
Céu, a relatively new singer from São Pãolo, is rapidly gaining international attention since the American release of her debut album “CéU”. The album, which combines samba and choro with jazz, soul, and blues elements, landed her the Best Contemporary World Music Album Grammy in 2007.
Born in a favela (shanty-town) in the state of Rio, Seu Jorge is an MPB artist known for reinventing the sound of samba today. Seu Jorge is an actor as well as singer/songwriter, and appeared in the Brazilian movie “City of Gods” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”, for which he also contributed to the soundtrack.
MPB Continues to Expand
Music is a profound part of Brazilian culture, and every day artists are experimenting and pushing the boundaries of MPB. With endless combinations of the hundreds of types of Brazilian rhythms with genres from around the globe, every world music fan is sure to find something they like in Brazilian popular music.