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  • oliver delgado

On Bossa Nova

Updated: Jan 16


Shell in my ear, Copacabana sidewalks with curvy patterns. Fruit, Bottle, Guitar, Body. Lights flickering from the Corcovado. Thousands of voices at the Maracana, ocean language, rhythmic movement, perfection, silence.

A few things come to mind when we hear the name Brazil, among them are soccer and music. Very few people in the world would deny that Brazilian soccer is the best in the world. A harder question to ask would be why are they so good at it? The answer perhaps we could find it looking at the innate rhythm of its people and the racial mixture of the country. Rhythm is obviously a fundamental aspect in music, but it is also in soccer, in every dribble, control of the ball, or ability to stop and move at different compasses. The connection is so close for Brazilians that no wonder their goal celebrations are usually samba steps or a choreography.

The sophistication of Brazilian soccer, can also be transfered to Brazilian music, a mixture of african, native rhythms such as foro, or samba, the melodic heritage of the Iberian Peninsula, Latin American music and jazz, all of them blended in beautiful harmonies. The music types are many, perhaps to the most international one is Bossa Nova, a music born in Rio during the period of economic development and artistic revival that characterized the 50s.

The sunny beaches, the sculptural bodies of the Cariocas, modern architectural designs and the tropical weather of Rio were the setting in which young artists Antonio Carlos Jobin, Joao Gilberto and Vinicious de Moraes composed classics such as the Girls from Ipanema, Corcovado, Chega de Saudade among others. Most of Jobim's songs are characterized by a laid back guitar or piano sound with a certain romantic and classical touch. Vinicio de Moraes was the epitome of the bohemian artist, diplomat by profession but a true artists at heart and a writer of lyrics of life, joy, sensuality. Joao Gilberto on the other hand, a master guitarist, is also the master of the relaxed voice in an almost talkative and whispered approach to singing, usually placing the words ahead of the melody of the song. Perhaps the most poetic description of Joao's talent is Caetano Veloso's phrase in one of his songs, “Better than silence only Joao".

Bossa Nova borrows and combines musical traditions such as Fado, Samba, African rhythms, and the sophistication of Jazz. The result is a unique blend of lyricism and romanticism that derives from its relaxed interpretation and uncommon guitar cords. Perhaps one of its most distinctive traits is the appearance of being simple and at the same time sophisticated.

Music, as languages, develops and never become stagnant. A few decades later, a new wave of extraordinary artists have enriched Bossa Nova Music, adding more contemporary sounds and even mixing other music styles. The most important artists following Jobim, de Moraes and Gilberto have been Caetano Veloso, Edu Lobo, Toquino, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Sergio Mendes, Djavan, Gal Costa, Adriana Calcanhoto to mention a few. Bossa Nova not only had a profound influence in the next generations of Brazilian musicians but also in international artists such as Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Diana Krall, Sting, Dalida, George Michael, Michael Bubble, or in film soundtracks such as those of Pedro Almodovar. Its success is no surprise since Bossa Nova has an everlasting freshness that makes it irresistibly appealing to any artists of any generation. Oliver Delgado, 2006.

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