Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the tag “MPB”

Brazilian Carnival – 1970’s

A short film by Rodrigo Amarante editing together his family’s Super-8 films shot during a Carnival in Saquarema in the 1970’s.

A great illustration about what Lost and what Samba.

The book about Brazil that was missing: Lost Samba


Brazil – You know that the economy is doing well, that the next Olympics and the next World Cup will be there, you have heard about its Football, its Carnival and the crime scene. But is this enough to really know anything about the country? Wouldn’t you like to know how it is to live there? How it would have been growing up there?

Surely you would like visit the country in its most exciting times experiencing memorable football games in the Maracana, unforgettable carnivals, days on some of the worlds most famous beaches, revolutions, hyperinflation, the seventies and the eighties, drugs and crime, and travel with a guide who you understand, and who understands you, through Ipanema, Copacabana, Bahia, Favelas, Salvador, Arraial d’Ajuda, Trancoso, Sao Paulo, Canoa Quebrada, and so many other places.

Wouldn’t it be great if he also explained Brazil’s culture and its football, its mentality, its ecology and its politics as well as taught you about Samba, Brazilian Rock, Frevo, Lambada and the Trio Eletrico?

You will find all of this in Lost Samba: a book about true stories bathed by the bitter-sweet happiness of Rio de Janeiro’s golden youth in the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s. In its pages you will know about the roller coaster of events that took that generation from the “Economic Miracle” of the sixties to the worst economic crisis in recent history in the eighties, all seen through the eyes of the Brazilian son of a British expat and a Holocaust escapee.

The TV Record Festival of 1967 – The birth of Brazilian modern music


In this fantastic video one sees the birth of Brazilian modern music.

Bossa Nova, Rock, Jovem Guarda, traditional music, politicised music, tropicalia are all present on stage in all their freshness.

The tension between tradition and the new music brought by the new comers Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso presenting themselves with pop visuals and references to rock culminates into a rally against the electric guitar with the presence of Gilberto Gil and eminent journalists such as Sergio Cabral, gives an insight to a time when the Brazilian left associated that instrument to American Imperialism.

There is also Roberto Carlos, the best-selling Brazilian artist of that generation who headed  the Jovem Guarda movement, a Brazilian  interpretation of Rock and Roll, singing samba, a rarity in itself.

The participation of the audience is also revealing, it shows the importance that those festivals had and the hopes that the youth put into music as a way to propagate ideas, and indeed democracy and resistance to the dictatorship. It also shows the birth of the Brazilian modern music industry in line with the creeping American influence; the organizers of the event talk about the business side of things and one can see that the artists went along with it. They knew about the marketing potential of those festivals, and were more worried about their careers than any student in the audience could imagine.

There is also an absence of working class people, which gives another insight to a world where the poor were regarded as secondary players and were patronized as the “mass” who the youth were ready to lead into a better world.

There is also Chico Buarque, the darling of the left who, because he was not so aligned with Gil and Caetano’s radicalism, was to remain out of the “cool” club.

The winner was Edu Lobo would end up not being too expressive in the Brazilian musical constellation.

Finally one sees the courage, and perhaps opportunism, of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to introduce radically new forms of music to a hostile crowd, and their winning them over due the sheer quality of the music. They are the ones who most took advantage of the festivals. The two songs that they presented, Domingo no Parque, and Sem Lenco e Sem Documento launched their careers as stars and put non-traditional music on the Brazilian map.

This was a night that set landmarks and its repercussions are still felt to this very day. There is more about it in Lost Samba, the book this blog promotes.

Samba as a soul healer. The reason for the title “Lost Samba”

This morning, after seeing the video above my American cousin posted the following on Lost Samba’s facebook page:

“Marvilhoso! Old school Samba’s like cardiac medicine!”

and then:

“Richard, the old school samba makes me cry and so happy at the same time. What’s up with that? I had a samba quartet at my wedding, and they were so great that my wedding remains one of the happiest days of my life even though the marriage couldn’t last.”

Those words struck deep and made me think about the power of music. My answer was:

“Stuart, when true samba “takes off” there is nothing like it. There is no technology, music video or millions of dollars invested that can replicate the magic. This is what music is all about; there is a tribal/”Xamanic” side to it that is being lost not only in Samba but in every other genre, hence the title Lost Samba.”

Before this dialogue I had never managed to verbalize the reason for choosing this title. Now it is clear: everyone is born in contact with the harmonious music of the universe playing inside them, but the problems of life, of social relations and of history caused by the imperfections inherent to human beings make the rhythm become chaotic. The result is that they lose their Samba.

Moments like the one in the video above make that beat come back to us, they show us how things should be, they remind us of  how people are marvelous, independent of their race, social background, age or country of origin.

This is what Brazil is (or should be) about, diverse people coming together to celebrate life. Lets find the Samba!

Chico Buarque de Hollanda


Chico Buarque is a unanimity in Brazil: everyone in every generation, social class, or city will agree that he is good. If his work were in English he’d certainly be together with Bob Dylan and John Lennon in the world pantheon of song writers.

He is a unique musical artist. Coming from one of the best families in Brazil – his father Aurelio wrote the equivalent of the Brazilian Portuguese Thesaurus dictionary – he is from the generation that came right after the Bossa Nova founders, Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim. In their view, the pleasant country that they grew up in had only one problem: social inequality.

His songs have therefore always been politically engaged and he has been the hero of the Brazilian left ever since the sixties. When the military coup tightened in 1968, they didn’t know what to do with such a popular and talented figure coming from such an influential family. They resorted to exiling him and when they allowed him back they managed to continue to keep him quiet by censoring anything he wrote. He responded with two tactics: using a pseudonym: Julinho da Adelaide and writing songs about the female point of view of the world.

When compared to his peers, more specifically to Gilberto Gil and to Caetano Veloso, was never a “tropicalista” and therefore he never sold out; he never bothered with fashions, never needed a change in style to sell, and never left his beliefs in the urgency of social reform. In parallel to this coherence, what has always made him stand out has been the amazing quality of his lyrics and the great partnerships he struck with top musical talents.

Although he can’t be classified as a Sambista because of the complexity of his songs, he has been consistent in never going too far from Brazil musically speaking. Although understanding the lyrics is essential to appreciate Chico we highly recommend anyone interested in Brazilian music to get hold of whatever they can.

Mal Secreto

There are songs that are a like a magnifying glass to a period in time, Mal Secreto is one of them. It was written in the height of the censorship/dictatorship of the seventies by Jards Macale. It talks about the anguish of being bogged down by the regime and mal secreto (secret evil – not a perfect translation because mal could also mean an illness here) in this case represents his political conscience that is having to be concealed and is making him sick at the same time. This song is one of the many that scraped through the censors by using allegories to talk about what was happening.

The fact that this is hard core rock and roll for the standards of 1971/2 is also revealing; the genre would become an avenue for confronting the establishment and for youth rebellion in Brazil from that time onwards.

The parallels with Janis Joplin are undeniable, which also shines a light on the music business implications. Gal Costa, the singer, was together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil an Maria Betania part of the Tropicalia movement, a very complex mix of pop culture, left wing, national discovery and commercial interests which I will talk about in more depth in another article.

Caetano and Gil were in exile but Gal Costa had stayed back in Brazil and had moved from Bossa Nova to Rock (well… not entirely) which shocked the left but helped her sell well and fill up show houses with the newer generation of wealthy upper middle class kids. This unveils a complicity between protest and commerce. From those days onwards it would become clear that artist were much closer to products than to “voices”.

It is worth while mentioning Lanny the legendary guitarist who conducted the musical part of this song. He was Israeli and would end up loosing it completely because of drug abuse.

Tim Maia – the King of Brazilian soul music


Much has been said about Tim Maia, (there is actually a great book about him written by Nelson Mota telling all the story). There is a reason for this: he is possibly the most colorful character in Brazilian pop music.

First of all he lived in the US for some time in the sixties and got very much absorbed in the funk scene and in what was going on in the streets at the time, to a degree that he was arrested and deported back to Brazil. Perhaps because of this he was the Brazilian artist who best understood what went on outside his country and kept no myths about the gringos. His music had a quality that owed nothing to what came from abroad and broke barriers of class and of race in a rhythm and style that were not Brazilian.

Of his generation he was also the one who lead a rock and roll life style the closest to those of his American and British counterparts. The stories of his craziness are legendary: like refusing to play with Caetano Veloso because he was wearing a sarong, telling his dog to attack a the owner of the land he had built his beach house on when he came to complain, firing musicians during gigs, confusions with managers and venue owners and serious drug and booze abuse; the could go on for days. Despite this awful reputation he was and still is respected for his great legacy of hits and his grandiose style.

His talent was as huge as both his body and his ego and anyone in Rio will remember his songs and will have a funny story to tell about him.

Below is a video that may be a sample of his talent for you:


Gafieiras have been a strange constant in Rio’s life. Strange is a strong word but in this case it is true, because they have been in a constant re-discovery process since the late seventies, the time when Lost Samba, this blog’s book, took place.

What are Gafieiras?

They are samba dance halls with live music playing a style of samba that takes the same name.  Nothing has changed much since the 1930’s or 20’s in terms of venues, the kind of musicians, and the songs. The dance is the closest samba gets to salsa, and actually the Gafieira is the closest that Rio gets to Havana, the parallels are undeniable.  It is a very authentic, lively and healthily sexy experience.

These clubs in the seventies were where the middle class re-encountered “the people”. At the end of the military dictatorship people wanted to forget the foreign imports and wanted to feel Brazilian again; they would flock to the praca Tiradentes in the city center, a place that had been at the heart of Carioca bohemian life, even before the days of Carmen Miranda.

The public from the south zone with  their flashy cars, fancy clothes and different haircuts contrasted very much with the locals, who were still very old school and were poor.

As late teenagers that was a great place to pick up girls as you can read in Lost Samba:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34

Nowadays the political connotation has left but people continue re-discovering the Gafiera; they are always full, the music continues to be great and you don’t need to be a pro to shake your money maker on the dance floor.

Hermeto Pascoal

He is more than a musician this man is a natural phenomenon. He has avoided stardom and has created a ring of musician followers who have refused to become mainstream to live the adventure of playing with “the sorcerer”.

A few have defected to become some of Brazil’s best musicians.

This is what Lost Samba says about him:

“Hermeto was born in the deep interior of Brazil. As he was albino and could not work under the sun with his brothers, he was locked up in a stable where he channelized his fury into music. His long and curly white hair and beard and his strong traces covered by thick glasses gave him the deserved nickname of “the sorcerer”. His band did insane noises, not only with instruments but with objects such as broken bottles, saws and pans but performed valleys of heavenly music.”

Lost Samba is available at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34

Violao e guitarra magazine


This magazine was part and parcel of my generation’s upbringing in Rio de Janeiro. Everyone bought it to learn how to play their favorite songs and then impress the girls in the parties or at school.

The number above featured Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Maria Bethania, pretty much the elite of the music from Bahia. At the time they had come together for a show and called themselves Doces Barbaros (Barbarian Sweets).

I remember buying it from a newsstand when I was sixteen. For this and much more: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34

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