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Tropicália, also known as Tropicalismo, is a Brazilian art movement that arose in the late 1960s and encompassed theatre, poetry, and music, among other forms. Tropicália was influenced by poesia concreta, a genre of Brazilian avant-garde poetry embodied in the works of Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Décio Pignatari, among a few others.[1]

Tropicália is associated almost exclusively with the movement's musical expression, both in Brazil and internationally; a form of Brazilian music that arose in the late 1960s from a mélange of bossa nova, rock and roll, Bahian folk music, African music, and Portuguese fado.


[edit] Beginnings

Tropicália was not only a musical movement at its inception. It also took form in the visual arts scene of 1960s Brazil, by the hands of the artists Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Rogério Duprat, and Antonio Dias. The name Tropicália came from a Hélio Oiticica art installation of the same name. It is important to note that one of the cultural constructs of the Tropicália movement was antropofagia, or the cultural and musical cannibalism of all societies, taking in influences from all types of genres and concocting something unique. The concept of antropofagia, as embraced by the Tropicália movement, was created by poet Oswald de Andrade in his 1928 Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto).

Owing its roots to musical tolerance and innovation, the arrival of Tropicália on the Brazilian music scene began in the 1960s. Although short-lived due to the popularity of the national music trend at the moment, bossa nova, the Tropicália movement would be honored later in 1985 when its 25 year legacy and Brazil's return to a democratic government coincided. Two of the many pioneers of the genre, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, released the CD Tropicália 2 in 1993 for this purpose.[2]

Now many years since its inception, Tropicália and its pioneers continue to be cited by Brazilian musicians as sources of musical creativity and inspiration.

[edit] Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis

The 1968 collaboration album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circenses is considered the musical manifesto of the movement. Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are considered the leaders of the movement. Veloso, Gil, and other artists commonly associated with the movement, notably Os Mutantes, have experimented with unusual time signatures and other means of unorthodox song structures. Many Tropicália artists were driven by socially aware lyrics and political activism following the coup of 1964, much like its contemporary Brazilian film movement, Cinema Novo. The movement only lasted consistently for a few years, and, in part, is responsible for what is now known as Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music), or MPB. After 20 years of struggle for freedom of expression and artistic censorship, Brazil witnessed an unprecedented development in popular music when military rule ended in 1985 "with the election of a civilian president."[3] To celebrate their 25 years of existence, the tropicalistas "launched their CD Tropicalia 2 in 1993 as sort of nostalgic remembrance" of their earlier experiments.[2]

"Haiti", for example, received the most attention from listeners because of its very powerful and provocative lyrics about the social issues in both Haiti and Brazil. The song addressed these very serious “contemporary sociopolitical issues (such as) poverty related to ethnicity (and the ambiguity of racial identity), police and military brutality, politicians and church officials defending the values of capital punishment and anti-abortion, collective murder of homeless children, the AIDS epidemics, etc."[2]

Tropicália as a movement ended in 1968 when its leaders, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, were incarcerated on a false charge. The true reason for their arrest concerned the fact that their experimental music, dress, and acceptance of Western musical trends disturbed the right-wing dictatorship. "Brazil's military government labeled the musicians a political threat and a decadent influence who will corrupt Brazilian youth."[3] After two months they were released and exiled by the military government. (They relocated to London until 1972.) "Others in the Tropicalismo movement were less fortunate; several underwent torture or were forced into 'psychiatric care.' One tropicalista, the lyricist and poet Torquato Neto, committed suicide after such treatment."[3] Although Gil and Veloso were exiled from Brazil for four years, they were eventually able to begin rebuilding their careers in 1974.

[edit] Today

Although it originally attained little notice outside of Brazil, Tropicalismo and its associated artists have a growing popularity,[4] and has been cited as an influence by rock musicians such as David Byrne, Beck, Kurt Cobain, Arto Lindsay, Devendra Banhart, Of Montreal and Nelly Furtado. In 1998 Beck released Mutations, the title of which is a tribute to Tropicalismo pioneers Os Mutantes. Its hit single, "Tropicalia", reached number 21 on the Billboard Modern Rock singles chart.

In 2002 Caetano Veloso published an account of the Tropicália movement, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil. The 1999 compilation Tropicália Essentials, featuring songs by Gil, Veloso, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes, is an introduction to the style. Other compilations include Tropicalia: Millennium (1999), Tropicalia: Gold (2002), and Novo Millennium: Tropicalia (2005). Yet another compilation, Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound, was released to acclaim in 2006.[5] This latter compilation, however, is problematic in its definition of Tropicália, since it includes Jorge Ben and tracks from the third Os Mutantes album, released in 1970.

[edit] Further reading

  • Paula, José Agrippino. "PanAmérica". 2001. Papagaio.
  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998 ISBN 1-56639-545-3
  • Dunn, Christopher. "Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture." Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8078-4976-6
  • (Italian) Mei, Giancarlo. Canto Latino: Origine, Evoluzione e Protagonisti della Musica Popolare del Brasile. 2004. Stampa Alternativa-Nuovi Equilibri. Preface by Sergio Bardotti and postface by Milton Nascimento.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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