Tropicália and the 1960s

Next week we will be transitioning to our final unit. Appropriately enough, the music we’ll be covering from Brazil is some of the most engaged with N. American and British trends in Rock ‘n’ Roll of the ’60s. For Monday, we’ll be reading an article on Milton Nascimento by Martha Ulhôa (available here) and some excerpts from Caetano Veloso’s memoir Tropical Truth (available here). Unlike just about everything else we have read this semester, Veloso’s writing is autobiographical; he does not attempt the kind of scholarly objectivity and instead imbues his writing with the passion of an artist forced into exile for causing a disruption. For this reason, I would like you to focus more of your attention on Tropical Truth. Important things to know about Veloso: 1) he was arrested by the Brazilian military in 1969 and, along with fellow tropicalista musician Gilberto Gil, he lived in London for three years; 2) he is one of the most famous Brazilian musicians in the world. Those two facts should help you understand Veloso’s perspective and tone in the excerpt. He writes with a voice of self-importance.

On Thursday, we at long last will discuss the 1960s in the United States. The chapter by Todd Gitlin discusses the role of music for members of Students for a Democratic Society. Gitlin is now a sociology professor at Columbia University, but he was one of the leaders of the New Left and organized some of the first major protests against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Reading his perspective against Caetano Veloso’s makes for some interesting comparisons. Brian Ward is a professor of American History at University of Florida and specializes in the American South. His chapter analyzes the role of secularization in ’60s soul music. Since this is the second time that we are discussing the civil rights movement, I encourage you to consider how his perspective differs from Turino’s and consider the recent media spectacle surrounding Brad Paisley’s attempt to solve racism in the south.

Here is the music for Monday. I’ll post Thursday’s music after the weekend.


Chico Buarque and Brazilian Legacies

Sérgio and Chico

Sérgio and Chico

In tomorrow’s class, we’ll spend part of our time on the Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque and his relationship to political resistance during the Brazilian military dictatorship that began in 1964 and intensified in 1968. One aspect of Buarque’s career that is common knowledge to Brazilian music specialists, but that might be lost on casual listeners, is how he has benefited from growing up in a culturally influential family. Chico’s father, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, was a prominent historian; he participated in The Week of Modern Art in 1922 (a pivotal moment for Brazilian culture), and he often served as a cultural diplomat to other countries. His brief history of Brazil, Raizes do Brasil (1936), is one of the most celebrated books about Brazilian culture.

Sérgio’s legacy on Brazil is immense. Many of his children went on to effectively shape the cultural life in the twentieth century. Miúcha, Chico’s sister, was a friend of nueva canción innovator Violeta Parra.  She also married bossa nova star João Gilberto (and is Bebel Gilberto’s mother). (Two of Chico’s other sisters, Ana and Cristina, are also singers.) As we will discuss tomorrow, one of Chico Buarque’s songs directly addresses the likely end of one of the Buarque de Holanda’s family friends. It’s easy to see from Chico’s history how his socially engaged music often takes part in a larger tradition of shaping and commenting on Brazilian society.

Miúcha, João Gilberto, Chico Buarque

Miúcha, João Gilberto, Chico Buarque

Nueva Canción and Protest Song in Latin America


This week, we turn our attention to Latin America. On Monday, we’ll discuss Nueva Canción in Chile and Argentina. In addition to the chapter by Pablo Vila in Rockin’ The Boat, we’ll also be discussing this article by Jeffrey Taffet.

On Thursday, we’ll be discussing Nueva Trova in Cuba and MPB in Brazil. Please read the chapter on Nueva Trova in Moore’s Music and Revolution and this chapter by renowned Brazilianist (and professor of Portuguese at University of Florida) Charles Perrone.

The musicians and songs we’ll be discussing had antagonistic relationships with the rise of dictatorships in South American countries. In the last year or so, some of these nations have taken steps to reconcile the past. Over the last week, many news outlets have been covering the exhumation of Chilean poet (and outspoken communist dissident) Pablo Neruda to determine his cause of death just after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973. Similarly, just a few months ago, the agents of the Pinochet regime who murdered Nueva Canción singing Víctor Jara were finally arrested. And over the last year, the Brazilian government formed a “Truth Commission” to help shine some light on the horrors of the decades of the dictatorship that began in 1964 and gradually ended in the 1980s.

Needless to say, our topics over the next week are very timely.

Here is the listening for the week.