Samba, axé, bossa nova, sertanejo....

Brazilian Music Delirium

Brazil, the world’s fifth-largest nation, has a border with every country in Latin America except for Ecuador and Chile, but Portuguese, not Spanish, is its native language. You think of Brazil and the lush wilds of the Amazon cross your mind. So does São Paulo’s famously chaotic traffic, Brazil’s distinctive out of tune unity of European and Afrocentric history coming to life with a particular vengeance when you listen to its music. 

Antonio Carlos Jobim will ever be known as the man who brought Bossa Nova to the outside world, Bossa Nova meaning “new wave” in Portuguese. It emotes the dulcet sound of an ocean in Paradise. It’s music that can induce daydreaming and turn the most cut-and-dry realist into a romantic. Jobim’s songs have been covered by everyone from Sinatra to obscure electronic composers. His “Agua de Beber” duet with Astrud Gilberto is the quintessence of cool. 

Astrud Gilberto is one-of-a-kind. While most female singers are admired for how acrobatic their voices are, she’s beloved for having the detached and faded vocal style of a mom singing a child to sleep. Her songs, like the “The Girl From Ipanema,” artfully soothe and enchant you. 

Seu Jorge first won attention outside Brazil in 2002 for his role in “City of God,” a film about life in the hardcore favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the country’s sprawling capital. “Carolina,” one of Seu Jorge’s first hits outside Brazil, showcases his purr like a panther in the wild. Like most Brazilian singers, however, he’s full of melodic surprises. 

Martino da Vila, one of the great kings of Samba, knows how to milk every drop of meaning out of the simplest note. In “Canta Canta Minha Gente,” he brings the pleasures of Rio Carnival to those who have never had the good fortune to have ever been immersed in its cachaça driven rhythms and foot shuffling madness. 

Tropicalismo is the name of the Brazilian music movement of the ‘60s that fused traditional instruments and beats with rock and jazz that Chico Buarque is heavily associated with. Like all great Brazilian vocalists, he’s a superb storyteller. His genteel songs make you feel like he’s talking to you and no one else. He excels at the ability to create a mood of intimacy that the Brazilians call “saudade,” an idea that doesn’t translate well to English but can be compared to the blend of melancholy and bliss you feel during a first sudden rain shower in the first early days of spring.