Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World

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The very sound of sung Brazilian Portuguese creates its own music. Suzel Ana Reily : 5, quoting Sergio Cabral provides the key to explaining how bossa nova emerges from samba, and changes it:. He was able to produce chords with up to five tones by using the little finger of his right hand to pluck the highest string, something that had never been done before.

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The clave is clear and strongly repetitive in almost all West African and Afro-Cuban music. Once you find it, you can stay with it for the entire performance. Jobim found his masterful compositions within this structure. We are going to use our popular music with the conviction that it does not only have its own character, but also a high technical level quoted in Reily : 6.

I take Jobim to mean three things. Bossa nova can indeed be seen as de-exoticised Brazilian music. While drawing on various Afro-Brazilian traditions, the mellow sound of the guitar and the soft percussion highlighted their complex principles of rhythmic organization rather than their visceral qualities.

The land of carnival had entered the modern era. Their musical changes serve this larger purpose. Did bossa nova reach its goal? Both, he claims, have Afro-Brazilian origins Both showed an interest in bossa nova, with Cole performing with Sylvinha Telles as well as collecting material for his Latin tinged records Castro : Perhaps the most important visitor in was the guitarist Charlie Byrd, who took bossa nova back to the United States Among them, Herbie Mann stands out for recording with Brazilian musicians in Rio. Four years later, in , while at the Veloso Bar in Rio, Jobim received a phone call from Frank Sinatra seeking a recording collaboration.

In December , if someone told you that you had a phone call, and Frank Sinatra was on the other end of the line, 10 kilometres away, it would really make you stop and think. There are no artists of equivalent stature in show business today. None of the post-Sinatra megastars ever managed to accumulate the same amount of power, prestige, and inaccessibility — all at once. Sinatra was still the biggest popular singer in the world in This was the man who was phoning Tom Jobim at the Veloso.


He then proudly lists the US artists who have recorded bossa nova records. The heft and length of the list takes my breath away:. I have heard most of these artists. Then I will have an identity. The musical Fela! The show launched a world tour after being nominated for eleven Tony awards, and playing to packed houses. Fela Kuti was born to a prominent family. He was trained in western classical musical from a young age.

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Traditional and popular West African music further shaped his vision Stewart : African diasporic popular music and art music jazz constitute a third influence. The pivotal encounter, however, was during his United States tour when he met Sandra Smith, a former Black Panther. Highlife originated in the late 19th century, with its roots in the marching bands that emerged in Anglophone West African cities like Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana.

Putumayo Presents: Samba Bossa Nova

Performing in highlife bands required the skills and finances to play European brass, string, and woodwind instruments. Ballroom dances such as waltzes, foxtrots, and two-steps as well as various forms of concert music were part of the highlife repertoire. But things changed dramatically in the s with the arrival of African-Cuban dance music. The Rumba, mambo, and cha-cha found a home in sub-Saharan Africa. This new highlife reached its zenith in the s and s Veal Is Afro-Cuban diffusion an internal or external influence? We may deem it as within the African Diaspora, as the return of West African music to itself via the Caribbean.

Or we may observe the familiarity, but still count it as external. Either way, it may be more apposite to trace the details of how all this happened. Veal recounts that Cuban music was crucial to the Senegalese Francophone dance style known as mbalax. And the Congolese rhumba took its name from the Cuban rumba. The Cuban influence was that strong. Funk was equally influential, but arrived later.

Bossa Nova

To summarise, before Fela studied in London from to , the four influences on his musical life were traditional West African music, highlife, the western art tradition, and funk. Veal discusses two types of Africans who studied in Europe. The first were dedicated to perfecting western art music. Upon their return, they performed in chamber groups, choirs, and symphony orchestras Fela fell into the second category of students, who wished to infuse western theory and technological knowledge in popular West African styles Formerly colonised people from all over the world filled London at this time.

Once in London, Fela fell under the influence of jazz Stewart : Says Fela:. I played a lot of jazz in the beginning of my career because it had cultural information that enriched my mind … Coltrane, Miles, Sonny Rollins, that era, because I found a heavy relationship between that music and my culture.

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Jazz strongly influenced the African musical scene, particularly highlife Olorunyami This effect waxed during the swing band and big band jazz era in the s and s , and waned when bebop and then free jazz moved away from metre and harmony. For West Africans, jazz meant large musical ensembles deploying horns, and any ensemble or genre relying on improvisation Veal : Reciprocally, many US jazz musicians in the s and s sought to revitalise their musical and cultural heritage by travelling to Africa. When Fela returned from London in , he found Nigerians building a new nation for which highlife served as national music Olaniyan 8.

While juju artists — of which Sunny Ade is the leading exponent — used electric guitars, they did not use written music, wear western clothes, or use woodwinds. Two quotes give us this sense.

Bossa Nova by Ruy Castro (ebook)

The first is from the Nigerian Daily Times :. As the Nigerian James Browns wish us to believe, this soul thing is more than a dance. It is a fraternity, it is black smoothness, negroid rhythm …the lot. I ask you — what is negroid soul? The black Africans in Brazil use African musical instruments and really sweat it out to Yemoja, the long forgotten Yoruba goddess. What the American Negros are doing, and converting young Nigerians to, is a perversion of the African beat quoted in Veal : 59; emphasis added.

For Obatala : , soul represented little more than a sound-track for US capitalism, delivered by friendly black faces. But soul music gained ground, as critics remained a minority.

Speaking in temporal terms, we might say he was dissatisfied both with the external present, namely soul, and the internal but dated past, namely highlife. Somehow, the band arranged a visit to the US in However, after many months of travelling and performing, Fela was deflated by their lack of success Veal : By chance, he met Sandra Smith, a former singer and a Black Panther. Fela imbibed black nationalism and pan-Africanism. Fela started to reconcile jazz, highlife, and funk elements in his music.

I really began to see that I had not played African music. Most African styles, especially highlife, use guitars for both improvising and supporting functions; guitars solo, but they also constitute the rhythmic fabric.

Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World

Instead, they play interlocked, strictly repetitive patterns. Eliminating the improvising guitar allowed Fela to distance afrobeat from highlife. This division reproduces the traditional drum ensemble organisation: some drums repeat patterns, while other drums play variably within those patterns. These changes give afrobeat its hypnotic, mesmerising, and propulsive effect, while also providing a traditional sensibility Collins : More important, his vocal interactions with the chorus produced a variety of call-and-response patterns Collins : Third, Fela sang in pidgin instead of standard English, or local dialects like Yoruba.

Pidgin allowed him to reach the working classes and audiences beyond Nigeria Ikuenobe : 3; Olorunyomi : In this way, Fela synthesised the global, cosmopolitan and contemporary with the local, indigenous and traditional.

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  • Without it, the interpreter has no bearings. Nevertheless, they stress how global processes confound authenticity, making it a reification and an error. Gilroy : rejects such cinching. Music and its rituals can be used to create a model whereby identity can be understood neither as a fixed essence nor as a vague and utterly contingent construction to be reinvented by the will and whim of aesthetes, symbolists, and language gamers.

    He then asks 85 whether authenticity can serve central needs. Theorists of reification exhibit three tendencies: they locate errors in thinking that their analysis corrects; they sympathise with the reifying impulse, demonstrating its uses; and they balance these two poles. We can differentiate among theorists by where they place their emphasis.

    We conflate the material described by the concept with the concept itself. Berger and Pullberg introduce reification verdinglichung via a synoptic history of thought.