Bossa Nova, a history of Brazilian music

The birth of Bossa Nova goes back to a time when Lucio Rangel, music critic and historian, introduced the poet and aristocrat Vinicius de Moraes to a poor young pianist who scraped out a living doing gigs in Rio’s bars. The young man’s name: Antonio Carlos Jobim, then 27. He was to compose for de Moraes the music for the play “Orfeo da Conceiçao” (Orpheus of the Conception), a Greek mythology play from the pen of Vinicius de Moraes. The theme was later taken up in the film “Black Orpheus” (1959). The film was a huge success and won the Golden Palm, the Golden Globe as well as Oscars.

Tom Jobim & Vinicius

Another artist however, João Gilberto, also made history with the release of his first LP. He integrated American Jazz with his own way of guitar-playing into a completely new style. He thus influenced generations of musicians and singers in Brazil and the rest of the world.

Brazil in transition

This all happened when in 1956 President Kubitschek began promoting the development of Brazil; amongst other things the establishment of a new capital city, Brasilia, the entry into the automobile industry and so on. Brazil’s first football championship title in 1958 also marks this period. Music too, was influenced by the change, and the first LP in Hi-Fi quality came out.

The perfect pair

Jobim and Vinicius composed many songs and became the most important composing duo in Brazilian history.

The Girl from Ipanema

Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting one day in their favourite café in Ipanema, as they had done so often before. A young Carioca (person from Rio) walked past outside as they watched her. She must have been very special. In any case, they were so inspired by her that they dedicated to her what was to become their greatest world hit, “Garota de Ipanema” (Girl from Ipanema). The birth of Samba Jazz.

Today, Jobim is one of the most frequently covered Bossa Nova artists in Brazil. Five out of ten pieces come from his pen. “Garota de Ipanema” (“Girl from Ipanema”), Samba de uma nota só”, “Corcovado”, “A felicidade”, and “Desafinado”. Jobim brought melody to the music. Brazilian music was even before then marked by rhythm, melody and words, but Jobim brought a harmony into the music which evoked new emotions. The song “Aguas de março” went down as one of the best pieces in musical history.

1962: the Carnegie Hall, Sinatra, Stan Getz & Co.

As the Bossa Nova wave reached its peak in Brazil with the works of João Gilberto, his counterpart Jobim was also there with his most popular songs. The great international success of the film “Black Orpheus” also brought the recording company Odeon into the spotlight. The company released other hits from Jobim which were not in the film. When Jobim took part in the famous November 1962 concert in the Carnegie Hall, he was already known among the giants of the time: Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many others who were drawn to Bossa Nova. In 1967, Frank Sinatra recorded an album with seven of Jobim’s songs and it won the Grammy award in the same year.

1966: “Mas que nada” Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66

Sergio Mendes, a bar pianist in Rio at that time who was instead more inclined towards classical music, produced the Bossa Nova hit “Mas que nada”, a Jorge Benjor composition, out of great enthusiasm for Bossa Jazz.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the abundance of modern Brazilian musicians originated in the period 1958-1959 of Bossa Nova. Without this movement, modern Brazilian music as we know it, would not exist. That was the contribution of Bossa Nova to the worldwide history of music.

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