Psychedelic rock, bossa nova, samba, baroque pop, baião, afoxê, frevo, fado
Anthropophagic movement, pop art, Brazilian concrete movement
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s, Southeast Region, Brazil|
|Derivative forms||MPB, pós-tropicalismo|
Tropicália, also known as Tropicalismo, is a Brazilian artistic movement that arose in the late 1960s. It encompassed art forms such as theatre, poetry, and music. The movement was characterized by a combination of the popular and the avant-garde, as well as a fusion of traditional Brazilian culture with foreign influences.
Today, Tropicália is chiefly associated with the musical faction of the movement, which merged Brazilian and African rhythms with rock and roll. Musicians who were part of the movement include Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and the poet/lyricist Torquato Neto, all of whom participated in the 1968 album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis, which served as a musical manifesto.
A dominant principle of Tropicália was antropofagia, a type of cultural cannibalism that encouraged the conflation of disparate influences, out of which could be created something unique. The idea was originally put forth by poet Oswald de Andrade in his Manifesto Antropófago, published in 1928, and was developed further by the tropicalistas in the 1960s.
The 1968 album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis is regarded as the musical manifesto of the Tropicália movement. Although it was a collaborative project, the main creative forces behind the album were Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. The album experimented with unusual time signatures and unorthodox song structures, and also mixed tradition with innovation. Politically, the album expressed criticism of the coup d'état of 1964. Key albums of the movement include Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso.
The anarchistic, anti-authoritarian musical and lyrical expressions of the Tropicalistas soon made them a target of censorship and repression by the military junta that ruled Brazil in this period, as did the fact some of the collective, including Veloso and Gil, also actively participated in anti-government demonstrations. Ironically, the Tropicalistas' passionate interest in the new wave of American and British psychedelic music of the period - most notably the work of The Beatles - also put them at odds with Marxist-influenced students on Brazil's left, whose aesthetic agenda was strongly nationalistic, and oriented towards 'traditional' Brazilian musical forms. This leftist faction vigorously rejected anything - especially Tropicalismo - which they perceived as being tainted by the corrupting influences of Western capitalist popular culture. The politico-artistic tensions between leftist students and the Tropicalistas reached a climax in September 1968, with Caetano Veloso's watershed performances at the third International Song Festival, held in the auditorium of Rio's Catholic University, where the audience not surprisingly included a large contingent of left-wing students.
Veloso had won a major song prize at the previous year's Festival, when he was backed by an Argentinian rock band, and although his unconventional performance caused some initial consternation, he managed to win over the crowd and was feted as a new star of Brazilian popular music. By late 1968, however, Veloso was fully immersed in the Tropicalia experiment, and his performances, which were expressly intended as provocative art "happenings", caused a near-riot. In the first round of the competition on 12 September, Veloso was initially greeted by enthusiastic applause, but the mood quickly changed when the music started. Veloso came on dressed in a bright green plastic tunic, festooned with electrical wires and necklaces strung with animal teeth, and his backing band Os Mutantes were also dressed in similarly outlandish attire. The ensemble launched into a barrage of psychedelic music, played at high volume, and Veloso further outraged the students with his overtly sexual stage movements. The crowd reacted angrily, shouting abuse at the performers and booing loudly, and their fury was only exacerbated by the surprise appearance of an American pop singer, John Dandurand, who joined Veloso on stage and grunted incoherently into the microphone.
After such a powerful negative reaction, Veloso was unsure whether to appear in the second round on 15 September, but his manager convinced him to go on, and this chaotic performance was recorded live and later released as a single. The students in the audience began hissing as soon as Veloso's name was announced, even before he had even taken the stage. Wearing the same green costume (minus the wires and necklaces), Veloso came on with Os Mutantes amid a storm of catcalls, and the group launched into a provocative new song Veloso had written for the occasion, "É Proibido Proibir" ("It is Forbidden to Forbid"), the title of which he had taken from a photo of a Parisian protest poster, which he had seen reproduced in a local magazine. The booing and jeering was soon so loud that Veloso struggled to be heard over the din, and he again deliberately taunted the leftists with his sexualised stage actions. Within a short time the performers were being pelted with fruit, vegetables, eggs and a rain of paper balls, and a section of the audience expressed their disapproval by standing up and turning their backs to the performers, prompting Os Mutantes to respond in kind by turning their backs on the audience. Infuriated by the students' reaction, Veloso stopped singing and launched into a furious improvised monologue, haranguing the students for their behaviour and denouncing what he saw as their cultural conservatism. He was then joined by Gilberto Gil, who came on stage to show his support for Veloso, and as the tumult reached a crescendo, Veloso announced he was withdrawing from the competition, and after deliberately finishing the song out of tune, the Tropicalistas defiantly walked offstage, arm-in-arm.
In February 1969, Veloso and Gil were arrested and imprisoned by the military government over the political content of their work. After two months, the two were released and subsequently forced to seek exile in London, where they lived and resumed their musical careers until they were able to return to Brazil in 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.
Tropicalismo has been cited as an influence by rock musicians such as David Byrne, Beck, The Bird and the Bee, Arto Lindsay, Devendra Banhart, El Guincho, Of Montreal Acid Call and Nelly Furtado. In 1998, Beck released Mutations, the title of which is a tribute to 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 Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes, is an introduction to the style. Other compilations include The Tropicalia Style (1996), Tropicália 30 Años (1997), 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.
A 2012 documentary film, Tropicália, was made on the subject and artists in general; directed by Brazilian filmmaker Marcelo Machado, where Fernando Meirelles served as one of its executive producers.
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