Bossa Nova: Social-Political Conditions Lead To Tropicalismo Movement

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Question :

G1CS17 : Latin Music Assessment 1: Research Essay

What was the tropicalismo movement? Examine the socio-political conditions that lead to the emergence of this reaction to the optimism of bossa nova. Back up your assertions by making reference to at least five different albums and/or pieces of music. 

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Answer :

Critical Studies: Latin Music

The main elements and circumstances of the 1960's Brazilian Tropicalismo movements as a rejoinder to the prospect of Brazil's Bossa Nova music festival are going to identified and discussed in this following essay. Other than that, the situation of social-politic will be explained that lead to the Tropicalismo movement. At last, we will discuss the five different albums of five different artists and how their involvement helped the movement.

In Brazil Tropicalia is another the name of the same 1960's Tropicalismo movement, it was a music statement that started in the late 60's. In order to answer the Brazilian political status, this movement was started. Behague describes the Tropicalismo movement 'as the most open and active involvement in politics and cultural changes that were experienced by the modern urban experience and he call this movement as the most sophisticated taste of traditional song in the memoir of Brazilian popular musicology. (Behague, 2006). 

What were the socio-political conditions encompassing the Tropicalismo movement?

Helio Oiticica started the Tropicalismo movement at the art installation as music in 1967. His work was a tropical art which values and employs the tropical plants like architecture that made Brazilian feel like that they are somewhere in a new dimensional art space.

“Hélio Oiticica's work Tropicália explained showcased his efforts to bring a new Latin American culture through great vitality.” (, n.d.)

Tropicalismo movement was the artistic statement created by the renowned Hélio Oiticica. His work was concerning the image and involvement of the government of the United States, and Their western culture controlling the Brazilian culture with their attraction, often in violent displays.

In their try to stop the communism from spreading in Brazil the US government was trying to build a good relationship with the Brazilian politics. 

With the rise of this movement, there was a big fear in North America and other Capitalist societies of that time as Brazil was located very close to North America and also the increasing political tension created through the Cold War is causing the fear. In their attempt to bypass the same situation like the Cuban Missile Crisis that is considered as to be the verge of nuclear war in 1960's The United States Government was trying to engage with the social politics of Brazil. Military of Brazil has acquired the more power as the Brazilian government becomes the dictator, with this the crime rate has also increased, people start getting disappeared and then getting killed for coming out to raise their point.

In a BBC article Pablo Uchia narrates the story of his father when Brazil had become a dictator. He narrates that his father was beaten up by the military so aggressively that the military men who was beating his father once broke his wand onto his back." (Uchoa, 2016)

At that time Pablo’s father, was very young his name was Inocencio and he was there at when Brazil was under the dictatorship of the military, he government planning frightening tactic against Brazil’s own inhabitants. In his speech, President Goulart describes that he had started to lose all the trust and support from political personalities around him.

With the beginning of the rise of the Tropicalismo movement, the population and the government of Brazil's went through some disturbance during 1961 when Vice President Joao Goulart took a position the following events occurred as a result. The Brazilian militry was not in favour of Goulart's effort. The military of Brazil accused his Vice President as communist alliances. Furthermore, under his power, the United States was irritated by his act of establishing relations with communist peoples and by initiating a memorandum of basic changes (CASTELLS, 2001). 

In context, Author Lorraine Leu adds that all the efforts of Goulart's when he gets the power, the country was in deep financial straits. Being known about the fact that his efforts to solve this crisis are only going to bring political conflicts, Joao Goulart stayed focused on what he called Basic Betterment. Leu said that all the attempts of Goulart are potential to create the new balance in the politics that can divert the wealth from the privileged, this soon give rise to the offence in the political sector(Leu,2006, p.2.). In 1964 because of the Goulart's actions Military started a new revolution in which Goulart's was taken off from his position and sent to imprisonment, the military also forces the individuals and parties who backed the US government and supported the coup using a plan known as Operation Condor. Operation Condor authorises the military and derived from the Doctrine National Security under which militaries were given a special mission that involves remaking of their societies and states by the elimination of revolution (McSherry, 2001). Condor Operation involves abductions, assassinations, disappearances, smuggling of individuals across the borders, interrogation and tortures on individuals (McSherry, 2001). The period of optimism was grown inside the society that was started with this military revolution in the form of the rise of artists in forms of different art, music being one of them and started the Tropicalismo movement, which produced new concepts and political promotion into their art forms.

Swing form of Bossa Nova was the most popular music genre at that time. It was the music genre in which most of the artist of Brazilian country started to produce their works. With the grown popularity of Bossa Nova, it becomes the main attraction of the Tropicalismo movement, In which musicians and composers worker to understand and incorporate the European music into Brazilian music. Students of middle-class, musicians and other artists came together to create this form of Bossa Nova music in the 1950's. Samba was the popular style form that was associated with the Brazilian music and knows as the form from which Bossa Nova was evolved before the rise of Bossa Nova (Shenron, 2009). Bossa Nova was the new music type that has been a mix of the conventional Brazilian Samba, cool jazz (Britannica, 2014) and also as the northeastern Brazilian rhythms with a touch of Western pop and rock music (Slater, 2010). Composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and guitarist Joao Gilberto helped Bossa Nova made well known. In the 1960s, composers, writers started to 'engage their attitudes and 'nationalistic' agreement to answer the socio-political concerns, in form of regionalism, moratorium and topical music form (Perrone, 1987). With the rise of Tropicalismo movement the new change start to take place in the music industry.

Possibly the Brazilian modernist poet and polemicist were the greatest influence on the Tropicalismo movement, Oswald de Andrade's Manifesto Antropófago which is recognized as the Cannibalist Manifesto. This was described as the ideology of anti-social principles of cultural cannibalism. Cultural Cannibalism was the process that absorbs the western influence in order to promote the purpose of heterogeneous Brazilian culture which however considered as the work of powerful anti-imperialism. Andrade criticizes colonizers as “merchants of canned cognizance” and frequently drives the downfall of European personages' (Bakara, 2014). 

After observing the Manifesto in the 1960's. After looking at the Manifesto in the 1960s movement tropicalist started to supported de Andrade. They supported de Andrade and said he should rise up and take control on the technological and institutions from the hands of the colonists, and set or glut their modern ways of thinking to control the power over their oppressors' (Rollefson, 2007). Founder and the artist of the movement, Caetano Veloso describes Verdade Tropical (Tropical Truth) in his memoir: "As being a tropicalist the concept of cultural cannibalism suits us perfectly. Our claims upon the defensive nature of the chauvinist got a short formulation here that includes all the aspects" (247)' (Rollefson, 2007).

Well-known Poet, Caetano Veloso who is also known for his musician of the country and also known for his filmmaking and composing (Dougan, unknown) and his fellow friend and popular Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil established the Tropicalismo movement in 1967 (Dougan, unknown), with Veloso stating. Caetano Veloso said "I plan the movement. I lead the carnival" (Tropicalia, unknown). Frequently the words, the lyrics of tropicalists works were censored on the radio, televisions and in songs in their attempt to quell the movement (Dougan, unknown). Military particularly targeted the works of Veloso and Gil. With it's increasing influence This music movement became such a great intimidation in December of 1968 that make both the founders of the Tropicalismo movement held under cuffs and sent to jail by the Brazilian militry, for conducting 'anti-government' movements (Lewis, 2010). Two months and added four months were spent by them in the prison and under house arrest (Dougan, unknown). After that, both Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were ostracized from Brazil. Later they were allowed to do one last performance in the Brazilian Music festival before they went to UK, where they waited for around 3 years (Lewis, 2010). 

Eminence artist Tom Ze deciphered that of time is the hardest, in his statement, he stated that everyone knows there are consequences of doing such things but this experience has affected me, but luckily I still can compose. Everything that has happened to Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil is disturbing to feel fear' (Vinyl Factory, Spice, 2013). For sure this event created a halt to the tropical movement but even after being sent away Veloso was still true to his motives and remained as the songwriter and composer for other artists and continued to fight for his cause.

Tom Ze was another central personality in the Brazilian music festival of 1960 that is also recognized as the Tropicalismo movement. Tom Ze also worked with the both the famous Veloso and Gil before their arrest to offer his part and to contribute in this movement. He stared to recognize as the most idiosyncratic, ideological and profane part and figure of the Brazil’s Music movement. 'He has been known as an atheist and multi-instrumentalist' (Spice, 2013). In his interview with Vinyl Factory Limited, Tom Ze was asked question on the topics of the movement in which he tell about his part of involvement, he said, 'At that time Brazil was under the dictatorship military and all the artist were facing the limitation, the constraints that are set by the military. All this helped the musicians, songwriters and composers new ideas that fitted the lyrics and musical compositions of the tropicalistas perfectly. The music I created commenced Tropicalismo, but the movement was a sunshade for what I was doing' (Vinyl Factory, Spice, 2013). Tom Ze explains the origin of the Tropicalismo movement as the Freedom and shift of the aesthetic and behavioural level. According to him this Brazilian music movement was not just the artistic statement but it was also representing the lifestyle that people of that time chooses to follow daily' (Vinyl Factory, Spice, 2013), 

Elis Regina a famous Brazilian singer also contributed to the movement with his work. Her music starts to flow around the political agendas of the Brazilian government in the min 1970'.

Regina started to compose her live shows in ways to reprimand the dictatorship of Brazil and also pointed finger at the democracy, racial and sexual inequality, and other forms of imbalance’ (Greenberry, 2017). Costa was a conductor and composer who was not that famous in comparison to the other artists who contributed into this Music Movement. (Tropicalia, unknown).


In conclusion, the Tropicalismo movement of the late 1960's was a musical response to the idealism of Bossa Nova. Eventually the Tropicalismo movement stated that the Brazilian people are the mix of diverse origins covering European, African and Asian origins themselves. Which shows that multiculturalism is the core of the Brazilian gens and Tropicalismo embraces this idea. Tropicalismo movement occurred as an outcome of the dictatorship that was held by the military in Brazil, who had succeeded as the change of artists of various art forms consisting of singers composers, artists, film industry, etc.). By combining their style of Tropicalia into Tropicalismo movement, the prominence composers created a unique sound of this music movement with the help of their regional Brazilian music and Bossa Nova.