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An Introduction To Tropicália In 10 Songs

The legendary Tom Ze |© Sérgio Savarese/WikiCommons
The legendary Tom Ze |© Sérgio Savarese/WikiCommons
Picture of Sarah Brown
Updated: 11 October 2016
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Tropicália is one of the most important movements in Brazil from the 1960s, representing a shift in attitudes and values. The cultural revolution from Europe that resisted authorities and broke cultural boundaries spread to Brazil, penetrating not just music but literature, theater and poems with new structures and ideas. The godfathers of this movement were Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, with their album Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circenses, becoming the anthem of the Tropicália.

Jimmy, Renda se (Jimmy, Surrender Yourself) – Tom Zé

Tom Zé is considered one of the most important contributors to Tropicália, even influencing the legendary Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circenses album by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. He is known as a visionary member of the movement and often produced songs using home-made instruments. This song has a great guitar riff and catchy beat.

Tropicália – Caetano Veloso

Caetano Veloso made some of the most bracing and significant records throughout this era. Yet perhaps none is so defining as his track Tropicália, which takes the name of the movement and is a wonderfully energetic and catchy melody. Veloso was one of the founders and leaders of Tropicália, spending time in prison for his music as the then dictatorship in Brazil felt threatened by this radical new movement and what it stood for.

Bat Macumba – Gilberto Gil

There are two versions of Bat Macumba – one by Os Mutantes, and the other by Gilberto Gil in collaboration with the band. Gil’s version is sleek, funky and unbelievably catchy. He, alongside Caetano Veloso, was one of the main driving forces behind Tropicália and also spent time in prison after being deemed a threat by the Brazilian dictatorship.

Baby – Os Mutantes

A meeting with Gilberto Gil back in the 1960s brought Os Mutantes into Tropicália’s circle, with the band later releasing two major albums that were heavily influenced by Tropicália. Os Mutantes version of Bat Macumba was a blend of Tropicália and psychedelic rock. Baby is a solid Tropicália track from Os Mutantes and a key record within the movement.

Tuareg – Gal Costa

Gal Costa was an important figure in the Tropicália movement, having recorded four tracks on the Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circenses album. Her record Tuareg combines Brazilian rhythms with Saharan melodies and instrumental lines to create an exotic, surreal tune that makes Arabian nights linger in the mind.

Irene – Caetano Veloso

This song is significant both to the Tropicália movement and to Veloso‘s career and life history. Irene was written whilst Veloso was in prison in Brazil for his involvement in a movement that the government felt immensely threatened by. He was later exiled to London after a few months in jail.

Panis et Circenses – Os Mutantes

Panis et Circenses is a radical track that is sporadic in its production, not smooth in its melody, yet has a unique edge that embraces the Tropicália movement. Littered with fanfare horns and other instruments, it showcases the extremes of rhythm within the movement.

Procissão (procession) – Gilberto Gil

Another great track by Gilberto Gil that is a classic from the Tropicália movement. His solo guitar playing is a credit to his talent and the whole track is vibrant, upbeat and bouncy.

London, London – Caetano Veloso

After three months in prison and four months under house arrest, Veloso was finally sent to London where he spent a few years in exile. He lived in a house in Chelsea with Gilberto Gil, their wives and their manager. London was a turning point in their music, allowing them to experiment with new sounds and blend them with what they already knew. London, London captures his experience and feelings of exile and adapting to London life.

Parque Industrial (Industrial Park) – Tom Zé

Parque Industrial was a significant song for Tom Zé and was later recorded by Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso on the Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circenses album.

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