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Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship Americas South America Brazil Idelber Avelar Duke University Press Books

9th July 2013 History Books 12 Comments

“Idelber Avelar’s and Christopher Dunn’s book is not only an invaluable aid in understanding the complex relationship between culture and politics in Brazil. It also helps us to understand how culture and politics act together in forming our common future, and even suggests ways in which we as citizens might have a hand in determining how things turn out.”—Arto Lindsay, musician and artist

“This book is quite important for understanding the significance of music in Brazil. It shows that music—as a complex social, cultural, artistic, and even political phenomenon—was part and parcel of the constitution of citizenship. Music has been a crucial constitutive factor in Brazilians’ sense of belonging.”—George Yúdice, author of The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era

Idelber Avelar is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University. He is the author of The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and Politics and The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning, also published by Duke University Press.

Christopher Dunn is Associate Professor of Brazilian literary and cultural studies at Tulane University. He is the author of Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture and a co-editor of Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization.

Covering more than one hundred years of history, this multidisciplinary collection of essays explores the vital connections between popular music and citizenship in Brazil. While popular music has served as an effective resource for communities to stake claims to political, social, and cultural rights in Brazil, it has also been appropriated by the state in its efforts to manage and control a socially, racially, and geographically diverse nation. The question of citizenship has also been a recurrent theme in the work of many of Brazil’s most important musicians. These essays explore popular music in relation to national identity, social class, racial formations, community organizing, political protest, and emergent forms of distribution and consumption. Contributors examine the cultural politics of samba in the 1930s, the trajectory of middle-class musical sensibility associated with Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), rock and re-democratization in the 1980s, music and black identity in Bahia, hip hop and community organizing in São Paulo, and the repression of baile funk in Rio in the 1990s. Among other topics, they consider the use of music by the Landless Workers’ Movement, the performance of identity by Japanese Brazilian musicians, the mangue beat movement of Recife, and the emergence of new regional styles, such as lambadão and tecnobrega, that circulate outside of conventional distribution channels. Taken together, the essays reveal the important connections between citizenship, national belonging, and Brazilian popular music.

Contributors. Idelber Avelar, Christopher Dunn, João Freire Filho, Goli Guerreiro, Micael Herschmann, Ari Lima, Aaron Lorenz, Shanna Lorenz, Angélica Madeira, Malcolm K. McNee, Frederick Moehn, Flávio Oliveira, Adalberto Paranhos, Derek Pardue, Marco Aurélio Paz Tella, Osmundo Pinho, Carlos Sandroni, Daniel Sharp, Hermano Vianna, Wivian Weller

“Idelber Avelar’s and Christopher Dunn’s book is not only an invaluable aid in understanding the complex relationship between culture and politics in Brazil. It also helps us to understand how culture and politics act together in forming our common future, and even suggests ways in which we as citizens might have a hand in determining how things turn out.”—Arto Lindsay, musician and artist

“This book is quite important for understanding the significance of music in Brazil. It shows that music—as a complex social, cultural, artistic, and even political phenomenon—was part and parcel of the constitution of citizenship. Music has been a crucial constitutive factor in Brazilians’ sense of belonging.”—George Yúdice, author of The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era

Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship

The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil

Two new books on popular music present contrasting approaches to the diverse world of Hispanic music. Aparicio’s (Spanish and American culture, Univ. of Michigan) work, aimed at an academic audience, deals with salsa and Puerto Rican culture in a feminist context. McGowan, targeting a general audience, presents a comprehensive history of popular music in Brazil. Aparicio analyzes salsa, boleros, and other popular musical forms in terms of cultural issues (race, gender, class), drawing on her own experiences, and those of typical listeners, to explore these issues. Readers may find their views on salsa altered by reading this book. A recommended choice for academic Hispanic studies collections and for music collections with a strong Hispanic emphasis. McGowan and Pessanha here update their original edition (Billboard Bks., 1991), bringing their extensive experience writing on Brazilian popular music for Billboard and other magazines to this extensive survey covering local jazz and rock as well as better-known forms. The accessible writing style and lavish use of illustrations help achieve the authors’ goal of inspiring interest in this music. Updates cover recent music and musicians, provide more social analysis, and expand the discography to 1000 titles, adding much to the original edition. The best work on the topic, this is recommended for both academic and public library music collections.?James E. Ross, WLN, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Brazilian music has exponentially increased in its popularity over the decade since the last edition of “The Brazilian Sound” was published. This revised and expanded edition includes discussions of developments in samba and other key genres, the rise of female singer-songwriters in recent years, new works by established artists like Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil and the mixing of bossa with electronica. This clearly written and lavishly illustrated encyclopaedic survey features dozens of new entries and photographs, an extensive glossary of Brazilian music terms and more. This edition of “The Brazilian Sound” contains new discussions of: musica sertaneja and musica caipira; Brazilian funk and rap/hip-hop; electronic dance music; young contemporary musicians inspired by traditional music; the rise of new samba artists; an updated bibliography and glossary; and, a new list of Web resources.

The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil

  • 12 responses to "Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship Americas South America Brazil Idelber Avelar Duke University Press Books"

  • moteltan
    4:42 on July 9th, 2013
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    This is an impressive work, very comprehensive. If you are new to Brazilian music, this book will act as a guide before you start buying CDs, if you aren’t new to Brazilian music, you’ll still find in it bits of useful additional information. It’s a good buy, you can’t go wrong.

  • flyout
    12:09 on July 9th, 2013
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    The Brazilian Sound (3rd edition), by Chris McGowan & Ricardo Pessanha

    Review by Reeves Medaglia-Miller, Ph.D.

    “In Brazil, music is everywhere. You can find it in a complex rhythmic pattern beaten out by an old man with his fingers on a café table, in the thundering samba that echoes in the streets of Rio in the months prior to Carnaval, and in the bars where a guitar passes from hand to hand and everyone knows all the lyrics to all the classic Brazilian songs played late into the night.” (McGowan & Pessanha, 2009, p. 3)

    Ethnomusicology… sounds like a really dry subject, right? A bunch of music that I don’t understand, explained to me using a bunch of new jargon from some language that I don’t understand… right? Wrong. In the brilliant grasp of Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, the study of the many forms of Brazilian popular music is fascinating, intimate, and, yes, even exciting… as it should be.

    I am a lifelong music educator and professor of Popular Culture studies at George Brown College in Toronto. I am always in search of texts that will inspire and stimulate my already world-weary students to learn about vital musical forms of which they are unaware, even as they consider important social justice issues such as racism, cultural appropriation, sexism, classism, and so on. I need look no further than The Brazilian Sound.

    The Brazilian Sound steps into a time machine and tells a five-hundred year old story of race and of a musical tradition forged from the forced merger of the Brazilian indigenous culture with the culture of its Portuguese conquerors and, then, with the culture of some five million African slaves brought to South America between 1538 and 1850. McGowan and Pessanha explain in compelling detail how the amazing diversity of popular music styles in Brazilian music culture is as a result of both blending and coexistence of many heritages, including at least three major African traditions, and many subcultures within those larger groups.

    In the telling of this story, the authors reveal that today’s Brazil is undoubtedly more racially tolerant than our North America, with inequities in society being attributable more to differences in class and economic status than to colour. This, they explain, is due to Brazilians seeing race as a “fluid continuum” of identity rather than as a “bipolar” model, the black and white colour scheme prevalent in America. Notably, the authors tell us that, in part due to the enormous scale of the African slave migration, African musical traditions survive in Brazil in a much “purer form” than those found in American music. Nevertheless, McGowan and Pessanha urge the reader to consider Daniel’s (1992) assertion that the ugliness of racism “…is a serious problem about which most Brazilians are in perpetual denial.”

    It is this kind of bravery, tempered with a delicate sensitivity, that is omnipresent in McGowan and Pessanha’s fine work, and makes this book invaluable to both music educators and social justice educators. In their thorough exploration of the context of Brazilian popular music, the authors are fearless in their efforts to discuss in full view the race issues surrounding the formation of post-conquest Brazil, issues that are still clearly present in contemporary Brazilian popular music. So, The Brazilian Sound is more than a routine anthropological work, and more than an emotionless ethnographic study. It is a book that speaks frankly and passionately about both the splendid diversity and the social paradoxes of Brazil.

    From the early indigenous forms, through the 18th century Portuguese modinha and the concurrent arrival of the Bantu lundu, through the venerated samba, the internationally-popular Bossa Nova tradition (the “new way”), MPB (musica popular brasileira), Brazilian rock forms, and even all the way to contemporary Brazilian electronica, McGowan and Pessanha are meticulous in their devotion to detail. In addition to a remarkable array of data and research, the authors add tremendous depth (and credibility) to The Brazilian Sound through data obtained from their personal interviews of numerous superstars from Brazilian music traditions, including Almeida, Azevedo, Bosco, Brown, Caymmi, Costa, Jobim, Lee, Mendes, Menezes, Nascimento, Porto, and da Viola.

    Initially published in 1991, and then again in 1998, The Brazilian Sound is now in its 3rd (“revised and expanded”) edition. The new edition adds much that was not available to listeners only a decade ago, including discussion of new works by established composers. However, it is clear that much innovation, both musical and technological, has occurred in a single decade, and McGowan and Pessanha are painstaking in their quest to get us up to speed. In each of chapters seven through nine, important 21st century additions are made to the ongoing narratives of favourite performers and emerging styles, and new millennium artists and post-modern fusion styles are introduced to the scene. In “North by Northeast,” the authors provide up-to-date information on the late 90s guitarrada style, and the subsequent technobrega style, that merged Vieira’s guitarrada with brega paraense. In “Brazilian Instrumental Music and Jazz,” we are updated on the newer post-2000 works of established performers Malta, Vasconcelos, Purim, Santos, and Uakti, but also introduced to beautiful jazz divas Ithamara Koorax and Luciana Souza. In “Tropical Rock,” we learn that much has occurred in a brief ten years, including the “world outside Brazil” discovering the rock of Os Mutantes and a partial (sans Rita Lee) reunion of the band in 2006. We learn that Rita Lee herself went on to a post-Os Mutantes triumph (“3001″) in 2000, winning a Latin Grammy. We hear the sad final power chords of both RPM and Titas and cry at the death of Cassia Eller, yet witness the rise of young bands Skank, Vanguart, and Los Hermanos.

    All of these essential additions would be enough to justify a revised edition of The Brazilian Sound. The authors go on to provide an additional 10th chapter, “More Brazilian Sounds,” describing other important genres. There is a fascinating discussion of sertaneja and caipira, the Brazilian equivalents of our C&W and old-time country traditions. It is compelling to learn that Brazil has an indigenous tradition, a Christian music tradition, and even reggae, funk, soul and R&B, hip hop, and electronica styles, just as we have here in North America.

    Yet, as promised in my introduction, The Brazilian Sound is a work that not only informs, but also excites. It is filled with exquisite guided visualizations:

    “On a hot and humid summer night in Rio de Janeiro, a small stage is packed with dozens of musicians holding assorted drums and percussion instruments, engaged in an escola de samba (samba school) rehearsal. They are inside a colourful, decorated pavilion crowded with people–black, white, brown–who all have one thing in common: the samba” (McGowan & Pessanha, 2009, p. 18).

    Such vividly-written passages put the reader right there, seeing the context of the music for themselves, and practically hearing it, too. In a famous Twilight Zone episode, history students marvel at their teacher’s seemingly first-hand knowledge of the subject matter, and suspect that he may actually have been present at these historical events. This is the feeling one gets while reading The Brazilian Sound–it is as if the authors were there, telling firsthand their impressions of an abundance of Brazilian history, popular music styles, and cultural achievements. And then, we are reminded that it is true: at least regarding much of the music and musicians of the past few decades, McGowan (a resident of Rio de Janeiro) and Pessanha were and are there, interviewing these music titans face-to-face. Thus, we are there as well, hearing da Viola’s own feelings about his beloved music and heritage, or hearing Caymmi describe in his own words his unusual guitar technique. In this respect, The Brazilian Sound is not just an exciting carnaval or a colourful escola de samba. It is a rare gift… a unique privilege.

    In my view, The Brazilian Sound is much more than a textbook filled with a vast wealth of information. It is among the most energetic, essential books available in the field of music studies… a joy from come?o to conclus?o.


    Daniel, G. Reginald (1992). “Multiethnic Populations in the United States and Brazil,” UCLA ISOP Intercom 14, no. 7 (January 15, 1992): 1-5.

    McGowan, Chris, & Ricardo Pessanha (2009). The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil, revised 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

  • oh boy
    15:39 on July 9th, 2013
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    “The Brazilian Sound” is a great read and very informative. I especially liked the quotes from the interviews the authors did with Brazilian musicians like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento and Carlinhos Brown, as well as Americans such as Lyle Mays and Herbie Mann who have long been associated with Brazil’s music.

  • asdfasdf
    20:07 on July 9th, 2013
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    I loved the first “Brazilian Sound,” which was from Billboard Books and this new revised version from Temple University Press is even better. Especially liked the in-depth musical history about samba, choro and Bahia. Plus the glossary is outstanding.

  • Ricky Slade
    21:59 on July 9th, 2013
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    Of all world music varieties, Brazilian music is among the most vital, consistent and compelling. McGowan and Pessanha nail their subject cold in this book — the most comprehensive omnibus available on the subject of Brazilian music. From MPB to Milton, it’s all here!

    This encyclopedic work includes hundreds of photos, complete historical information on all styles, and extended discographies ideal for starting and growing your own world-class Brazilian CD collection.

    I picked this book up on a whim — and 100 CDs later, I’m grateful to the authors for broadening my knowledge of this exceptional music with their extraordinary book!

  • Austin Jones
    9:39 on July 10th, 2013
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    “The Brazilian Sound” is a fascinating musical journey and invaluable guide to Brazilian music. The best in the English language.

  • lovinbeinmomma
    14:16 on July 10th, 2013
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    For anyone with an interest in Brazilian culture and/or music or who needs an immediate upgrade in their musical life, this book is an absolute must. It will introduce you to a host of some of the planet’s best musicians and performers, most unknown north of the Amazon. The rhythms, styles and currents of Brazilian music are as diverse as any place in the world, and “The Brazilian Sound” details the origins and practices of the gamut, from bossa nova and samba, to forro, maracatu, axe, frevo, and pagode, the popular wing of samba. The 2009 edition is the best yet, expanding coverage of the pagode scene (one of my favorites) with great anecdotes and details on the Old Guard singers and modern stars like Zeca Pagodinho, and profiles of the seemingly endless crop of stellar female artists–Joyce, Marisa Monte, Vanessa da Mata, Bebel, Adriana Calcanhotta, Maria Rita. With artist interviews, great lyric excerpts (in English), details on the musical instruments (cuica to surdo to cavaquinho), coverage of all the regional musics and on-scene photos, this labor of love really does have everything you want to know about Brazilian music, which is a lot. I’m a longtime Brazilian music nut who learned a lot from this superb new edition.

  • Eric Silkwood
    17:43 on July 10th, 2013
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    An excellent book for anyone who wants to explore Brazilian music beyond the well-known classics. Helps place current and past musicians in their historical contexts; helps you understand who influenced whom, etc. The book will pay for itself just by helping you guide your ever-growing collection of Brazilian CD’s (hard to stop once you get started)!

  • RamblenTech
    1:51 on July 11th, 2013
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    The best book about Brazilian music in English, The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil is a beautifully written, in-depth guide to samba, bossa, choro, forró, maracatu, and other Brazilian genres. The 2009 edition, the book’s third, upgrades an already invaluable musical resource, and adds background about popular contemporary styles like funk carioca (including its “proibid?o” banned form), música sertaneja (Brazilian country music), electronic-dance music, Brazilian rap, and a wave of talented new MPB female singer-songwriters. There is a section on the music of Belém in the north (carimbó, technobrega, guitarrada), which has received scant coverage inside or outside of Brazil. And McGowan and Pessanha introduce a wide range of new stars, such as Bebel Gilberto, Lenine, Marcelo D2, Ana Carolina, Yamandú Costa, Hamilton de Holanda, Ivete Sangalo, Banda Calypso, MV Bill and Fernanda Porto, who have gained fame since the book’s last version. This adds to already existing descriptions of venerable figures like Pixinguinha, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jo?o Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Elis Regina, Marisa Monte, Sergio Mendes, and Hermeto Pascoal. The music is richly described, in both musical and cultural terms. One gets a vivid sense of how it sounds, and a clear understanding of its rhythmic, harmonic and melodic ingredients. “The Brazilian Sound” brings to life both the current and past greats of Brazilian music. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

  • Robert Dean
    5:59 on July 11th, 2013
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    The Brazilian Sound is good as far as it goes – a who’s who list and discography of 20th century Brazilian music. Although, the book has the feel of a junior college textbook, it’s written in plain language. It would be a relatively easy read if it were not that a parenthetical list of Brazilian names breaks up every third or fourth paragraph. There are some very informative passages – notably the chapter on Bossa Nova and the “Escolas de Samba” section of Chapter 2. At their best, the authors provide clear and comphrensive explanations of the geneology and sociological context of the music.

    Unfortunately, unless a person is willing to spend countless shopping hours and a couple of thousand dollars building up collection of Brazilian records, he or she will gain almost no insight from this book into what the music feels like. The authors describe individual works and artists in only vague terms – terms often identical to those previously used to describe others. They beat the term “syncopation” into irrelevance – it’s clear only that all Brazilian music is syncopated. The authors habitually refer to folk music genres and song forms ala “Composer X’s work is all based on the Y song form…” But they provide no practical examples or definitions of those genres or forms.

    The authors stridently dumb-down their text, accepting as axiom that one has to “hear it to believe it” and that it is meaningless to describe Brazilian music in technical terms. They generally refrain from even using common musical terms – bar, measure, pulse, key, etc. – to give the reader a clearer understanding of Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic structures. They use few effective musical comparisons or verbal metaphors. It is understandably difficult to describe music in writing. But it is possible. Judicious use of metaphor, comparisions, and technical descriptions would have greatly fleshed out what in the end comes off as a skeletal text.

    This 1998 edition serves as the update to the first, apparently published in 1990 or 1991. However, the amendments appear to have been quite minor – embodied by an isolated paragraph here and there, and four meager pages in the final “More Brazilian Sounds” chapter. It’s as if nothing has really happened in the evolution of Brazilian music since 1990 – an impression that must be wrong.

    The Brazilian Sound catalogs decent research, but is neither good writing nor effective music history.

  • gizmo-gazoo
    12:42 on July 11th, 2013
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    You could fill a book with all the information I _don’t_ know about Brazilian music… In fact, these guys already have! Concise, conversational, informative and very well laid out, this is an exceptionally readable book. Chapters on samba, bossa nova, tropicalia, forro and jazz include focused biographical sketches of dozens of key artists, as well as succinct historical information about the progress of Brazilian music from its European and African folk roots into its bewildering and often beautiful modern offshoots. The book’s focus is nonpartisan: although there is plenty of room for aesthetic criticism within the various styles, the authors generally hold their preferences and dislikes to themselves. They do, however, give readers a good sense of which recordings might be best to check out — an invaluable service considering how little of Brazil’s vast musical output makes it to the United States. Highly recommended! Certainly the best English-language guide to Brazilian pop that you will find in print (online is a different matter), this is great for casual listeners and hardcore fans alike.

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