Articulating Race and Nation in Brazilian Popular Song (References and Discussion Questions)

James McNally

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Discussion Questions

  1. How has music been used as a vehicle for antiracist activism in Brazil? What parallels do you see between antiracist popular songs in Brazil and similar movements in the international sphere?

  2. What kind of image of the nation of Brazil did nationalist popular songs seek to create? How has this changed over time? Is this image similar to how you think about your country?

  3. Brazilian songwriters have often faced suppression and censorship from authoritarian government figures. How have Brazilian popular songwriters enacted social critiques in their songs despite these restrictions?

  4. What are some of the ways that Brazilian popular song was influenced by international genres of popular music? What are some of the ways in which Brazilian popular song sounded back out into the international sphere in turn?

  5. Watch a video of maracatu in the Recife Carnival, then watch the music video of Chico Science and Nação Zumbi’s song “Maracatu Atômico.” Can you see or hear any similarities? How are the videos different?

  6. Compare the music of the Bahian Carnival to its adaptations in the popular sphere. First, listen to Ilê Aiyê’s 1975 song “Que Bloco É Esse?” (an example of samba-afro) and Gilberto Gil’s 1977 cover of that same song, “Ilê Aiyê.” Then, listen to Olodum’s 1986 song “Faraó, Divinidade do Égito” (an example of samba-reggae) and Margareth Menezes’s 2004 cover of that same song, “Faraó.” How did the songs change as they were adapted into the popular sphere via the recording industry?

  7. Listen to “Chega de Saudade” and “Garôta de Ipanema,” then listen to Eydie Gormé’s “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” and Elvis Presley’s “Bossa Nova Baby,” both of which were written during the period in which bossa nova became globally popular. If you were a bossa nova musician, what would you think of these adaptations?

  8. Watch a video of Elis Regina’s “Arrastão,” Chico Buarque’s “Roda Viva,” Gilberto Gil’s “Domingo no Parque,” or Caetano Veloso’s “Alegria, Alegria,” all of which took place during the era of the 1960s Festivals of Popular Song. Describe the scene: the energy of the space, the theatricality of the performances, the sonic qualities of the performance, the interactions between musicians and audience. What do these qualities say about the place of popular song in Brazilian culture during this time period?

Works Cited

Alberto, Paulina. 2009. “When Rio Was Black: Soul Music, National Culture, and the Politics of Racial Comparison in 1970s Brazil.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 89, no. 1: 3-39.

Araújo, Hiram. 2012. A Cartilha das Escolas de Samba. Rio de Janeiro: Centro de Memória do Carnaval LIESA.

Arinos, Afonso. 1917. A unidade da Pátria: conferência que fez o Dr. Affonso Arinos, no festival realisado em Bello Horizonte, em benefício dos flagellados. Rio de Janeiro: Livr. F. Alves.

Dunn, Christopher. 2001. Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture. Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books.

Hertzman, Marc. 2013. Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Loveless, Megwen. 2012. “Between the Folds of Luiz Gonzaga’s Sanfona: Forró Music in Brazil,” in The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More!, edited by Helena Simonett, 268-294. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

McNally, James. 2021. “The End of Song: Improvisation as Social Critique in Brazil.” Twentieth-Century Music 18, no. 1: 125-152.

Moehn, Frederick. 2012. Contemporary Carioca: Technologies of Mixing in a Brazilian Music Scene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Napolitano, Marcos. 1998. “A Invenção da Música Popular Brasileira: Um Campo de reflexão para a História Social,” Latin American Music Review 19, no. 1: 92-105.

­­­——. 2001. Seguindo a canção: engajamento politico e indústria cultural na MPB, 1959-69. São Paulo: Annablume.

Perrone, Charles. 1985. “From Noigandres to ‘Milagre da Alegria:’ The Concrete Poets and Contemporary Brazilian Popular Music.” Latin American Music Review 6, no. 1: 58-79.

Raymundo, Jackson. 2019. “O samba-enredo e a formação de uma Poética da Brasilidade.” SEDA-Revista de Letras da Rural-RJ 4, no. 10: 120-137.

Reily, Suzel Ana. 2000. “Introduction: Brazilian Musics, Brazilian Identities.” Ethnomusicology Forum 9, no. 1: 1-10.

Risério, António. 1981. Carnaval Ijexá. Salvador: Corrupio.

Rollefson, J. Griffith. 2007. “Tom Ze’s Fabrication Defect and the ‘Esthetics of Plagiarism’: A Postmodern/Postcolonial ‘Cannibalist Manifesto.’” Popular Music and Society 30, no. 3: 305–27.

Tatit, Luiz. 1996. O cancionista. São Paulo: Edusp.

­­­——. 2004. O século da canção. São Paulo: Ateliê Editorial.

­­­——. 2002. ‘Analysing Popular Songs.’ In Popular Music Studies, trans. Lorraine Leu, edited by David Hesmondhalgh and Keith Negus, 33-50. London: Arnold.

Vianna, Hermano. 1999. The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music & National Identity in Brazil, edited and translated by John Charles Chasteen. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

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