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Tom Zé

Tom Zé in São Paulo, Brazil in 2007
Background information
Birth name Antônio José Santana Martins
Born October 11, 1936 (1936-10-11) (age 73)
Irara, Bahia, Brazil
Origin São Paulo, Brazil
Genres Tropicália, World
Occupations Multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter
Years active 1960s–present
Labels Trama Records, Luaka Bop

Tom Zé (born Antônio José Santana Martins, 11 October 1936 in Irará, Bahia, Brazil) is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer who was influential in the Tropicália movement of 1960s Brazil. After the peak of the Tropicália period, Zé went into relative obscurity: it was only in the 1990s, when the musician and label head David Byrne discovered an album recorded by Zé many years earlier, that he returned to performing and releasing new material.


Early life and career

Tom Zé grew up in the small town of Irará, Bahia in the northeastern Sertão. He would later claim that his hometown was "pre-Gutenbergian", as information was primarily transferred through oral communication. As a child, he was influenced by Brazilian musicians such as Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro.[1] Zé became interested in music by listening to the radio, and moved to Salvador to pursue a degree.[2] He later relocated to São Paulo and began his career in popular music there. Much of his early work involved his wry impressions of the massive metropolitan area, coming from a small town in the relatively poor northeast.

Influential in the Tropicália movement, Zé contributed, along with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, and Nara Leão, to the watershed Tropicália album/manifesto Tropicália: ou Panis et Circenses (1968).[3] He also participated in a series of concerts with the musicians.[2] After the Brazilian military government of the 1960s began to crack down of the musicians of Tropicália, Zé moved out of the public eye and began to experiment with novel instruments and composition styles.[4] While the other major figures of Tropicália would go on to great commercial and critical success in later decades, Zé slipped into obscurity in the 1970s and 1980s.


In the early 1990s, Zé's work experienced a revival when American musician David Byrne discovered one of his albums, Estudando o Samba (1975), on a visit to Rio de Janeiro. Zé was the first artist signed to the Luaka Bop label and has so far released a compilation and two albums, all of which received positive reviews from United States critics.[1]


Remaining true to the experimental and Dada impulses of Tropicália, Zé has been noted for both his unorthodox approach to melody and instrumentation, employing various objects as instruments such as the typewriter.[5] He has collaborated with many of the concrete poets of São Paulo, including Augusto de Campos, and employed concrete techniques in his lyrics. Musically, his work appropriates samba, Bossa Nova, Brazilian folk music, forró, and American rock and roll, among others. He has been praised by avant-garde composers for his use of dissonance, polytonality, and unusual time signatures. Because of the experimental nature of many of his compositions, Zé has been compared with American musicians such as Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.[6]


  • 1968: Grande Liquidação
  • 1970: Tom Zé (album)
  • 1972: Se o Caso É Chorar
  • 1973: Todos os Olhos
  • 1975: Estudando o Samba
  • 1978: Correio da Estação do Brás
  • 1984: Nave Maria
  • 1990: Brazil Classics, Vol. 4: The Best of Tom Zé - Massive Hits (Compilation)
  • 1992: Brazil Classics, Vol. 5: The Hips of Tradition
  • 1998: Com Defeito de Fabricação
  • 1999: Postmodern Platos
  • 1999: 20 Preferidas (Compilation)
  • 2000: Série Dois Mementos (vols. 1, 2, and 15) (Compilation)
  • 2000: Jogos de Armar
  • 2003: Imprensa Cantada
  • 2005: Estudando o Pagode - Na Opereta Segregamulher e Amor
  • 2006: Danç-Êh-Sá
  • 2008: Danç-Êh-Sá Ao Vivo (live)
  • 2008: Estudando a Bossa - Nordeste Plaza


  1. ^ a b Neder, Alvaro. "Biography". Allmusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  2. ^ a b "Tom Zé". AllBrazilianMusic. CliqueMusic Editora. 2000. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  3. ^ Calado, Carlos. "Tropicalism". AllBrazilianMusic. CliqueMusic Editora. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  4. ^ Stark, Jeff (1999-05-26). "The politics of plagiarism". Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  5. ^ Bahaina, Anna Maria (September 1992). "Tom Zé". Europe Jazz Network. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  6. ^ Kelly, Jennifer (2006-03-10). "An Encounter with Tropicalia's Trickster: The Tom Zé Interview". PopMatters. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  

Further reading

  • (Italian) Mei, Giancarlo. Canto Latino: Origine, Evoluzione e Protagonisti della Musica Popolare del Brasile. 2004. Stampa Alternativa-Nuovi Equilibri. Preface by Sergio Bardotti and postface by Milton Nascimento.
  • Rollefson, J. Griffith (June 2008). "Tom Ze's Fabrication Defect and the "Esthetics of Plagiarism": a postmodern/postcolonial "Cannibalist Manifesto"". Popular Music and Society 30: 305. doi:10.1080/03007760600834853.  

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Tom Zé in SP.

Tom Zé (born Antônio José Santana Martins on 1936-10-11) is a Brazilian composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.


  • "Na vida quem perdeu o telhado
em troca recebe as estrelas"
Translation: In the life who lost his roof
in exchange receives the star.
- In "Só (Solidão)", of the album "Estudando o Samba"


  • I don't make art, I make spoken and sung journalism.

External links

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