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Tropicália, also known as Tropicalismo, is a Brazilian art movement that arose in the late 1960s and encompassed theatre, poetry, and music, among other forms. Tropicália was influenced by poesia concreta (concrete poetry), a genre of Brazilian avant-garde poetry embodied in the works of Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Décio Pignatari, among a few others.[1] However, Tropicália is associated almost exclusively with the musical expression movement, both in Brazil and internationally, which arose from the fusion of several musical genres, like Brazilian and African rhythms and rock and roll.



Tropicália was not only a musical movement at its inception. It also took form in the visual arts scene of 1960s Brazil, by the hands of the artists Hélio Oiticica,Emerson Adriano Catarina, Lygia Clark, Rogério Duprat, and Antonio Dias. The name Tropicália came from a Hélio Oiticica art installation of the same name. It is important to note that one of the cultural constructs of the Tropicália movement was antropofagia, or the cultural and musical cannibalism of all societies, taking in influences from all genres and concocting something unique. The concept of antropofagia, as embraced by the Tropicália movement, was created by poet Oswald de Andrade in his Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), published in 1928.

Owing its roots to musical tolerance and innovation, the arrival of Tropic√°lia on the Brazilian music scene began in the 1960s. The 1968 collaboration album Tropic√°lia: ou Panis et Circencis is largely considered the musical manifesto of the movement, initially led by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. The two, along with other artists commonly associated with the movement, experimented with unusual time signatures and other means of unorthodox song structures. Politically, the album expressed revolt against the coup of 1964. Indeed, politically engaged lyrics and artistic forms of activism drove much of the movement following the coup of 1964, much like its contemporary Brazilian film movement, Cinema Novo.

Despite its success, the movement lasted few years, its influence on Brazilian music, however, was broad and far-reaching. Its initial leader, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, were incarcerated by the military government over the political content of their work. After two months, Veloso and Gil were released and exiled to London by the military government, where they lived until 1972. "Others in the Tropicalismo movement were less fortunate; several underwent torture or were forced into 'psychiatric care'. One tropicalista, the lyricist and poet Torquato Neto, committed suicide after such treatment"[2]. Although Gil and Veloso were exiled from Brazil for four years, they were eventually able to continue their careers in Europe.

Despite being short-lived, the Tropic√°lia movement would be honored later in 1985 when its 20 year legacy and Brazil's return to a democratic government coincided. In 1993, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, released the CD Tropic√°lia 2 for celebrating 25 years of the movement and its importance to the Brazilian history, as sort of nostalgic remembrance of their earlier experiments.[3]. Actually, many years since its inception, Tropic√°lia and its pioneers continue to be cited by musicians of the whole world as sources of musical creativity and inspiration.


Although it originally attained little notice outside of Brazil, Tropicalismo and its associated artists have a growing popularity,[4] and has been cited as an influence by rock musicians such as David Byrne, Beck, Kurt Cobain, Arto Lindsay, Devendra Banhart, Kingdom Cloud, El Guincho, Of Montreal and Nelly Furtado. In 1998, Beck released Mutations, the title of which is a tribute to one of Tropicalismo pioneers, Os Mutantes. Its hit single, "Tropicalia", reached number 21 on the Billboard Modern Rock singles chart.

In 2002 Caetano Veloso published an account of the Tropicália movement, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil. The 1999 compilation Tropicália Essentials, featuring songs by Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes, is an introduction to the style. Other compilations include Tropicalia: Millennium (1999), Tropicalia: Gold (2002), and Novo Millennium: Tropicalia (2005). Yet another compilation, Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound, was released to acclaim in 2006.[5]

Further reading

  • Paula, Jos√© Agrippino. "PanAm√©rica". 2001. Papagaio.
  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998 ISBN 1-56639-545-3
  • Dunn, Christopher. "Brutality Garden: Tropic√°lia and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture." Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8078-4976-6
  • (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.


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