Tropicália: Brazils Psychedelic Period

Sep 1, 2021 | Culture, Music

In the late 1960s, the cultural explosion across the Western World shaped the next half a century with its summer of love, embrace of psychedelia, artistic experimentation and protest songs. From Sunshine Pop in California, the Canterbury Sound in Southern England to the beginnings of New York’s growing Avant-garde proto-punk scene, these musicians are now carved into the fabric of our collective history, but whilst Satanic Majesties, Pet Sounds and the Velvets brought psychedelia into pop music in the West, Tropicália was having its moment in Brazil.

Tropicália rose during the American-Backed Military Dictatorship that lasted 21 years, with artists and creatives pushing back with new experimentations in music, poetry and art. Musicians such Caetona Veloso and Tom Zé pioneered a new sound that took influence from psychedelia, garage rock and baroque pop but where the foundations in the West were in blues and Western folk, Tropicálias basis was in Samba, Bossa Nova and traditional Afro-Brazilian music. 

To celebrate Velosos birthday, we’ve picked out some of our favourite albums from the genre, move over Sgt Peppers because Tropicália is here. 

Caetano Veloso  – Caetano Veloso (1968)

Caetanos debut self-titled album takes some of the whimsical elements of Sgt Peppers but introduces complex rhythms and drum patterns found more commonly in Baião, a style of dance music originating in North East Brazil.

Jorge Ben – Jorge Ben (1969)

Perhaps the best known musical export from South America, prolific genius songwriter Jorge Ben Tor practically gave birth to the everlasting “Samba Rock”  genre with this record, distinctly Brazillian but with influences from American soul music, Jorge Bens lyrics gave voice to Afro-Brazilians with strong themes of black pride, class politics and love. Also features possibly the best album art of all time, designed by Brazilian artist Guido Alberi. 

Gal Costa – Gal Costa – (1969)

Gal is the standout vocalist of the Tropicália movement, her sweet harmonies lay across sweeping strings with some intense psychedelic experimentations, highly complex arrangements and syncopated drum patterns.

Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes (1968)

A masterpiece in Psychedelic Pop from Os Mutantes, who continue to be a major influence on artists around the world, from Kurt Cobain and Beck to Flying Lotus. This album combines samba influences with fuzzy guitars, vocal harmonizing and Phil Spector-like wall of sound production techniques. 

Tom Zé – Grande Liquidacao (1968)

This record sees Tom as he slowly moves from Brazilian Pop into his later Avant Garde Tropicália stylings. With lots of horn sounds and very danceable grooves, this record, although certainly one of the most accessible Tropicália records still has all the trappings of the period’s intense experimentations, think Loves – Forever Changes but with added Bossa Nova grooves.

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