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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in London

From The Economist blog - Caetano and Gil, The Brazilian pop duo reflect on imprisonment, exile and life in London

"TWO OF Brazil’s most prominent pop musicians, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, both from Bahia and both 73 years old, will perform on May 4th at the Barbican Centre. They are regular performers across the world, seem not to feel their age and wear their superstardom lightly. But it was not always so easy—there is darkness in their story. Just over 47 years ago, they were slung into solitary confinement in Rio de Janeiro. They remained incarcerated for two months.

It is an experience neither will forget. Brazil had become a military dictatorship in 1964, and the generals quickly tightened their grip on critics, writers, poets and provocateurs such as Messrs Veloso and Gil. By 1967, the duo was known as the country’s leading tropicalistas, exponents of a permissive new musical idiom—Tropicalismo—that grafted British and North American rock on to the gentler song-forms of what was known as música popular brasileira (MPB). MPB was a mix of Brazilian rhythms, samba and bossa nova, often accompanied by edgy lyrics reflecting amorous and social concerns. It was not the time in Brazil to get edgier. Anything that smacked of revolt and the counter-culture was targeted. People began to be locked up; some were tortured and many fled....

After jail, followed by four months of house arrest, the two were forced into exile. Until 1972 they spent it in London. The Beatles, whom they loved, had just finished making music, but the place was still pulsating with sound. There was a demand for new music and albums—increasingly met by bands such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin—and “World” music, such as reggae. In a way, it was a perfect moment for two ingenious Brazilians to land there and lap up the energies. Any performance by either man in the British capital has pointed significance that is not lost on the audience.

Nor is it lost on Messrs Veloso and Mr Gil. “London was first part of a punishment for nothing,” Mr Veloso says in an e-mail exchange with your correspondent. “But after a year I started to learn how to love it. It’s always emotionally intense to be back.” “We open our concert at the Barbican,” Mr Gil adds (also by e-mail), “with ‘Back in Bahia’ [which references Portobello Road, where the pair fell in love with reggae]. I wrote it straight after returning to Brazil. It celebrates the consequences of having lived in the Swinging City.” (In English, the song’s lyrics state, “I feel as if going there were necessary to return so much more alive / With life more lived, divided between there and here”.)"

Back in Bahia

Back in Bahia 1972


Sold Out at The Barbican

"Two giants of Brazilian music, Gil and Caetano reunite for an intimate acoustic duo performance, continuing a series of musical collaborations, and a friendship that’s weathered revolution, exile and more. Leading lights of the provocative Tropicalia movement that swept Brazil in the late 1960s, Gil and Caetano went from being two of Brazil’s biggest pop stars to prisoners under house arrest ordered by their country’s military dictatorship, and later exiles living in London, jamming around the city’s underground scene. 50 years on, their intricate guitars and soulful vocals still recall the radical spirit of the time, blending Brazilian and African rhythms with elements of psychedelia, rock and funk. In a welcome return to London, the duo continue to make music that communicates directly with the heart and soul."

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