Tag Archives: Brazilian music

RIP João “bossa nova” Gilberto (1931 − 2019)

João Gilberto was a Brazilian musician known for pioneering the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s.

The history of bossa nova starts with this recording:

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso features the compositions “Chega de Saudade” and “Outra Vez”, both featuring João Gilberto’s guitar beat, which would go on to become a staple of bossa nova.

Then there is bossa nova’s defining moment, the release of “Bim-Bom” (1958), most often claimed to the first bossa recording.

Bim-Bom” (1958)

While researching Gilberto’s death it came to my attention that bossa nova is considered a nobrow phenomenon, i.e. the mixing of high and low culture .

Perhaps Caetano Veloso was the first to make this point in 2013 in The Guardian:

“It [bossa nova] was possibly the first popular music where the themes were existential […] It’s part of what makes it high art. Third-world countries usually produce raw materials that are then transformed into capital by first world nations. This happens in industry, but it also happens in the arts. What was revolutionary about bossa nova is that a third-world country was creating high art on its own terms, and selling that art around the world.” —Caetano Veloso in “Why bossa nova is ‘the highest flowering of Brazilian culture”.

When I further investigated, I came upon this quote by José Miguel Wisnik in Robert Stam’s World Literature, Transnational Cinema, and Global Media (2019) which makes the nobrow point explicitly:

The result within MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) was a perhaps unprecedented synthesis of “high” and “low” culture. Wisnik notes the “permeability established, beginning with Bossa Nova, between so-called culture and popular cultural production, forming a field of encounters that cannot be understood within the binary between music of entertainment and creative and informative music.