Gilberto Gil

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Gilberto Gil
© Priscila Azul

Article

The aesthetic Revolutionary

An aesthetic revolutionary in a minister’s plush chair, Gilberto Gil has had a remarkable career. By bringing rock and avant-garde music into the charts during the years of Brazilian dictatorship, he and his colleagues riled the authorities so were jailed and exiled. Back in Brazil, Gil managed to make his mark in the field of politics without ever giving up his ambitions as a musician.
Were the history of Brazilian pop music since the mid-60s summarized by the names of one or two singers, the latter would be Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. But singling this memorable duo out would hardly be fair to Chico Buarque with his seemingly more conventional approach or to the eccentric Tom Zé; it would also hardly be fair to Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges, who far from tinsel town have been doing their own thing; and it would hardly be fair to Jorge Ben with his conciliatory grooves and to Ivan Lin with his intense soul jazz. Indeed it would be unfair to all musicians who have followed their own paths after hearing works from any of the foregoing, yet all these paths were opened by Veloso and Gilberto. Why not by Gilberto and Veloso? Why are they always named the other way round? Gil has always been the second and the quieter of them, though he rose to become the Brazilian Minister of Culture in 2003. He may be content with second place, since it enables him to withdraw at times from the limelight to reflect and plan. Viewed in retrospect his life has owed a lot to reflection.

Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira was born on 26th June 1942 in Salavador Bahia, where his family belonged to the educated middle class. His father José Gil Moreira was a doctor, and his mother Claudina Passos Gil Moreira a teacher. Growing up in Ituaçu, Gilberto was swayed less by Afro-American music than by the forro from the northeast of the land. As he later put it, it seemed to him to be earthly and human, whereas classical music is heavenly and angelic. These early feelings grew into a passion, which led him onstage at the start of the 60s as a guitar-playing singer and songwriter.

In 1962 he was heard on television by young Veloso, whom he got to know through a mutual friend the following year, when he also issued an EP in the bossa style and a single. Gil recalls the meeting as a meeting of true comrades whose artistic ambitions then held them together for years. With Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa and Tom Zé they formed a televised group and were soon at the heart of the Tropicalismo movement. In combining the dissonances of electric guitars with the samba, folk music and psychedelics, their music replaced the bossa nova, and their allusive texts were inspired by Anglo-American pop-songs, concrete poetry and the aesthetics of nouvelle vague films. Both were felt to be out of key with the ideals of the musical and political establishments.

It was Elis Regina who brought the young songwriter to national attention with her version of Gil’s “Louvação”. Gil then gave the same title to his first LP, which was followed by three without titles. On this first classic he already revealed what was later formally stated by the joint “Tropicalia” album in 1968. Gil was not really satisfied with “Tropicalia”, since he was already one step ahead. Hendrix and the Black Power movement were leading him to review his identity as a black as well as the situation of blacks in Salvador’s poor boroughs.

During the enthusiasm for Tropicalismo, Brazil’s military dictatorship began to notice the irreverence of the scene, so Gil and Veloso were jailed for no stated reason in February 1969, which gave Gil a chance to practice meditation, read Eastern philosophy and go on a macrobiotic diet. This regimen soon grew habitual. After a few months Gil and Veloso were freed on condition they leave the country, so in July 1969 they left for London.

In 1970 Gil performed at the Isle of Wight Festival and issued an album emphasizing the closeness of Tropicalia to rock then on 14th January 1972 he went back to Rio. His album “Expresso 2222” flaunted its debt to folk music, especially to the forro. In the following years his works became more spiritual and philosophical, showing concern for their African roots but also for reggae and funk. His masterpieces from this period include “Refazenda” (1975), ”Refavela” (1977) and “Luar” (1981).

On 24th June 1976 the tropicalistas Gil, Caetano, Gal Costa and Maria Bethânia joined up as Doces Bárbaros to give a series of furious concerts, which were preserved on Vinyl (and later on CD) as well as on Celluloid. In 1977 Gil played at the second Festival Mundial de Arte e Cultura Negra in Lagos, Nigeria, where he got to know and was influenced by Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder and other musicians. He then toured Europe and the USA regularly. Between 1978 and 1979 he lived in Los Angeles then in 1980 appeared onstage a number of times with Jimmy Cliff. In 1984 he recorded a work with the Wailers.

In January 1987 Gil took over the post of president of the Gregório de Matos Foundation in his hometown Salvador. This gave him the main say in Salvador’s cultural activities and launched his political career, which in 1988 led him to withdraw from his post to run for election as mayor. On receiving more votes than any other candidate he was duly elected and in Salvador also became president of the committee for environmental protection. He fulfilled his duties till 1992, the year in which he issued “Parabolicamara”, one of his best and most popular records for years. He then toured widely and began making recordings with Veloso for “Tropicália 2”. Issued in 1993 this looked back on past achievements and forward to new ones. Further notable recordings followed, as in 1997 with the high-brow but very accessible “Quanta”. A live recording of the flashy accompanying shows, “Quanta Gente Veio Ver”, was awarded a Grammy the same year.

Despite his continuing political activities, Gil remained faithful to music and teamed up very successfully with Milton Nascimento in 2001, the year in which he also performed with Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Jobim-Morelenbaum Quartet. In January 2002 the “Doces Bárbaros” gave two enthusiastically received shows. In January 2003 Gilberto Gil took over the post of Minister of Culture in the newly elected government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and won the Personality Award among Latin Grammies. He still found time in 2004 to conceive and complete the album ”Eletracústico” and to teach at the University of São Paulo. His ability to do so many things at once without wearing himself out is due on the one hand to his creative flair and on the other to his inner equilibrium, unique among top pop-stars.



Author: Oliver Tepel

Bio

Gilberto Gil was born in Salvador, Bahia, on June 26, 1942 under the name of Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira. Since childhood Gil is fascinated by music. At the beginning of the 60´s he begins his career as singer-songwriter, 1963 he releases his first record. In the late 60´s the Tropicalia movement - Brasil´s answer to the back-then prevailing rock sounds - develops itself around Gil and Caetano Veloso. The movement replaces the Bossa Nova as important new musical style. After his imprisonment by Brasil´s military dictatorship in 1969 Gil spends the years 1970 - 1972 in British exile. In the 70´s he becomes one of Brasil´s pop scene´s biggest stars and experiments with various musical styles such as folk, rock, reggae, funk and African rhythms. He continues to be extremely successful and has received 11 golden and 5 platinum records since. In 1987 he starts a political career next to his musical one and was appointed commissioner for culture, since January 2003 he has been Brasil´s minister for culture. In 2005 he receives the inofficial nobel prize for music, the Polar Music Prize.

Works

CIDADE DO SALVADOR

Published Audio,
2006

GIL REVISITADO

Production / Performance,
2004
bRAZIL

GILBERTO GIL- THE EARLY YEARS

Published Audio,
2004
Wrass

ELECTROACUSTICO

Published Audio,
2004
Wea

REALCE

Published Audio,
2003
Brazil

KAYA N´GAN DAYA ao vivo

Published Audio,
2003
Warner Music

KAYA N´GAN DAYA

Published Audio,
2002
Warner Music

SÃO JOÃO VIVO

Published Audio,
2001
Warner Music

AS CANÇÕES DE "EU, TU, ELES"

Published Audio,
2000
Warner Music

GIL E MILTON

Published Audio,
2000
Gilberto Gil/ Milton Nascimento Warner Music

GiLuminoso - A Po.Ética do Ser

Published Audio,
1999
Editora UnB / SESC São Paulo / Imprensa Oficial

O SOL DE OSLO

Published Audio,
1998
Pau Brasil

QUANTA GENTE VEIO VER

Published Audio,
1998

QUANTA

Published Audio,
1997
Warner Music

GILBERTO GIL UNPLUGGED

Published Audio,
1994
Warner Music

TROPICÁLIA 2 - CAETANO VELOSO E GILBERTO GIL

Established,
1993
Caetono Veloso/ Gilberto Gil

PARABOLICAMARÁ

Published Audio,
1992
Wea Music

O ETERNO DEUS MU DANÇA

Published Audio,
1989
Wea Music

REALCE

Published Audio,
1987
Wea

SOY LOCO POR TI, AMÉRICA

Published Audio,
1987
Wea

GILBERTO GIL EM CONCERTO

Published Audio,
1987
Geléia Geral/ WEA

GILBERTO GIL AO VIVO EM TOKYO

Published Audio,
1987
Geléia Geral

DIA DORIM NOITE NEON

Published Audio,
1985
Wea

RAÇA HUMANA

Published Audio,
1984
Wea

EXTRA

Published Audio,
1983
Wea

UM BANDA UM

Published Audio,
1982
Wea

LUAR

Published Audio,
1981
Wea

NIGHTINGALE

Published Audio,
1979
Elektra/ WEA

GILBERTO GIL AO VIVO - MONTREUX INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL

Published Audio,
1978
Elektra/ WEA

ANTOLOGIA DO SAMBA-CHORO - GILBERTO GIL e GERMANO MATHIAS

Published Audio,
1978
Phonogramm

REFAVELA

Published Audio,
1977
Phonogram

REFESTANÇA - GILBERTO GIL e RITA LEE AO VIVO

Published Audio,
1977
Gilberto Gil / Rita Lee Som Livre

DOCES BÁRBAROS - CAETANO VELOSO, GILBERTO GIL, GAL COSTA e MARIA BETHÂNIA

Published Audio,
1976
Caetano Veloso / Gal Costa / Gilberto Gil / Maria Bethânia Phonogram

EXPRESSO 2222

Published Audio,
1972
Phonogram

BARRA 69 - CAETANO VELOSO E GILBERTO GIL AO VIVO

Published Audio,
1972
Pirata/ Phonogram

GILBERTO GIL

Published Audio,
1971
Famous/ Phonogram

GILBERTO GIL

Published Audio,
1969
Philips

GILBERTO GIL

Published Audio,
1968
Philips

LOUVAÇÃO

Published Audio,
1967
Philips

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Brasil: Copa da Cultura

(14 June 06 - 14 June 08)

IN TRANSIT 06

Dance - Performance - Music

(24 May 06 - 04 June 06)

Www

Homepage of Gilberto Gil