Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Mal Secreto

There are songs that are a like a magnifying glass to a period in time, Mal Secreto is one of them. It was written in the height of the censorship/dictatorship of the seventies by Jards Macale. It talks about the anguish of being bogged down by the regime and mal secreto (secret evil – not a perfect translation because mal could also mean an illness here) in this case represents his political conscience that is having to be concealed and is making him sick at the same time. This song is one of the many that scraped through the censors by using allegories to talk about what was happening.

The fact that this is hard core rock and roll for the standards of 1971/2 is also revealing; the genre would become an avenue for confronting the establishment and for youth rebellion in Brazil from that time onwards.

The parallels with Janis Joplin are undeniable, which also shines a light on the music business implications. Gal Costa, the singer, was together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil an Maria Betania part of the Tropicalia movement, a very complex mix of pop culture, left wing, national discovery and commercial interests which I will talk about in more depth in another article.

Caetano and Gil were in exile but Gal Costa had stayed back in Brazil and had moved from Bossa Nova to Rock (well… not entirely) which shocked the left but helped her sell well and fill up show houses with the newer generation of wealthy upper middle class kids. This unveils a complicity between protest and commerce. From those days onwards it would become clear that artist were much closer to products than to “voices”.

It is worth while mentioning Lanny the legendary guitarist who conducted the musical part of this song. He was Israeli and would end up loosing it completely because of drug abuse.

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