Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Chico Buarque de Hollanda

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Chico Buarque is a unanimity in Brazil: everyone in every generation, social class, or city will agree that he is good. If his work were in English he’d certainly be together with Bob Dylan and John Lennon in the world pantheon of song writers.

He is a unique musical artist. Coming from one of the best families in Brazil – his father Aurelio wrote the equivalent of the Brazilian Portuguese Thesaurus dictionary – he is from the generation that came right after the Bossa Nova founders, Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim. In their view, the pleasant country that they grew up in had only one problem: social inequality.

His songs have therefore always been politically engaged and he has been the hero of the Brazilian left ever since the sixties. When the military coup tightened in 1968, they didn’t know what to do with such a popular and talented figure coming from such an influential family. They resorted to exiling him and when they allowed him back they managed to continue to keep him quiet by censoring anything he wrote. He responded with two tactics: using a pseudonym: Julinho da Adelaide and writing songs about the female point of view of the world.

When compared to his peers, more specifically to Gilberto Gil and to Caetano Veloso, was never a “tropicalista” and therefore he never sold out; he never bothered with fashions, never needed a change in style to sell, and never left his beliefs in the urgency of social reform. In parallel to this coherence, what has always made him stand out has been the amazing quality of his lyrics and the great partnerships he struck with top musical talents.

Although he can’t be classified as a Sambista because of the complexity of his songs, he has been consistent in never going too far from Brazil musically speaking. Although understanding the lyrics is essential to appreciate Chico we highly recommend anyone interested in Brazilian music to get hold of whatever they can.

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One thought on “Chico Buarque de Hollanda

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