Brazilian music was born from a mixture of genres and styles, a characteristic that defines it to this very day
The Brazilian musical scene has always been shaped by on-going attempts to innovate, many of them inspired by a mixture of different genres. This musical miscegenation gave birth to Bossa Nova and to MPB in the last century, both of which incorporated elements of traditional music whilst allowing room for a multitude of other styles to blossom, affording composers enough freedom to experiment with all kinds of unusual arrangements.
As of the twenty-first century, Brazilian rhythms were strongly influenced by the international music scene. Artists such as Pitty, Fresno, NX Zero and Charlie Brown Jr. were some of the headline acts of the time, inspired by both Brazilian but particularly international personalities. The daily broadcast of MTV video clips on Brazilian television was a huge influence on such rising stars of the day.
And then Brazilian music fans began to embrace the emergence of two other musical styles that, even today, remain relatively popular. Sertanejo Universitário, which should not be confused with traditional Sertanejo music (which was always popular in hinterland communities, or the “Sertão”), won the hearts of youthful audiences; lyrics about ephemeral love, betrayal and longing helped popularise the movement and even gave the genre its own nickname: “sofrência”, or suffering.
The other style—very much alive and well today—is funk. Many subgenres of funk were once created but have since faded into obscurity, whilst others remain relevant in today’s music industry. One such extinct brand of funk, for example, would be “funk ostentação”, a strand that heralded the high life and, as the title suggests, flaunted the ostentatious display of luxury goods. With the rise of performers like Anitta, funk also became a prominent platform from which to confront “the system”, something that was always inherent to the genre; it just lacked a powerful enough voice. In addition, the lyrics that began to centre on female empowerment were of crucial importance and helped stir a shared desire for female independence.
Over the last three years, Brazilian culture has witnessed the emergence of another contemporary style, dubbed by the media as MPB Fofa, or Nova MPB. Several new artists from this burgeoning musical scene, with its melody and lyrics influenced by folk music, have shot to recent fame, such as Tiago Iorc, Clarice Falcão, Mallu Magalhães, Anavitória and Ana Vilela. One of the principal influences for this new take on Brazilian music, according to these trendsetters, is the British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
Without trepidation, these musicians take to the stage, often only accompanied by their guitars, and create harmonious rhythms that complement their soulful lyrics, which subsequently end up appealing to entire families, in other words, fans from all age groups.
Many of these artists have made their name thanks to online platforms like YouTube. These youngsters, tired of overly engineered musical production, are the true exponents of this rejuvenated Brazilian MPB and sing with simplicity, and a certain home-grown tenderness. The question that remains is how long this new wave will last; according to the “most played” lists on Spotify, it seems that this movement is here to stay for now.
In addition to this reconfiguration of Brazilian MPB, there have been a few rock bands that have emerged in recent years, some of which even draw parallels with the new sounds attributed to Brazilian Popular Music. Among them, Supercombo, Scalene, winner of the Latin Grammy for Best Portuguese Album, with Ether (2015); Baleia; E A Terra Nunca Me Pareceu Tão Distante, the quartet from São Paulo that has enjoyed considerable success at cultural events organised by associations like SESC; Selvagens à procura da Lei, a band that includes elements of Tropicalismo in their music; Carne Doce; and A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade.
Other Brazilian bands worthy of a mention are the Pasárgada Philharmonic, which includes some very postmodern sounds as part of their music (including chimes from WhatsApp) to create a uber-contemporary mix; Sara Não Tem Nome, a musical project that mixes dream pop and MPB with classic rock and indie; and As Bahias e a Cozinha Mineira, a group that was formed by Raquel and Assucena, both transsexuals, and Rafael Acerbi at São Paulo University in 2011, which uses lyrics to elucidate the position of women in society.
One important factor that has allowed many of these bands to achieve a certain degree of notoriety has been the popularisation of the internet, with a particular emphasis on social networks. While this does not automatically guarantee public recognition, the potential for connecting with people in the industry is huge. Tiago Iorc, for example, decided to sponsor and mentor the duo Anavitória after seeing a video of them posted online.
It is imperative that the industry continues to understand that one of the most powerful means of promoting and recognising new talent is the internet. Many talented people are able to draw attention to themselves on these social platforms that we’ve made so central to our daily lives—Facebook, Twitter or YouTube—but they often fade due to a lack of incentive. It’s through this virtual world that other movements, like the MPB Fofa, are able to thrive, and hence contribute exponentially to the musical culture of a country.