Case Study: Tropicália

What may feel like relaxed, island grooves began as an anarchist, youthful movement in the rebellion of both authoritarianism and influence. Oswald de Andrade’s Manifesto Antropófago argued that Brazil’s greatest strength as a nation is its “‘history of ‘cannibalizing’ other cultures to create something entirely unique.” This cannibalistic movement, in the same way the movement would, per se, “eat Shakespeare,” was called Tropicália.

The movement’s keystone album, “Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis” released in 1968 by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, proved to be a protest of the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état – which, was in part, assisted by the United States government. The coup, part of the resulting destabilization of the Brazilian government, led to a military regime’s, one that aligned closely with the interests of the United States government, reign until 1985.

Scene from the 1964 coup d’etat in Brazil.

The artists, thinkers, protestors, and musicians that arose from the movement were both popular and avant-garde, entertaining and political, and Brazilian and inherently influenced by other cultures. The movement represented both a generation and a way of thought: one that led to imprisonment, banishment from Brazil, and “psychiatric care”; in some instances, most famously poet Torquato Neto, this “care” led to suicide.

Still from the film “Tropicalia” by director Marcelo Machado.

Today, the movement can be remembered fondly by those appreciative of the resulting music. Modern musical acts like Beck, Nelly Furtado, and of Montreal all, admittedly, were influenced by Tropicália. The thinkers, poets, and protesters are reminiscent of the more modern era in that the invigoration of the youth remains at the forefront of the mission. It is true in the 2016 election that while the youth vote remained at the exact same percentage of the total vote, ~19%, more of this “youth vote” in 2016 than in 2012 “supported a third-party candidate, did not vote for a presidential candidate, or specifically chose not to answer this poll question.” This invigoration, though it is not in support of one particular party or candidate, is, much like Tropicálismo, banded together in broader opposition. And today, much like Tropicálismo too, we see artistic and thoughtful opposition to one more direct opponent as the movement grows; i.e. Central Park’s “Julius Caesar,” Saturday Night Live’s Donald Trump sketches, or Father John Misty’s “Trump’s Private Pilot.”

So, to both commemorate and enjoy the era and movement’s musical and oppositional lineage – through the 1960s until now – here’s the best mix of both authentic Tropicália, its most popular songs, and the modern musicians it influenced.

Arthurious © 2018