For decades a champion of technology, the singer has invited the public to record and broadcast his music over the Internet when he performs at the club. He also will have a camera crew film the concert and later post it online. During his North American tour he will be promoting his latest album “Banda Larga Cordel” (“Broadband Cordel”), featuring plenty of MPB (musica popular brasileira).
Gil sings with his baritone or falsetto register, with lyrics and/or scat syllables. His lyrics are on subjects that range from philosophy to religion, folktales, and wordplay.Gil’s musical style incorporates a broad range of influences. The first music he was exposed to included The Beatles and street performers in various metropolitan areas of Bahia. During his first years as a musician, Gil performed primarily in a blend of traditional Brazilian styles with two-step rhythms, such as baião and samba. He states that “My first phase was one of traditional forms. Nothing experimental at all. Caetano [Veloso] and I followed in the tradition of Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro, combining samba with northeastern music.”
As one of the pioneers of Tropicalismo, influences from genres such as rock and punk have been pervasive in his recordings, as they have been in those of other stars of the period, including Caetano Veloso and Tom Zé. Gil’s interest in the blues-based music of rock pioneer Jimi Hendrix, in particular, has been described by Veloso as having “extremely important consequences for Brazilian music”.Veloso also noted the influence of Brazilian guitarist and singer Jorge Ben on Gil’s musical style, coupled with that of traditional music.After the height of Tropicalismo in the 1960s, Gil became increasingly interested in black culture, particularly in the Jamaican musical genre of reggae. He described the genre as “a form of democratizing, internationalizing, speaking a new language, a Heideggerian form of passing along fundamental messages”.
Visiting Lagos, Nigeria, in 1976, Gil met fellow musicians Fela Kuti and Stevie Wonder. He became inspired by African music and later integrated some of the styles he had heard in Africa, such as juju and highlife, into his own recordings.One of the most famous of these African-influenced records was the 1977 album Refavela, which included “No Norte da Saudade” (To the North of Sadness), a song heavily influenced by reggae. When Gil returned to Brazil after the visit, he focused on Afro-Brazilian culture, becoming a member of the Carnaval afoxé group Filhos de Gandhi.
Conversely, his 1980s musical repertoire presented an increased development of dance trends, such as disco and soul, as well as the previous incorporation of rock and punk.However, Gil says that his 1994 album Acoustic was not such a new direction, as he had previously performed unplugged with Caetano Veloso. He describes the method of playing as easier than other types of performance, as the energy of acoustic playing is simple and influenced by its roots. Gil has been criticized for a conflicting involvement in both authentic Brazilian music and the worldwide moneymaking arena. He has had to walk a fine line, simultaneously remaining true to traditional Bahian styles and engaging with commercial markets. Listeners in Bahia have been much more accepting of his blend of music styles, while those in southeast Brazil felt at odds with it.
I later learned when reading an article in the Union Tribune that Gil actually promotes the recording of his concerts by the audience for later upload to video websites such as Youtube. Gil embraces new technologies as a way to communicate and spread his message, which as Brazil’s Minister of Culture includes a sense of responsibility for Brazil’s music history. It seems that Gil is fully in tune with Remix Culture.
Lessig, just back from Brazil, describes an extraordinary performance/rally/event with Gilberto Gil. Gil is the Brazilian culture minister, a Free Software and Creative Commons activist, and an internationally renowned popstar who was imprisoned and then exiled for the music he perfomed in the sixties, and he blends all three personas seamlessly here in this amazing tale: