Prentiss Riddle: Music

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A bevy of Brazilian music books

My bookshelf is groaning with books about Brazil, several about Brazilian music. I've started some and finished none -- yet.

Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil by Caetano Veloso is part memoir, part music criticism, part social commentary. It might be maddening to those who want a straightforward structure but is well worth it if you can just let the influential singer speak his mind. Between this book and my finally starting to pay attention to his lyrics, I'm seeing a whole new side to his music. For instance, I knew his gorgeous song "Terra" only by its melody; I didn't know that its text is about his experience seeing the first pictures taken of the earth from space while sitting in a prison cell where he was detained by the Brazilian dictatorship. And Caetano's observations on Brazilian music, which has always been rooted in the local while having ears open to the world, lead to insights into the odd mirror relationship between Brazil and the US -- both vast countries of immense resources, populated by extravagantly diverse waves of immigrants, and yet with such different outcomes.

Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World by Ruy Castro is a colorful and meticulously detailed account of the rise of bossa nova, the jazz-inflected Brazilian musical style which stormed the world in the early 60's and continues to inform so much Brazilian music today. Fascinating but frustrating: it should come with a six-CD box set, or better yet get the full PBS/BBC music documentary treatment. I'm impressed by the natural and witty tone of the translation, despite the very Brazilian subject matter. It's aided by an introduction for US readers which puts bossa nova in its proper Brazilian historical context, a setting very different from the "space age bachelor pad music" niche it assumed on its arrival in North America.

Tropical Truth Bossa Nova Samba Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song

Two I haven't even cracked yet are Samba by Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, about the archetypal Brazilian musical form at the root of so much else; and Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB, 1965-1985 by UT alum Charles Perrone on the work of Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento.

music 2003.12.18 link