Blog July 3, 2012
Tropicalia: A New Documentary
Western listeners with even a cursory knowledge of Brazilian music are probably well aware of tropicalia, a genre-spanning form of psychedelia that blossomed for a few short years during the 60’s before being shut down by the military junta that took power at the decade's end. These political circumstances forced a number of the genre’s most prominent stars to an unhappy exile in London (Caetano in particular wrote several stunning songs about the pain of this process) while clamping down sharply on the expressive freedom of those who remained. While the movement’s freewheeling spirit shriveled under this type of repression, its revolutionary mixture of the instrumentation and style of rock with more traditional Brazilian forms had fundamentally reshaped the horizons of the country’s music, setting the stage for the next 30 years of MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira). Since it came to the wider attention of western listeners during the 90’s, Tropicalia has come to be understood as one of the most vital outcroppings of 60’s culture, producing a body of music nearly unmatched in its wild-eyed beauty and psychedelic intensity. Despite the sustained attention and increasing institutional approval that the tropicalia has received, it has taken until now for a serious documentary to be made about the scene and the figures that created it. Using hours of previously unseen footage from the London exile of musicians like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Velosa, and featuring new interviews with a number of the genre’s surviving stars, the film will take a look at the cultural moment as a whole, exploring both the connections that existed within a tight-nit musical vanguard and the larger milieu in which it functioned. Given the fact that most of the western exposure to tropicalia has come on a musician by musician (and album by album) basis, the possibility of gaining a better understanding of how tropicalia’s explosive developments fit into a broader context is absolutely fascinating. So far, the documentary has only been screened in Brazil. Let’s hope it comes to the states sometime soon! For now, you can check out a trailer. And see an interview with the movie’s director.