Brazil’s Tropicália Movement was the Soundtrack of Resistance to the Military Dictatorship

The Tropicalists built on quintessential musical traditions like samba and bossa nova to create an entirely new sound that captured the spirit of the political resistance of the late 1960s.

It’s 1968, and the world is in flux. All kinds of people, particularly students and other youth, are daring to dream of a different kind of world, one free of violence and poverty and oppression and defined instead by love, harmony, and creativity. Protests have rocked the streets everywhere from Chicago to Mexico City to Prague. Not content to placate bourgeois cultural attitudes, untold numbers of artists, musicians, and writers are catalyzing and harnessing this energy. They reach for the radical, using art as a weapon in the war that might bring an end to all wars. Any moment, it seems, might mark the end of the old world and the beginning of a new, liberated one—a hope that will prove sadly mistaken in the oncoming reactionary aftermath. 

It’s September in Rio de Janeiro, and the lineup of the Third International Popular Song Festival includes an upstart young musician named Caetano Veloso (with backing by the psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes—The Mutants). Caetano, as he will come to be known, hails from the northeastern state of Bahia, the birthplace of samba and other quintessential Brazilian musical traditions. More recently, he has been living in the cosmopolitan metropolis of São Paulo, making music alongside numerous other soon-to-be household names like Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Gilberto Gil. Inspired by the broad countercultural wave sweeping the world in the face of authoritarian and imperialist forces, these musicians seek to blow up all preconceptions regarding the form and role of popular music in Brazilian society, incorporating influences from the Beatles and fellow avant-garde musicians alongside more traditional Brazilian forms. Alongside the movement’s artistic goals of musical innovation, these musicians also see their music as a show of resistance against repressive forces, not least the military dictatorship that will govern Brazil until the mid-1980s. Drawn from the title of one of Caetano’s singles, the name of the new movement references Brazil’s famous climate: Tropicália.  

Tonight, Caetano and Os Mutantes plan to premiere a new song whose title Caetano has pilfered from a picture he saw of Paris taken during protests the preceding May. “Il est interdit d’interdire,” read a piece of graffiti, a line from a French comedian re-appropriated by the protesters into an affirmation of the right to free expression. Caetano has translated it into Portuguese: “É Proibido Proibir,” or “it’s forbidden to forbid.” His audience this evening is made up primarily of left-leaning Brazilian students, many of whom consider their attendance at such festivals to be a political act—a collective opportunity to influence their country’s contemporary cultural climate, particularly given the intense police repression that has greeted their more direct protests against the reigning military dictatorship. “At these events,” writes Caetano in his memoir Verdade Tropical (Tropical Truth), “one could encounter the more or less conscious illusion that this was where the problems of national affirmation, social justice, and advances in modernization were to be resolved.” 

Sixties counterculture icons are often associated with the era’s protests, so we might expect these students to be receptive to the new sounds of Tropicália. This is an expectation that Caetano shares even as he hopes at the same time to shock the audience. Though fiercely anti-dictatorial, the students are also wary of a fellow Brazilian potentially diluting their country’s rich musical styles with Western influences, which they view less as radical art and more as imperialist kitsch. Almost as soon as Caetano and Os Mutantes launch into their performance, the students begin to boo. Their jeers briefly drive the performers off the stage, before Gilberto Gil comes out to defend the artistic vision of his friends and collaborators, imploring the audience to listen. When the musicians come back out, the boos grow even louder, and the students begin throwing tomatoes and balls of paper to express their disapproval. Having intended to give a speech regarding recent instances of censorship by the dictatorship, Caetano switches course, shocked by what he perceives as the students’ blatant conservatism. He instead proceeds to shout a question that will ring through the musical history of South America’s largest country: “É que isso é a juventude que diz que quer tomar o poder?….Vocês não estão entendendo nada, nada, nada, absolutamente nada!” “Is this the youth that says it wants to take power? You are all understanding, nothing, nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing!” 

Legendary in Brazilian musical history, this story, which I have condensed slightly, is recounted in wonderful detail by Victoria Langland in her articleIl est interdit d’Interdire: The Transnational Experience of 1968 in Brazil.”1 Langland uses the anecdote to interrogate the Brazilian students’ relationship with, or else rupture from, other contemporaneous student movements, but the story is equally illustrative of the shocking power of the music itself, which combined traditional Brazilian styles with eclectic foreign and avant-garde influences to create a sound distinct from anything else, before or since. What was it about Tropicália that made the left-wing students boo against the same musicians who had marched in the streets with them against the dictatorship just months before—and who would go on to become targets of its wrath? Was it too imperialist in its influences, too apolitical in its concerns? Or was it perhaps too radical for its moment, so distinct and so subversive that it drew the ire of the musicians’ political allies and enemies alike? 

The evolution of Tropicália parallels the cultural evolution of its land of origin. Brazilian culture is a product of the fusion of numerous cultural influences—European (primarily Portuguese), indigenous, and African—into something all its own. In the 1920s, Brazilian poet and novelist Oswald de Andrade identified this cultural richness with the term antropofagismo, or “cannibalism,” which encapsulated the way that Brazilian culture had developed at the intersection of numerous cultures. Instead of fearing or retreating from this complexity, readers were encouraged by Andrade to embrace it. A key precursor to Tropicália, Andrade’s 1928 Manifesto Antropofago, or “Cannibalist Manifesto,” gave a name and a formal framework to something Brazilian musicians had always done—consume the work of various cultures and combine them in new and different ways. The difference was that the Tropicalists were cannibalizing their influences in a conscious manner, attempting to do deliberately what their cultural forebears had done more or less by circumstance. As Caetano writes in Tropical Truth, “the idea of cultural cannibalism fit the Tropicalists like a glove. We were ‘eating’ the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.” 

Beyond antropofagismo, it is impossible to understand Tropicália without first discussing samba and bossa nova, the two most quintessential Brazilian musical forms. Just like with any music, it’s difficult to describe samba with words alone. So instead, I implore you to queue up Gilberto Gil’s song “Aquele Abraço” (“That Embrace”) off his eponymous 1969 album (though numerous versions exist). Notice how the beat bounces, how Gil’s guitar interlocks with various percussion instruments to generate rhythms that are certainly not dissonant but also never seem to be quite in sync, how all the pieces coalesce into a special kind of rhythmic harmony. Furthermore, I defy you to listen to the track without dancing, or at least bobbing your shoulders and head back and forth. Now, check out Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s recording of “The Girl from Ipanema.” Notice how the rhythmic style is congruent to that of “Aquele Abraço,” yet this time much suaver and more subdued. This is the essence of samba and bossa nova, more than any words can describe. 

Originally used to describe any number of dances and songs popular in Bahia and other chiefly Afro-Brazilian areas of Northeastern Brazil, samba began to coalesce as a musical form at the turn of the 20th century in Rio de Janeiro. There, urban development projects forced many of the city’s poorest—and largely black—residents from their homes, and into favelas, the dense neighborhoods of often informal or improvised housing that have come to dominate the international conception of the city. Musicians would jam and dance together in the streets, ultimately leading to the synthesis of the music we now know as samba. By the middle of the 20th century, artists like João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos “Tom” Jobim sought to push the boundaries of samba by incorporating new influences, particularly American jazz. The result was bossa nova, a more musically complex but also more laid-back evolution of samba. The genre’s most famous song, “The Girl from Ipanema,” has become, to foreigners, practically synonymous with Brazil as a culture and nation. 

Though the new sounds of the Tropicalists would seem to stand in contrast to the easy-going bossa nova, it would be impossible to conceive of Tropicália without the pioneering of artists like Gilberto or Jobim, musicians who endeavored to mix various musical influences into something wholly original. Furthermore, samba—and by extension bossa nova, Tropicália, pagode, or any of the other numerous musical movements and styles that have blossomed in its wake—is an inherently collective form, one of collaboration, joint participation, and the synthesis of numerous seemingly disparate influences. This was the attitude that guided the Tropicalists in their search for a new sound. 

By the time Caetano and Os Mutantes were getting pelted with tomatoes and paper by the angry students, Brazilians had already been living for four years under a brutal right-wing dictatorship. The 1964 coup d’état, or golpe de estado, was a reaction to a perceived Communist threat by several political factions: primarily the Brazilian military, the Brazilian conservative political elite, and (surprise!) the U.S. State Department. After assuming the presidency in 1961, João “Jango” Goulart proposed a series of broadly left-wing policies: a literacy campaign based on the work of pioneering educator Paulo Freire, universal enfranchisement (at the time the franchise was restricted to literate Brazilians), and even land reform. Despite Goulart’s personal anticommunist stance and his class background as one of Brazil’s latifundiario, or large-scale landowners, Jango was threatening enough to both Brazil’s elite and the watchful eyes of the United States—who feared a repeat of the Cuban Revolution in Latin America’s largest country—to scare his political enemies into action. In The Jakarta Method, journalist Vincent Bevins explains the U.S. role in regime change. “There were no large or noisy interventions with Uncle Sam’s hand quite obviously pulling the strings,” Bevins writes. Instead, “The US carefully nurtured powerful anti-communist elements, and let them know they would have support if they were to act.” By 1964, a perfect storm of right-wing mobilization and imperial meddling yielded a military coup that deposed Goulart and established a new regime. The new government quickly made it clear that new elections were not on the docket (they would not happen again until the early 1980s). 

illustration by john biggs

The dictatorship did bring a degree of economic stability and prosperity to the country for a short time, peaking between 1970-72, but this “economic miracle,” as it is often called, came at a price. For one, the dictatorship’s economic model was predicated on anti-democratic centralization and a reliance on foreign capital, neither of which was conducive to the economic uplift of the average Brazilian, even if it did widen middle-class Brazilians’ access to things like color televisions or Super-8 cameras. As Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling write in their book Brazil: A Biography, “the [economic] programme was based on a strict stabilization policy: wage control [limiting the increase of wages], reduced minimum working age, elimination of ‘job security,’ repression of trade unions, and the prohibition of strikes.” In this way, the economic model worsened the existing concentration of wealth, a pattern that continues today in both Brazil and across the globe. As Caetano writes in Tropical Truth, “We saw the coup simply as a decision to halt the redress of the horrible social inequities in Brazil and, simultaneously, to sustain North American supremacy in the hemisphere….As we reached adolescence, my generation dreamed of inverting this brutal [economic] legacy.”

The military dictatorship relied on censorship, repression, and even torture to combat its challengers and keep a potentially uproarious population at bay. In keeping with the anti-communist effort that brought it to power, the regime directed its greatest wrath at insurgent leftists. They imprisoned and tortured numerous organizers and militants, including a Marxist guerrilla named Dilma Rousseff, who would later go on to serve as president of Brazil from 2011 to 2016 and commission an historic report detailing the dictatorship’s abuses.2 

It was under such political circumstances that Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, two Bahians transplanted to São Paulo, began making music together in the mid-1960s. They had both grown up surrounded by the music of Bahia, but they also devoured music from around the world once they settled in “the biggest city in South America”—to quote the English version of the song “Baby,” probably the Tropicalists’ biggest hit. Naturally, they were inspired by the practitioners of the then-ubiquitous bossa nova, particularly the virtuoso João Gilberto. But Caetano and Gil, as they are known colloquially throughout Brazil, were also excited by the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, particularly the Beatles. Furthermore, they were uncomfortable with exclusively playing into the tropes of traditional genres like samba merely to be accepted by mass audiences. Instead, they sought what Gil ironically termed a “universal sound,” wherein international pop music could be synthesized with more traditional Bahian styles, creating something distinctly Brazilian. In this way, they could challenge not only reigning Brazilian musical orthodoxies, but also the dictatorship. 

The two musicians debuted this “universal sound” at the late 1967 TV Record Festival in São Paulo, one of many televised musical extravaganzas where Brazilian artists performed and were judged in musical competitions as a means of finding broader exposure. Gil and Caetano respectively placed second and fourth in the festival, performing two of their now most celebrated compositions, “Domingo no Parque” (“Sunday in the Park”) and “Alegria, Alegria” (“Joy, Joy”). Both songs were unlike anything that had ever been heard in Brazil or any other country. Their avant-garde synthesis combined Brazilian rhythms with the burgeoning sounds of psychedelia being pioneered by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix across the ocean in London. Although “Alegria, Alegria” ultimately did well in the competition, the crowd had initially reacted with suspicion to Veloso’s appearance with an Argentine rock band called the Beat Boys, as the volume and jangliness of their electric instruments were out of place with the event’s more subdued atmosphere. The performance was a presage of his appearance with Os Mutantes a year later, where neither the audience nor the government would react nearly as nicely. 

As Caetano and Gil explored new approaches to musical expression, so too were numerous other Brazilian writers, musicians, and artists looking to both adapt and subvert traditional forms: Glauber Rocha, José Celso Martinez Corrêa, the Concrete poets, the Carioca Neo-Realists, and many others. One such contemporary was a visual artist named Hélio Oiticica, who considered one of his installations, “Tropicália” (an abstract depiction of a Rio favela and “an ironic take on the idea of Brazil as a tropical paradise,” according to the Tate), the “most cannibalistic work of Brazilian art.” It inspired the title to the opening track of Caetano Veloso’s eponymous debut album, which was released in 1968. 

Context-free, the song that lent its name to the musical movement is very hard to parse, particularly for non-Brazilians like me. On one hand, the lyrics seem to be nonsense, a collection of references to various cultural landmarks of Brazil like Bahia’s famous lighthouses or the holiday Carnaval. Numerous other “lyrics” are little more than disparate sounds. Christopher Dunn includes helpful context in his book Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture

Veloso’s song-manifesto….is the most outstanding example of allegorical representation in Brazilian song….The lyrics of “Tropicália” form a fragmentary montage of events, emblems, popular sayings, and musical and literary citations. Although unnamed, the most immediate referent in the song is [the capital city] Brasília, the monument to high modernist architecture and developmental modernization that became the political and administrative center of the military regime after 1964. “Tropicália” alludes to the trajectory of Brasília from a utopian symbol of national progress to a dystopian allegory of the failure of a democratic modernity in Brazil.

This nightmarish odyssey is accompanied by backing music that is just as reliant on Beatles-esque psychedelic orchestration as it is on typical samba rhythm. The politics of the music is subtle, concealed behind layers of noise and allusion. The track set the tone for the incipient movement, but it was only the beginning, a herald of what was to come.

The musical movement coalesced with the appearance of the album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis. Recorded in São Paulo in May 1968 and released two months later, the record was expressly intended as a manifesto of the nascent musical movement and thus remains the collection of songs that best captures the movement’s style and idiosyncrasies. The album cover features the record’s musical personnel arranged together in elaborate dress, a clear and intentional reference to the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was Brazil’s first “concept album,” where the musical arrangements, lyrics, album art, and text (in the form of a facetious movie script on the album’s back cover) were all meant to be taken as one artwork, disparate pieces of the same whole. 

The album demonstrates how, for the Tropicalists, there wasn’t any one way to make art. Instead, they leaned on Oswald de Andrade’s theories of cultural cannibalism. Their work was ironic, playful, self-effacing, and allegorical. Unwilling to defer to any imposed artistic visions, the Tropicalists could be seen as critically suspicious of all forms of social authority, including both right- and left-wing prescriptions of cultural authenticity. Lyrics on tracks like “Bat Macumba” showed the influence of the Neo-Concretists, their poetic contemporaries. “Geleia Geral” (“General Jelly”) features driving rock ‘n’ roll guitar and bluesy organ that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rolling Stones record. “Hino do Senhor Do Bonfim” (“Hymn of the Lord of Bonfim”) is a religious song from the 1920s, recorded here likely with more caustic irony than sacred reverence. “Baby” is a straight up pop song—except for its orchestral arrangement that rivals even “Eleanor Rigby.” As Caetano Veloso explained, “Instead of working as a group in order to develop a homogenous sound that would define a new style, we preferred to utilize several recognizable sounds from commercial music, making the arrangements an independent element that would clarify the song, but also clash with it.”  

The music was political, too, though not in a manner as obvious as much of the music we often associate with the 1960s counterculture, like Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” or Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Almost Cut My Hair.” Instead, the political messaging was more subtle. The song “Enquanto Seu Lobo Não Vem” (“While Your Wolf Doesn’t Come”), for example, name-checks not a contemporaneous Brazilian politician but “Presidente [Getúlio] Vargas,” a sometimes president, sometimes dictator of Brazil who suppressed a Communist revolution in the 1930s before later re-styling himself a broadly left-wing populist. With a suggestion that the singer and his interlocutor take a walk through the “Estados Unidos do Brasil” (“the United States of Brazil”) amidst a soundtrack of “os clarins da banda militar” (“the bugles of the military band”), the song’s political critique is at once both obscure and unmistakable to someone looking for it. 

Critic Andy Beta writes further in Pitchfork:

Even amid the whimsy of the Tropicalistas, the local air of violence began to creep into their lyrics. Gil’s ‘Miserere Nóbis’ tucked in references to stains of wine and blood and ends with gunshots and booming cannons. Dulcet bossa nova singer Gal Costa, later an adult contemporary MPB [música popular brasileira, or Brazilian pop music] superstar, grew wilder and more psychedelic, roaring out a warning on ‘Divino Maravilhoso’ about paying attention to the blood on the ground.

No, the lyrics were not always explicitly political—and yet, in their sly references to the dictatorship’s ongoing violence, they were. 

The album’s centerpiece is its quasi-title track, “Panis et Circensis,” written by Caetano and Gil and recorded by Os Mutantes. A reference to a line from the Roman poet Juvenal and a clear slight towards the dictatorship, the phrase is Latin for “bread and circuses,” a common pithy analysis about the way repressive regimes use diversions and entertainments instead of meaningful governance in order to achieve public approval. The song begins in a spacey chamber-pop groove before a record scratch slow-down halfway through, which gives way to distorted guitar riffs, driving bass, and the increasingly accelerating harmony vocals, all backed by a trumpet that sounds like “Penny Lane” on amphetamines. Then it all comes crashing down, almost literally, with the sound effect of breaking dishes. Though strange like so much of the Tropicalists’ poetry, the lyrics are easily interpreted as a critique of the mores and excesses of the Brazilian upper classes of the time, who “let loose tigers and lions in the backyard” while “the people in the dining room / are busy living and dying.” Beyond its merit as a political statement, it would not be remiss to describe “Panis et Circensis” as the most psychedelic song ever recorded. 

Gil and Caetano (particularly the latter) are often portrayed as the foci of the Tropicalist movement, and not without cause, considering their outsized roles as its most prolific composers. The psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes were probably the next most significant to the movement. Though later albums featured a more diverse array of musicians, the core trio of Sérgio Dias (guitar), Arnaldo Baptista (bass and keyboards), and Rita Lee (vocals) defined much of the Tropicalists’ sound: on Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis, on their own records, and the “solo” releases of people like Gilberto Gil, who used the band on his debut album just as Caetano did for his performance of “É Proibido Proibir.” Tom Zé was the movement’s mad genius, the most experimental of the group both then and since. Gal Costa and Nara Leão were Tropicália’s powerhouse vocalists who could just as easily sing bossa nova as they could imitate blues singers like Etta James. Poets Torquato Neto and José Carlos Capinan brought a degree of literary sophistication and experimentation to the musical project. Rogério Duprat was the arranger behind the scenes, the George Martin figure who could assemble the puzzle pieces into a grand picture. Each of the Tropicalists were individually magnificent; none of them were as strong alone as they were together. Their collaborative approach mirrored the collective creativity of samba,as well as the leftist orientation toward collectivism and solidarity over individualism and competition. 

The displeasure Brazil’s left-wing students expressed over the Tropicalists’ perceived cultural sacrilege paled in comparison to the ire the musicians drew from Brazil’s military dictatorship. Not only were the musicians critical of the regime, they echoed the attitudes of so many other counter-cultural figures of the moment—any of the performers at Woodstock in 1969 come to mind—in advocating a socially liberated society, one that might be more accepting of recreational drug use and differences in sexuality and gender. As Caetano summed up in Tropical Truth, “Everything was heightened by the instinctive rejection of the military dictatorship, which seemed to unify the whole of the artistic class around a common objective: to oppose it.”

In October of ’68, not long after the riot at the music festival, Veloso, Gil, and Os Mutantes played a concert in Rio where they hung a banner designed by Hélio Oiticica. The banner featured the image of Cara de Cavalo (Horse Face), a favela gangster who had been slain by the police in 1964. Underneath the image was the dark slogan “Seja marginal, seja herói”—“be marginal, be a hero.” (Caetano noted in Tropical Truth that the banner was merely “one element among the show’s many preposterous and shocking touches” and that Oiticica had an interest in “figures who seemed to respond with violence to Brazil’s unbelievable social disparities.”) Agents of the military regime’s Department of Public Order publicly denounced the musicians and their subversive performance, and Randal Juliano, an influential local right-wing media personality, was outraged enough about the event that he called upon the military to make an example out of the musicians. In December, both Caetano and Gil were arrested and kept in confinement, first in a military prison and then under house arrest in the city of Salvador, before they left Brazil at the beginning of 1969 for a two-and-a-half-year exile in London. Though the Tropicalists all continued making music both at home and abroad, Caetano and Gil’s exile brought an end to Tropicália as a cohesive musical movement. 

Though recorded by a completely different group of people, the album Acabou Chorare, released in 1972 by the Novos Baianos, is probably the last-high profile musical release that you might consider properly Tropicalist in its orientation and style. Recorded in a bohemian context—the musicians lived together and spent most of their time jamming and playing soccer—the album boasts a lively mix of Brazilian styles (particularly samba) with more rock-oriented music, with guitarist Pepeu Gomes imitating Jimi Hendrix. And the group’s mentor and close friend? João Gilberto, the titan of bossa nova who now turned his attention to mentoring a new generation of artists. Though the album was not expressly political in its lyrical content, it was certainly a flash of joy—the Portuguese-Italian title translates to “the crying is over”—amidst the harshness of the reigning dictatorship.  

By the time Caetano and Gil returned to Brazil in 1972, Tropicália was largely finished as a musical movement. Most of its adherents, though, went on to have long and generally successful musical careers. (Tom Zé remained more obscure until a revival of interest in his work in the 1990s.) Although most of this subsequent output is a far cry from their psychedelic samba beginnings, all the artists retained the same attitude of experimentation and collaboration throughout the rest of their careers. The most ironic shift came not in their music but in their status in Brazilian society: nearly every Tropicalist is now feted as a national cultural icon, especially Caetano and Gil. In 1997, Caetano released his memoir, which raised his profile from popular singer to public intellectual, while Gil was appointed to run the Ministry of Culture after the 2002 election of Lula da Silva, the social democrat and former trade unionist. Upon his appointment, Gil mused, “I’ve gone from being the stone thrower to the glass.”3He was, at the time, one of only a handful of Afro-Brazilians ever to serve in the nation’s cabinet.

In the introduction to his memoir, Caetano Veloso writes, “My intention in this book is to tell and interpret the adventure of a creative impulse that emerged within Brazilian pop music in the second half of the sixties, whose protagonists—among them the narrator—wanted the freedom to move beyond the automatic ties with the Left and at the same time to account for the visceral rebellion against the abysmal disparities that tear a people asunder, even as that people remains singular and charming.” What are we to do with this apparent contradiction, one wherein the musician both affirms a distance from—yet asserts a clear congruence with—the broad rebellion of the left, just as he did decades ago on that stage in Rio? 

Perhaps to resolve this tension, we can look to the strengths of the musical movement itself. Any art worthy of its name shouldn’t pacify, assuage, or otherwise calm us down. Instead, truly great art shocks us, shakes us up, grabs us by the shoulders, and says, “Pay attention! Things are not, or don’t have to be, as they are or as they seem.” What endures about the Tropicalist movement—just as much as Gal Costa’s wails or Sergio Dias’s guitar riffs or even Caetano and Gil’s lyrics—is the explosive attitude they all brought to their art. From this approach neither Brazil’s leftist students—somewhat narrow-minded in their cultural attitudes—nor the dictatorship that ruled them were safe. Now, more than 50 years later, we should turn to music like Tropicália as much as ever. On the left, we have an enduring commitment to political resistance and freedom of artistic expression, along with an understanding of art as critical to any project of resistance. We should thus embrace the unorthodox and the new and the different, understanding them not only as means for social change but also a part of its end. If we don’t, how can we hope to earn the right to call ourselves radicals? 

  1. Before reading Langland’s excellent article, I learned about this story in the Tropicália section of the museum Cidade da Música da Bahia in Salvador, Bahia. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are ever in the city. 

  2. At the behest of various right-wing elements in the Brazilian government and in the context of a massive government corruption scandal called Operation Car Wash, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a process that one international tribunal declared to be a coup (what has been called “law-fare” as opposed to military force). Future President Jair Bolsonaro, then a representative, vocally cast his vote for impeachment in homage to the military colonel who conducted the torture of leftists like Rousseff. 

  3. I once observed a very heated conversation between two Brazilian leftists about the music of the Tropicalists. One asserted that their music was great but the artists worthless because they weren’t sufficiently engaged in political activity. The other disagreed, citing Gil and Caetano’s exile (“they must have had such a tough time making music in London,” she said) and their musical contributions, which she called a radical political action in and of itself. 

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