As The Rio Olympics Get Underway, Alt.Latino Shares Its Love For Brazilian Music

Aug 5, 2016
Originally published on August 5, 2016 10:08 am

Friday marks the official launch of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where an array of Brazilian music is expected in the opening ceremonies. While all eyes are on Brazil for the next two weeks, we here at Alt.Latino get to share our own love affair with the country's vast musical heritage. My short conversation with David Greene on NPR's Morning Edition, at the audio link above, is just the tip of the iceberg — of both the music and our coverage.

Longtime listeners have heard new tracks from throughout Brazil sprinkled into our weekly coverage of Latin music. For those who are new to Alt.Latino and Brazilian music, we have collected a few of our past shows that put the spotlight on Brazil.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, it's here. Tonight is the official launch of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We're going to get an opening ceremony. And like most opening ceremonies at the Olympics, it's really going to put the spotlight on the culture of the host country. And in Brazil, that means music, lots of it. One person who knows that well is Felix Contreras.

He hosts the Alt. Latino podcast at NPR Music. Hey, Felix.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So you have put together a playlist for us to really get in the mood here as we're getting ready to listen to all this Brazilian music in the coming weeks.

CONTRERAS: I was given the task of an overview of Brazilian music in four minutes. So here we go.

GREENE: (Laughter) Here we go.

CONTRERAS: We don't have a lot of time to waste.

GREENE: Take it away. OK, not wasting time. Go, go, go.

CONTRERAS: It's one of the countries that really reflects a large African influence even now in the music.

GREENE: African influence...

CONTRERAS: African influence.

GREENE: ...That has come to South America.

CONTRERAS: Correct.

GREENE: OK.

CONTRERAS: It's part of the legacy of the slave trade. This song is the official song of the Olympics. It's called "Alma E Coracao."

GREENE: That's Portuguese, I would imagine.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, it means heart and soul.

GREENE: Cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALMA E CORACAO")

THIAGUINHO AND PROJOTA: (Singing in foreign language).

CONTRERAS: Now, with all eyes on Brazil, let's go back to a time when Brazil opened the eyes of the world, specifically 1959 with the film "Black Orpheus." It was the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice but put in a Brazilian favela with all Brazilian characters.

GREENE: Oh, nice.

CONTRERAS: And the soundtrack completely changed and opened up the world to Brazilian music back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUIZ BONFA SONG, "SAMBA DE ORLEU")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) La, la, la, la...

CONTRERAS: We're going to move into the 21st century now.

GREENE: OK.

CONTRERAS: Last year, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, they revisited some of the songs that they wrote when they were part of the Tropicalia movement of the 1960s. And that was a musical movement that challenged convention and the military dictatorship. So they put together a short little tour. And then they also released this live album.

And I'm not even going to attempt to destroy the Portuguese title.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAO JOAO, XANGO MENINO")

CAETANO VELOSO AND GILBERTO GIL: (Singing in foreign language).

GREENE: But this was a song - this was a political song against the dictatorship around 1960 in Brazil?

CONTRERAS: It's not this particular song, the music in general.

GREENE: OK.

CONTRERAS: It was one of those things where they would write lyrics that were critical of the way things were going. And eventually, it landed a lot of musicians in prison.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAO JOAO, XANGO MENINO")

VELOSO AND GIL: (Singing in foreign language).

GREENE: All right. You've done it for us. You've gotten us in the mood. My only last burning question, why in the world are we sitting in a studio in Washington, D.C., and not in Brazil sipping a caipirinha listening to this music?

CONTRERAS: Yeah.

GREENE: How did we not get on that boat?

CONTRERAS: I don't know, man. We've got to talk to somebody.

GREENE: I think we...

CONTRERAS: We sort of messed that one up.

GREENE: Thanks, Felix.

CONTRERAS: Thanks, David.

GREENE: Felix Contreras is the host of Alt. Latino, NPR Music's weekly podcast about Latino arts and culture is getting us in the mood to spend a lot of time thinking about Brazilian culture as the Olympics go on the next few weeks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.