Gilberto Gil — musician, Tropicalista, politician, activist and even former exile — will be making a stop at Hill Auditorium on Nov. 16 for his North American tour. Gil is promoting his first album since 2010, Concerto de cordas & máquinas de ritmo, which was released early last month.
This is the Brazilian pop star’s 52nd album, and his discography includes five platinum albums and 12 gold records. Gil has won seven Grammy Awards during a career spanning nearly 50 years, the most recent for 2005's Eletracústico.
Gil turned 70 in June, but there’s no sign of him slowing down yet. Gil remains the artist that he was in the 1960s, ’70s and so on, sponging up cultural influences and infusing them into his experimental and constantly changing style of music.
“I wouldn’t put him under any single label,” said Christi-Anne Castro, a Musicology professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance who will be speaking at an Arts & Eats event prior to the performance. “It’s better to call him a great musical innovator … you couldn’t give him a single genre,” she said of Gil.
Gil is perhaps most famous for his participation with the Tropicália movement that developed during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the late 1960s and emphasized the fusion of Brazilian culture and other foreign influences. At a time when everyone was rejecting cultural imperialism in favor of exclusively traditional Brazilian music, Gil and his partner Caetano Veloso, were integrating The Beatles and other electronic rock artists into local styles like forró.
“They were very much counterculture and counter-dictatorship,” said Gil’s childhood friend Bebete Martins, who is head of the University’s Brazil Initiative at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
“But they refused to fit into the mold of the protest music,” Martins said. “They thought music and arts and culture should be open to everything. They sent a message: Please bring the electronic music.”
In 1969, the Tropicália movement came to an end when the Brazilian government exiled Gil and Veloso. Gil spent two and a half years in London, where he was exposed to new musical influences. He immersed himself in the city’s rock scene, playing with Pink Floyd and producing a solo album in English.
Gil was also introduced to reggae, a genre that severely influenced his music. He would later go on to perform with Jimmy Cliff and cover Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.”
Gil was appointed Brazil’s Minister of Culture in 2003. During his tenure, he applied a mentality of cultural expansiveness and artistic open-mindedness that he uses in his own music.
“He wanted to help specific cultural initiatives not in the main stream,” Martins said. “(The) little manifestations of cultural traditions in the very remote areas of Brazil.”
Gil resigned from his government post in 2008 to focus solely on making music. Today, he tours and adds to an oeuvre that is already diverse and influential.
“It’s a great opportunity to see someone so talented and so diverse in his work,” Martins said of Gil’s appeal to the student body. “We believe in freedom. We want to be independent. We want to learn about different things. We are curious. We are eager to experience new things and learn more. That’s what you want (out of a performance).”
“He’s not Lady Gaga, but I have to say, he could very easily perform with Lady Gaga. And it would be great,” Martins added.