University Musical Society will continue this season’s tribute to Brazilian art with a performance by the internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso. Once controversial, yet always inspirational, Veloso’s music presents Brazil’s political and social struggles as well as richly emotional ballads that transcend the hardships of any nation.
Tonight, Veloso will perform from his newly released album, Noites do Norte (Nights of the North). With these songs, Veloso depicts some of the harsh realities of racism and slavery found throughout Brazil during an oppressive time of colonization. Nine musicians will occupy the stage, adding sounds of the cello, bass, guitar and five percussionists to Veloso’s energetic vocals. With his unique use of contemporary influences of rock, reggae and even rap, Veloso updates the traditional Brazilian samba and tango.
A man known for redefining Brazilian music with poetic lyrics and a modern flair, Veloso is also a controversial artist who feels strongly about social and political activism. From 1964 to 1987, Brazilians fell victim to a military dictatorship, one that Veloso openly criticized. As a young man in the 60s, Veloso joined other leftists in their attempt to inform and mobilize Brazil’s frustrated population. However, Veloso has taken his own unique approach through music. With the help of three already established Brazilian pop artists, including his sister Maria Bethania and friend Gilberto Gil, Veloso created a new sound as well as a new social movement called Tropicalismo. It reflected the growing rock era through loud electric guitars yet maintained Veloso’s poetic style. Furthermore, Tropicalismo represented the dissent of Brazilians throughout the country. It spoke of the need for change and strived for a new, independent, self-determined Brazil.
Veloso’s outspoken lyrics were considered “anti-government activity.” They were banned from radio stations and live TV concerts were censored. The ultimate move to prevent Veloso’s influence within Brazil came in 1968. After a live concert steeped with the usual anti-governmental drive, Veloso, age 28, and Gilberto Gil were arrested and forced into exile in London. However, this did not stifle the movement nor did it water down Veloso’s expressive political music. During his time in London, Veloso continued to compose, write songs and sustain the legacy of tropicalism. He continued to incorporate the edgy rock-and-roll flair of the time having been influenced by the Beatles and other artists.
Now an international celebrity, Veloso has made more than 30 recordings, written a book and published poems and song lyrics. He records, produces and performs with an intense commitment and seriousness rooted in the struggles of his native country. He takes risks, he reinvents his art, he makes changes and he is always expanding. What more can you ask from any artist?