AGI Congress São Paulo


Zuza Homem de Mello


Zuza Homem de Mello is a musicologist, journalist, and music producer. He studied at the Tanglewood Jazz School, the Juilliard School of Music, and New York University, in the United States. For nearly 60 years he has dedicated himself to investigating and publicizing the best in popular music and jazz. He worked as a sound engineer at TV Record when it sponsored musicals and music festivals in the 1960s; he served as music critic at O Estado de São Paulo, produced shows and records, and curated events and festivals. He has written a number of books on Brazilian popular music, including Música popular brasileira cantada e contada (Melhoramentos, 1976), A canção no tempo, in two volumes, co-authored with Jairo Severiano (Editora 34, 1997-98), João Gilberto (Publifolha, 2001), A era dos festivais (Editora 34, 2003), Eis aqui os Bossa Nova (Martins Fontes, 2008), and Música com Z (Editora 34, 2014).

Talk: Brazilian Music

Up until the inauguration of Brasilia, all that the rest of the world knew about Brazilian popular music was more Cuban rhumba than Brazilian samba. Tico Tico, Carmen Miranda, and Brasil with a z were the musical emblems of that country “south of the border,” whose capital just might be Buenos Aires.

In the 1950s, in the country’s true capital, Rio de Janeiro, musicians, essayists, and composers were driven by the search for modernity in popular music. And in 1962 both Americans and Europeans got wind of a Brazilian musical form with a clear and catchy rhythm, delicate and sensual melodies, and creative harmonies, a breath of fresh air in the universal art of the song. This was Bossa Nova. Jazz musicians immediately felt the lightness of this tropical breeze and soon incorporated Tom Jobim songs and Brazilian rhythms into their repertoire. The key figure at the heart of this unmistakable form of samba was João Gilberto. It only took hearing him once to make a whole generation of youths change direction and embrace music as an art form they could believe in. By the end of the 1960s, this exceptional generation of formidable talents made Brazilian music so appealing as to draw international show-biz stars, such as Frank Sinatra, or inspire brief stays on Brazilian soil to drink directly from the source, as was the case with Pat Metheny. Popular music became Brazil’s greatest product – which, without going through customs, was exported to the whole world.

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