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Art and Music


The Week Modern Art Week of 1922, an artistic symposium held in the city of São Paulo, showed that Brazilian musicians, painters, and writers were ready to forge a new and strong national identity.
Although he was born in Rio de Janeiro, Heitor Villa-Lobos, who was to become Brazil’s foremost classic composer, was drawn toward Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian themes. By no means, however, all of his work is dominated by percussion rhythms. Much of it is subtle and elusive, such as the Bachianas Brasileiras number 5.
The modernist movement set off a flood of talented painters. The foremost among them was Candido Portinari. An immensely versatile figure, Portinari painted most often in a stylized form of realism that conferred majesty even on everyday subjects. His images - coffee plantations and peasants in the northeast, for example – were unmistakably Brazilian.


The 1930’s and 1940’s saw a succession of vigorous novels and poems on Brazilian folk and regional themes. Brazil’s best known post-war novelist is Jorge Amado, whose "Gabriela, clove and cinnamon" and "Dona Flor and her two husbands" take a humorous view of the rural establishment’s pretensions.
But nowhere is the strength of Brazilian folk culture more obvious than in the field of popular music, which has become the country’s best known art form internationally. African influences predominate in the peculiarly Brazilian shapes and rhythms of the samba.
The samba is simply a dance in two-part time, but it is what happens to the basics that count. The secret of its fascination lies in the syncopations (stressing the off beats), the deviations from the norm. There are innumerable varieties of the urban as well the rural samba – Bossa Nova is one of them.
At Carnival time, whether in Salvador, Rio or elsewhere, there is a samba for everything. The music, the dances, and the costumes are constantly updated and refurbished, adding excitement to the existing formulas.
These days, the samba struggles to maintain its popularity in the face of rock music. However, the sound of Brazilian rock has itself been influenced by the samba tradition, since Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, together with the other participants of the Tropicalist Movement, started composing and singing rock songs grafted on the rootstock of Brazilian music.
Nothing can drown the Brazilians’ love of music, but in the late 20th century they have developed two competing passions: tv soap operas and soccer. Brazil now has one of the largest television networks in the world. The most popular programs are the soap operas of extraordinarily high quality produced in Rio, São Paulo, and many other cities. A number of them have been broadcasted abroad.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.