Gilberto Gil, the most Baiano of Baianos singer and composer, has again
become all the rage these days. He has just joined the WEB revolution, parking his
very tasteful homepage at http://www.gilbertogil.com.br and is starting a new tour
of the world. People in the US have reason for complaining, however. He is
limiting appearances here to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Among his latest
projects there is also a book coming out very soon.
Gil continues to fascinate all of us, always the cosmic musician from Bahia, the magical pied piper of
several generations, the student, the teacher, the provacateur, the gentle ambassador of the music goddess, with the power
to incite dance in all who hear his sweetly delivered message and are forever mesmerized by it. The great Brazilian
author Jorge Amado calls him the voice of Bahia, his music “feeding the dreams and hopes of the people”.
Gilberto Gil’s career actually began in business management in São Paulo, after graduating from the University
of Bahia’s School of Business Administration. In his twenty’s however, having spent most of his years to learning
and composing music, he decided to make it a way of life — very fortunate for all of us!
Gil’s fascination with João Gilberto’s bossa nova style convinced him to learn to play guitar. Other musical
influences were Dorival Caymmi “his Guru”, and later the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix, and others of
the 60’s. His music went through a transformation and emerged as part of the
Tropicalismo Movement. This in turn played a large cultural role
in Brazilian film, theatre and television programs of the time. Beyond
musical and aesthetic innovations, this movement assimilated important
social issues, having a decisive influence on lifestyles of Brazilian
youth, and reflecting the boldness and ideas of its creators like Gil,
Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Maria Bethania.
During the military regime that ruled Brazil for two decades, Gil’s opposition resulted in his exile to London in
1969. His song “Aquele Abraço”, recorded before leaving, soared to the top of the charts and remains one of the
most successful hits of the music industry. While in England, he also made some recordings and performed in Europe
and New York.
Returning to Brazil in 1972, he brought a bag full of recording and new songs. By 1979, he had a list of 10 LP’s,
and added another 9 during the 80’s. He also participated in the production of
Doces Barbaros (Sweet Barbarians) which reunited the giants of the
Tropicalismo Movement, yielding a live album and film in 1976. His foreign
recordings include Gilberto Gil in London (1971),
Nightingale (USA — 1977) and Alive (Tokyo — 1987). He continues to
tour internationally throughout Europe, the U. S., Africa and Japan. Gil and Caetano Veloso resurrected the magic of
their early years together in the 1994 international tour of “Tropicalia II”.
Since 1987, Gil has also included political and ecological engagements in his schedule. He is a multi-faceted
person, with interests in many areas of socio-political issues. In 1990 he was decorated Knight of Arts & Letters by
France’s Minister of Culture, and the same year in Brazil he was awarded the Shell prize for overall career excellence.
Adding to his list of commitments, he is also city councilor of Bahia’s capital, Salvador. Gil’s concerns regarding Brazil
are well-known: he has become a spokesman for many social issues regarding Brazil’s emergence from third-world
status into a position of credible player among the world’s nations.
Born in Salvador, in the state of Bahia in 1942, Gilberto Gil spent his childhood in the countryside, listening to a
wide scope of musical genres from Bach and Beethoven to Bob Nelson, and was very influenced by Luiz Gonzaga,
“the King” of northeast
Baião rhythym music. When he was 9 years old he asked his mother for an accordion, as he
was also a great fan of Sivuca, and still talks of some day going back to his accordion.
Always the student, Gil has recently become fascinated by the computer, and with the help of his wife Flora, even
has a Web page. His latest project is a book to be published in August of this year,
Gilberto Gil — All the Words, an anthology of his 32 years in the music profession, along with his own commentary. Most recently Gil appeared on
May cover of Vogue Brasil, along with a 30-page article and great photos.
As part of Gil’s world tour this summer, he will be appearing at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco on June 22 and
at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on June 23.