Brazil’s footballing prowess is hardly a secret. As the country of birth for such revered players as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Garrincha and a certain Pelé, it’s not particularly surprising that it is also the most successful World Cup nation ever. It has also produced its fair share of musical legends over the years – and we’re taking a look at a handful of these below…
1962 saw the Brazilian national team winning their second World Cup in a row, beating Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional. It had been a physical – at times ugly - tournament, which led to Pelé picking up an injury in the group stages – but Garrincha and Vavá each produced four goals to lead Brazil to their second World Cup victory.
It was around this time that Brazilian music was beginning to get noticed around the world too. In 1962 Pery Ribeiro recorded the original version of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, which went on to become an international hit when it was released by João Gilberto and Stan Getz on their 1964 Grammy Award-winning album Getz/Gilberto - still one of the most successful and critically-acclaimed Brazilian albums of all time.
The 1966 World Cup in England saw Brazil crashing out in the group stages amid internal turmoil and the increasingly cynical physicality of the competition, which again caused Pelé to retire from the tournament early. The England team, meanwhile, were in fine form under Alf Ramsey and took full advantage of Brazil’s worst ever World Cup performance, going on to win the competition in front of almost 100,000 fans at Wembley Stadium on 30th July.
At the same time, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 were releasing their first album on Herb Alpert‘s A&M Records. By the mid-Sixties the música popular brasileira scene was starting to gather momentum, with the likes of Jorge Ben and Chico Buarque looking to traditional Brazilian music more and more for inspiration. On Herb Alpert Presents…, Mendes gave this typically Brazilian sound an international edge. Featuring the vocal talents of the American-born Lani Hall (the only non-Brazilian member of the group) and sung partly in English, it is now best known for its opening track ‘Mas Que Nada’, which has since become something of a World Cup anthem. Although it was originally released a couple of years earlier by Jorge Ben, and has since been covered by the Black Eyed Peas and countless others, it is Mendes’ version that remains the favourite.
Mexico ‘70 saw the Brazilian team at its zenith. Featuring the likes of Pelé, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Tostão, it is widely regarded to be one of the best ever seen, winning not only every game in the tournament, but every one of the qualifying matches as well. It was Brazil’s third World Cup victory, resulting in them keeping the famous Jules Rimet trophy for good.
However, back home the picture wasn’t so rosy. Brazil was becoming an increasingly repressive state under Emílio Médici’s military dictatorship, with torture now fairly commonplace and media censorship tightening. It was around this time that the tropicália movement began making waves, not only in Brazil but throughout South America as well. Mixing traditional Brazilian music with American and European rock ’n’ roll, tropicália’s politically charged undertones were regarded with suspicion by Médici’s government. Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (two of Brazil’s biggest stars and the driving forces behind the movement) were imprisoned, while other key figures were said to have been subjected to torture. It was this rather bleak backdrop that made the vibrant tropicália scene all the more crucial. Its musical manifesto was laid out with Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis, a 1968 collaboration between Gil, Veloso and many other Brazilian musicians, which is considered by many to be one of the most essential Brazilian albums of all time.
The turn of the millennium saw a return to form for Brazilian football following a relatively disappointing spell on the world stage throughout the previous few decades. With Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho providing the firepower (scoring 15 goals between them) Brazil lifted the World Cup trophy for the fifth time at the 2002 competition in South Korea and Japan.
Brazilian music was also seeing a resurgence in popularity at this time. Seu Jorge had already released his debut album in Brazil in 2001 but, following his appearance in Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 film City Of God, it was given an international release under the name Carolina. Partly thanks to his acting career (he also appeared in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) he has gone on to become one of the best-known modern Brazilian musicians and a stalwart of the Brazilian samba renaissance.
By 2006 Rivaldo was no longer part of the team, and Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were past their best. Without the Three ‘R’s, Seleção Brasileira was a shadow of what it had been, and was knocked out by the Netherlands in the quarter finals courtesy of two second half Wesley Sneijder strikes.
But by the mid-Noughties Brazilian music was taking its place on the world stage once again, becoming more international-sounding and outward-looking than ever before. One band who encompassed this more than any other were CSS, who mixed baile funk’s sexual energy with a dayglo DIY dance-punk ethos to create a sweaty and outrageously cool sound that could (and still can) be heard in hipster hangouts from Rio to New York, London and beyond.
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Want to discover more brilliant Brazilian music? Check out the playlist below to dig a little deeper…
Of course, there are plenty more great musical nations competing at this year’s World Cup. Read our special World Cup Shortcut Series features on France and Germany too!