I have been actively learning Brazilian music for roughly 10 years now: Samba, Bossa Nova, MBP, and Brazilian Country Music. My study of Brazilian music starts at the beginning of the 60’s which happened to also be the beginning of Brazil’s music industry: which was starting to reach a global audience due to the legendary work of Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Even though, I realized there are more influential Brazilian musicians that I will discover, however for beginners I have put together a list of ten artists you should add to your music collection.
1. Jorge Ben Jor – I discovered Jorge Ben while I was living in my car back in 2008 after losing everything due to the banking crash. During this period of my Jorge Ben’s music always seem to touch me at the core of my soul and occasionally would bring a tear to my eyes. I love his passionate singing and his signature rhythm guitar playing. I wish America had more recordings of Jorge Ben available on vinyl.
2. Wilson Simonal – I became interested in the talents of Wilson Simonal through a song he recorded in 1967 called “Nem Vem Que Nao Tem.” I was taken by his loungy swagger style and his ability to really sing anything placed in front of him. My respect increased when I saw a video of Wilson Simonal and Sarah Vaughan duetting on the classic “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” Plus, anyone that can duet with Sarah Vaughan gets extra points in my book for sheer ability and artistry.
3. Elis Regina – A very versatile singer, with great diction and pronunciation. I listen to Elis Regina because i love her tone and delivery. Elis Regina’s music is also helpful with strengthening my understanding of the Portuguese language. If Brazil, had a version of Barbra Streisand it would definitely would be Elis Regina.
4. Joao Gilberto – Back in 1994, I was at an afternoon social with a bunch of friend, when this sophisticated and warm sound began to come through the speakers and being to captivate my ears and soul . The sound I was hearing was Bossa Nova: the very first style of Brazilian music I encountered.
5. Astrud Gilberto – The ex-wife of Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto made a name for herself as the voice of “The Girl From Ipanema” from the mid sixties. Gilberto’s soft, sophisticated and simple vocal style set the standard for female Bossa Nova singers.
6. Elza Soares – While listening to multiple Brazilian music compilations, I kept coming across the name Elza Soares and the song that catch my attention was her sassy version of Mas Que Nada by the legendary Jorge Ben. Even though Elza Soares is a great singer known to many as The Queen Of Samba, it is her vibrant personality: that reminds me of Patti Labelle and Celia Cruz: that stands out the most to me.
7. Trio Mocoto – I was introduced to Trio Mocoto through their association with Jorge Ben; they were his backing band during the early seventies. Through more research, I also learned that Trio Mocoto was also responsible for forming the musical style called Samba Rock, Samba Soul.
8. Caetano Veloso – Mr. Veloso is probably the most recognized Brazilian singer on an international platform. I was told by my Brazilian friends that Caetano Veloso is regarded as the Frank Sinatra of Brazil.
9. Milton Nascimento – What pulled me towards the work of Milton Nascimento, actually the jazz musician Sarah Vaughan who recorded with Sergio Mendes, an album of Brazilian songs. However, after listening to his music from the seventies I believe it was his amazing falsetto and tonal range is true essence of Mr. Nascimento gift.
10. Rita Lee – I’m intrigued by Rita Lee because she is quirky, experimental, and very versatile musically. Rita Lee’s career started as a member of sixties rock group Os Mutantes, but by 1972 Rita Lee had went solo. However, today in Brazil she is known by many as the Queen Of Rock.
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