10 Brazilian Songs I Love

With the 2016 Olympics going on in Rio right now, there's no way I couldn't talk about Brazilian music this week! I meant to get this one out sooner, but I fell down all of the best YouTube rabbit holes while researching.

The New York Times made a nice sampler that's diverse in genre, and contains many classic artists and songs - you should definitely check that out, too.

I'm not even going to try to make a top 10/20/best whatever list - that's impossible. These are just 10 great songs that I love, in no particular order:


1) Aguas de Março by Antonio Carlos Jobim (performed by Jobim and Elis Regina)

This classic song (named “World’s Greatest Song” by the Atlantic) has been interpreted countless times - here are a few interesting takes: Uakti | David Byrne/Marisa Monte (song starts 0:50) | Stevie Wonder/Daniel Jobim. Coca-Cola even co-opted it for an ad in this less-than-preferable version.


2) Mamulengo by Lea Freire (performed here by Lea Freire and Amilton Godói)

I was introduced to Lea Freire’s music last summer through Harvey Wainapel’s album Amigos Brasileiros 2 - this was my favorite track on his album. I’m really excited to study with her next week at California Brazil Camp! (More about that soon.)


3) Xote das Meninas by Luiz Gonzaga (performed here by Marisa Monte and her band)

Originally by Luiz Gonzaga, the “King of Baião”, I like Marisa Monte’s version a lot, and it has become somewhat classic, too.


4) O Fole Roncou by Luiz Gonzaga

Luiz Gonzaga took the classic forró style of music from folklore to popular music, and also wrote the unofficial anthem of northeast Brazil, “Asa Branca,” with Humberto Teixeira.


5) Folhas Secas by Nelson Cavaquinho (performed here by Beth Carvalho)

And, because I love this song, bonus samba pagode version with Diogo Nogueira:

Beth Carvalho has one of the longest careers of any samba singer (40+ years), and you can see why - she’s basically the queen. This song, to me, is a great example of how well-crafted the melodies of Brazilian songs often are.


6) Explode Coração (Salgueiro 1993)

This was the samba enredo (song for Carnaval) performed by the samba school Salgueiro in 1993, and one of my favorite enredos ever.


7) Kid Cavaquinho by João Bosco

I love many of João Bosco’s songs, but I think that this one is the most fun to listen to and to perform.


8) Na Gloria by Raúl de Barros

Usually Brazilian choro doesn’t include brass, but Raúl de Barros is a trombonist, so this works well. It's one of my trio's favorite choros to perform. Listen for the bridal march quote toward the end!


9) Gal Costa - Festa do Interior

Gal Costa’s career has spanned many decades and styles, but this frevo is her biggest hit (from 1982).


10) Hermeto Pascoal - Musica da Lagoa

Hermeto’s motto is “Tudo É Som” (all is sound), meaning that he doesn’t like the idea of genres. Hermeto is so prolific that he has even written the Calendario do Som (Calendar of Sound), with a piece for each date in the year - you can download it at his website, but you have to do so page by page (I did!) I have barely scratched the surface of his music. He just turned 80 this summer, and shows no signs of stopping! My favorite part of this video starts at 2:05 - it really shows Hermeto's playful spirit.

Bonus: Even President Obama loves Caetano Veloso - here's a song from his summer playlist, featured in the Pedro Almodóvar movie Hable Con Ella/Talk to Her:

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer