Sunday, March 13, 2011

Walking Bossa Nova History


Followers of this blog will be well aware of our ´mission´ at Access All Areas; to identity, preserve, protect and promote world-wide rock heritage. You´ll also be aware of our antipathy towards politicians and administrators who either willfully ignore their local heritage or do little to protect or promote it. It is gratifying to see that the Rio de Janeiro ´Prefectura´ are wise to their musical heritage, and its potential for generating tourism visits and jobs.

Rio is the cradle of many musical styles but perhaps the most famed (and alas perhaps under-appreciated) is bossa nova. Bossa Nova grew out of samba in the 1950s. It was a distinct musical revolution which may have had an even greater impact outside of its birthplace had not the ´beat-boom´ of the early 60s taken place. What makes boss nova so uniquely attractive is not only the gentle, summer-invoking rhythms (Rio boasts of being the city that invented summer´) but the lyrics. Early bossa was basically poetry set to music.

Some of the bossa names and tunes are of course known world-wide; Tom Jobin and Vinicius de Moraes with ´The Girl from Ipanema´, and Óne Note Samba´, Sergio Mendez, João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá, and the vocals of Elis Regina. Sinatra, Bennett and a host of others paid homage by covering Brazilian-written songs. Inevitably, given it was usually sung in Portuguese, many more composers and performers never made it big on the international stage.

A visit to Rio can now include an ´education´ and an enjoyable voyage of discovery through Bossa Nova history (and discovery of contemporary sounds) as buildings and sites important in bossa heritage are having plaques erected on them (with more promised). Most visitors here manage to find the Ipanema bar where Jobin famously wrote ´The Girl´ but other sites, especially in Copacabana, were in danger of disappearing so well done Rio.

If you take a very short ´plaque trail´ walk (to the rear of the Copacabana Palace, you past clubs, homes, and an excellent music specialist shop. The photo,above, of the plaque identifying the legendary street of clubs, ´Bottle Alley´, is the shop location. Nearby, there is the Baden Powell theatre (not the BP or the boy scouts, but a legendary bossa/sama musician, named after him ) where you can hear music nightly for a pittance. And on Coapacabana beach front there´s a statue to another great, Danilo Caymmi.

It´s forward thinking by a city that´s gearing up to host the World Cup and Olympics. What a pity the good burghers of other cities with musical heritage don´t have the same forward-thinking approach.

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