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Russ Slater’s vanguarda paulista playlist

November 2017

The Wire contributor compiles tracks to accompany his article chronicling the first major independent label movement in Brazilian music

Tropicália created a schism in Brazilian music in the 1960s. Though it assimilated influences from Western pop and rock, as well as the European avant garde and mass global culture, the movement remained quintessentially Brazilian. However, tropicália was short-lived (arguably lasting from 1967–69), only to be replaced in the 1970s by a more conservative mainstream style known as MPB. Shorthand for popular Brazilian music, MPB was an extension of bossa nova, with the voice and guitar format dominant. Gone were the concrete poems, distorted guitars and congruences of disparate elements that made tropicália so thrilling.

The vanguarda paulista that emerged at the end of the 70s attempted to return to those heady days of tropicália, when it was possible for music to be popular, even as it combined advanced compositional theories with irreverent lyrical ideas and an awareness of mass culture. These same traits characterised the work of the São Paulo based group of musicians and composers who congregated around the small theatre, live venue and record label called the Lira Paulistana.

This playlist attempts to share some of the diverse sounds of these vanguarda paulista musicians, from Arrigo Barnabé’s mix of avant garde classical theory (such as 12 tone serialism), passion for comic books and hyperreal characterisations, through to Itamar Assumpção’s rhythmic Afro Brazilian phrasings and social reality operas. There’s also Grupo Rumo, who created vocals from the natural intonations of speech; and Premeditando O Breque, who devised interesting satires or homages of Brazilian life and culture. Singers Eliete Negreiros and Tetê Espíndola regularly collaborated with vanguarda paulista artists when the movement was at its peak (1979–85). Thereafter Brazilian rock took over as the music of Brazilian youth. Patife Band are included here as an example of a rock band who emerged from the vanguarda paulista movement. Finally, to highlight the wide diversity of artists involved we also have the folkloric group Paranga and free jazz ensemble Grupo Um.

Words by Russ Slater. You can read his feature about the vanguarda paulista movement in The Wire 406. Subscribers can access the digital version via the online archive.

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