Written by REBECCA SWANEY for GROOVEMINE.COM
Artists associated with bossa nova: Gal Costa, Astrud Gilberto, Nara Leão, Koop, Nouvelle Vague, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Stan Getz, Vinicius de Moraes
What I knew about bossa nova prior to researching this article could fit on the back of a matchbook, and I would have had left over space: It’s Brazilian. It’s kind of jazzy. It’s “The Girl from Ipanema.” Hell, I didn’t even need an entire matchbook for that.
I opted for bossa nova because it is the unfamiliar, and I believe it’s important to occasionally challenge myself. And, there’s this gorgeous song on a Late Night Tales’ album that I couldn’t get out of my mind: Gal Costa’s “Lost in the Paradise” and it’s bossa nova.
Bossa nova, which translates to “new trend,” is a musical styling birthed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and lived its short vibrant years from 1957 to 1963. An offspring of samba and jazz, bossa nova offers complex harmonies, a second beat emphasis, limited percussion, and a swaying, lazy afternoon feel. Lyrically, bossa nova addresses “women, love, longing, and the best of youth” (Wikipedia).
As with many international art movements, bossa nova was Americanized by everyone, from Gershwin to Pat Boone. The 1959 Brazilian film Black Orpheus, sporting a bossa nova-heavy soundtrack, introduced this genre as an international movement, but it’s Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz’s performance of “The Girl From Ipanema” (originally composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim) that deserves the applause for most recognizable rendition of this classic song. (Mention this song in a group and someone will start to whistle the melodic chorus — I promise!) Bossa Nova continues to be a musical force and influences a variety of artists like: Everything But the Girl, Koop, Quincey Jones, and Nouvelle Vague. Search Beatport to get a glimpse of how much bossa finds it’s way into various strands of electronic music.
For this edition of “Defining Genre,” I’m making it easy on all of us: I’m suggesting all of you go and have a listen to Gal Costa’s 1969 self-titled album. You won’t regret it. It’s a terrific album containing the prerequisite elements of bossa nova with a peppering of psychedelic rock accompanied, at times, with the snarling vocal stylings of Costa. My favorite songs include: “Lost in the Paradise,” “Namorinho de Portão,” “Vou Recomecar” and “Que Pena.”
Check out the extra long 8Tracks experience I’ve prepared. This selection of music represents half a century of bossa nova and an international list of artists; the playlist represents the often playful and flirtatious aspects of the genre, as well as the intimate melancholy that some bossa nova artists portray.