“It's a product of a brief period of democracy, between the early 1950s and the mid-60s, in between two spells of military dictatorship. The prime minister Juscelino Kubitschek was a social democrat who made great strides in industry, education, health and labour rights. We had a new capital city, Brasilia, designed by a radical young architect called Oscar Niemeyer. Our football team won the World Cup twice in a row! And we had the bossa nova, the highest flowering of Brazilian culture.”
—Arthur Nestrovski, Musicologist and Artistic Director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Bossa nova (loosely meaning “new thing”) is a style of music from Brazil that blends elements of samba and jazz. Antônio Carlos Jobim (known as Tom Jobim), João Gilberto and Vinicius de Moraes are generally credited with popularizing—if not inventing—the genre. While the sounds of bossa nova are often soft and played with an easy touch, the style itself is melodically, harmonically, rhythmically, and lyrically rich and complex.
Perhaps bossa nova’s most popular song is “The Girl from Ipanema” (or “Garota de Ipanema”). The music was composed by Tom Jobim and the lyrics were written by Vinicius de Moraes in 1962. Norman Gimbel wrote the lyrics of the English version. It was recorded in 1964 by Jobim with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, vocalist and guitarist João Gilberto, and vocalist Astrud Gilberto. The “Getz/Giberto” album has the duet of João’s Portuguese and Astrud’s English versions. However, the song’s single release contains only the latter. The album was a worldwide success earning multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1965.
A beloved Brazilian musician, Jobim was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927. Luiz Roberto do Nascimento e Silva, Brazil’s former Minister of Culture said Jobim “was a musician who universalized our music” with the over 400 songs he’d written, and in collaborations with international artists like Herbie Hancock and Frank Sinatra. Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso notes of bossa nova and Jobim’s contribution to Brazilian music, it “remains a dream of what an ideal civilization can create.”