Exclusive: Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in the mist of time

brasilobserver - Jun 17 2015
Musicians met each other for the first time in 1963 (Photo: Divulgation)

(Leia em Português)

A reference for different generations, masters of the Popular Brazilian Music speak on important moments of their careers and remember time of exile in London, as well as polemics around concert in Israel


By Gabriela Lobianco

In the wave of Brazilian artists who have been landing on British soil in recent months, on 1 July the tour “Two friends – One century of music” will arrive in London, with Brazilian masters Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in an intimate concert of voice and guitar that will remember the great successes of their careers.

The two friends, who met each other for the first time in 1963 in Chile Street in Salvador, Bahia accepted the invitation for a series of concerts in Europe to celebrate 50 years of career and friendship. The two singers gave an exclusive interview to Brasil Observer about this new tour and the artistic partnership that endures in the form of camaraderie even in parallel projects.

This gift to the public, first of all, is not an unprecedented event. Gil recalls that in 1994 the musicians did a similar collaboration. “We had many invitations to play together again and saw that we had this date to celebrate.” The date, however, is not exact. Veloso says that, despite his first hit song, “De manhã”, had been recorded in 1965 by his sister and singer Maria Bethânia, his history as a musician comes from many years before. He said it would take back not only to the concerts of Teatro Vila Velha in Salvador, as well as the presentations in the high school auditorium in Santo Amaro, his hometown: “It would go back to my puberty and get lost in the mist of time.”

The career of both took off in the early days of Tropicália, after the participation in popular music festivals of Rede Record in the second half of the 1960s. This movement, which both were precursors with Gal Costa, Torquato Neto, Os Mutantes and Tom Zé, among others, came under the influence of national and international pop culture, bringing many innovations to the field of Brazilian Popular Music of the time that still, endure in current days.

For this new international tour, the artists are compiling an overview of songs that symbolize the whole journey travelled from this phase to the present. Veloso believes that “some songs are little known, like the first ones of Tropicalismo”. “We have tested a relevant music repertoire for our careers and we have the idea of ​​a new song made especially for this tour,” added Gil.



On the agenda of this international tour is a presentation in Tel Aviv, scheduled for 28 July, which generated protests on social networks. A Facebook page named “Tropicália does not match Apartheid” was created and an online petition gathered until the time of writing more than 10,000 signatures against the show of them in Israel.

Even the English musician Roger Waters, former bassist and singer of the group Pink Floyd, asked Veloso and Gil to cancel the show in Tel Aviv. “Dear Gilberto and Caetano,” said Waters in a letter to the musicians, “the imprisoned and the dead reach out their hands. Please join with us cancelling this concert in Israel.” In recent years, Waters has demonstrated several times in favour of the Palestinians.

The concert in Tel Aviv, even so, is maintained. “Every time I go there appears someone protesting,” recalls Gil. “I do not consider this a political fact. It is a matter of market. Do or not do does not mean to be or not to be in accordance with the policy of that country. We do shows in the US and no one says anything,” he adds.

Veloso said that “this is a complex issue”. “I agree with most of the criticism of official Israeli policy. But I always liked Israel and for many years I haven’t been there. The pressure to cancel reflected on us. But I prefer to take very definite attitudes. I feel almost like an Israeli who disagrees with the reactionary politicians who have dominated the scene in the country. I cannot think of oppressive on the Palestinian people without revolt. I cannot either admit suggestions to erase Israel from the map. But neither Gil nor I are pawns for political groups.” Veloso settles it saying “I have to answer him [Waters], including to say thanks for the attention.”



In 1967, when the first LP of Caetano Veloso was launched, Gilberto Gil was already famous. Caê, as his friends call him, recalls he was a Gil fan before meeting him in person. “I met Gil on TV. He was already performing in Bahia television, as semi-professional. My mother used to call me: ‘Caetano, come see that black guy you like’.”

But it was in 1968 perhaps the most significant year in their careers – Veloso then composed the hymn “É Proibido Proibir”, or “It is forbidden to forbid”. In addition, the two were arrested amid the Tropicália effervescence due to the Institutional Act No. 5 of the civil-military dictatorship that ruled the country and increasingly cut freedoms. In 1970, the two left Brazil into exile. Before coming to London, they performed a show at the Teatro Castro Alves in Salvador, to raise funds for the trip. “It was a strong reminder [the dismissal],” confides Gil. Asked about a time of career consider more enriching, Veloso also recalls this spectacle: “Gil singing ‘Aquele Abraço’ on the eve of the exile… Many emotions.”

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Photo: Reproduction

A completely unknown duo climbed a beautiful international career then. During that season, they hit the headlines of The Guardian as two anonymous Brazilians which debuted headlining the second day of the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970.

“I finished liking London a lot. A thing that struck me hard in the first year of exile,” says Veloso, revealing he learned a lot during that time. Both Gil and Caetano produced important albums that stage. Caetano focused on the eponymous work with melancholy theme and composed songs in English addressed to those who were in Brazil. Then he launched Transa in 1972, an ode to return to their country of origin. Still, he confesses he would not live again in London. “I suppose New York and Madrid would be possible options. I like (and always will) go to London from time to time and sit in one of those wise banks of Hyde Park and look at the grass, thinking on the liberal tradition and see people going,” Veloso wanders.

Gil did not lag behind. Copacabana Mon Amour and Gilberto Gil (Nêga) were some of his productions in the period. The city was the barn of his third son, Pedro, in 1970. “I love London and since the years of exile, I learned much from the civilization and musical point of view. I feel good every time I go there,” he concludes.

Back in Brazil, they never stopped to produce. In 1972 they made an incredible partnership in Bar 69: Caetano and Gil Ao Vivo na Bahia. And both know very well that they are among the greatest references of Brazilian Popular Music. “I see, throughout Brazil houses full of young people to see my concerts,” says Caetano. Gil also follows the same thinking: “It is interesting to see in my shows in Brazil and around the world, sometimes up to three generations enjoying together. This is cause for joy.” In London it will certainly be the same.


Diogo Nogueira and Hamilton de Holanda open the concert

Photo: Divulgation

Photo: Divulgation

Before Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil take the stage, Diogo Nogueira and Hamilton de Holanda, two of the most prominent musicians of the new generation of Brazilian Popular Music play the concert for Bossa Negra album, released last year.

Diogo Nogueira, son of legendary samba singer and songwriter João Nogueira, has been enchanting Brazil with his charisma, voice and DNA. He is one of their best-selling music artists, and even has his own TV show related to the roots of the Brazilian music.

Hamilton de Holanda is a composer and multi-award winning instrumentalist with several Latin Grammy nominations. His musical origins are in the tradition of choro. As the creator of the 10-string mandolin technique (usual mandolins have 8 strings), Hamilton carries Brazil in his fingers with the erudition of Villa-Lobos, the genius of Pixinguinha and the sophistication of Tom Jobim.

Bossa Negra, inspired by the classic album Afro-sambas – Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, presents a mix of old hits and original songs, portraying the synthesis of the improvisation of choro, the swing of samba and the relaxing mood of bossa nova.


Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil


Hamilton de Holanda & Diogo Nogueira


Where: Eventim Apollo Hammersmith

When: 1 July

Tickets: From £10

Info: www.serious.org.uk