Gilberto Gil: Setting the Stage for the State
Cunha, Marcia, Holston, Mark, Americas (English Edition)
Brazil's new minister of culture needs no introduction. In his homeland where only a handful of celebrities from the worlds of sports, politics, and the arts are famous enough to be widely known by just one name, he is simply "Gil." To a vast international audience of Brazilian music enthusiasts, he is the living personification of the earthy fusion of indigenous Afro-Brazilian forms, rock, funk, and reggae known as tropicalismo. In the late 1960s, this new sound radically reshaped the character of Brazilian popular music in the post-bossa nova era and set the stage for a new generation of music makers to come to the fore. His unflinching political activism, advocacy of Afro-Brazilian peoples and their culture, and role as a champion of environmental causes have earned him a level of respect among his countrymen uncommon for a popular culture figure.
The sixty-one-year old singer, composer and guitarist was born June 29, 1942, in Salvador, the capital of Bahia--Brazil's most African-influenced state. His emergence as a musician in the mid 1960s coincided with waning public interest in bossa nova and growing dissatisfaction with Brazils military dictatorship. His first works were protest songs, and they set the tone for the tropicalismo movement, which he forged with such close friends and soon-to-be-famous tropicalistas as Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze, and Torquato Neto. In 1969, he was incarcerated briefly by the military government and moved to England with Veloso, remaining there in self-imposed exile until 1972.
Over the next decade, Gil began a personal and musical exploration of his Afro-Brazilian roots that resulted in some of his most critically acclaimed recordings. In 1988, he was elected to the city council of Salvador, representing the Green Party (Partido Verde), and distinguished himself as a proponent of a number of environmental projects. He also founded Onda Azul (Blue Wave), a nongovernmental organization that for the past fifteen years has helped to protect Brazilian waters.
Gilberto Gil Moreira as he prefers to be called since being appointed to his new post by President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva last December, relies on his artist's sensitivity to guide him through his new duties. Long aware of the artist's unique relationship to society, he strongly believes that "politics is an art form. I came here to practice the art of politics in a ministry dedicated to art. This is a change of place, not of substance."
Christian Cravo: What are the advantages of having a minister of culture already known internationally as a singer?
Gilberto Gil: The receptivity, welcoming, consideration, and prestige that many give people, in the world of the arts, confidence, because in general people have followed your work to some extent, they've had a chance to follow the personal lives of these people. In my case for example, I've had forty years of artistic life in the world. People know my mood, know how I react. to different situations, know that I was arrested with marijuana [laughs], they know many things. Then, when they see me in a new situation, they already know who I am basically, they have a relationship with me, they at least know my values and how I conduct my life. This is the side that facilitates.
The first goal was to see how the machine works, I'll make all analogy: The ministry is an instrument that they have given me to play. Then I see if it has strings, if it has cracks, if the strings are complete, if the strings are new or if they are old, if they are of a good brand or the best brand, if they produce a good sound. This is the function of the organization, the organizational chart and personnel of the ministry. This is what I have to take care of, to bring the most able, reliable assistants and to inspire employees so that they understand the new proposals made for the ministry. Then there comes the second stage, which consists of the new …
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Publication information: Article title: Gilberto Gil: Setting the Stage for the State. Contributors: Cunha, Marcia - Author, Holston, Mark - Author. Magazine title: Americas (English Edition). Volume: 55. Issue: 6 Publication date: November-December 2003. Page number: 14+. © 2007 Organization of American States. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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