In a Nutshell: MPB

By - 19 April, 2010

MPB is an acronym for Music Popular Brasileira or, in more English words, Pop Music of Brazil. It’s an amalgamation of styles that really took hold in the 70s and now accounts for a large amount of the music made in Brazil.

What’s it like?

MPB is pop music, and as with any good pop music, it eats up the culture of the time (it’s fashion, music, mood, etc.,) and spits it out again newly-polished and ready for the radio. It’s genesis followed the Tropicalia movement which itself was a mix of bossa nova, samba, The Beatles, theatre productions and revolutionary attitude, all rolled into a package that would energise the Brazilian youth and fight the dictatorship. After the movement petered out MPB took over it’s mantle, adding a glossier production, less congested productions and more elements of jazz and samba and then disco and new wave throughout the 80s. It would also include the various regional styles, such as pagode, afoxe and forró as they came in and out of fashion.

Where can I find it?

MPB is ubiquitous, found in people’s homes, on the radio and played by every Brazilian guitarist. Clubs and late bars are pretty much the only place you won’t find it. Much of the classic MPB was written in the 70s and early-80s, after which it became more synthetic with the rise of electronic instruments before finally coming back to its roots in the 90s and 00s with artists producing great MPB albums, still sometimes with lavish orchestrations, but also stripped down with occasional electronics.

What more do I need to know?

MPB covers a vast array of the music in Brazil. Entering into a record shop you will often find much of the music categorised as MPB, generally because many Brazilian artists tend to fuse styles together or produce albums with countless different styles, making them very hard to classify. Normally, there are sections for Old Bossa Nova/Samba from the 40s and 50s, Heavy Metal and Electronica and then everything else will be deemed MPB.

Recommended Listening

Os Novos Baianos' second album 'Acabou Chorare'Os Novos Baianos’ Acabou Chorare is one of the classic MPB albums. Following their samba-centric debut album by discovering bossa nova and paring down their sound proved to be a master stroke as songs such as Preta Pretinha and the title track show. Caetano Veloso went from Tropicalia to MPB upon his return from London, crafting Transa in the process. Considered his classic by many critics, it shows Caetano at his acoustic-best and showing off his English skills on a few efforts here. Adriana Calcanhotto has come to the fore marraging poetry to a serene voice and delicately playful arrangements. Senhas is a great example of how good MPB can be. There are some great sambas on here and her lyrics and voice are as good as they’ve ever been.

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