A look at one of the most beautiful and culturally rich locations on Earth, Rio – The home of bossa nova
Rio, the second largest city of Brazil, is a place of natural beauty, tolerance and a prevailing spirit of fun and calmness. In the 1950’s it was a hotbed for cultural and social creativity and trends.
It is no coincidence then, that bossa nova, which translates to the “new thing,” would come from this area.
Permeated by green lush vegetation, world-renowned beaches and awe-inspiring landscapes, the city’s earthly treasures served as inspiration to the organic sound of bossa nova. The calm wind and accompanying waves of water seem to influence the breezy, carefree feel of the music. The sun which dominates the sky could inspire the bright optimistic outlook of the lyrics and the generation that produced and listened to it.
Bossa nova legend, Antonio Carlos Jobim, had a unique affinity with nature and in such a surrounding it would seem all but inevitable that one would develop a love for the earth and a need to conserve it. He was an activist in his own right and wrote songs on the beauty of nature and the dangers that may incur should we not be responsible and preserve it. His song, “Forever Green” is just one of the songs that covers these topics. The simple and sweet arrangement with matching lyrics is a call for greater environmental awareness and poses difficult questions, such as, “What will we do if the entire world would become a desert. This spirit of conservation still lives on in organizations and events such as Rio+20.
If mother nature helped birth bossa nova, then the social climate of the time helped to mature it. Indeed these entities are so closely related that the same adjectives used to describes the stereotypical Carioca (native inhabitants of Rio) could be used to describe the music – calm, lively and warm. Social activities such as dancing and spending time on the beach are the subject matter for a number of bossa nova songs.
The women of Rio also serve as inspiration for a number of bossa nova songs. Arguably, one of the most famous songs of the 20th century, “The girl from Ipanema” was based on an actual carioca, Helô Pinheiro, who was spotted by lyricist Vinicius De Moraes and composer Tom Jobim. Captivated by her beauty they wrote the song as a dedication to her. The act and lyrical content serve as a representation of the romantic and friendly nature of the city.
Since the 1950’s bossa nova has been exported outside of Brazil and has truly become a world genre, but it will always have its home in the magnificent Rio.