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Tropical Truth


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Singer/songwriter Veloso has virtually defined Brazilian music for the past 35 years. In his autobiography, first published in his native country, he exhibits a rare, vibrant erudition while tracing how in the 1960s he and his friends developed a post-bossa nova music and movement called tropicalismo (Tropiclia in English). Inspired by an impressive range of Brazilian political and cultural figures, as well as Ezra Pound, John Cage, Anton Webern, and e.e. cummings, Veloso aimed to blend his country's traditions with the best foreign influences (including Anglo-American pop) to produce a whole new sound. Paralleling this aesthetic was his opposition to political oppression from the Left or Right, and Veloso's railing against the junta led to imprisonment and a brief exile. Although the book truly fascinates, especially in its thoughtful explanation of his music in relation to Brazilian culture and politics, the English edition curiously excludes much of Veloso's activity since the mid-1970s. While this is probably because his work over the past 25 years is best known to Brazilians, American readers would have benefited from the information. That shortcoming aside, Tropical Truth is highly recommended, though Veloso's relative obscurity here probably dictates that larger academic and public libraries will find it most useful. Christopher Dunn's recent Brutality Garden: Tropiclia and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture covers much the same material, albeit in a more scholarly voice. [This book's publication coincides with the release of Veloso's new studio album, Livro, and a two-CD collection, Live in Bahia.-Ed.]-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

The Brazilian singer/songwriter most highly regarded by the First World intelligentsia, Veloso makes his U.S. publishing debut with a rambling, extremely erudite memoir focusing on his role in the late-1960s musical happening known as Tropic lia. While on the surface, Tropic lia and Veloso (often compared to Bob Dylan) paralleled the U.S. counterculture of the 1960s, the author explains the multilayered context of Brazilian politics and art that made the movement unique. From the innocence of his middle-class youth in the northern state of Bahia, to his stays in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Veloso vividly re-creates his formative years, which were immersed in French new wave cinema, progressive English rock and Brazilian letters, particularly concrete poetry. "What we wanted to do would be... closer to Godard's films," he muses. "Masculin-feminin [sic], with... its adolescent sexuality-I saw it as one more moment in our daily lives in Sao Paulo." That Veloso is well-read is not in question-he cites everyone from Wittgenstein and Proust to Deleuze and Andrew Sullivan, while at the same time introducing non-Brazilian readers to an unknown canon of authors such as poet Augusto de Campos and essayist Oswald de Andrade. If there is any complaint with the book, it is that Veloso can get caught up in a maze of sometimes unconnected ideas that obscure his lucid descriptions of the intricacies of Brazilian music and its often equally literate stars. However, this is a must for Brazilian music fans, as well as anyone interested in how the modernist age played out in South America. (Oct.) Forecast: Veloso's and Brazilian music's loyal fan base, as well as his highbrow appeal, will supply the book with early momentum. But it remains to be seen how well the memoir's detailed evocation of a relatively unknown (in the U.S.) cultural and aesthetic movement will translate into mass readership. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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