Bossa Nova

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Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova, Brazilian music genre that emerged in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s. It became highly popular around the world in the 1960s due to its casual sophistication, light breeziness, and infectious swing. Bossa has been characterized by rhythmic elements of samba, a highly syncopated style of playing guitar, a generally subdued vocal style when sung, and harmonic influences from both American cool jazz and classical music. Guitarist-vocalist João Gilberto developed the characteristic bossa rhythmic style on guitar. Antônio Carlos ("Tom") Jobim was the genre's most influential composer, and pianists João Donato and Luis Eça, guitarists Luiz Bonfá and Baden Powell, vocalist Nara Leão, singer-songwriters Carlos Lyra, Roberto Menescal, and Ronaldo Bôscoli, and poet-lyricist Vinícius de Moraes were other key figures.

"Chega de saudade" (1958), performed by Gilberto and written by Jobim and de Moraes, is considered the first bossa single; Gilberto's 1959 LP of the same name was the style's first album. The 1959 French-Brazilian movie Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus), which included songs by Bonfá, Jobim, and de Moraes, popularized the bossa tunes "Manhã de Carnaval" and "A felicidade" around the world. Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz's 1962 album "Jazz Samba," with songs by Jobim, de Moraes, Bonfá, and Powell, was a smash hit and launched bossa in North America. A boom ensued, and dozens of jazz musicians recorded bossa compositions. In 1964, the style had reached the peak of its popularity with the release of "Getz-Gilberto," an album that teamed saxophonist Getz with Gilberto and Jobim. The LP earned four Grammys, spent ninety-six weeks on the pop charts, and included the now-famous tune "The Girl From Ipanema" (sung by Gilberto and his wife Astrud). Bossa nova had an enormous musical influence on American jazz and international pop in general in the 1960s, and since then has continued to be one of Brazil's most popular styles.

See alsoGilberto, João; Music: Popular Music and Dance.


Ruy Castro, Chega de saudade (1991).

Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Castro, Ruy. Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music that Seduced the World. Chicago: A Cappella, 2000.

Murphy, John P. Music in Brazil: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Naves, Santuza Cambraia. Da bossa nova à tropicália. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2001.

Sola, José Antonio. Bossa nova: O movimiento que ampliou os limites da MPB. São Paulo: J.A Sola, 2000.

Távola, Artur da. 40 años de bossa nova. Rio de Janeiro: Sextante, 1998.

                                                 Chris McGowan