MPB: Música Popular Brasileira

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MPB: Música Popular Brasileira

"MPB" designates contemporary middle-class popular music in Brazil beginning with a generation that emerged around 1965. It is a hybrid body of music first produced during the second generation of bossa nova, when many composers and performers turned away from the jazzy sophistication of the original style toward more heritage-derived arrangements. MPB identifies urban popular music—that is, separate from the folkoric, traditional, or rural—yet with a broadly defined national orientation, so as to be distinct from foreign imports and other new national forms considered to be foreign-inspired. The acronym denotes not a discrete style but a general practice of modern popular music, usually acoustic and politically aware, setting it apart from local renditions of Anglo-American rock 'n' roll called iê-iê-iê ("yeah-yeah-yeah") that were marketed as part of a scheme called Jovem Guarda ("young guard").

As bossa nova diversified in the early to mid-1960s, regional rhythms, traditional instruments, and models of oral poetry were integrated into new schemes. In keeping with the prevailing attitudes of the educated middle-class in the mid-1960s, typical MPB lyrics spoke of social injustice, political repression, and folk culture. The initials "MPB" began to be used in 1965 during festivals of popular music, songwriters' competitions with live performances, and televised final rounds. At these events, electric instruments and music in the rock mode were not initially permitted or accepted by the audience. As early as 1967, however, electric guitars were introduced into the festival format by tropicalismo, a musical movement that changed the face of MPB by challenging facile divisions between "nationalistic" and "foreign" music. Even though some tropicalist songs had evident nontraditional elements, the music could still be considered MPB in comparison to overtly imitative iê-iê-iê.

With the assimilation of rock into Brazilian popular music in the 1970s, lines dividing "nationalistic" from "foreign-inspired" became increasingly blurred. In the mid-1980s national rock became dominant in the marketplace, and "MPB" began to be employed differently. It largely came to be used to distinguish the music of the rock-dominated 1980s generation from that of the previous generation. "MPB" thus designated less a musical orientation and more the work of musicians born in the 1940s who made their names in the 1960s or early 1970s. Since the 1980s some have employed the term "MPB" in a historically less discriminating sense to refer to Brazilian popular music in general, with no distinction of decade or stylistic orientation. From the 1990s into the 2000s, "MPB" has been used to refer to diverse singer-songwriters, including those associated with neo-Afro-Brazilian material in Bahia (axé music) and even local hip-hop and rap artists.

What characterizes MPB in the most general sense, over the years, is an originality of composition that may diversify samba, the traditions of northeastern Brazil, Afro-Bahian folklore, and international trends; if the immediate source was bossa nova, some MPB artists went on to incorporate rock elements. The prime singer-songwriters of MPB are Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Jorge Ben, Edu Lobo, João Bosco, Djavan, and Ivan Lins. Younger artists of note include Chico César, Zeca Baleiro, and Chico Science (d. 1996) and his band Nação Zumbi, all of whom hail from the northeastern region and form part of a "new generation." The vanguard rock-inflected efforts of Arnaldo Antunes are legendary. Leading vocalists whose selection of repertoire best reflects the contemporary music of the country are Elis Regina (d. 1981), Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa, Simone, Elba Ramalho, Marisa Monte, and Daniela Mercury. MPB was an important expression of politics and art in the 1960s and embodied cultural modernization during the military regime (1964–1985); in the age of digital recording and the Internet, it reflects local and global changes in music-making.

See alsoBossa Nova; Buarque, Chico; Gil, Gilberto; Music: Popular Music and Dance; Nascimento, Milton; Regina, Elis; Samba; Tropicalismo; Veloso, Caetano.


Dunn, Christopher. Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

McGowan, Chris, and Ricardo Pessanha. The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil, new edition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.

Perrone, Charles A. Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB, 1965–1985. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989.

Perrone, Charles A., and Christopher Dunn, eds. Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

                                      Charles A. Perrone