In the mid-80s, Brazil went through dramatic political changes when the military dictatorship finally stepped down with the (indirect) election of Tancredo Neves to the presidency in 1985. Though Neves himself never made it to his inauguration due to a suspicious disease that ultimately claimed his life (Jose Sarney took office instead), the changes were dramatic. Socialist parties were no longer banned, and official censorship eased its hold on the media – a process that gradually led for government censoring to being completely banned after the 1988 Constitution was promulgated.
Of course these changes reflected in the music scene – no longer did songwriters have to hide ‘hidden’ meanings in their lyrics to evade censors, as Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and many others were forced to do. Also, this openness ushered a new wave of foreign shows coming to Brazil, a country pretty much shunned by the pop establishment. In 1985, the ten-day Rock In Rio Festival featured performers like Queen, AC/DC, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Iron Maiden, Yes and the B-52’s, who all shared the spotlight with the likes of Rita Lee, Os Paralamas do Sucesso, Gilberto Gil and other Brazilian artists.
All of that of course encouraged new bands to emerge – while the musically the 70s were almost like barren desert when it comes to new talent – except for a handful of names like Tim Maia and Djavan – the 80s brought in great pop acts like Os Paralamas, Legiao Urbana, Titas, Kid Abelha, Barao Vermelho and countless others – most of whom are still actively recording and performing to this day. The 80s rock revolution in Brazil is still revered to this day – a time when Brazilian rock fans could finally enjoy their kind of music in a language they could understand.
Sure, British and American rock remained (and still remains) highly popular there, but Brazilian rock had finally found its voice – and an audience that would fully appreciate it. And they led the way for many other groups and genres that came after them, such as the Mangue Beat of Chico Science, the Bahian musical revolution led by percussionist Carlinhos Brown and singers Daniela Mercury and Ivete Sangalo in the 90s and the singer-songwriters of the end of the millennium.
And judging by the new artists that emerge every day – which all have developed international careers – I can certainly tell that isn’t stopping anytime soon.