Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 27, 2011

The Music That Formed My Life: Bossa Nova

Though in recent years friends and readers of this blog might have thought that bossa nova – the musical genre that exploded in the US before the Beatles took over – is the musical air I breathe, given that I know its history, own a lot of the key records, have written extensively about it for several publications. Plus, there is the fact that I play the music with my band Bossa D’ Novo (btw:  follow our Facebook page for updates – we are gigging a lot this summer). But the truth is that bossa never really came into my life until much later.

Of course, I grew up knowing who Antonio Carlos Jobim was (I believe my parents owned Getz/Gilberto on vinyl) and was familiar with some of the songs. But I only really got into in the early 90s, when I was still playing with my Beatle band back in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The music community there at the time was quite small – there were the ballroom bands, the rock bands and the jazz guys, but we kind of all knew each other. Through a guitarist friend, I became friendly with those guys, even though I didn’t play that well at the time. All of a sudden, I began being more broadly exposed to Brazilian jazz – which led to a rediscovery of the genre of sorts for me.

In the late 90s, I met a girl in who was completely obsessed with bossa. It was through her that I learned about Ruy Castro’s detailed history of bossa nova, Chega de Saudade (published in English as Bossa Nova: The History of the Brazilian Music that Changed the World). We had a long relationship, and through her I became more and more acquainted with bossa – it was with her that I attended my first bossa concert in Fortaleza (I believe it was Leila Pinheiro with Roberto Menescal at Pirata Bar), and later we saw Joao Gilberto at Carnegie Hall in 2002 – an experience that I would later repeat with my wife Renata a couple of years back.

Though that relationship ended in divorce almost a decade ago, I am grateful that she reopened my ears to the music. Yes, today I can say I know a lot about bossa – but it was really something I picked up as an adult.  I’m not sure if my ex is still enthusiastic about the music any longer (I haven’t asked). But I certainly am… so I guess now the cat is out of the bag.


  1. Hi,

    I live for bossa nova. Enjoyed your blog about it. Like you, I have a bossa nova band and we have originals, the band is called “Brisa Nova”. Take care.


    • Cool. I have a bossa band myself, as you read before. And we have a handful of original tunes as well.

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