#21 – Torquato Neto – Tropicalismo para iniciantes

Hi you all, sorry for being away so long. I have no excuse to give, except that as everyone else I also had a lot of other things to do and couldn’t give this blog the attention it deserves.

As I finished the Brazil 70 Soul Jazz compilation, now I’ll focus on the seminal collaborative album called Tropicália, or Panis et Circensis, which featured none others than Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, and all this worked out by the master producer Rogério Duprat, a guy whose recognition will always be less than he deserves.

But as I think that if you came to this blog you already know this albums, I guess I don’t need to speak too much about it. Instead of it, I’ll start work on Tropicalism with the important piece written by Torquato Neto in the very year of 1968 called “Tropicalismo para principiantes”.  I don’t know if it was ever translated into English, but if not,  I think they will increase your knowledge of what Tropicalism is/was about. Hope you enjoy

(“Tropicalismo para principiantes” can be found in its original here)


Tropicalism for beginners, by Torquato Neto (1968)

A movie called Bonnie & Clyde is making a tremendous success in Europe right now. Its impact is so big that its influence extends to fashion, music, home decoration, cuisine and even the most minute habits people have. The thirties are being lived again. Kwowing very well all this and in search of an authentic Brazilian pop movement, a group of intellectuals comprising movie makers, journalists, songwriters, poets and visual artists located in Rio decided to launch Tropicalism. What is it?

To assume wholeheartedly everything that life in the tropics can give us, with no aesthetic prejudices, without fearing tackiness or bad taste, just living tropicality and its new and yet unknown universe. That’s what it is.

Spokesmen for Tropicalism, by now. Journalist and songwriter Nelson Motta, who published the movement’s first manifesto on an afternoon newspaper in Rio. Also belong to it, among others: Caetano Veloso, Rogério Duarte, Gilberto Gil, Nara Leão, Glauber Rocha, Carlos Diegues, Gustavo Dahl, Antônio Dias, Chico Buarque, Valter Lima Jr. and José Carlos Capinam. Many supporters are being expected from São Paulo, and it is possible that Rogério Duprat, Júlio Medaglia, and many more (such as the brothers Haroldo and Augusto [de Campos], Renato Borghi etc.) may have their applications confirmed immediately. The pope of the movement couldn’t be anyone else but José Celso Martinez Correa; its god: Nelson Rodrigues; its goddess: Vicente Celestino; another goddess: Gilda de Abreu.

Tropicalism, or the tropicalist cruzade, can be launched any day soon in a big party at Copacabana Palace hotel. The pool will be filled with vitórias-régias and the pérgula will be addorned with palm trees of every sort. A new dress code will be established: for men, white satin lined suits with wide open collars and rayon red ties; women should mimick the old Luiza Barreto Leite or Iracema de Alencar figurines. At home, no hip, rustic or colonial decoration. The top decoration items will be padded furniture in gold or wine colors, reproductions of works by Osvaldo Teixeira and Pedro Américo, porcelain and suede, portraits by Vicente Celestino, Emilinha Borba and Cézar de Alencar. No Beatles and no Rolling Stones. And lots of puffs, hundreds of pillows.

Mother’s day, Christmas and Jaguar’s New Year’s Eve will be Tropicalism main celebrations, as the movement demands events and public celebrations. Augusth 25th is an very important day. And nobody will lose September 7th parade. Watching samba schools go through the avenue (in numbered seats) and the City ball are obligatory. Gomes Leal’s vaudevilles, Carlos Machado’s concerts and Mazzaropi’s movies will be the hot topics of the day. Cinerama also. One idol: Wanderley Cardoso; one singer: Marlene; an intellectual: Alcínio Diniz; a poet: J. G. de Araújo Jorge; a TV show: Um Instante, Maestro; a song: “Coração Materno”; one genius: Chacrinha.

And from now on. By the way, Tropicalist leaders announced that the movement is very avant-garde…:

– It’s Brazilian, but it’s also pop.

All this, in the end, is a big joke. The vogue will not last (nor it seems to be made for that), the idols will remain the same – Beatles, Marilyn, Che, Sinatra -, and the true, real Tropicalism is shown. That’s what it wants and this is what is asks: how to worship Godard and Pierrot Le Fou but not accept “Superbacana”? How to regard Fellini as a genius and not think the same of Coffin Joe? Why Mariaaschi Maeschi is more mystical than Arigó?

Tropicalism can answer: because we are a country just like that. Because we hate Tropicalism and feel ashamed of it, we feel ashamed of our underdevelopment, our authentic and most unforgivable tackiness. Seriously.


Demanding, isn’t it? I think the whole tropicalist movement of assuming something and rejecting it is shown here. That’s antropofagia, once again. And just see how the cultural references are wide. Now, I’ll try to supply some of these references that may not be obvious or well known to someone not from Brazil.

Nelson Motta is writer, journalist and songwriter and general nice guy of the movement. He also hosted the first Brazilian TV program to show video clips, right in the second half of the 70s. He also wrote Noites tropicais, an account of the musical scene from the end of the 50s to the start of the 80s. Rogério Duarte is an artist and graphic designer, he made the covers to Caetano’s and Gil’s first albums and also designed the poster for Glauber Rocha’s Deus e o diabo na terra do Sol. Carlos Diegues, also known as Cacá Diegues, is a film director, his most celebrated movie is Bye Bye Brazil (1979), named after a Chico Buarque song. Walter Lima Jr. is also a film director, member of the Cinema Novo movement. José Carlos Capinam is a poet and early collaborator of the Tropicalist movement.

Júlio Medaglia was one of the most celebrated orchestra arrangers and conductors of its day, having worked in early Brazilian TV. The brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos are poets, translators and overall geniuses who helped create the concretist movement in Brazilian poetry and later worked alongside the tropicalist guys. They’ve made everything and they are still amazing. Renato Borghi and José Celso Martinez Corrêa work in theater and especially the last one is a major figure in the creation of an avant-garde Brazilian theater. His montage of Osvalde de Andrade’s O Rei da Vela in the 60s established his name. There is a hell of a recent doc about Zé Celso Martinez which you can find here.

Nelson Rodrigues is Nelson Rodrigues, the playwrighter. Vicente Celestino and Gilda de Abreu were singers and actors from the Golden Age of Radio in Brazil. Luiza Barreto Leite was an actress and theater director and Iracema de Alencar was an actress. Note that none of those theater personalities were highly esteemed by the tropicalists then.

Osvaldo de Oliveira and Pedro Américo were painters, the last one a nineteenth-century painter most esteemed by Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II. Emilinha Barbosa was also a singer from the Age of Radio and Cezar de Alencar was a radio show host most famous during the 1940s and 50s. Notice here that those names are here because they express kitsch and bad taste.

Gomes Leal was a nineteenth-century Portugues playwrighter whose simple plays were very popular. J. G. de Araújo Jorge was a very bad poet and Mazzaropi was a major comedy movie star in Brazil whose well known caipira persona made him very popular. He’s from the golden age of comedy and chanchadas in Brazilian cinema, mostly because of the Vera Cruz studio, along with Grande Otelo, Oscarito and others. “Um instante maestro” was a radio and then TV show in the 50s and 60s in which the songs were executed and the they were given grades as to the jury liked them or not. Chacrinha was the king of Brazilian TV and Coffin Joe, here in the vernacular Zé do Caixão, is simply Coffin Joe.

Hope you enjoy, I guess you have a lot of homework to do now. But that’s the way it goes with Tropicália. See ya later!


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