Brazilian musicians don’t seem too nostalgic about tropicalia. While the rock & roll of the ’60s continues to cast an unshakable spell over all American adolescents with guitars, mimicking the past rarely pops up in MPB (that’s Música Popular Brasileira). Perhaps that’s because Caetano Veloso at 69 is still going, still experimenting and still brilliant. Even those with a blood right to the sound—Moreno Veloso, Bebel Gilberto—push the music forward, grafting electronics and hip-hop to the samba rhythms and psychedelia.
Tropicalia, like hip-hop, is an approach, a spirit. Few connect the two genres like Curumin, née Luciano Nakata Albuquerque. The half-Japanese, half-Spanish São Paulo native is equally comfortable with a sequencer and an acoustic guitar, building dusty, rumbling boom-bap loops or strumming folk songs. Or, of course, smushing the two together, as he does on his colorful new Arrocha. His third release is a mellifluous melange of Tokyo turntablists, reggae, favela funk and bossa nova in a way that is comfortably unfamiliar.
What makes Caravana Sereia Bloom by his labelmate Céu, similarly her third effort, so surprising is how familiar it sounds. Here is a total flashback to the tropicalia of old—playful, beautiful and summery—complete with Gilberto Gil’s breeziness and Os Mutantes’s fuzz guitar, organ and sound effects. The cover is even an homage to Veloso’s Araçá Azul. On “Retrovisor,” she sings, “Não preciso do espelho do retrovisor.” Translation: “I don’t need a rearview mirror.” No, but sometimes pop music can use one.