Tropicália & Woodstock: 50 Years On, the More Things Change!


Festa no Porto do Barra
16, 17 e 18 de agosto

Quanto Mais as Coisas Mudam!
Tropicália e Woodstock 50 Anos Depois!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Quanto mais as coisas mudam, mais elas permanecem as mesmas.

Tropicália: Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
From left to right: Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee, Gal Costa

Woodstock happened in New York state from Friday, August 15th to the morning of Monday, August 18th, 1969. Tropicália was born in Salvador, Bahia in the latter part of the 1960s and existed as a cultural movement until the end of the decade…

Janis Joplin was there and here for both. Mick Jagger came to Bahia. Jack Nicholson came to Bahia. Richard Gere came to Bahia. They hung out in the idyllic fishing village of Arembepe (now being reconstructed into a living art museum encompassing 23 themes and spread across 31 houses/units under the guidance and design of architect/artist Gringo Cardia, also responsible for the design of Salvador’s Casa do Carnaval, Carnival Museum), some 45 km to the north of Salvador…

Gringo Cardia, man of vision

…but the main hang of the tropicalistas was right at the tip of the peninsula over which Salvador presides like a shimmering and shimmyin’ diamond-in-the-rough, the beach at Porto da Barra.

Abuse of power generates counterculture.

In the United States beginning in the ’60s it was Robert McNamara and the Best and the Brightest…Vietnam and Tonkin Gulf…escalation, the draft, My Lai

It was Civil Rights and Martin Luther King and Nixon and the Southern Strategy (stir up racism!) and Henry Kissinger (who’s still reaping the profits of his malfeasance) and the bombing of Cambodia.

Rio de Janeiro, June 26, 1968; protesting against the dictatorship, to no avail

In Brazil it was the 1964 American CIA-supported overthrow of democratic government and the establishment of a military dictatorship. It was censorship, imprisonment, torture, “disappearing” and exile.

The early ’60s folk movement inspired in the explorations of Alan Lomax took a Woody Guthrie turn in the United States, the protest song becoming ascendant: “How many times must the cannonball fly? / The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…”

While in Brazil Chico Buarque seemingly benignly sang Cálice (Chalice), in reality singing Cale se! (Shut up!)…what he and other artists were being told to do…How to drink this bitter liquid, inhale the pain, swallow the arduous

Caetano & Gil…not Harpo and Zeppo

Included among these other artists were two young men — colleagues — in Salvador: Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. They were the two most visible representatives of the counterculture in this part of the country, and they and their colleagues created a musical style which especially reverberates in this new epoch of government malfeasance in both the United States and Brazil: tropicália.

Tropicália was many things, one of them being the freedom to draw upon musics as the tropicalistas saw fit to create their own. Their pallet stretched from tie-dyed Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to the quilombos — communities founded by runaway slaves — of Bahia. They joined the electric guitar with its roots in both the Mississippi Delta and the sidewalks of the South Side of Chicago; a sound which had burst over North America and the British Isles like sparks shooting from a short-circuited high-tension wire…and the Congo as filtered through the quilombos — communities founded by runaway slaves — around Bahia’s great bay.

But the generals (undoubtedly listening to Tannhäuser) weren’t having it, and both Caetano and Gil were arrested, imprisoned, and sent into exile. Now Caetano and Gil have been back for decades and lo! and behold! we have a new set of perpetrators (a quilombo-hating ex-army captain and a draft-dodging children’s detention-camp commissar) running things up and down. Strike up the band!

Jimmy Page was late to the show, settling into the town of Lençois, Bahia in the Chapada Diamantina in the ’90s.