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How Gilberto Gil reinvented himself in music after imprisonment during the military dictatorship

After being arrested and exiled by the Brazilian military dictatorship, Gilberto Gil began to look to the future when he made music

The end of the psychedelic dream of Tropicália came like a punch: the Unconstitutional Act number 5, decreed at the end of 1968, transformed the military regime into a dictatorship without euphemisms. The consequences in the world of culture hit the heart of the tropicalists, when Gilberto Gil It is Caetano Veloso they were arrested and taken to a barracks in Rio de Janeiro, without having the slightest idea of ​​what would happen to them in the future.

The arrest and subsequent exile of the two Bahians hit them hard, both emotionally and artistically, and each one reacted in their own way. Gil he abandoned his chronicler air and began to look to the future. Gradually, his compositions were mixed with science fiction, as he felt like a character in an authoritarian dystopia.

The isolation of the prison and the imminent possibility of leaving Brazil – who knows, forever – provoked a trauma in his poetics, which began to mix nostalgia with a stunned contemplation of an implacable future, releasing an album even more experimental than the previous.

After two months in prison, Gil he was able to leave jail, but he remained under house arrest until he negotiated his departure from Brazil. As Gil It is Caetano were prohibited from doing shows, the artistic director of the record company Phillips, Andre Midaniordered records to placate his financial and psychological conditions at the time.

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Gil composed and recorded the songs that would become his third album, known as Gilberto Gil (1969) or Gilberto Gil : Electronic Brainhoping they could be joined by a promising rock band from Salvador, The Leif’swhich included the brothers Pepeu It is Jorge Gomesstill teenagers, in formation.

But the producer Manuel Barenbein preferred to streamline the process, invited the maestro Rogério Duprat to arrange the songs and put together a super band to record the bases – Lanny Gordin on the guitar, Chiquinho de Moraes on the piano, Sergio Barroso on the bass and Wilson das Neves on the battery.

To the instruments, metals, noises, dialogues, echoes and other inventions that Bahrain It is Duprat created in the studio. Ironically, the only song that Gil recorded in the studio was their biggest hit to date. “That hug” was an obvious farewell letter to Brazil, sung in a mood that is at odds with the sad mood of the lyrics – Bahrain he even remembers how the Bahian’s excitement contrasted with the desolation at the news that he would have to leave the country.

Named once again, the 1969 record is referred to as “Electronic Brain” due to its first song, one of several in which Gil deals with science fiction, such as psychedelic “futureable”, his re-recording of “2001” (in Rita Lee It is Tom Zé) and the melancholy “showcases”, almost an alternative (and improved) version of “Space Oddity” in David Bowie.

Cover by Gilberto Gil (1969)
Cover by Gilberto Gil (1969)

Also highlighted are “Volks-Volkswagen Blues”, interpretations for “The Voice of the Living” (in Caetano) and a hit from Luiz Gonzaga (“17 Leagues and a Half”) and the daring “Semi Identified Object”, a collage of dialogues and pieces of songs in different rotations.

Between the digressions of the last track, Gil ends up summarizing his state of mind – and the album’s concept – in a very particular way: “What I really like is to eat with cilantro, a moqueca, a salad, culture, feijoada, lucidity, madness… What I really like is to stay inside, as I was in the belly of Claudiaa 100% old Bahian woman”.

Rolling Stone Brazil Special 80 Years of Music

Gilberto Gil (1969) is one of the discs reviewed in Special 80 Years of Musican exclusive edition of Rolling Stone Brazildedicated to 1942 generationwhich brings together essential names in MPB, such as himself Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Paulinho da Viola It is Caetano Veloso, as well as a global overview of those born this year. The printed special is already on newsstands and digital newsstands. Click here to learn more. Listen to the full album below:

Source: Rollingstone

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