Brazilian song has a way of capturing the imagination, and Rio de Janeiro is its crucible. From maxixe and choro in the 19th century to samba and bossa nova in the 20th, Rio's history of melding rhythms with deep lyricism has been extraordinary.
For Brazilians, these songs have even greater significance. In a country where formal education is still not open to all, popular song offers a sentimental education.
"Most Brazilians learn how to speak, how to write and even how to feel by listening to Brazilian songwriters," says Thiago Thiago de Mello.
De Mello is part of a rising generation of Rio songwriters who take Brazil's music seriously. The son of Amadeu Thiago de Mello, an Amazonian poet, he combines Brazil's rich literary traditions and African-inspired rhythms, such as samba, forró and pagode, with jazz, rock and electronica.
He and his peers call their original take on Brazilian music "explorative." Like the bossa nova of Tom Jobim and João Gilberto, and the tropicália of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, the name may not fully translate into English. But it evokes Brazil's utopian heritage and ambitions — aspirations which feel appropriate as Brazil takes its place among the world's economic powers, and hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
"My Brazil is a world of the powerful imaginations that precede me — of a countless amount of dreamers," singer-songwriter Pedro Sá Moraes says. "It's a peculiar state in which imagination is so strong, it can be binding — but it can also liberate."
Sá Moraes, de Mello and other members of Coletivo Chama, a Rio arts organization, recently visited WBGO's studios to share some of their compositions. We will feature these live performances on The Checkout on July 15. Here, we share five recent studio recordings by Sá Moraes, de Mello and their colleagues — recordings which showcase their abilities as arrangers as well as composers and performers.