Being born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was mainly brought up listening to the likes of Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Chico Buarque, amongst other prominent popular singers from the country. But as I grew older, I was happily surprised to find out that Brazil has a lot more music to offer for all kinds of moods and situations.
Varying from axé music to bossa nova, sertanejo, pagode, and even funk (a genre a bit different from what most people know as funk music), Brazilians like to keep it light and engaging. That’s what you’ll ultimately find them interested in, no matter what region of the country.
Take a look at our artists suggestions below and follow our Spotify list to listen to what else is going on the Brazilian music scene right now!
Funk, Sertanejo, and Pagode: The Top of the Pops
If there’s one thing people here in Brazil know how to do is to turn their good humor into actual hit machines. I have done some research on what Brazilians have been listening to across the country, and based on today’s top hits from Spotify Brazil, here are a few examples:
Rio’s funk music has a long history of being a sound from the favelas, landing the top spot as a massive crowd-pleaser that will undoubtedly get the party going and your derrière shaking ‘till the break of dawn.
Most of the lyrics are filled with kinky wordplay and comical punchlines accompanied by earworm production and heavy beats, with many international artists borrowing from its playfulness and quirky instrumentation.
This music style has gotten so big to the point it started exporting Brazilian pop artists to the world, with funk-based singers Anitta and Ludmilla even scoring records with the likes of Madonna and Snoop Dogg respectively.
Sertanejo is another example of how Brazilians can put their humorous personality in their songwriting. Artists like Gustavo Lima, Marília Mendonça, and Wesley Safadão are definitely the ones to watch out for, always landing hit after hit on the radio due to their whimsical takes on hard topics like cheating and broken relationships.
This genre had its origin back in the ’80s, bringing duos like Leandro & Leonardo, Xitãozinho & Xororó, and Zezé de Camargo & Luciano to the forefront. While it used to be heavily influenced by country music in the past, it was later on reinvented for newer audiences, eventually finding its way back to the top of the Brazilian charts.
Pagode is a big thing in Brazil, being a genre very similar to Samba, but a little bit more melodic and sugary. With a mix of heartfelt themes and cheesy lyrics, this has been a long time favorite for Brazilians, with singers like Dilsinho, Thiaguinho, and the band Pixote being major examples of it.
It’s important to add Brazilians have a soft spot for pagode from the ’90s, which will most likely have people singing at the top of their lungs (especially on karaoke bars), whether they’re reminiscing on “the good old days” or just for the sake of fun. Safe to say this one is a real guilty pleasure for most people in the country.
Axé, Carimbó and Tecnobrega – Nonstop Dancing
The north region of Brazil is responsible for a great deal of successful music styles that pretty much have their established spots in the hearts (and ears) of the Brazilian citizens, such as:
Bahia’s axé music has a massive fanbase, being primarily played during Carnaval and in parties known as micaretas. Axé music is cheerful, vigorous, and upbeat, just how the people in Brazil like it. Singers like Daniella Mercury and Ivete Sangalo are iconic characters in this category, moving thousands of people to the sound of their music for over 20 years now and still going strong.
A rising popular musical genre at the moment is the carimbó, which was originated in the Amazon region, featuring heavy drums, hand-clapping, and wind instruments. One of the most famous artists of this style is an 81-year-old woman called Dona Onete.
I first attended A Dona Onete concert here in Rio a couple of years ago, and I have to say, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to experience. This lady had me dancing nonstop and catching my breath in between songs for over two straight hours and showed no signs of stopping! Believe me, try listening to “Jamburana” without getting up and immediately start dancing, it’s virtually impossible.
First appearing as a sort of comic relief meme music (before memes were even a thing), bands like Bonde do Rolé, Banda Uó and singer Gaby Amarantos started gaining a lot of popularity due to their fresh sound and tongue in cheek lyrics.
While mixing carimbó, calypso, and samples from already established national and international hits, these artists have helped to originate a whole new genre which later came to be known as Tecno Brega.
Brazilian drag queen and superstar Pabblo Vittar has been heavily influenced by Tecno Brega in earlier hits such as “Open Bar,” helping it crossover to pop music and making this genre even more popular than it already was.
Like what you see so far? To keep you up to date on what else the Brazilian people have been jamming to lately, we have curated a playlist on Spotify so you can get in the mood and experience Brazil as only we know it!
But what about Bossa Nova and Tropicalia?
Bossa Nova, Tropicália and MPB are crucial genres that have helped define Brazilian music since the beginning, but they actually don’t have a lot of radio airplay nowadays. Even though several of these artists are still praised by the Brazillian people to this very day, with bands like Novos Baianos, Mutantes and Secos & Molhados still influencing new artists in Brazil and around the world.
So…no Rock in Rio?
Brazilian rock has had its golden age back in the ’80s and ’90s, with bands such as Cazuza, Barão Vermelho, Titãs, and Paralamas do Sucesso making one hit after the other and dominating the charts back in the day. While they’re still considered rock classics, these bands are given far less attention than the previously discussed genres.
What About Carnaval Music? Where’s the Samba?
Well, it’s almost impossible to talk about Brazilian music and not mentioning Samba and Carnival, right? They are indeed a big part of our culture, but most Brazilians tend to enjoy these music styles when nearing the time of the Carnival festivities in February. We attend to the rehearsals of the Carnival League teams, but only from November until February when the parade happens. By the way, you can check here for an example of the lively music you can expect. So yes, we do love samba, but maybe just not all year long.
If you are interested in Brazilian music in general, you might like these other posts:
- Some interesting overview of how Bossa Nova and Jazz started their love affair: Jazz And Bossa Nova: What Is The Difference?
- No berimbau on this list! Check the instruments used for playing the amazing Brazilian music: What Instruments Are (Actually) Played In Brazil?
You can also check our category on Brazilian culture for more posts like this!