1960s. Brazil. Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso
The Brazilian military coup of 1964 ushered in 20 years of military rule and, with it, strict censorship of broadcast music – and especially of Musica Popular Brasileira. Numerous musicians during that period spent time in exile, including Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso.
Caetano Veloso was born in 1942, in Brazil’s Bahia region, but it wasn’t until he moved to Rio De Janeiro that he found the playful pop style he and Gilberto Gil shaped into a new musical movement, a Beatles-meets-Bossa Nova style which they called ‘Tropicalia’. Caetano Veloso’s debut was in 1967. As the political landscape of Brazil evolved alongside Musica Popular Brasileira, the government grew increasingly weary of the influence of radical musicians as revered as Veloso and Gil. It wasn’t long before their music was censored, they were banned from live performances and, after a defiant duo concert, both were jailed and then exiled to England.
Source: Index on Censorship 6 / 1998, ‘Smashed hits’, p. 12., and others
As protests raged across the globe in 1968, Gilberto Gil was at the center of a cultural and political revolution in Brazil, the Tropicalia movement. It was seen as such a threat to Brazil’s military dictatorship that Gilberto Gil was jailed, then forced into exile, where he would become one of the world’s most celebrated musicians as well as a spokesperson for Brazil’s emerging black consciousness movement. Today, Gil remains one of Brazil’s best known artists, as well as the country’s Minister of Culture. Excerpt of Democracy Now’s interview:
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain the Tropicalia movement?
GILBERTO GIL: Well, by the ’60s, early ’60s, we had in Brazil—late ’50s and early ’60s, we had a range of, a set of different artistic and cultural movements that were all sort of trying to update Brazil, you know, in terms of contemporaneity: theater, cinema, plastic arts and music. And, of course, I mean, like the bossa nova, late ’50s, early ’60s, was the main movement engaging. Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius De Moraes, Joao Gilberto, they came to the States. They did the Carnegie Hall thing. I mean, the bossa nova became a very important thing.
And then, the Tropicalia came some years later, after the bossa nova and the Jovem Guarda, the Young Guard movement that was the first level of Brazilian engagement in rock-and-roll and in the rock-and-roll era. And with both movements, the young Jovem Guarda and the bossa nova, we thought that we should sort of use all the Brazilian elements and the things that were happening outside in the States, in Europe and everywhere to get Brazilian music to even another sort of level of updating process. And so, we decided to—yeah, to do things, to bring rock-and-roll, to bring electric guitars, to bring the new generation’s speech, you know, like people like Bob Dylan and the Stones, the attitude like the Rolling Stones had and the Beatles had, everything—so we brought all of those elements together with the Brazilian normal sources, and we developed the Tropicalia in that fashion.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you see it as a form of resistance? And did the Brazilian government see it that way, see you as a threat?
GILBERTO GIL: Yeah, that was seen as the threat, because of the contingents, as I would say, because of the realities of the moment. The military people had taken the political space. You know, they did the coup d’etat. They had the dictatorship process starting and everything. So they would be absolutely crazy about anything that would sort of contest, that would shake the grounds they were on. And so, they were reacting to all civil society’s movements, you know?
And music was something very important. Music gave the opportunity to the Brazilian resistance, you know, to oppose the regime through the songs, with the mobilizing possibilities that music gave society to gather and to protest, and so and so and so. And Tropicalia was one of those movements. As I said, next to bossa nova, next to Jovem Guarda came Tropicalia, and we were considered by the military as dangerous as the other one, with an increasing thing that we were sort of using long hairs and having new attitudes, you know, and new possibilities of mobilizing the youth, and so on. So they really considered us very dangerous to the regime.
AMY GOODMAN: Why were you imprisoned?
GILBERTO GIL: In Rio.
AMY GOODMAN: And why?
GILBERTO GIL: Why? Because of that. Because of the suspicions that they had that we could sort of mobilize the society against them and by the ideas that we addressed, you know, with our speech, I mean, like ideas about freedom, about freedom of expression, about ways of contesting the regular ways, you know, of conservative society, to stand up for rights and everything. So they felt that we meant a menace to them and by being dangerous. I mean, they had the power to do whatever they wanted to do, so they imprisoned us.
AMY GOODMAN: How long were you held?
GILBERTO GIL: We were in prison for three months, and then—I mean in the sort of jail, Rio jail arrestment, and then in home arrestment for six months. And after that, they asked us to the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you in solitary confinement?
GILBERTO GIL: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What was that like?
GILBERTO GIL: That was for the first month, in solitary confinement, and then to a sort of more sort of open, less hard situation, and then at home without possibilities to leave the city and everything—imprisonment, home imprisonment.
[AMY GOODMAN: What was it like?]
It was difficult. Difficult. First two days, three days, I was lost completely, I mean, like I couldn’t really think about how to resist and how to keep myself, how to get—I mean, food was absolutely bad, and the facilities, sanitary facilities, almost nothing, and everything, so a small space like—you know, I could hardly lay down or something. And it was difficult.
But then, you know, for one week, two weeks, and then, finally, a month later, we got to sort of a cell with others, you know, other in prison. And that started being a little more human for us. The imprisonment started to get to this human level, minimum human level, and then I was able to breathe and to say, OK, now I have a chance to live, and maybe I have a chance to go out sometime. And it came two months later. They sent us home, still as prisoners, but home imprisonment.
AMY GOODMAN: And you went into exile?
GILBERTO GIL: And then, we asked permission reengage in music and in our public life, normal public life that we had before, and they said, “No. No, you don’t. You don’t. You cannot. You have to—if you want to resume music, if you want to reestablish your possibilities as an artist and everything, you have to go out of the country.” And then we left.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you go?
GILBERTO GIL: I went to London. I went to Paris first for fifteen days, for a couple of weeks, but then I decided that I wanted something different, and then I went to London, because London was too appealing then, you know, with the music and everything.
AMY GOODMAN: What year was it when you went into exile? What year?
GILBERTO GIL: What year? That was 1969. I remember that I arrived in London the very same day the Stones gave the concert at the Hyde Park. You know, I arrived in the afternoon, and I saw the leftovers of the concert, you know, all over the park. That was July something, 1969.
Source: Democracynow.org: ‘From Political Prisoner to Cabinet Minister’
1960s. Chile. Victor Jara
One of the best-known musicians in the 20th century to have encountered the ultimate form of censorship – state-sanctioned murder – was the Chilean folksinger Victor Jara. Politically-infused popular song (nueva candión) emerged in Argentina in 1962 and soon became a potent force in the liberation movements then sweeping South America. In Chile, thanks to Victor Jara and others such as Violeta Parra, it reached its peak. Nueva candión was so identified with Chile’s Popular Unity government that General Augusto Pinochet, after he had violently overthrown the government, banned the traditional instruments on which the music was played, as well as the works of all musicians associated with it. It was made an offence even to mention Victor Jara’s name.
Source: Index on Censorship 6 / 1998, ‘Smashed hits’, p. 12.
1968-1989. Mexico. Rock concerts
From 1968 to 1989 there was a ‘de-facto ban’ on rock concerts in Mexico.
It started as a reaction to the ‘Tlatelolco Clash’ where student protesters demonstrated in the capital’s Tlatelolco square on 2 October 1968, and were massacred by government troops. Official reports say 25 people died, human rights groups say as many as 350 may have been killed. For more than two decades after this massacre, Mexican authorities refused permits and discouraged promoters from booking local and foreign rock acts. Fans had to go to underground clubs to hear their music or buy records at impromptu street markets.
Only one large concert was allowed to be held during those years: a 1971 show in the town of Avandaro, west of the capital, that apparently slipped under the radar because it was billed primarily as an auto race and was promoted by young people from wealthy families.
“The government’s attitude during that era was one of absolute rejection and repression,” Mexican rock historian Jose Agustin said. “They thought that any rock ‘n’ roll event was going to cause disorder, depravity and obscenity.”
Authorities began to relax the policy in 1989, when rocker Rod Stewart gave a show. By the 1990s a steady stream of foreign and domestic rock bands were performing publicly.
Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of the rock band The Doors said on 2 October 2007 that authorities prevented them from holding an outdoor concert in 1969.
Read more about music censorship in Mexico…