Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova, a blend of samba and jazz, is a type of Brazilian music that developed and quickly gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Although it was heavily influenced by samba, its origins are entirely different; while samba came about in the favelas of the Afro-Brazilian community, bossa nova originated along the beaches of Rio amongst the white, upper-middle class.

Now, bossa nova is most often performed using a classical guitar, but in the past, some musicians relied mostly on vocals. The piano, percussion and strings are also used to complete the style, but there is less focus on percussion than samba. Although the rhythm of this musical genre is based on samba, the beat is slower and more jazz-like. Also, unlike its predecessor, there are no dance moves that complement the music.

“Garota de Ipanema” or “Girl from Ipanema,” performed by Joao Gilberto, was by far the most famous bossa nova song.  It became a worldwide sensation in the mid-1960s and captivated peoples’ attention around the globe; suddenly people were interested in this new soft and melodic musical genre. In fact, the song created such international furor, that the girl who it was written about, Helo Pinheiro, gained immediate fame as a result; everyone wanted to know about this mysterious beauty who was the inspiration behind this bossa nova hit.

Helo Pinheiro, also known as, “The Girl from Ipanema”

As Pinheiro herself said about the song, “It’s eternal.  Whenever I listen, I remember my past, my younger days. Ipanema in 1962 was a great place. You never saw aggression.  Everyone wanted to fall in love. It was the spirit of bossa nova – tranquil and romantic.  Today, you don’t see composers in the bars and restaurants.  There isn’t the same inspiration.”

Since it’s birth, “Garota de Ipanema” has since been translated into English and recorded by an array of artists, including Amy Winehouse and Frank Sinatra.  The romantic lyrics portray the carefree nature of bossa nova.  The various English versions are great and all, but of course, there’s nothing like the original…


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