Songs Celebrating Brazil and Rio

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View of Rio de Janeiro. Photo by (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

With the summer Olympics in full swing, I wanted to highlight two great songs about the country as well as the carioca city of Rio (Rio de Janeiro, “River of January”).

The first song is archetypically Brazil. Written by Ary Barroso over half a century ago, this classic samba was featured in the opening ceremony and in the famous Disney cartoon. Though it has been recorded as many times as “The Girl from Ipanema,” it is less well-known.

Here is the original version of Ary Barroso’s samba “Aquarela do Brasil” from 1939:

Now a great vocal version by Brazilian superstar Gal Costa:

The second song is specifically about the splendors and people of Rio de Janeiro — “Gente Carioca” (People from Rio) by Brazilian composer Francis Hime — as seen from Corco. It’s a great samba, but also not so well-known.

Finally, here is Disney’s 1942 cartoon Saludos Amigos with Donald Duck meeting his Brazilian counterpart, José Zé Carioca, from a time when the U.S. needed Brazilian airbases to fly its B-17’s across the Atlantic to fight Field Marshall Rommel in North Africa. Disney, Orson Welles, and other Hollywood types were cozying up to Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas for mutual aid (Brazil got a power plant, and Carmen Miranda became the highest-paid woman in Hollywood and the world by 1945). This is Disney animation at its best, featuring “Aquarela do Brasil” as well as other South American music:

P.S. — The Hollywood Bowl is presenting two nights of “An Olympic Carnival – Sergio Mendez & 50 Years of Brasil ’66” this coming Friday and Saturday (August 12 & 13). These are sure to be festive shows with dancers, drummers, fireworks, and music!

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