João Gilberto’s music was part of the definition of a culture

The Artistry of… João Gilberto

In the New York Times article written at the time of his death, João Gilberto is called an architect of bossa nova. His music was part of the definition of a culture. His name evokes a sound. Simply by being said, that name is a delicious synonymous morsel.

The music he wrote and performed buoyed a burgeoning Brazilian wave of national confidence and artistic and cultural global recognition. Samba, American popular music, and jazz, together as three main ingredients, provided the foundation and stage for a musical revolution that grabbed the world’s attention. A magical time for music, popular, world, and jazz, the late 1950s and the ’60s were a time like no other. Experiments and blends, cultural mixing, and introductions of the many sounds of music of the world linked people and artists, erasing the geographical distances and magnifying the common connections of creative artistic expression and passion.

In a 1968 interview with the New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson, Gilberto, speaking about his artistry and creativity, put things into perspective this way: “When I sing, I think of a clear, open space, and I’m going to play sound in it.”

These words come from a description of Gilberto’s voice by Washington Post pop critic Chris Richards: “Every syllable that appeared on his lips carried an air of effortlessness … that sacred place where a human breath becomes music.” Where breath becomes music is the artistry of João Gilberto, the man they called “O Mito” in his home country — those words meaning “The Legend.”



About The Artistry of…

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish, made possible with the support of Yamaha Canada.


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