Saturday, December 26, 2015

25 Songs of Good Cheer

Here are 25 songs of good cheer from Brazil, the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. This list started when I was playing some of my favorite music for a friend's daughter here in Brazil, where I live. She only liked the Brazilian funk carioca genre and was obsessed with the funk/pop singer Anitta, who is currently at the top of the charts. I played some American, U.K., Brazilian and other songs for her that had great melodies, were lively, or were a lot of fun. She didn't like any of my selections. It had to be funk carioca, preferably Anitta. However, my own kids enjoyed the music, especially the Beethoven and Queen. I ended up with a selection of mood altering music that I find particularly uplifting, invigorating, inspiring or sweetly transcendent.

1. Flash Mob: "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven Symphony no. 9)
with the Vallès Symphony Orchestra from Sabadell, Spain

2. Queen, "We Will Rock You."
What would soccer fans in the U.K.
do without this stadium shaker?

3. Arlindo Cruz, "Meu Lugar" (Madureira), a beautiful song about his hardscrabble home neighborhood in Rio, full of camaraderie, "Ogum and Iansã," samba and beer, and sweat and struggle, as Madureira's residents "hope for a better world."

4. Paul McCartney, "Let it Be" (The Beatles)

5. Djavan, "Flor de Lis"

6. Peter Gabriel, "Solisbury Hill"

7. Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"

8. Bruce Hornsby, "That's the Way It Is"

9. Heart performs Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."

10. Lenny Kravitz and Eric Clapton perform the Jimi Hendrix
version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."

11. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a pop epic that has withstood the test of time (a few decades) as well as its use in Wayne's World. The lyrics have dramatic fragments that are fun to sing along with, even though as a whole they probably only made sense to Freddie Mercury. But the music -- what a feast!

12. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Miúcha perform "Samba do Avião,"
a love song to Rio de Janeiro and a song of joyful homecoming.

13. John Barry's "Goldfinger" sung by Shirley Bassey
(in 2002, when she was 65 years old!)

14. U2's "Beautiful Day"

15. Monty Python and Eric Idle's "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life." We all have to come to terms with death at some point, and this is the way that Monty Python has confronted mortality: with a relentless dark humor and good cheer.

16. Cat Stevens, "Peace Train"

17. Randy Newman's "I Love L.A."

18. Gene Kelly, "Singing in the Rain"
(from the 1952 Stanley Donen film musical that I
recommend as an antidote for mild depressions)

19. Joni Mitchell, "Chelsea Morning"

20. The Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun"

21. Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Samba de uma Nota Só."
One of his innumerable bossa nova standards.

22. One of the best super groups ever, The Traveling Wilburys,
with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff
Lynne and Roy Orbison, here perform "Handle with Care."

23. Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"
Simon performs in Zimbabwe with the Graceland band
of South African musicians, including Ray Phiri (guitar).

24. Brian Wilson and a host of others, "God Only Knows"

25. B-52s, "Love Shack"
Oh, baby!

^ ^ ^

Monday, March 30, 2015

Made in Brazil: Academic Studies of Brazilian Music

"Made in Brazil: Studies in Popular Music" (Routledge Books) is an essential new book of essays on Brazilian popular music written entirely by Brazilian academics and edited by Martha Ulhôa, Felipe Trotta, and Claudia Azevedo. I had the honor of translating the text from Portuguese to English.

"The Invention of Brazil as the Land of Samba," "Cosmopolitanism and the Stigma of Tecnobrega Music," "Choro Manuscript Collections of the 19th and 20th Century: Written Transmission of an 'Oral' Tradition," "The Construction of Memory About the Oito Batutas," "Ethnomusicology in Cyberspace: Samplertropofagia and Virality in YouTube Videos" and ten other essays analyze old and contemporary Brazilian popular music from an academic perspective and challenge many existing assumptions about their individual subjects.

"Made in Brazil" is available worldwide through Amazon:
Made in Brazil (Amazon U.S.)
Made in Brazil (Amazon U.K.)

More info on the book:
Routledge Books: Made in Brazil

More information on my translation work:
Translator Chris McGowan (Portuguese/English)


Friday, March 6, 2015

Beija-Flor: Rio's Carnaval Winner in 2015

Beija-Flor took first place in the February, 2015 samba school parades during Carnaval in the Sambódromo in Rio de Janeiro. It was accused by many of having been sponsored this year by Equatorial Guinea, a dictatorship. Beija-Flor's many recent victories have also raised eyebrows about the impartiality of the parade judges. Nevertheless, they did put on quite a show, as usual.

Read about Carnaval and samba in The Brazilian Sound:
by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha

Also by Chris McGowan: The Brazilian Music Book: Brazil's


Unidos da Tijuca

The Unidos da Tijuca samba school had Switzerland
(and various aspects of its heritage and artistry)
as its theme for Rio de Janeiro's 2015 Carnaval.

Read about Carnaval and samba in The Brazilian Sound:
by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha

Also by Chris McGowan: The Brazilian Music Book: Brazil's



Viradouro and actress Juliana Paes in Rio de Janeiro's
escola de samba (samba school) parades for the 2015 Carnaval

Read about Carnaval and samba in The Brazilian Sound:
by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha

Also by Chris McGowan: The Brazilian Music Book: Brazil's


Imperatriz Leopoldinense

Imperatriz Leopoldinense, paying tribute to Nelson Mandela
in Rio de Janeiro's 2015 Carnaval (Carnival) celebration

Read about Carnaval and samba in The Brazilian Sound:
by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha

Also by Chris McGowan: The Brazilian Music Book: Brazil's


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rio Carnaval 2015: Portela

Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval 2015:
The Portela Samba School

The spectacular and huge Portela eagle that kept watch
over Portela's beautiful Carnaval parade for 2015.

Rainha da bateria Patricia Nery with Bahian
axé music legend Carlinhos Brown

Above: images from the Portela escola de samba (samba school), including its huge, spectacular eagle float. Read about the history of Carnaval and samba in The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil.

Also by Chris McGowan: The Brazilian Music Book: Brazil's