The global music community mourns the loss of Brazilian singer Gal Costa. It’s nearly impossible to talk about Brazilian music without mentioning Costa. Wielding one of the most striking voices in Brazilian music history, the singer passed away on November 9, 2022.
She was 77.
The outpouring of condolences from Black American artists illustrates the impact of Costa’s musical presence on the Black world.
Tyler the Creator
She was born in Salvador Bahia, in the northeastern area of Brazil. This state is the center of Afro-Brazilian culture. Costa recorded more than 30 albums throughout her legendary career. Her most popular works included Baby, Que Pena, Chuva de Prata and Divino Maravilhoso.
The singer-songwriter collaborated with other musical giants including Gilberto Gil, Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento.
And during the years of Brazil’s dictatorship, her trademark hippie style and often revealing clothing made her a symbol of defiance of the military authorities.
She was instrumental in creating the Brazilian Tropicália movement which fused Afro-Brazilian music traditions with the psychedelic rock of the 1960s. I liken her to a Brazilian Teena Marie, in her style and the level of affection she receives from the Black community.
The Tropicália musical movement was a Brazilian sound which blended Brazilian genres, particularly the fusion of avant-garde and popular, as well as the blending of Brazilian tradition and foreign customs and styles. Tropicália is now primarily identified with the musical branch of the movement that combined psychedelic rock, pop, and African and Brazilian rhythms.
Costa started this movement with a group of musicians from Bahia, including Torquato Neto, Tom Zé, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil. After moving together to Sao Paulo, the group recorded the album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis, the 1968 album that functioned as the movement’s manifesto.
The Tropicália sound was a form of political expression as well as a tool for studying and influencing culture. The movement was born at a time when both left-wing ideologies and the military dictatorship in Brazil simultaneously controlled significant but separate levels of power. The rejection of nationalism by the Tropicalist artists was criticized and harassed by the state, making the movement more symbolic.
In 1969, Costa released her debut album which included the tunes “Baby” and “Divino Maravilhoso”. The album is considered a Tropicalismo classic, merging Brazilian stylizations and North American psychedelic influences.
In the 1980s, already consolidated in the musical scene, his career was marked with the recording of successful albums such as “Aquarela do Brasil”, “Fantasia”, “Minha Voz”, “Profana” and “Bem Bom”.
From the second half of the 1990s, Costa began to reread his old recordings. In 2001, she was included in the Hall of Fame of Carnegie Hall, being the only Brazilian singer to enter the Hall, after participating in the show “40 years of Bossa Nova”, in honor of Tom Jobim. In 2012, she was selected as the seventh greatest voice in Brazilian music by Rolling Stone magazine. In 2018, he released the fortieth studio album of his career, entitled “The Skin of the Future”.
The iconic singer will be missed by her fans and contemporaries.