History of Bossa nova
The Bossa Nova is a musical genre that appeared in the 1950s in Brazil, fusing the traditional style of Samba with Jazz from the United States.
The expression “Bossa nova” means “new style” in Portuguese, that is to say a new way of interpreting the typical Samba as we know it in Rio de Janeiro based on a simple instrumentation (the guitar , piano, drums, conga, saxophone and bass) and the use of dissonance to develop one’s own language and lyricism.
Unlike Samba, percussion is not an important instrument for Bossa nova, and some players try to do without it, most often using the guitar and piano.
Origins of the Bossa nova
The word “bossa” comes from the French “bosse”, a term that appeared in the 17th century in the Portuguese language to define something that stands out then a fashion, a style, a certain talent.
It was in 1932 that the Brazilian musician Noel Rosa used the word “bossa” for the first time in a Samba.
In 1956 Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim, better known as Tom Jobim, composed with the poet Vinicius de Moraes the soundtrack of the play “Orfeu da Orfeu da Conceição” based on the Greek tragedy of Orpheus.
This work was going to be the starting point of a great collaboration between Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes who composed for this occasion one of their most beautiful songs, “Se todos fossem iguais a você”, a work where one distinguishes all the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic elements of the Bossa Nova.
A year later, this new musical style will be taken up by students and amateur groups who gathered south of Rio de Janeiro, along Avenida Atlantica which borders the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
Among these young musicians will discover the new talents of the Bossa Nova as Billy Blanco, Carlos Lyra, Roberto Menescal and Sérgio Ricardo, to which will join Chico Feitosa, João Gilberto, Luis Carlos Vinhas or Ronaldo Bôscoli.
It was also in 1957 that Dorival Caymmi composed “Saudade de Bahia” also considered as the basis of the Bossa Nova, song that the author will later interpret with Tom Jobim.
Evolution of Bossa nova
In May 1958 João Gilberto, considered as the “Pope of Bossa nova”, participated in the recording of the album “Canção do amor demais” composed by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes and performed by Elizeth Cardoso. If this album did not have immediate success, it is considered by specialists as one of the starting points of Bossa nova thanks to titles like “Chega de saudade”, “Estrada branca”, “Luciana” or “Outra vez “, but especially because of the famous guitar sound of João Gilberto with his dissonant chords inspired by American Jazz.
Before the arrival of João Gilberto, Tom Jobim composed unconventional arrangements that the singers could not interpret, considering that his music was out of tune.
In August 1958, João Gilberto will record a 78 rpm containing the songs “Chega de saudade” and “Bim bom”, a record that according to some will mark the official debut of Bossa Nova.
In 1959, Brazilian singer and comedian Juca Chaves composed and recorded “Presidente bossa nova”, a song dedicated to President Juscelino Kubitschek, considered as the artisan of modernism in Brazil. This song has a great success on the radio and shows that the use of the expression “Bossa nova” is quickly passed in the manners to name at the same time this new musical style and the modernity.
The release of the film Orfeu Negro in 1959, directed by Marcel Camus and awarded by the Plame d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, will allow the Bossa Nova to come out of its borders and its success will be assured in the 1960s thanks to the saxophonist American Stan Getz.
In 1962, Tom Jobin and Vinicius de Moraes composed “A Garota de Ipanema” (The daughter of Ipanema), originally entitled “Menina que passea” for a musical.
In 1963, Stan Getz recorded an album in New York with Tom Jobin and Astrud Gilberto (the former wife of João Gilberto). this album titled “Getz / Gilberto” which includes the song “A Garota de Ipanema” will be launched in 1964 and will win three Grammy Awards in 1965 including the Best Album of the Year Award.
With “A Garota de Ipanema” the Bossa Nova then makes the tour of the world, making dream the people who imagine then the beaches of Rio de Janeiro with beautiful Brazilian under the sun of the tropics.
Subsequently, the Bossa Nova will be represented by performers such as Edu Lobo, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Sergio Mendes, Elis Regina or the famous Baden Powell who will work with Vinicius de Moraes, incorporating sounds closer to jazz.
The Bossa nova will then evolve towards the Brazilian Popular Music whose most representative artists are Geraldo Vandré, Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque of Holanda, the latter working notably with Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes, Milton Nascimento or Maria Bethânia among others.
Chico Buarque, like Gilberto Gil, will then evolve towards tropicalism and the best-known songs of this great talent of Brazilian music are “O que será” or “Essa moça tá diferente”, the latter well known in France because served as a sound background for a television advertisement for the brand “Schweppes”.
Dancing the Bossa Nova
Unlike the Samba from which it derives, the Bossa Nova is unfortunately very little danced in the world because of the particular agreements of the music.
The base of the Bossa nova as a dance, however, comes from the Samba, and the dancers practice it face to face. The man in general will begin the movement by taking a step forward with the left foot while bending the knees, to bring his right foot next to the first. The woman will do the opposite, stepping back with her right foot and then left.
For the next time, we will do the opposite, the woman advancing while the man back to accompany the movement.
By exercising his basic movements, we must not forget to swing his hips to the sound of music. This swaying is the secret of Bossa nova which is rather considered a lascivious and sensual dance.
To give you a better idea of how to dance the Bossa nova, take a closer look at the steps played by this couple in the video below.