Who is Gilberto Gil?
Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira is a Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter who was born on 26 June 1942 in Salvador, Brazil.
He is the son of a doctor and a teacher and has been married three times and has seven children. He is considered to be a pioneer of world music.
Gil's musical style incorporates an wide range of influences, including rock and folk music, and Brazilian genres including samba, African music, reggae, salsa, and bossa nova.
From 2003 to 2008, he served as Brazil's Minister of Culture in the administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Gilberto Gil’s early years
Gil started to play playing the accordion as a young boy and learned to play and sing the bossa nova in the 1950s after learning to play guitar and spending the early 1960s composing songs for TV ads.
He was a key figure in the Música popular brasileira and tropicália movements of the 1960s, alongside artists such as long-time collaborator Caetano Veloso and in 1965, he moved to São Paulo. After singing and playing in various shows there, he had his first hit when singer Elis Regina recorded his song 'Louvaao'.
A military junta took over Brazil in 1964 and saw Gil’s musical fusion of bossa nova, samba and other styles as subversive. As a result, in 1969 he and Veloso were imprisoned for nine months before they were forced to leave the country.
The song in the opening video of the Olympic Ceremony is ‘Aquele Abraço’ by Gil, sung by composer Luiz Melodia. Composed and released that year it is considered to be Gil’s “song of farewell” before being exiled to London. It is his most played song and is seen as a symbol of the struggle against military dictatorship in Brazil.
After working with groups like Pink Floyd, Yes, and the Incredible String Band he returned to Brazil in 1972 to continue his musical career. He became very popular with Brazilians involved in the Tropicalia movement, which opened up native Brazilian folk music to other kinds of influences.
Gilberto Gil the politician
In the late '70s, Gil became a prominent spokesman for the black consciousness movement then taking place in Brazil.
In 1980, Gil teamed up with reggae artist Jimmy Cliff for a tour of Brazil. Gil's cover of Bob Marley's 'No Woman, No Cry' reached number one, selling 700,000 copies.
The early '90s saw Gil continuing his involvement in social and political causes in his native country, finding widespread support for his political stances, and he was elected to office in the port city of Salvador (aka the Black Rome), his hometown.
From 2003 to 2008, Gil began serving as Brazil's Minister of Culture. He took an office in the modernist federal capital of Brasilia, and went to work championing Brazilian culture at home and abroad.