Brazil’s newly elected President Lula was devastated by the death of Gal Costa, her musical companion, on Wednesday Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso anyway. What she meant for her country can only be guessed at in the north. She was avant-garde, voice of her generation and diva at the same time. We don’t have characters like that. Together with Gil and Veloso, she formed a trinity of the Brazilian avant-garde in the foothills of the bossa nova wave, which as Tropicália was a thorn in the side of the military dictators. The mixture of samba, bossa, folk and psychedelia was politically charged even in love songs and no longer hid her anger behind bittersweet harmonies. The movement saw itself as a total work of art, branching out into art and literature.
Her voice had a rare clarity and presence
Gal Costa retained this fighting spirit, even though she soon rose to become the biggest pop star in her country. She became the diva of the MPB, the “Música Popular Brasileira”, singing in front of a large orchestra and full stadiums. Her early hits like “Baby”, “Que Pena” or “Coração Vagabundo” were known in the north. In Brazil, these were classics, to which she added new hits with each album. But it didn’t matter whether she sang just to the guitar, to clouds of strings, or to Caetano Veloso’s late electronic experiments. Her voice had a clarity and presence that is rarely found. Later, the years left their mark on the timbre. She was very aggressive about it. On her last album, Nenhuma Dor (No Pain), last year, she went into the studio for duets with all the boys, the Brazilians pop determine today. She sang “Baby” again with the wonderful Tim Bernades. And you can hear how the roles have switched, how she pulls her successors with her. Just as she was once discovered by Gil and Veloso and made into a superstar by a teenager who worked in a record shop in her hometown of Salvador. On November 9, she is in after an operation on her respiratory system Sao Paulo died. She was 77 years old.
A randomly curated playlist of some of their greatest songs is available on Spotify here.