Great Brazilian Music

Brega, brega-pop and tecnobrega

“Brega” is a Brazilian slang word, essentially meaning “nerdy,” or “outdated”. During the 1980’s, brega also came to denote a certain type of music, with roots in the melodramatic and romantic samba-canção and bolero music of the 1930’s. Brega music is basically a type of ballads, with simple but catchy melodies and very romantic lyrics, about topics such as love, marriage and infidelity. The music may draw from from different kind of rhythms, from samba to bolero or sertanejo. The one thing all brega songs have in common is the overly explicit romantic and deliberately kitschy feel. The uncrowned king of the traditional brega genre was the singer Waldick Soriano (1933-2008), from Bahia.

During the 1980’s and and 1990’s, musicians in the state of Pará (in the Amazon) began to mix brega with regional music styles, such as carimbó, and with the Caribbean calypso. The result of this mix was called brega pop. The North Brazilian and Caribbean influences give brega pop a different, more sensual and danceable character than the traditional brega music. Brega pop originated as a local phenomenon in the state capital of Belém, but during the 1990’s the genre grew quite popular throughout Brazil. Kim Marques, Adilson Ribeiro, Tonny Brasil, Nick Oliveira and Mário Senna are among the genre's most popular artists. By far the most famous brega pop band of all, however, is Banda Calypso. It is very much thanks to Banda Calypso’s success that the brega pop genre has become so well known and beloved outside of Pará and the Amazon region. Banda Calypso’s music unexpectedly became a huge hit with the party crowds of the beach resort Porto Seguro, in southern Bahia, in the early 2000’s and subsequently spread to other cities.

Banda Calypso was formed in 1999 at the initiative of the blonde singer Joelma Mendes. The band, however, immediately ran into problems, when no record company showed the slightest of interest to sign the band. For their music to reach an audience, Banda Calypso, had to rely on touring and independent distribution of cheap CDs. Against all odds, the band quickly became a smash hit and their debut album, Banda Calypso Volume 1 soon had sold more than 500 000 copies.

Like all brega based artists and bands, Banda Calypso has endured much scorn from Brazil's cultural elite and many people who want to think of themselves as having a refined taste in music. In spite of this, there is no denying that the music of Banda Calypso does posess a sweet kind of charm, emits tons of positive vibes and works great to dance to.

During the summer of 2002, Belém saw the birth of yet another type of brega music, called tecnobrega or melody. As the name tecnobrega suggests, it is a mixture of brega pop (based primarily on carimbó and calypso) and elements of electronic music, drum'n'bass and tecno. The production and sound of tecnobrega music is typically deliberately “amateurish”, full of cheap 1980’s style synthesizer sounds and beats. One of main ideas behind the music is that one should not have to have access to an advanced, modern studio to record tecnobrega, but that it can easily be managed in any basic home studio. The result is a very interesting sound, not unlike reggaeton, albeit much softer and more romantic in nature.

When singer Gaby Amarantos released her 2012 album Treme, the tecnobrega music scene - as well as the music scene of the state of Pará as a whole - entered a new phase. Gaby Amarantos was the first artist with a tecnobrega sound who managed to conquer the hearts of both the typical tecnobrega fans in Pará, as well as the most refined and fastidious critics in Rio and São Paulo and also rock, pop and MPB fans all over Brazil. Gaby Amarantos' music maintains the contageous spontaneity and simplicity that characterizes tecnobrega, but also ads a natural and unforced "coolness" to the sound, which has resulted in her unprecedented crossover appeal.

Examples of brega, brega-pop and tecnobrega

Eu não sou cachorro não, Valdick Soriano, 1992 (Brega)
Dançando Calypso, Banda Calypso, 2001 (Brega-Pop)
Amor Bandido, Banda Calypso, 2001 (Brega-Pop)

Eu sou maluca, Point do Brega, 2007 (Tecnobrega)
Melhor som do Pará, Point do Brega, 2007 (Tecnobrega)
Ex Mai Love, Gaby Amarantos, 2012 (Tecnobrega)
Ela ta beba doida, Gaby Amarantos, 2012 (Tecnobrega)
Lambada, Kaoma, 1989 (Lambada)



Joelma Mendes, singer of Banda Calypso

Tecnobrega poster

1980's cover of lambada album. Lambada has the same origin as brega-pop and can be considered part of the genre.