The definition of bossa nova is Brazilian music or dance that is related to the samba but has less percussion. It is a style of music made popular by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Gilberto Gil, and Vinicius de Moraes—to name a few. In Portuguese the words “bossa nova” means new trend. However, it was very much a lasting trend.
Bossa Nova is known mostly for its “lighthearted” themes. It is known for its lyrical and smooth vocals, and guitar instrumentation. It is sometimes described as a mix of Samba and Jazz.
Bossa Nova: How it Began and Evolved
Originating from the middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, Bossa Nova really took off in the late 1950s. Although the first Bossa Nova song was "Chega de Saudade" (1959) by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, many music critics argue that the song “Girl from Ipanema” written in 1962 by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto is the song that put Bossa Nova on the map. In 1964 American Jazz musician Stan Getz recorded the song along with Jobim, Joao Gilberto and his wife Astrud Gilberto. It won a Grammy Award the year after. It was on the U.S. music charts for over a year. The song is about a real girl from Rio that Jobim would see walking to the beach, Ipanema.
Bossa Nova songs are often about love, romance (existing or unrequited) and the beauty of Brazil. When it showed signs of great commercial success, not everyone in Brazil was happy, as some felt it did not truly reflect the poor and working class. So as a resistance and protest, some musicians wrote ‘anti-Bossa Nova’ songs, calling for political change and equality in Brazil. In fact, the Bossa Nova tunes in the mid-1960s greatly differed from the earlier songs and were not that "lighthearted."
Some music critics argue that the days of Bossa Nova are long gone. However there are contemporary artists like singer Bebel Gilberto (who is the daughter of Joao Gilberto), guitarist Celso Fonseca, and singer Luciana Souza who are bringing a new twist to this classic Brazilian musical style.