More than Samba: Brazilian Music to Check Out

Before going to Brazil, my impression of Brazilian music was, primarily, “The Girl from Ipanema.” I knew that samba existed and bossa nova was a type of music, but that’s about it.

After being in Brazil for an extended period of time, my understanding of Brazilian music simultaneously expanded, and shrank. I learned about quite a few different music styles that I had never heard of before, like sertanejo, Brazilian funk, and pagode, Yet I also became overwhelmed with the sheer amount of Brazilian funk I heard on a daily basis. There was no variety – from the gym, to the grocery store, to parties at night. Funk, funk, funk.

But Brazil has such an amazing music history.

The Afro-Brazilian influence creates a recipe that cannot be captured elsewhere. Samba is both a genre and a dance, just like forró. While funk captures the sexual frenzy of many Brazilian parties, bossa nova shows Brazil’s softer side – the morning after, perhaps. It’s soft, lilting rhythms remind me of the perpetual chirping of birds along Rio’s seaside and beaches. The sound of people, nature, and city life all mixed into one.

If you’re interested in Brazilian music, but not sure where to get started, here’s a few of both Gustavo’s and my top favorites:


Cazuza is a well-known Brazilian rock singer active in the 80’s and 90’s. If you’ve seen Cidade de Deus, you’ve heard this song before.

Cássia Eller

Another well-known Brazilian rock musician, Cássia Eller is a favorite of both myself and Gustavo’s. Not only did she have a beautiful, soulful voice, but her lyrics were equally stirring.

Elis Regina

Elis Regina (one of Gustavo’s mom’s favorites) was popular mostly during the 60’s and 70’s as a jazz singer. “Águas de Março,” a song written by Tom Jobim about the end of summer, is one of my favorites performed by her.

Karol Conká

Karol Conká is one of the most prominent female rappers/funk artists in Brazil. Her take is both more feminist and more unique than most funk produced today, in my humble opinion. (It’s great music for when you need to get amped up, too!)


I think I first heard of the Tribalistas from a Portuguese teacher of mine. They’re a pop group that was originally active in the early 2000’s, but they recently got together for a new tour. (Including some dates in New York!)

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