Along with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil is responsible for one of the most significant musical movements in Brazil. Tropicalismo, as this movement was known, started in the late 60’s. Tropicalismo brought several foreign elements to Brazilian music. No longer would songs be performed with acoustic guitar only; the electric guitar became a noticeable presence. Furthermore, song lyrics were “used to address social issues, to voice protest of authoritarian control, to make aesthetic statements, and to explore philosophical and spiritual themes,” as Charles Perrone states in his book Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB 1965-1985.
Fast forward to 1997, and Gilberto Gil is still innovative. Quanta shows the diversity in Gilberto Gil’s musical universe. Using science and art as his theme, Gilberto Gil comes up with over 70 minutes of good music, covering Brazilian classics as well as presenting brand new compositions, such as “Pela Internet.” The song is Gilberto Gil’s way of showing evolution in communications. With lyrics using internet terminology, Gilberto Gil draws a comparison with what is considered to be the first samba ever recorded in Brazilian music, “Pelo Telefone.” The last verses in Gil’s songs are in fact an update of the original lyrics in that classic.
The opening track, “Quanta,” brings Mílton Nascimento as a guest vocalist. The song itself is like an overture with its statement that “art is the sister of science.” Then with Cartola and Carlos Cachaça’s exultation samba about Brazil, “Ciência e Arte,” Gil sings praises to famous Brazilians, such as Pedro Américo, famous for his historical paintings, and Cesar Lattes, Brazil’s most famous physicist. In “Vendedor de Caranguejo” and “Pílula de Alho,” Gil proves how irresistible forró is. Those two songs will likely stick in your mind, and you will feel an uncontrollable urge to dance as you listen to them. In “O Lugar do Nosso Amor,” a love song about the emptiness after the end of a love affair, Gil uses an arrangement evoking Tom Jobim’s Só Tinha de Ser com Você.” This nice remembrance is extended in the following song, “De Ouro e de Marfim,” which is a tribute to Tom Jobim himself. In yet another homage to the great João Gilberto, Bossa Nova’s most notable performer, Gil performs the instrumental “Um Abraço no João.” This variety of sambas, forrós, ballads and bossa nova rhythms will make Quanta always fresh every time you hear it.
Quanta was originally released in Brazil as a double CD set. The worldwide release is a single CD (five tracks were deleted from the original double set).
Mesa 92778-2 (1997)
All tracks by Gilberto Gil, except where noted.
- Ciência e Arte (Cartola – Carlos Cachaça)
- Dança de Shiva
- Vendedor de Caranguejo (Gordurinha)
- Chiquinho Azevedo
- Pílula de Alho
- Graça Divina
- Pela Internet
- Guerra Santa
- Átimo de Pó (Gilberto Gil – Carlos Rennó)
- Fogo Líquido
- Pop Wu Wei
- O Lugar do Nosso Amor
- De Ouro e Marfim
- Sala do Som
- Um Abraço no João
- O Mar e o Lago
- La Lune de Gorée (Gilberto Gil – J.C. Capinam)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, November 1997.