International music icons and lifelong friends and collaborators, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil will make their first concert appearances as a duo in Miami and Miami Beach this weekend.
The pioneering Brazilian singer/songwriters, both 73 years old, share a musical chemistry that’s by turns complementary and telepathic. They’ve obliterated stylistic barriers, nimbly transitioning from jazzy phrasings to ethereal folk ballads and a plethora of genres in between. Gil has mined from African and reggae styles, trying something new with each record, and in the past decade, Veloso enlisted much younger musicians to create new original music.
Veloso and Gil met in Salvador, in the Bahia region of Brazil. Together, with the participation of other notable Brazilian pop stars, they spearheaded the Tropicália movement, a spirited amalgam of psychedelic rock, samba, and other styles.
But government officials killed Veloso and Gil’s buzz in 1969 when a new military dictatorship placed them on house arrest and forced them to leave the country for four months. The two emigrated to London and lived together with their wives and, in three years, eventually returned to Brazil, picking up right where they left off with their careers. Gil released his smash hit album and its title-track single, “Expresso 2222” (about trains and hallucinogenic trips). Veloso veered into an experimental direction with Araçá Azul.
Touring together since last year — the 50th anniversary of their respective musical careers — Veloso and Gil commemorated the milestone last week with the release of a live double album.
We caught up with the prolific multi-instrumentalist Gil while he was on tour with Veloso for a brief interview that touched on his time in London, his love of musical variety, and, of all people, Donald Trump.
New Tmes: Tell us about the first time you heard Caetano sing or an early memory of your discovery of his music.
Gilberto Gil: It was in the early ’60s at a friend's house. I got very much impressed and proposed a collaboration that also included Maria Bethania, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and others that came later to São Paulo to start the Tropicália movement.
During your time in exile in London, did your friendship strengthen? What was the dynamic like between you two as you went through that trying time? What did you learn about each other?
Exile gave us the double possibility of being closer and separated. I kept open to the London musical scene in the sense of mingling with local musicians, sharing the psychedelic culture, and using my time to absorb the most I could of what London had to offer. Caetano missed Brazil a little more.
Did you meet any famous British musicians in London?
We met Jim Capaldi, David Gilmour, Eartha Kit, Terry Read, Alan Watts, and many more. I still remember a crazy jam session we did with some of them at the Revolution Club, New Year’s Eve, 1970.
Both you and Veloso have been active politically through the years, railing against injustices in Brazil. What do you think about the polarization in U.S. politics right now? Young people have voiced their fear that a Trump presidency might result in a police state similar to what you experienced in 1968.
If Trump gets the nomination and is elected, I think he will moderate and get to the center of the political spectrum. That is the expectation of the country majority. For the campaign, he can risk being a little more to the extreme right to please the hardliners of his party. Governing will be slightly different.
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You have performed in Miami and Miami Beach many times already, but this is your first time here with Caetano. What do you think of Miami?
I like the city, especially the warm seawaters and the human mix.
Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $15 to $75 plus fees via livenation.com.