Music is a central part of Brazilian culture, and many of the country’s stars performed during in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. A look at some of the artists and internationally famous songs that fans heard opening night of the games:
“AQUELE ABRACO” (That Embrace)
This is Rio de Janeiro’s anthem. It was used during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Games, as well. The song was composed by Grammy Award winner Gilberto Gil. In it, Gil sends hugs to different folks from all over Rio, in that way embracing the city and viewers worldwide. “Aquele Abraco” kicked off Friday’s ceremony.
Gil, 74, is a Grammy Award winner originally from Salvador in the northeastern state of Bahia. He is one of the main faces of the musical movement called Tropicalia, which consists of international and traditionally Brazilian sounds.
Gil was recently hospitalized for kidney problems, and in the weeks leading up to the ceremony there was some doubt whether he would be able to perform. His appearance on stage Friday was both a celebration and relief for millions of fans.
Veloso, 73, is the founder of Tropicalia and also Grammy Award winner. Just like Gil, his best friend, Veloso was in exile in London during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985). The two internationally acclaimed musicians performed together in the ceremony finale with Anitta, a 23-year-old Rio resident and funk singer known for her sensual voice and Shakira-like dancing skills.
The three sang “Isto aqui o que e?”or “What is this here?” The song was composed by Joao Gilberto, considered one of the founders of bossa nova, a mixture of jazz and samba that is also known in the United States as Brazilian jazz.
“SONG CONSTRUCAO” (Construction Song)
The song, composed by internationally acclaimed Chico Buarque, is considered one of the most ingenious in Brazilian Portuguese. All the verses have a stress on the two syllables before the last. The lyrics tell the story of a builder who dies by falling from a building. Like many Brazilian songs, it also includes a love tale in the middle.
“GAROTA DE IPANEMA” (The Girl From Ipanema)
Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote the song as a tribute for a girl he fell in love with as she left Ipanema Beach, one of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic areas. The end result is a tune that is arguably Brazil’s most recognizable song internationally.
On Friday night, it was performed in part by Jobim’s grandson, Daniel Jobim, while supermodel Gisele Bundchen walked on stage.
The actual girl the song was written for, Helo Pinheiro, is now 71.
The 12-year-old sensation is from the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital. She said before the ceremony that she hoped that American pop icon Beyonce would watch her perform. The pre-teen, who is black, has also become an activist for empowering black women.
Ben, 71, is considered the soul of Brazilian funk music. “Pais Tropical,” or “Tropical Country,” is one of his most popular songs, frequently played in bars and on the radio. He performed the song on Friday night, garnering strong applause from the crowd. He is seen by Rio residents as a symbol of coolness.
Formerly known as MC Beyonce, Ludimilla is a pop singer of funk melody. Ludimilla first became famous in 2012. In the opening ceremony, she sang “So quero ser feliz,”or “I just want to be happy,” a song from popular group Rap Brasil. The song is considered an anthem for residents of Rio’s hundreds of slums, often controlled by drug traffickers and ravaged by violence.
Known as the queen of samba, Soares is still performing at 79 years old. For decades, she had the most notable voice in Brazilian samba.
Pagodinho, 57, is seen by many Brazilians as an icon of “coolness.” Despite his fame, he lives a simple life outside Rio, partying a lot playing samba music for friends.
Marcelo D2, a 48-year-old hip hop singer, rose to fame in the 1990s with the band Planet Hemp. He has been arrested a handful of times for protesting in support of legalizing marijuana.