Song of the Day: Gal Costa “Tuareg”
From Gal Costa‘s brilliant 1969 self-titled album, “Tuareg” is a blast of pure exotica. Middle Eastern and North African inflections bounce against a particularly Brazilian musical sensibility. The song, which is a tribute to the nomadic tribe of the Sahel of the same name, starts with what sounds like an oud and Moroccan pan pipes before settling into a mildly funky, organ-inflected groove. Costa delivers one of her all-time great vocal performances, delivering the verses with a subtle restraint and then launching into into the upper registers of her voice for the chorus. The song is a really unique, even among the rampant eclecticism of the Tropicalia movement generally and fits in perfectly with the heavy tropical psychedelic-vibe of the rest of the LP.
In 1945, Gal Costa was born Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Her mother hoped that Gal would become a musician and encouraged her to listen to and play music from the time she was born. She became interested bossa nova and would sing on the the side while working as a secretary by day. When she was 18, she met Caetano Veloso (who along with Costa, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben and other acts) would go on to found a new type of music in Brazil called MPB or Tropicalia.
Tropicalia was often politically subversive and was (largely unsuccessfully) banned by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985. It included influences from all over: everything from jazz and bossa nova to the rock and roll coming from America and the UK, classical music, world music and more traditional indigenous Brazilian forms. While Costa was quick to embrace the eclecticism of Tropicalia, her first record was a wonderful album of Bossa Nova duets with Caetano Veloso.
Costa remains alive and well. She continues to write and record new music and tour. All of the Tropicalia musicians largely managed to stay friendly with each other over the years, frequently collaborating and appearing on each others records.