Just six or seven years ago, teachers preparing courses on Brazilian music for students lacking reading knowledge of Portuguese had at their disposal relatively few scholarly book-length publications in English on the topic. With respect to popular music, Perrone's Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song (1989) was a standard-bearer, while McGowan's and Pessanha's more journalistic The Brazilian Sound (1998 ) remains a favorite teaching resource. One could also draw upon Appleby (1983) and Schreiner (1993; slightly updated in 2002). Guillermoprieto (1990) and Browning (1995) treated samba, but not from a musicological perspective, while Vianna's The Mystery of Samba (1999 ) offered a stimulating discussion on topics of music, national identity, and Brazilian modernism leading up to and including the Vargas Era (1930–45). Shaw (1999) explored similar topics but, apart from some valuable observations on the role of radio and cultural policy under Vargas, consists primarily of analyses of major samba composers' lyrics.
Today, by contrast, there are a variety of recent publications to add to the list, and the trend should continue. The turn of the millenium saw the publication of Fryer's Rhythms of Resistance (2000), on the African influence in Brazilian music; Perrone's and Dunn's edited volume Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization (2001); Dunn's Brutality Garden (2002), on the Tropicália music movement; and Reily's Voices of the Magi (2002), an ethnography of the Three Kings processions in São Paulo state. Two translations, Castro's Bossa Nova (2000) and Veloso's Tropical Truth (2003), present journalistic and "eyewitness" accounts, respectively, of two of the major Brazilian music movements from the period 1958 to 1969. In 2004 Magaldi's Music in Imperial Rio de Janeiro and McCann's Hello, Hello Brazil were published. Even more recently, Livingston-Isenhour and Garcia contributed the first book in English on the choro genre (2005); Crook's Brazilian Music (2005) and Murphy's Music in Brazil (2006) are two new textbooks; and Leu's Brazilian Popular Music (2006) provides another exposition of Caetano Veloso's life and music, with some valuable new insights.
McCann's contribution grows out of a Yale history Ph.D., although the writing style bears no traces of "dissertationese." The reader will not turn to it for detailed descriptions of different musical genres, notated examples, or extended analyses of song lyrics; see some of the publications listed above for these kinds of analyses. This is a historical look at, in particular, the role of radio in the making of modern Brazil. He begins his narrative with a 1933 marcha by Lamartine Babo called "História do Brasil," which, McCann observes, marks a transition from one set of national myths and symbols, "based on a high cultural vision of the marriage of European and indigenous elements," to another based on "Afro-Brazilian roots and modern, popular cultural forms" as well as commodity [End Page 310] culture ("from O Guarani to guaraná") as part of a deliberate and democratic "invention" of Brazil (2–3). McCann shows popular music to be "both the common ingredient and the binding glue" of transformations pervading cinema, popular literature, sport, and the media from the 1930s through the 1964 military coup (5). He describes a popular musical arena of radio stations, recording studios, carnival parades, musical revues, and cafés in Rio de Janeiro, where "the evolving body of Brazilian popular music was created and shaped, bought, and sold" (5). This book differs from the other titles mentioned above in its sustained attention to "the connections between cultural expression, the audience's desires, the government's demands, and the inescapable imperatives of the economy" (6).
McCann counters certain received interpretations of the Vargas era that view popular culture and Afro-Brazilian samba musicians as largely co-opted by the state; he reveals instead a cultural arena that was "remarkably democratic" (11). He highlights how...