Gilberto Gil is one of the rare foxes managing to carve an almost five-decade career while remaining in the shadows of larger names that have come and gone. While successfully spreading the beauty of Brazilian music across the continents, he's done the same for Brazilian listeners by infusing the styles he's come across in his journeys into his repertoire. Saying the world is indebted to him for the volume and quality of music and art that he has created is putting it lightly.
Gil's knack for using music as a tool for thought and expression has seen him on both sides of the law. Alongside his early partner in music, Caetano Veloso, Gil experienced imprisonment and exile by Brazil's military government in the '60s. In 2003, President Lula da Silva appointed Gil as the country's minister of culture, a post he held until 2008. During that time, he named the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as a Brazilian Point of Culture, the first appointment of this kind in the U.S. An advocate of technology, Gil has been outspoken in support of digital recordings, podcasting, file-sharing, even using the internet and databases as systems for making Brazilian music available for free.
Gil's political views haven't always been in line with those of his administrative handlers due to his vocal nature and uncompromising attitude. He does appear, in the eyes of his indigenous press, to be a polarizing figure, which could be chalked up to a "Brazilian" thing, though it probably has more to do with his being black and successful in a society that politely ignores the continued truth of skin color marginalization.
Gilberto Gil, 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29 to $69954-522-5334; click here.
It hasn't stopped him from penning more than 50 albums, though. Gil's compositions and artistry have established him as an innovator and pioneer of the Brazilian sound, developing such genres as tropicália, bossa nova, and MPB (Música Popular Brasileira). From rock, reggae, and punk to the lengthy African sounds of Fela Kuti, Gil has been an ambassador, bringing Brazilians these new landscapes of sound as his work evolves.
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With son Bem Gil on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Jaques Morelenbaum in tow for Wednesday's show, Gilberto Gil brings his String Concert performance to South Florida for a night as captivating as his storied career.