Published February 26, 2013
| Fox News Latino
These are heady days for Brazil. Its economy is booming and the country is preparing for its spot in the global spotlight as it hosts the 2014 World Cup, followed by the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Brazilian music is also booming, extending its reach well beyond the nation’s borders.
Long gone are the days when the only Brazilian figure in the music and film industries was Carmen Miranda, who became known for her elaborate costumes – fruit basket on her head included.
Today the leaders in the international movement of Brazilian artists include the likes of Lucenzo, Taio Cruz, Nelly Furtado and even up-and-coming talents such as Wyclef Jean’s new artist, Jarina De Marco. These musicians are not just big in Brazil, they are also becoming a global phenomenon.
“It seems to be a new trend how these guys are presenting themselves,” said Marc A. Hertzman, director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at Columbia University in New York City and author of "Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil."
“These artists are not selling Brazil like Miranda or her vision of it,” he added. “She always had a challenge because people never really respected her in Brazil [even though she was raised there] because she wasn’t really from Brazil but from Portugal.”
Hertzman said that it is “fascinating” that these days Brazilian artists embrace being Latinos and not just Brazilians, one of the main reasons there is an explosion of Brazilian talent gone mainstream.
“It’s so interesting the crossover to ‘Latinidad,’” Hertzman told Fox News Latino. “Even Caetano Veloso and other Tropicalistas, who had international identity, still rooted themselves in Brazilian culture [and image.]”
Within the past two years, artists such as Michel Teló and Lucenzo have made waves in the music scene, but both have achieved international stardom in completely different ways.
For instance, Teló has made the genre Sertanejo Universitário (College Country) popular throughout Latin America, Europe and in the U.S., with his hit love song “Ai se eu te pego [If I Could Squeeze You].” Sertanejo Universitário is a sub-set of the rhythm, and usually is heard and played in areas of Brazil where the middle class and metropolitan residents live and work in.
Teló’s song could be one of the most popular ones to come out of Brazil since the jazz favorite "The Girl From Ipanema" introduced Rio de Janeiro to the world 50 years ago.
“To have a Brazilian like myself singing a song in Portuguese and have everyone dancing and singing the words, that is very special,” Teló told Fox News Latino in a mix of Spanish and Portuguese.
“All of this success is a gift from God,” he added, describing the difficulty of Brazilian songs going mainstream and becoming hits in other places other than Brazil, Portugal and certain Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.
“Now ‘Ai se eu te pego’ is heard throughout Europe, Latin America and the world,” Teló continued. “It’s about opening doors for other artists.”
Similarly to Teló, Lucenzo made a splash on the scene with his hit “Danza Kuduro,” featuring Don Omar, for the action-packed film “Fast Five,” which is part of the successful franchise "The Fast and the Furious."
The film, shot in Brazil and featuring Don Omar, was a mix of Spanish and Portuguese and won numerous awards and topped the Billboard music charts.
These days, Lucenzo is partnering with another established artist and crossing over to the general market with his latest song “Wine It Up,” featuring reggae singer Sean Paul.
Hertzman says he is astounded with the Brazilian talent and how they are all owning their individuality and really strategizing “being unique” as a marketing tool.
“Lucenzo is a particular case because he sings in Spanish and can come off as if he is from the Dominican Republic,” he said. “Brazilian sensuality and sex appeal links up with reggaeton so well.”
For other artists such as pop artist Taio Cruz and De Marco, being Brazilian has seeped into their music in a distinct way.
Cruz, who is half Brazilian, half Nigerian and grew up in London, has made a name for himself in the dance/electronic/pop cultures and has fused sounds of Brazilian legends such as Sergio Mendes, who is known for making music in the Bossa Nova genre. Both Cruz and Mendes also worked together while making music for the animated film “Rio,” which also featured George Lopez and Will.i.am.
“Lately the music styles that I have put out are very rhythm based. It’s a lot of dance and electro pop that I have put out but I am definitely a big fan of learning different rhythms and different styles,” Cruz said about working with Mendes in ‘Rio’ in an interview with entertainment journalist Andrew Freund.
“It’s good to fuse the two different worlds,” he added.
Cruz has also worked with Mexican singer Paulina Rubio and has toured Brazil extensively while promoting his work.
Like Cruz and Mendes, other well-known artists such as singer and songwriter Wyclef Jean are investing in Brazilian and Latino artists, including De Marco.
“What interests me about Jarina De Marco is her voice,” he said about the singer’s smooth vocals in an MTV interview. “There is no auto tune on her voice.”
De Marco, like Teló, has made it a point to sing in Spanglish.
"It’s very rare that you get that rawness,” added Wyclef Jean who is launching his new record label with De Marco as his lead singer.