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A round up of 10 performances from the great Brazilian singer/guitarist.
It was no accident that Brazilian singer and composer Gal Costa was born to enrapture audiences around the world. Her mother played classical music while pregnant in hopes that her unborn child would share in her love of music. Costa’s musical spirit transcended mere appreciation, though; she composed, sang and served as a muse for transformative figures in Brazlian popular music including Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
She entered the music business properly in the mid-‘60s, right after a successful military coup backed by the United States upended Brazilian politics. The act spurred a revolutionary mindset among the youth, one that mirrored the “hippie” zeitgeist throughout the world at the time. Art communities in the country started to coalesce around the musical and art movement known as Tropicalia. It was in this cultural landscape that Costa would find her voice.
The tonality of Costa’s vocals is distinct and pitch perfect, but what sets her apart is her performances. Her stage presence is as ferocious as it is effortlessly alluring, and these 10 videos show the mesmerizing hold Costa has on audiences even still, some 50 years later.
Divino maravilhoso (1968)
This video is from the peak of the Tropicalia movement, and took place just before Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were exiled by the government. Their forced removal marked the end of the movement, and watching the video it’s no wonder the government was threatened by the free loving youth.
The Archaic Lonely Star Blues (1970)
This song speaks directly to the heart of Tropicalia. Even though at this point the movement was waning, artists like Costa still incorporated the flavor and mood in their music.
Costa is incredibly vulnerable on stage, and that tenderness is carried into her voice. In this duet with MPB star Djvan, they intertwine their melodies in a way that’s incredibly heartening.
“Baby” was Costa’s first of many nationwide hits, and this Os Mutantes cover was actually a song written by her close friend Veloso. This live television performance is emblematic of how effortlessly she could embody the full emotion of a song.
Da maior importância (1970)
Costa’s roots are in bossa nova, and this stripped-down psychedelic take is lovely. This is a motif that she repeats often: evening gown, flower in her hair and seated on in a humble stool with her voice full of saudade.
Mae Da Manha (1994)
The intensity of her stage presence is fully at the forefront here. Costa is fiercely unaccommodating to those who have tried to censor the female form. Topless and in complete command of the stage, this performance, fused with jazz, elements is powerful.
A 1973 performance that tenderly and beautifully encapsulates her siren-like voice and emotional candor, Costa somehow masters both minimalist and maximalist approaches.
Oracao Mae Menininha (1973)
This clip opens with an interview with Costa in a public park, and presents a snapshot of how effortlessly cool and charming she is. Once she starts singing, she mostly stays kneeling on the floor in a performance that’s brilliantly theatrical.
Here Costa sings alongside Antonio Carlos Jobim, someone who she was a fan of long before they ever started working together. This beautiful operatic environment shows a side of Costa not anywhere else on this list
Though Costa weaves in and out of psychedelic motifs, this performance is perhaps the most absurd on the list. It’s hard not to love such a outlandish cast of characters —and Costa in a costume that looks close to what she wears on the cover of her iconic Índia album, which was originally censored for it’s provocative photo.