Lifestyle, Ludotheque

Fifty years watching the girl from Ipanema

The “Girl from Ipanema” allowed one of the smoothest and most influential styles of Latin-American music to go global: the bossa nova. It is the 50 year anniversary of the creation of the song.

Miriam Valero

It was the summer of 1962 in Río de Janeiro. At the foot of the Cristo de Corcovado [Christ of Corcovado], on the beach in the luxurious district of Ipanema, an energetic girl was walking by the sea and a tired man in a bar saw her go past. He grabbed a serviette and scribbled down the beginnings of a song. He was the poet Vinicius de Moraes and she was the young Brazilian Heloisa Eneida.

De Moraes would then write lyrics alongside some musicians who had started to revolutionise the sounds of the country at the end of the 1950s. They were playing songs composed of simple rhythms, led by classical guitar, accompanied by piano and a smooth almost whispering voice that they called bossa nova.

The poet would work with those considered to be the fathers of this style, the young men Joao Gilberto, who with his guitar and his voice was waiting to find perfection in simplicity, and Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, a classically-trained pianist with an advanced ear for the composition of the time.

The encounter between Moraes and Eneida, whom Jobim also reflected, would inspire the creation of “The Girl from Ipanema” one of the most recorded songs in the history of music that recounts the grace of a woman going for a walk on the sand, by the sea.

From then until now, the song has continued to be the most recognisable form of the elegance and balance that is the bossa nova that with its clean harmonies transports the listener to a distant, longed for place of peace and tranquillity.

At the time, many people criticised the musicians and called them out of tune, but in the end their harmonies conquered the world and won over the critics. Joao Gilberto responded to the critics in his song “Desafinado” [Out of Tune] (1958), “If you say that I’m out of tune, my love, (…). If you insist on classifying my behaviour as unmusical, (…). What you don’t know, nor can even imagine, is that the out of tune also have a heart”.

The trio, Joao Gilberto on guitar and voice, Tom Jobim on piano and De Moraes with the lyrics were joined by the American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and Joao’s wife, Astrud Gilberto, who added female vocals, to record the English version of the song.

The version that would include “Getz/Gilberto” (1963) was the record that made the bossa nova go global, which together with the film “Orfeo Negro”[Black Orfeus](1959), winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes, allowed the rest of the world to get hooked on the evocative and melancholic Latin-American style that has influenced the history of music.

Following the success of the song, the style started to interest protagonists of the jazz scene and some of the most important singers of the era began to interpret the bossa. Some of these included Sergio Mendes, Miles Davis, Charlie Byrd, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, among others.

So, bossa nova was born from the guitar of Joao Gilberto with the single “Chega de Saudade” [No More Blues] in 1958 and deconstructed the rhythms of the samba, but vanished from the country owing to the state military coup in 1964, resulting in the development of the style being relegated to outside the country’s borders. “The Girl from Ipanema” and the bossa nova have attributed one of the major cultural and influential exports of Latin-American art to the rest of the world.

A revolution that, before his death, Antonio Carlos Jobim said “Since the time of the Portuguese colonisation, our country has been invaded by foreign influences. For the first time, thanks to bossa nova, we were able to influence someone”. (PL)

(Translated by Claire Donneky – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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