Gal Costa, Iconic Tropicália Vocalist, Dies at 77

Gal Costa, the iconic Tropicália and música popular brasileira vocalist, has died, The Associated Press reports. A cause of death was not revealed, but the singer was recently forced to cancel a performance at Primavera Sound’s São Paulo festival after undergoing surgery on one of her nostrils. Costa was 77 years old.

Costa is considered a leading figure in Tropicália, the multi-disciplinary countercultural movement spanning popular music, theater, film, poetry, and visual art in Brazil. The movement developed in response to the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985, and was inspired by psychedelic rock records imported from the United States and United Kingdom, with Brazilian musicians like Costa, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Os Mutantes taking cues from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.

Costa was born Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos in 1945 in Salvador, Bahia. She met fellow Tropicália stars Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in her youth, notably performing with the two musicians at the “Nós, por exemplo” concert in August 1964. This moment marked the beginning of a long-standing collaboration among the three musicians, with Costa performing and recording songs written by the two songwriters for decades to come. In 1967, she released Domingo, a collaborative album with Veloso, and Costa would perform with the artists on Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis, a who’s-who of Tropicália that included other major figures like Tom Zé and Os Mutantes.

Costa would continue to record and perform as part of the broader música popular brasileira movement across the country. Her 1973 album, Índia, and 1971 live album, Gal a Todo Vapor, are considered defining albums of the movement. In 2011, she received a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Our little sister is gone,” Gilberto Gil wrote in Portuguese on social media. “So many people in Brazil were enchanted by her singing. Now her singing stays with us for the rest of our lives, for the entire time of our history.”

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president-elect, wrote in Portuguese, “Gal Costa was among the world’s best singers, among our principal artists to carry the name and sounds of Brazil to the whole planet. Her talent, technique and courage enriched and renewed our culture, cradled and marked the lives of millions of Brazilians.”

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