No one encapsulates the past, present, and future of Brazil in the way that Carlinhos Brown does. A master of the traditional rhythms and connective songwriting structures of salsa, samba, reggae, and bossa nova, Brown has remained perfectly in sync with the cities that inspired his rise to stardom. His leadership has given hope to the overworked and underfed citizens of his home country, while his support and faith in community have created a movement building towards the goal of a more equal, free, and artistic Brazil.
Like so many young people in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Brown idolized the founders of the revolutionary Tropicália movement – Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. This blend of musical styles and rhythms that will be forever ingrained in this time period of Brazilian history stuck with Brown from an early age, inspiring the sort of fearless creativity that he has harnessed throughout his career as an artist. For example, after spending some time as part of the band of his hero, Caetano Veloso, Brown moved on to found Timbalada, a group of over one hundred percussionists and singers. Most of the band was from Brown’s birthplace, and, in fact, a large majority of them children. Defying logic, Timbalada was no gimmick – the group has released eight albums and performed sold out shows all over the world. Brown’s talents as a bandleader are surpassed only by his gifts as a percussionist and composer. In 1996, he released his solo debut, earning him a great deal of critical acclaim and eventually leading to placement of his music in popular American films. He has since released seven additional solo albums, and in 2012 his collaboration with Sergio Mendes for the film Rio earned Brown his first Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song.
No matter how much success Brown attains, it is clear that his heart will always live close to his hometown. Brown founded the Pratacum Social Action Association (APAS), a non-profit with the mission of enriching Brazilian communities with arts education, cultural preservation, and community development. Under Brown’s guidance, APAS built a school designed to foster music education among the youth in Brown’s birthplace of Candeal. Programs in urban development, language, art, and design have also changed the Candeal landscape from one of crime and poverty ravaged favelas to a fertile hot spring of culture, tolerance, and creativity. In 2007, Brown debuted the Museu du Ritmo, a large venue designed by Brown, himself, to showcase Brazilian art and culture.
Carlinhos Brown has struck the perfect balance of maintaining pride in his cultural roots while at the same time spearheading efforts to bring Brazilian culture into an age of modern prosperity and worldwide appreciation. His efforts to rebuild the crumbling foundations of the Salvador community have been matched with an art space erected as monument to the past. Through his music and the efforts made possible by his music, he has changed the lives of his hometown community in every way imaginable. And as Brown sees it, he has only gotten started.