Bethania’s early career is well noted for her involvement with the Tropicalism movement, the wellspring of avant-garde music, poetry, art, and political activism that grew into a full-fledged social movement in late 1960s Brazil. It is no accident that she became involved very early on with Tropicalism and played an enormous role in shaping its direction – Tropicalism was in part founded by Gilberto Gil, a friend and frequent co-performer with Bethania, and Caetano Veloso, Bethania’s older brother. With ties to these rapidly rising Brazilian stars, it did not take long for Bethania to gain attention of her own. In 1965, she released the protest song, “Carcará,” her very first single. She went on to sign a contract with a major record label, and by 1977 she had released a gold record and was touring internationally. Despite her dedication to finding her path as a solo artist, Bethania did not stray far from her roots. In 1976, she rejoined her brother, Caetano Veloso, as well as Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil to form the supergroup Os Doces Bárbaros. This collection of four of Brazil’s most popular musicians was an immediate success, and their self-titled album is widely considered to be one of the best Brazilian albums of all time.
Bethania remains one of the most recognizable and active voices in Brazil today. Over the course of her career, she has released over thirty albums and performed in venues and festivals all over the world. In 2006, a documentary about Bethania’s life, entitled Musica e Perfume, was released to critical acclaim. Bethania has also sought out ways for her music to more directly impact the Brazilian community. In 1994, she took part in a reunion of the supergroup Os Doces Bárbaros for a tribute concert benefitting the Mangueira school of samba. In 2011, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture honored Bethania with a grant of $1.3 million Reais to produce a blog of poetry and her own interpretations of famous poems. Bethania continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the positive force that creativity and artistic expression can achieve when given an opportunity to grow.