Bossa Nova

Baji J. Ram Rao
10:06 -0700 Wed. 18-Oct-2017
The Bossa Nova musical form from Brazil, a lyrical fusion of samba and jazz became popular in the 1950s and 1960s is well-known today.
The phrase bossa nova means literally new trend.

The lyrical themes found in bossa nova include women, love, longing, homesickness and nature -- depicting the easy life of the middle to upper-class Brazilians.

The samba’s emphasis on the 2nd beat carries through to bossa nova (it is even often notated in 2/4 time). Two-measure patterns usually contain a syncopation into the second measure.
Overall, the rhythm has a “swaying” feel rather than the “swinging” feel of jazz.
Bossa nova was also influenced by the blues. However the most famous bossa novas lack the 12-bar structure characteristic of classic blues.

Here is an example of the Bossa Nova four bar rhythm.

As written...

Bossa Nova rhythm.

and played...


The song: “Garota de Ipanema” Portuguese for: “The Girl from Ipanema”
was composed in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim. It is a Brazilian bossa nova jazz song, which became a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s and won Grammy awards in 1965.
The Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The English lyrics were added later by Norman Gimbel.

As the story goes, one evening in March 1963 in a studio in New York City, singing star João Gilberto was to sing for his friend, Antônio Jobim, a composer, producer and arranger with Odeon Records.
João and Jobim were cutting a record with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.
João Gilberto’s wife Astrud, just happened to be present with her husband in the studio that day.

They had a flash of an idea to record an English song on “Ipanema”.

Astrud was the only Brazilian in the studio that day, who could pronounce acceptable English.
She sang the English part, in her child-like vocals, devoid of vibrato and singerly mannerisms -- the perfect foil for her husband João Gilberto’s soft bumblebee voice.
João sang the Portuguese vocals as he played the guitar. Music director: Antônio Carlos Jobim played the piano. Jazz saxophone player, Stan Getz blew a creamy smooth tenor on his saxophone. The bass was played by Sebastião Neto and on the drums was Milton Banana. This song was in the album: Getz/Gilberto, released one year later in March 1964 under the Verve label.

The Girl From Ipanema by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz(1964)

A shortened single of the song reached #1 on the Pop Standard chart and was named Record of the Year in 1965.
The album won the 1965 Grammy Awards for
“Best Album of the Year”,
“Best Jazz Instrumental Album - Individual or Group” and
“Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical”.

Whence my interest in this song?

A keen follower of R. D. Burman’s music, I discovered his first composition in the Bossa Nova rhythm -- a jazz derivative of the Brazilian Samba.
R. D. Burman developed a fondness for the vibrancy of Latino music, when he was exposed to it in Calcutta.
Bringing the Bossa nova form from the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to the studios of Bombay, RDB dovetailed it with a pentatonic औडव जाति raag(सा रे॒ ग प नी॒) to create a song in Pati Patni (1966).
S R1 G3 P N2 S in Carnatic notation, like the Hatakambari (हाटकाम्बरी) raaga.

He stripped the bossa nova’s complicated chords, while incorporating the rhythm, giving it the feel of an Indian melody, with a distinctively foreign flavor. Thereby did RDB Indianize the bossa nova.

The rhythm was so unorthodox that Asha Bhonsle had difficulty coming to terms with it !!
By her own admission, Bossa Nova woke her up to a thoroughly new rhythm and meter – the essence of which took her some time to permeate.

Sung by Asha Bhonsle, and picturized on Shashikala playing a seductress,
“मार डालेगा दर्द-ए-जिगर, कोई इसकी दवा कीजिए; ये वफ़ाएँ बहुत हो चुकीं, आज कोई जफ़ा कीजिए”, from the film Pati Patni(1966) is now an icon amongst our musicians for its novel structure.

One of R. D. Burman’s greatest strengths was his ability to break down patterns in known and accepted forms of rhythm and seamlessly infuse them into popular Indian film music.
Today, the bossa nova is a part of any high-end keyboard synthesizer workstation and songs are composed on the same.