Karaoke with Gilberto Gil: sing his hits to the original music tracks

While digitizing Gil's collection, we found recordings of songs before the singer had added the vocals and completed the final mix.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Chris Fuscaldo and Laura Zandonadi*

The devil's train (#1) (1969) by Claudia Andujar Instituto Moreira Salles

Karaoke in Brazil

Karaoke was first brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants at the start of the 19th century and it has been in and out of fashion ever since. 

Setlist da turnê europeia Gilberto Gil - Solo (Outubro de 2014)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Whether with backing from a live band or via a machine playback, the playlist tends to be huge, with a bit of everything from Brazilian music.

Setlist do show de Gilberto Gil na turnê internacional do álbum OK OK OK em Londres (2019-07-07)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The Gilberto Gil playlist typically includes some of his biggest hits, such as Aquele Abraço, Andar Com Fé, Vamos Fugir, and Esperando na Janela

Gilberto Gil em ensaio para o show Futurível, em seu estúdio (2010-11-01)Instituto Gilberto Gil

For any Gilberto Gil fan who wants to sing some of his other songs, there is an alternative menu that contains more than just his hits, and what's more, you'll be backed by the band that was in the studio with the great man himself.

Letra de Realce, composição de Gilberto Gil gravada por ele no álbum de mesmo nome (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Playback da música Realce de Gilberto Gil


Foto do palco montado antes do show For All, de Gilberto Gil, nos Estados Unidos em 2012, durante turnê For All (2012-11-04)Instituto Gilberto Gil

A treasure trove for fans

This treasure trove will not be available in the bars in São Paulo's Liberdade district or in Rio's Feira de São Cristóvão, and most certainly not in the land where it all began. We would, however, like to explain where these tracks came from so that the story behind them will not end up mirroring the lost origins of karaoke (see "The history of Karaoke" below). 

Gilberto Gil em entrevista coletiva virtual para Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo e Ricardo Schott, durante o período de quarentena pelo coronavírus (2020-04-28)Instituto Gilberto Gil

When going through Gilberto Gil's digitized archives, we found a series of playbacks of his songs. 

Gilberto Gil e músicos no estúdio de gravação do álbum Kaya N'Gan Daya (2001)Instituto Gilberto Gil

They were probably takes that were recorded before Gil added the vocals. Perhaps he took them out of the studio to listen, analyze, rehearse, and familiarize himself with the music before picking up the microphone and capturing each of these songs for posterity.

Facade of a temple, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Kinki Region, Honshu, Japan (2009-01-27) by Panoramic ImagesGetty Images

The history of Karaoke

Karaoke has been such an integral part of Japanese entertainment and culture for so long that even the Japanese cannot explain how it all began. 

Letra de Toda Menina Baiana, composição de Gilberto Gil gravada por ele no álbum Realce (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Playback da música Toda Menina Baiana de Gilberto Gil

Toda Menina Baiana

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), from the series "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)" (About 1830/33) by Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760-1849)The Art Institute of Chicago

In addition to the origins of the word karaoke—it is a noun made up of the words kara (空 = empty) and ōkesutora (オーケストラ = orchestra)—it is believed that the pastime first started either at parties or by using records which contained the orchestra soundtrack but which had an "empty space" instead of the vocals.

Letra de Palco, composição de Gilberto Gil gravada por ele no álbum Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver O Luar) (1981)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Playback da música Palco, de Gilberto Gil


Free Japan Essay (1952-07) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

In the 1970s, there was an explosion of machines which were programmed with a number of song soundtracks and they came with a microphone attached so that you could sing along with the music. 

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no espetáculo Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música em Nova Iorque (2016-04-21)Instituto Gilberto Gil

This invention by the Japanese Daisuke Inoue spread like wildfire and even today, it is still used in bars all around the world.

Letra de Madalena (Entra Em Beco, Sai Em Beco), composição de Isidoro gravada por Gilberto Gil no álbum no álbum Parabolicamará (1992)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Playback da música Madalena (Entra Em Beco, Sai Em Beco) de Gilberto Gil

Madalena (Entra Em Beco, Sai Em Beco)

Free Japan Essay (1952-07) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

Karaoke machines are popular in Brazil, but so are live karaoke nights, with singers—whether amateur or professional – performing to live band music in nightclubs that cater for this "traditional" karaoke.

Gilberto Gil durante o show Eletracústico no Tom Brasil em São Paulo (Abril de 2005)Instituto Gilberto Gil

With more modern units and improvements in digital technology, there are now even systems that allow you to bring karaoke into your own home. 

Letra de Soy Loco Por Ti América, composição de Gilberto Gil e José Carlos Capinam gravada no álbum de mesmo nome (1987)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Soy Loco Por Ti América por Gilberto Gil em take alternativo da música

Soy loco por ti America

By Ted ThaiLIFE Photo Collection

First came the DVD machines with CDs, then the  All-in-Ones with the music stored on a chip inside the microphone. These were followed by the professional Silverjuke computer software and the SingStar games for PlayStation2.

Foto do setlist do show Um Século de Música, de Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso, em Lisboa (2016-04-27)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Nowadays, there are digital versions in the form of apps that can be downloaded onto mobile phones free of charge.

Letra de Nos Barracos da Cidade, composição de Gilberto Gil em parceria com Liminha gravada no álbum Dia Dorim Noite Neon (1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Playback da música Nos Barracos da Cidade de Gilberto Gil

Nos Barracos da Cidade

Gilberto Gil em ensaio para o show Futurível, em seu estúdio (2010-11-01)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The latest innovation is the Google Arts & Culture karaoke, with entertainment that only Gil himself could provide.  We have made a few options available for anyone who would like to be Gilberto Gil for a day! So just rewind and have fun!

Credits: Story

Exhibit credits 

* Chris Fuscaldo is a journalist, music researcher, and singer. Laura Zandonadi is a singer, journalist and music researcher.

General credits

Editing and curation: Chris Fuscaldo / Garota FM 
Musical content research: Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Laura Zandonadi and Ricardo Schott 
Ministry of Culture content research: Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo 
Captions: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Daniel Malafaia, Fernanda Pimentel, Gilberto Porcidonio, Kamille Viola, Laura Zandonadi, Lucas Vieira, Luciana Azevedo, Patrícia Sá Rêgo, Pedro Felitte, Ricardo Schott, Roni Filgueiras e Tito Guedes 
Data editing: Isabela Marinho and Marco Konopacki
Gege Produções Review: Cristina Doria
Acknowledgements Gege Produções, Gilberto Gil, Flora Gil, Gilda Mattoso, Fafá Giordano, Maria Gil, Meny Lopes, Nelci Frangipani, Cristina Doria, Daniella Bartolini e todos os autores das fotos e personagens da história
All media: Instituto Gilberto Gil
*Every effort has been made to credit the images, audios and videos and correctly tell the story about the episodes narrated in the exhibitions. If you find errors and/or omissions, please contact us by email atendimentogil@gege.com.br

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Gilberto Gil
A musical journey into the sound of Brazilian icon, Gilberto Gil
View theme
Google apps