Gilberto Gil's Discography: 'All albums have a biography' - Part 2

Writer of other biographies for Brazilian music albums gives an overview of Gilberto Gil’s records, which contain experiences and reflections.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Chris Fuscaldo*, journalist and music researcher

Imagem de Gilberto Gil de black power durante lançamento do álbum Refazenda para o documentário Tempo Rei (Janeiro de 1996)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In 1975, Gilberto Gil was experimenting with the various shows he did in Brazil, including on universities, and recordings that were only released years later. It was a moment of reunion with himself, of reflection, of restoration of his being.

Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no encerramento do evento Phono 73 (1973)Instituto Gilberto Gil

It was in that same year that he, almost by chance, shared the studio with Jorge Ben, an artistic reference to him since he was still in Salvador.

Capa do álbum Gil & Jorge: Ogum, Xangô, de Gilberto Gil e Jorge Ben (1975)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gil & Jorge: Ogum, Xangô was launched in 1975, without planning. The record came from a jam session they had at an event at André Midani's house. The label's president was impressed with the impromptu show, same as they did during the recordings.

Gilberto Gil e o acordeonista Dominguinhos durante a turnê do álbum Refazenda (1975)Instituto Gilberto Gil

‘Re’ phase with new references

Between 1975 and 1979, Gilberto Gil plunged into the phase in which he produced a trilogy of four albums: the three unreleased Refazenda (1975), Refavela (1977) and Realce (1979) and the show Refestança (1977), performed with Rita Lee and released on disk, also playing with the "Re" prefix.

Capa do álbum Refazenda, de Gilberto Gil (1975)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil grava a música Ela

Refazenda: back to the origins

In 1975, Brazil was still under military command, and censorship determined the kind of music to be recorded and performed. The song that would be title of his new album, “Refazenda,” made his fans believe he was sending a message to the military.

They thought the mention to an avocado tree in the song had to do with the green uniform. However, as Gil acknowledged years later, the Refazenda album came about as a “juxtaposition of nonsenses” and was only a celebration of nature and a recovery of his northeastern roots.

Capa do álbum Doces Bárbaros, de Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa e Maria Bethânia (1976)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Out of the loop

In 1976, everything happened in Gil’s life. Maria, Sandra’s youngest daughter, was born, and he went on the Doces Bárbaros tour with Caetano, Gal, and Maria Bethânia. The double LP would come out in the same year he was arrested for the second time, this time for marijuana possession.

Capa do álbum Refavela, de Gilberto Gil (1977)Instituto Gilberto Gil


Black inspiration

Released in 1977, Refavela was completely inspired by Gil’s new view on black culture after a month in Nigeria. The trip to the African country to take part in a festival meant he met black artists and debated black diaspora.

Prefácio do livro Fela - Esta Vida Puta, escrito por Gilberto Gil Prefácio do livro Fela - Esta Vida Puta, escrito por Gilberto Gil (2011)Instituto Gilberto Gil

There, he met multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Fela Kuti, creator of Afrobeat and human rights activist. From then on, Gil’s sonority would never again be the same, and neither would his political stance.

American funk and Jamaican reggae influenced the songs in Refavela, just like the Carnaval groups from Bahia Ilê Aiyê e Filhos de Gandhy, which proposed the recovery of African influences for Carnaval in Salvador.

Capa do álbum Antologia do samba-choro, de Gilberto Gil e Germano Mathias (1978)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Out of the loop again

Still in 1977, the singer recorded six tracks for a samba de breque [a type of samba with abrupt pauses] album, completing a repertoire of old recordings Germano Mathias. This project was released in May with the Antologia do Samba-Choro.

Capa do álbum Refestança, de Gilberto Gil e Rita Lee (1977)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Refestança was recorded on a tour with Rita Lee, one year after they were both arrested for marijuana possession. In 1977, they joined their bands—Gil’s Refavela and Rita’s Tutti Frutti—and partied on stage and in the record.

Capa do álbum Gilberto Gil ao vivo em Montreux, de Gilberto Gil (1978)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In 1978, Gil released Ao Vivo em Montreux, recorded during his concert at the Montreux International Jazz Festival, in Switzerland. This phase started off a process of internationalization in his work, culminating with Nightingale the following year.

Capa do álbum Nightingale, de Gilberto Gil (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Nightingale por Gilberto Gil em show no Red Ballroom

In 1979, Gil went to Los Angeles to record Nightingale, produced by Sérgio Mendes and with versions of his songs. The visit to the United States confirmed his perception of the potential of the wave of disco music. Four years after starting it, Gil ends the “Re” trilogy and, on his return to Brazil, launches Realce.

Capa do álbum Realce, de Gilberto Gil (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil


The more glitter, the better

And, inspired by this dancing movement, in Realce he invested in a mix of Brazilian and foreigner musicians, he came to a sound that reinforced both Brazilian and American music.

Gilberto Gil em fotos de divulgação do álbum Realce (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Sarara Miolo

In order to write the arrangements, Gil had Steve Lukather’s, from rock band Toto, guitar, and Jerry Hey’s, arranger for funk/soul band Earth, Wind and Fire, keyboards (the audio is an instrumental recording of the song, before adding voice).

Recently in love with Flora Giordano—who would become his fourth wife—, Gil dedicated a song for women: “Superhomem – a canção” is quite a feminist song for its time.

Flora Giordano, então namorada de Gilberto Gil, na praia em Salvador (Janeiro de 1982)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Continues in Part 3.

Credits: Story

Exhibit credits

Research and text: Chris Fuscaldo (*author of Discobiografia Legionária and Discobiografia Mutante: Álbuns que Revolucionaram a Música Brasileira)
Assembly: Patrícia Sá Rêgo

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

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.
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