Two living legends of Brazilian music, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso celebrate over five decades of singing together with this rare acoustic duo concert at Oakland’s gorgeous Paramount Theatre on Tuesday presented by SFJAZZ.

The extraordinary pair have enjoyed remarkably adventurous individual careers that have frequently intersected since they first emerged on the scene in Bahia 50 years ago. Meeting when both were university students, Veloso would take guitar lessons from rising star Gil (who was already appearing on a local television show as a songwriter), starting him down the path for his own career in music.

The two musicians would become integral figures in the experimental Tropicalia movement which combined traditional Brazilian styles with diverse and radical international influences. A sophisticated blend that incorporated everything from electric guitars and psychedelic rock to allusive, modernist poetry, Dadaist imagery, and American pop, the movement also included fellow songwriter Tom Ze, vocal talent Gal Costa and the group Os Mutantes.

The self-described “cultural cannibalism” of the Tropicálistas would eventually become the foundation for popular music in Brazil while exerting influence on adventurous musicians the world over for decades to come. The songwriters spearheaded the 1968 album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circenis that — along with their respective solo albums released the same — would serve as a manifesto for the movement. Criticism the anti-authoritarian songs leveled against the ruling military regime that had taken control of the country earlier in the decade led to Gil and Veloso being jailed for several months in 1969.
While the imprisonment almost shattered Veloso (as he discussed in his compelling autobiography “Tropical Truth”), Gil turned the ordeal into a catalyst for positive self-transformation. Taking up yoga and a macrobiotic diet, the songwriter emerged a stronger, more enlightened artist. The government would deport the the two singers after their release, but they continued to support each other during their exile in London (where they recorded their first English-language albums) until they were finally allowed to return to their native land in 1972.
The two singers followed different muses through the ’70s and ’80s. Veloso remained enamored with the pop style of the Beatles but still delved into more experimental sounds. Meanwhile, Gil mined both his African roots and regional Brazilian music to build a remarkable body of work that echoes the humanist politics and irresistible grooves of global kindred spirits Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and Nigerian firebrand Fela Kuti.

In more recent years, Gil has kept a more traditionalist bent, touring solo acoustic in 2006 in support of his stunning effort Gil Luminoso and revisiting Brazilian standards for his 2014 album Gilberto’s Samba that paid tribute to the songs of Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and other important Brazilian songwriters. Veloso has explored more modern, angular music with his celebrated rock excursions cê and Zii e Zie, and his live collaboration with avowed fan and longtime admirer David Byrne, Live at Carnegie Hall.


Last year, the two songwriters reconvened to record and tour for the first time since their 1993 partnership that produced the album Tropicalia 2. Their latest venture has taken Gil and Veloso across the globe on an acclaimed acoustic duo tour that has visited 21 countries and 35 cities since it commenced in Amsterdam last year. The tour, documented by the double live CD and DVD release Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música (internationally released earlier this year before Nonesuch issued the discs on April 8), visits Oakland on Tuesday for one of only a handful of performances in the U.S. For more information and tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil
Tuesday, April 12, 8 p.m. $65-$150
Paramount Theatre