Pantanal Escapes

Pantanal Culture: Music

One of the greatest pleasures of Brazil is its music, and the Pantanal is no exception. Although you'll find the same popular music in the Pantanal region as the rest of Brazil - the local favourite is Música Sertaneja. This is Brazil's answer to Country music - which fits with the region's traditionally rural culture.

Música Sertaneja

Although música sertaneja (also known simply sertanejo) has been around since the 1920s, it's form has continuously evolved to keep pace with the times. It's latest incarnation, Sertanejo Universitário, has a distinctive pop feel which local artists have taken internationally - achieving #1 hits across Europe and on US-based Billboard Latin charts.

Sertanejo originated in the rural area of central Brazil - primarily in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Goias, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. It consisted of romantic ballads, and/or stories about rural life and struggles - but was also popular dance music. As with forró, from Brazil's northeast, its signature sound is the accordion - playing a role similar to the fiddle in early American country music. Other instruments used are the acoustic guitar (viola in portuguese), and the viola caipira which is a type of brazilian guitar using ten strings rather rather than the usual six.

Sertanejo Tradicional

We've used this (unofficial) term to describe the music that still holds favour with the region's older generations. Notable artists of this genre include:

Sergio Reis
Originally from Santana in São Paulo state, Sergio Reis has been performing since the 1960s. He's also appeared as an actor in several popular Brazilian soap operas.
tv_icon Music Video: Trinidade
tv_icon Music Video: Mágoa de Boiadeiro

Almir Sater
Almir Sater is from Campo Grande in Mato Grosso do Sul. He's one of the region's (and Brazil's) most respected musicians, and also has appeared as an actor in several television productions - including the series Pantanal. Sater has travelled extensively through the Pantanal with other artists as part of the "Caravan of Hope", researching and documenting about lives of the region's residents.
tv_icon Music Video: Tocando em Frente
tv_icon Music Video: Corumbá

Sertanejo Comercial

From the 1980s onwards, sertanejo became more commercial and exploded in popularity, gaining more national radio and television air time. These acts also continued performing locally in shows and rodeos. Many of the acts are duos (often two brothers) and include:

Bruno & Marrone
Originally from the Brazilian state of Goias, Bruno & Marrone, have been one of the country's most popular acts through the 1980s and 2000s, and winners of a Latin Grammy.
tv_icon Music Video: Feriado Nacional
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Zezé di Camargo & Luciano
Perhaps the most popular Sertanejo act in Brazil to date - with music consisting mostly of romantic ballads. A film about the duo, 2 Filhos de Francisco, released in 2005, was one of the most successful Brazilian movies ever. From Goias originally, but the pair are frequent travellers into the Pantanal taking advantage of the region's sport fishing.
tv_icon Music Video: Dois Corações e Uma História
tv_icon YouTube channel link

João Bosco & Vinícius
This duo are from Mato Grosso do Sul. They both resided in the Pantanal town of Coxim before leaving to study in the State capital, Campo Grande. Their music career launched in 2002, with popular success throughout Brazil, plus major shows in the US and Europe.
tv_icon Music Video: Chuva
tv_icon Music Video: Final de Semana
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Sertanejo Universitário

Younger music artists (most still in their 20s) have re-invented sertanejo, mixing it with influences from commercial pop, axé, pogode and even Brazilian funk. They've achieved major successes in Brazil and internationally, with artists from Mato Grosso do Sul (and the Pantanal region) at the forefront.

Michel Teló
Michel is from Campo Grande in Mato Grosso do Sul. He's one of the most promising stars of this genre - having already achieved a #1 in Brazil, in US (on the Billboard Latin charts), Germany, France, and elsewhere in 2011-12. Imagine Ricky Martin mixed with a dash of a young Clint Eastwood and you get the idea.
tv_icon Music Video: Ai Se Eu Te Pego
tv_icon Music Video: Bará Berê
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Luan Santana
Also from Campo Grande. Now one of the highest earning music stars in Brazil.
tv_icon Music Video: Sinais
tv_icon Music Video: Química do Amor
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Gusttavo Lima
Gusttavo Lima is a classic Brazilian rags to riches story. Originally from a small town in Minas Gerais, Lima travelled to Brasília to pursue his career, but struggles there saw him without food and sleeping in bus stations. On the verge of giving up he travelled to Goiânia where things clicked and he was finally "discovered". His biggest hit to date, Balada (Tchê Tcherere Tchê Tchê) is one that he was initially reluctant to record - but is probably one of the catchiest tunes you'll ever hear.
tv_icon Music Video: Balada
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Bruna Viola
Bruna Kamphorst, from Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, grabbed attention on national TV as a 14-year old playing traditional Violão Caipira. Now in her early 20s she's a rising star on the Brazilian sertanejo music scene.
tv_icon Music Video: No Ponteio da Viola

Other Brazilian Music to Explore

Gilberto Gil
Gilberto Gil is one of the legends of Brazilian music. He and his socially-aware music faced persecution (and exile) under Brazil's military regime of the 1960s and 70s - but went onto international acclaim. Like much of Brazilian music, his music has strong roots in the Bahian (African) culture - but he's also a master of other styles, including Samba Reggae and forró. He has set up scholarships and training programs for many other Brazilian musicians, including the Salvador groups Olodum and Filhos do Gandhi (Sons of Gandhi)
tv_icon Music Video: Esperando na Janela
tv_icon Music Video: Vem Morena
tv_icon YouTube channel link

Claudia Leitte
Claudia Leitte, along with the very fabulous Ivete Sangalo, is a major name in the high-energy Bahian style of Axé (pronounced Ash-ay), which is especially popular for Carnaval. She's also talented in other styles, as you can see in the clip Magalenha where she performs alongside Bossa Nova legend, Sergio Mendes.
tv_icon Music Video: Água
tv_icon Music Video: Magalenha
tv_icon YouTube channel link

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Michel Teló playing accordion at a show.

Music Downloads

Exploring local music is a great way to learn about Pantaneiro and Brazilian culture, and downloading a few songs to your iPod may even help your Portuguese. However, music download services, such as iTunes, can make it difficult to do this because of their region restrictions.

Region restrictions mean that users with Brazilian iTunes accounts can see and purchase songs by these artists, whereas international users might see only a limited catalogue - or no music at all. This filtering is based on your country of registration, and origin of your linked credit card or iTunes gift card. This means that you still can't buy the tracks through iTunes even when you're actually in Brazil. Its an insane and frustrating aspect of how the music industry have decided to run their business. Unfortunately, the competing Brazilian-based music download services only seem to work with credit cards issued by Brazilian banks.

If you want to purchase Brazilian music tracks but find you are unable to, here are a few workarounds before you resort to piracy:

  • Buy CDs as you travel. Although it's old-fashioned, doesn't give you the opportunity to mix and match - and is problematic if traveling with an ultrabook or tablet lacking a CD drive.
  • Set up a Brazilian iTunes account. You can do this by purchasing a local iTunes gift card and setting up a Brazilian iTunes identity. This will also need a second email address which differs from the one used by your existing iTunes account.
  • MP3 store. This has some music not found on iTunes - but unfortunately only works for US-based accounts.
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Toyota Bandeirante jeep in the Pantanal
Amazon kingfisher in the Pantanal
Sunrise in the Pantanal
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Image credits: Michel Teló photos by Igor Duarte (via WikiMedia creative commons).
Bandeirante, Sunset, and Kingfisher (
Andrew Mercer)

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