Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira (born 26 June 1942), known professionally as Gilberto Gil (Brazilian Portuguese: [ʒiwˈbɛʁtu ˈʒiw]), is a Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter, known for both his musical innovation and political activism. From 2003 to 2008, he served as Brazil's Minister of Culture in the administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Gil's musical style incorporates an eclectic range of influences, including rock, Brazilian genres including samba, African music, and reggae.
Gil started to play music as a child and was a teenager when he joined his first band. He began his career as a bossa nova musician and grew to write songs that reflected a focus on political awareness and social activism. He was a key figure in the Música popular brasileira and tropicália movements of the 1960s, alongside artists such as longtime collaborator Caetano Veloso. The Brazilian military regime that took power in 1964 saw both Gil and Veloso as a threat, and the two were held for nine months in 1969 before they were told to leave the country. Gil moved to London, but returned to Bahia in 1972 and continued his musical career, as well as worked as a politician and environmental advocate.
Gilberto Gil carries out a fundamental role in the constant modernization process of Brazilian popular music. Partaking of this scene for 41 years, he has developed one of the most relevant and renown careers as a singer, composer and guitar-player in this field. Gil has had his albums released abroad since 1978, the year of his successful performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland, recorded live. Every year he tours Europe, North America, Latin America and Japan with his contagious pop music spoken in Portuguese-Brazilian and international language, a music with a strong rhythmic appeal and melodic richness, as mixed as its people.
Rhythms from the northeast of Brazil like the baião, apart from samba and bossa-nova were fundamental in his formation. Using them as a starting point, Gil forged his own music to which he incorporated rock, reggae, funk and rhythms from Bahia such as afoxé. Gil has tackled a wide variety of issues in his lyrics, pertinent to modern reality: from social inequality to the racial question, from African to Oriental culture, from science to religion, among others. The mastership with which Gil explores these subjects makes him one of the greatest Brazilian composer-lyricists.
Gil's importance to the culture of his country goes back to the 60's, when he and Caetano Veloso created Tropicalism. Radically innovative in the music scene, the movement assimilated pop culture to national genres; deeply critical on political and moral levels, Tropicalism ended up being repressed by the authoritarian regime. Gil and Caetano were imprisoned and exiled.