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tom zé

tom zé


Tom Zé was born in the small town of Irará, inland of Bahia state in 1936. In Salvador, he studied music at Universidade Federal da Bahia, with professors Walter Smetak (a experimental composer) and Hans Joachin Koellreutter (who introduced dodecaphonism in Brazil). During that phase, Tom Zé started to write songs with a powerfully satirical and political tone.

“nos braços de 2.000 anos
eu nasci sem ter idade
sou casado sou solteiro
sou baiano e estrangeiro”
Rita Lee e Tom Zé

When he was already living in São Paulo, the musician gave his unique contribution to Tropicalism with a highly critical-ironic vein. Two of his most famous songs date from this period: “2001”, a partnership with Rita Lee, and “São São Paulo, meu amor”, winner of the 4th Brazilian Popular Music Festival on TV Record, in 1968.

In the early 70’s, Tom Zé kept some of his popularity with another hit, “Se o caso é chorar”, of 1972. However, his next productions, marked by innovation and a creative restlessness, led to ostracism that lasted until the late 80’s, when the North American David Byrne, leader of the group Talking Heads, discovered and launched him in the USA and Europe. From then on, Tom Zé’s name and work have been increasingly recognized by the public, both in Brazil and abroad. His career has not taken a break ever since, with constant new CD releases, and national and international shows.

In 1997, in a partnership with José Miguel Wisnik, Tom Zé composed the music Parabelo, to be danced by the ballet Grupo Corpo. That same year, he released the CD Com defeito de fabricação in Brazil and the USA, soon followed by Post modern Pilatos, a CD of remixes of international bands.

In 1999, the Brazilian artist went on a North American tour with the band Tortoise and had his CDs acclaimed by international critics. In 2000, with his new album, Jogos de armar (faça você mesmo), Tom Zé innovated the concept of authorship in composition. The following year, he wrote again for the ballet Grupo Corpo: “Santagustin”. In 2006, at 70 years of age, Tom Zé released two equally innovative albums: Estudando o pagode and Danç-Êh-Sá, both of which restate his commitment to musical innovation.