46. Gilberto Gil

Musician Activist

Bossa nova, tropicália, samba, reggae, forró—even the names of the genres Gilberto Gil, 67, has shaped are musical. Yet his background in politics and activism is almost as long as his performance career, starting with his imprisonment by the Brazilian military regime in 1969 and continuing with his work as a passionate environmentalist. Less well known is his interest in the Internet, especially the free-culture movement led by Lawrence Lessig and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S. In 2008, Gil left his position as Brazil's minister of culture to re-record old classics with his band, Banda Larga Cordel (Portuguese for "broadband"), and release the rights to their music under a Creative Commons license to be freely remixed and shared by the world.

We work inadvertently for planetary unity and, vice versa, for the growth and proliferation of local diversity that affirms itself in plural mini-realities spread like dust across the globe. The intention of my last album, Parabolic, is none other than to express this function of industrial art, in general, and popular music, in particular: at once unifying and diversifying.

The music of the world is bigger than world music. An example of this broadness is what became known in Brazil as Tropicalismo. Here, in this tropical land, almost thirty years ago, we were young people from different parts of the country who understood: we belong to the world and the world belongs to us. We are part of everything and we are in every part.

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