The Polar Music Prize 2005 is being awarded to the Brazilian composer and musician Gilberto Gil for his unflinching creative engagement in bringing to the world the heart and soul of the rich music of Brazil. A unique composer powered by immense talent and curiosity. A unique musical ambassador powered by firm cultural conviction.

Chapter: Bahia


Gilberto Gil was born in 1942 in Salvador, Bahia, one of the most traditional and original centers of music creation and production in Brazil and the world.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil Wikimedia Commons



Two musicians left their special mark on his formation: Luiz Gonzaga, the creator of the baião, an urban genre originating in the Northeast hinterland of Brazil, and João Gilberto, from Bahia, the inventor of the style of singing and guitar playing known worldwide as bossa nova.

Joao Gilberto (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The works of Joao Gilberto and Luiz Gonzaga.
Gilberto Gil (Photo: Press/Polar Music Prize)

The Music from Bahia

Influenced by bossa nova, samba and pop, Gil forged a music with its own light wherein he incorporated rock, reggae, funk and new rhythms from Bahia like afoxé. Over these musical bases, Gil has tackled a wide variety of issues in his lyrics, pertinent always to the reality of the modern man in Brazil and in the world. From counterculture to African and oriental culture; from behavioural freedom to social inequality; from prejudice to racial miscegenation; from religious syncretism to scientific advance; from technology to ecology; from love to friendship.

Albums 1967 - 1979
Chapter: Tropicalia



Henrique Mann & Caetano Veloso, Source: Henriquemannmusico, via Wikimedia Commons

The importance of Gilberto Gil’s name to the culture of his country goes back to the ’60s and the Tropicalism movement.  At the time Gil and his friend, Caetano Veloso, also a singer and composer from Bahia, created Tropicalism, the principal musical movement after bossa nova.

Oswald de Andrade, source: Wikimedia Commons

The idea of “antropofagia” was originally put forth by poet Oswald de Andrade in his essay “Manifesto Antropófago,” published in 1928, and was developed further by the tropicalistas in the 1960s.

Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes performing "Domingo no Parque"

Political activism

The tropicalists assimilated elements from the international music and pop culture to the national genres and to the harmonic conquests of the bossa nova. A dominant principle of Tropicália was antropofagia, a type of cultural cannibalism that encouraged the conflation of disparate influences, out of which could be created something unique.

Three of the four w-horn portable enclosures for ambulant loudspeakers designed for Os Mutantes, 1970.  Photo by Cláudio César Dias Baptista via Wikimedia Commons

Deeply critical on political, moral and behavioural levels, Tropicalism ended up being repressed by the authoritarian regime then governing Brazil. Gil and Caetano were imprisoned and then exiled.

Os Mutantes in 2010. Photo by Amy Hope Dermont, via Wikimedia Commons
Chapter: To London and back

To London and back

During the two years he spent in London, Gil recorded a LP with songs in English for Famous Music, a label of Paramount Records. Upon returning to Brazil in 1972, he set about recording Expresso 2222, an album on which he went back to the origins of Brazilian music under the influence of pop. It was the start of a series of records that became anthological in the ’70s. Two of them registered historical encounters.

Maria Bethânia in 1972. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs, via Wikimedia Commons

The first in 1975 was shared with another great singer-composer-guitar-player, Jorge Ben Jor. And the second in 1976, with Caetano and the singers Gal Costa and Maria Bethânia, the group from Bahia that met up to form Os Doces Bárbaros (The Sweet Barbarians).

Expresso 2222
Chapter: The man from Bahia

Gil, The man from Bahia

The ’90s were marked by several successful albums and the Quanta live concerts that gave him a Grammy Award for Best Album of World Music in 1997. In 2000 Gil released two albums which were significant to his career. The first, Gilberto Gil e as canções de ‘Eu, tu, eles’, featuring the great classics of Luiz Gonzaga.


Eu,Tu, Eles was recorded live and released as São Joao Vivo. This concert was attended by thousands of people worldwide and Gil decided to link the tribute to Luiz Gonzaga to another he dreamed to do a long time: Bob Marley. In 2002 Gil released Kaya N’Gandaya. His main idols Luiz Gonzaga, the Cangaceiro, and Marley, the Rastaman, are there together and reborn in just one character: Gil, the man from Bahia. This album is a result of a life and is a masterpiece of an artist and of a singular artisan.

Chapter: Politics


In 1987, as Cultural Secretary of the city of Salvador, he struggled for the preservation of the city’s historical patrimony. During his mandate as city councilman from 1988 to 1992, he created the Onda Azul Foundation , an NGO of which he is the President and which develops social environmental projects aiming a better quality of life and making people environmentally conscious.

Advertisement for Ond Azul Fundacion.

During President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s administration, he participated in Comunidade Solidária, a governmental social program. In 2002 he openly supported the president to be of Brazil Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva, of the Labour party. After Lula’s election in December in 2002, he appointed Gil as Brazil’s new Minister of Culture.

Seminário Internacional sobre Diversidade Cultural: Práticas e Perspectivas, 2007 By Wilson Dias (1813WD4908.jpg — Agência Brasil – Radiobrás), via Wikimedia Commons



Interview with Jimmy Cliff and Gilberto Gil at the Polar Music Prize ceremony and banquet.
Chapter: Polar Music Week

Stockholm May 2005

Gilberto Gil and Jimmy Cliff at the Polar Music Prize concert at Mosebacke in Stockholm, the day before the ceremony.

Gilberto Gil stayed several days in Stockholm in May 2005 for the prize ceremony, he did both a concert at Mosebacke and gave a lecture at Kulturhuset with Leif Pagrotsky, then the Swedish Minister of Cultural Affairs.

Gilberto Gil and Leif Pagrotsky (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Gilberto Gil, Marie Ledin, Jimmy Cliff and Tomas Ledin at the Polar Music Prize pre-party. (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden, of Brazilian origin, and Gilberto Gil at the Banquet. (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Lisa Nilsson and Simone Moreno performing "Aquele Abraço" at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony.
Håkan Hellström - "Vamos Fugir"
Lisa Nilsson, Håkan Hellström & Simone Moreno - "Mas que nada"