Opening Ceremony music at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Did you watch the Rio Olympics’ Opening Ceremony? If you did, you heard some music that was notable for a variety of reasons, some on-the-surface and some more subtle.

Here are 5 things I noticed about the music:

1. The opening video montage, which showed parallels between Brazil’s sports and artistic culture, began with impressively quiet. Even though Bossa Nova music is a big part of Brazil’s culture, I thought the event’s creators showed impressive understatement and restraint by beginning with a gentle bossa and letting it go on for so long. The need to constantly “entertain” and “create excitement” on mass media often means that quiet music gets glossed over for more uptempo styles, which indeed can translate better to the small screen. But the bossa nova opening showed that understatement can triumph if given the chance.

2. The Brazilian culture wasn’t “dumbed down” and reduced to quick sound bites. Some songs were performed in their entirety, and even the rap and hip-hop influenced performers seemed thoroughly connected to the older tradition of Brazilian music. This was especially evident in the duet between Zeca Pagodinho and Marcelo D2 which seamlessly combined gentle singing with rap.

3. Although most of the press coverage of “The Girl From Ipanema” has focused on supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s walk across the stadium floor, I loved hearing Daniel Jobim’s beautiful performance of his grandfather’s classic song.

4. The musical buildups took their time and displayed remarkable patience on the part of the show’s creators. Even the instrumental musical underscoring took its time and build gradually, for a slowly increasing momentum. As I said in #1 above, I find this patience to be increasingly rare in big media events these days. As Brazil proved, you don’t need to move always move fast to create drama, suspense, and excitement.

5. The production for the instrumental tracks took acoustic instruments and added a beautiful, modern electronic “sheen.” I couldn’t tell whether he recording engineers layered modernistic synths over the basic orchestral recordings or did something with electronic processing. I think it was probably the latter, but either way, it was stunning and appropriate to dress traditional musical sounds with modern highlights. It was an apt parallel to the way Brazil’s history was visually dramatized with modern and futuristic costumes and staging.

The whole 2016 Opening Ceremony was not only a proclamation of Brazil’s cultural and social history, but also a worldwide affirmation and demonstration of the Brazilian people’s joyfulness, “coolness,” and musical depth. You can find a more complete listing of the musical performers here.

It was the perfect way to begin the 2016 Olympic games!

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