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Political prisoners Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, 1972

Jimmy Cliff and Gilberto Gil

“Like most artists and musicians, I considered myself detached from the political life…but I had an insight that maybe we would have a political contribution to make in the future.”

From being political prisoner in Brazil to being forced into exile to becoming Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008 in Lula’s administration.  In 1972, he returned to Brazil from London, and introduced his country to reggae.

Gilberto Gil wears a sober suit and tie these days, and his dreadlocks are greying at the temples. But you soon remember that, as well as the serving culture minister of Brazil, you are in the presence of one of the biggest Latin American musicians of the 60s and 70s when you ask him about his intellectual influences and he cites Timothy Leary. “Oh, yeah!” Gil says happily, rocking back in his chair at the Royal Society of the Arts in London. “For example, all those guys at Silicon Valley – they’re all coming basically from the psychedelic culture, you know? The brain-expanding processes of the crystal had a lot to do with the internet.”

“Much as it may be currently de rigueur for journalists to ask politicians whether or not they have smoked marijuana, the question does not seem worth the effort. Gil’s constant references to the hippy counterculture are not simply the nostalgia of a 63-year-old with more than 40 albums to his name.”
Oliver Burkeman, Dec. 2005, The Guardian


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