Perhaps ironically, bossa nova, the music style associated with complacence, is also considered responsible for the birth of the protest music of the 1960s that denounced the political uproar Brazil found itself in that led to the military coup of 1964. Critical of the insipid character of bossa nova lyrics and influenced by the precarious political and economic situation of Brazil, artists started using music to voice their opinions and as a vehicle to teach the largely uneducated Brazilian population about their country’s current social, political and economic status.
Following the coup of 1964, a new generation of bossa nova musicians emerged. The music they composed was radically different from that created by the first generation of bossa nova musicians and depicted the plight of the Brazilian population and denounced the country’s newly installed military government. In addition, this new type of bossa nova music had a nationalistic character that its predecessor lacked. This new wave of bossa nova musicians not only sang about the hardships of Brazilians, especially about the life in the drought-stricken northeastern region of the country; the music they composed to accompany their lyrics also made use of traditional Brazilian instruments and borrowed from other genres of Brazilian music like the type of samba heard in the urban slums. But in spite of the differences that distinguish them from one another, both styles of bossa nova were intrinsically linked to Brazil’s history and reflected the historic period in which they were created, one born during a time of growth and the other created in a time of struggle.
It is not consensus that bossa nova can be called a movement. However, it is recognized for its importance in Brazilian music history. It introduced complex harmonies, close relationship between lyrics and music, and a general concern for arrangement and musical form. It influenced later movements such as Tropicália and MPB. Bossa nova repertoire consists predominantly of songs, while the instrumental music similar to it is generally called samba-jazz.
Bossa nova is most commonly performed on the nylon-string classical guitar, played fingerstyle (without a pick). Its purest form could be considered unaccompanied guitar with vocals, as exemplified by Joao Gilberto. Even in larger jazz-like arrangements for groups, there is almost always a guitar that plays the underlying beat.
Though not as prominent as the guitar, the piano is another important instrument of bossa nova; Jobim wrote for the piano and performed on it for most of his own recordings. The piano has also served as a stylistic bridge between bossa nova and jazz, enabling a great deal of cross-pollination between the two.
Drums and percussion are not considered essential bossa nova instruments (and in fact the creators sought to eliminate percussion), yet there is a distinctive bossa nova drumming style, characterized by continuous eighths on the high-hat (mimicking the samba tambourine) and tapping of the rim.