Millions will turn to Brazil for this summer's World Cup, where a host of new pop music is set to energize fans. But the richness and social complexities within Brazil's music scene often remain unknown to foreigners.
As momentum builds toward the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil, the sounds of the country are sure to turn up increasingly on social media and the airwaves. For international listeners, music from Brazil means two things above all - the driving rhythms of Carnival-style samba or the soulful grace of bossa nova a la Joao Gilberto.
Meanwhile, it's little surprise that a chunk of bright-eyed arena pop is to set the tone for the soccer showdown. The World Cup's official anthem this summer is titled "We Are One (Ole Ola)," recorded by US performers Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez as well as Brazilian pop star Claudia Leitte.
Preliminary video footage to go with the as yet unreleased track shows Lopez cavorting with an ensemble of Carnival drummers and dancers behind her - much in keeping with perceptions of Brazilian culture abroad.
Samba culture is a trademark of the country, to be sure. But how much more there is to discover in the South American giant's music scene is evident from research undertaken by the Brazil Music Exchange (BME), a division of the cultural non-profit BM&A (Brazilian Music & Arts) that promotes the country's music overseas.
Project head David McLoughlin says the BME examined trends in foreign radio play and reception of Brazilian music to discover that only about one-tenth of the country's musical genres even make it abroad. "There are so many musical styles that people have never heard of," he says.
In conjunction with the World Cup, the BME has released a 12-track mix that takes listeners to each of the tournament's host cities in order to introduce up-and-coming regional artists. Brazilian flavors and folk styles mesh with hip-hop, indie rock or dubstep - for instance, in female rapper Karol Conka's "Mundo Loco," inflected with Afro-Brazilian beats, or folk-rock innovator Siba's slow-burning "Qasida."
The BME also recently cooperated with Germany's cultural ambassadors at the Goethe Institute and German public radio broadcaster radioeins to produce a series of radio segments offering audiences a glimpse of Brazil's contemporary musical panorama.
Conquering charts with tecno brega
The country's lesser-known genres include the rustic musica caipira, a type of traditional country music that McLoughlin compares to "American delta blues played on caipira folk guitars," but there are more recent innovations getting attention as well. One example comes by way of the pumping tecno brega (the name translates to "cheesy techno"), whose leading lady is set to figure prominently in the soundtrack to the 2014 World Cup.
The regional style moved from the shadows of the Amazon rainforest and into the national spotlight within the last decade after growing in popularity in the northern jungle state of Para. Tecno brega artists often sample international chart-toppers - think Beyonce or Justin Timberlake - mixing them with "tacky" (brega) beats or Portuguese lyrics. More than just karaoke-style musical appropriation, the music often draws on significant original production.
Gaby Amarantos has become the most identifiable tecno brega star. Coca Cola, one of the World Cup's biggest sponsors, tapped her to produce a song for this summer's tournament. Titled "Todo Mundo," Amarantos' track is likely to introduce her work to a larger international audience.
Tecno brega, now a multi-million dollar part of the Brazilian music industry, has paralleled global trends in which pop artists have inverted how they make their living. Production is makeshift, and the music itself is given away freely or sold cheaply. But artists associated with the movement can make tidy profits from playing the massive tecno brega parties that draw thousands of attendees.
"It is a new format and a new market model because we produce the music ourselves, and the cost to make one song is very cheap," Amarantos told the BBC in 2009 as her star began to rise in Brazil. "For example, the guys who work with me charge between 30 and 45 pounds to make one song."
Banned favela beats
While tecno brega has catapulted into national charts, another style drawing heavily on samples and party culture fell into disfavor - officially, at least. Brazilian authorities launched a concerted, years-long campaign to tame what's known as funk carioca ahead of the country's upcoming World Cup and 2016 summer Olympic Games.
Brazilian police say funk carioca serves as the score to parties held in the country's favelas, or slums - events they call hotbeds of criminal activity. The party genre meshes Miami bass loops and various samples with explicit, often aggressive lyrics relating to sex, drugs and guns.
Bans on the genre have come in various forms. In 2008, Rio embarked on a crackdown on parties where the music is played. Accusations have since emerged that police and military officials orchestrated assassinations of a handful of those driving the scene. Meanwhile, Sao Paulo instituted a hefty fine for anyone playing funk carioca at louder than a conversational level early this year.
Those active within the genre, such as MC Leonardo, have criticized the measures as undemocratic and a form of cultural oppression. Brazilian music expert David McLoughlin agrees, saying the Rio police response is a form of racism against funk carioca's fans, who are often poor and black.
Rio governor Sergio Cabral backed away from the crackdown as popular protests raged in Brazil against government corruption. In a video posted to Facebook, he said the policy was important when the communities in question "began to be pacified," but that "now is another moment."
That bodes well for Rio's funk carioca fans in the near term. And as the world turns its attention to the coastal metropolis along with Brazil's remaining 11 World Cup host cities this summer, international music fans can find much to discover.