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Giberto Gil blazes trail to greatest access

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Gilberto Gil blazes trail to greatest access

Brazilian musician and activist reflects aspects of his culture, society


News Special Writer

Gilberto Gil, the legendary Brazilian musician and activist, has always been a proponent of social and artistic egalitarianism. But he doesn’t just talk the talk.

Gil has long been fascinated with the use of communications technology as a way of spreading freedom by giving more people more access to information - especially in developing countries. He has pushed hard for the freedom of the artist to disseminate his or her work via the Internet without getting stymied by record companies or publishing companies who might clamp down on this practice by invoking ownership of copyright.

Which brings us to Gil’s current tour, which is dubbed Gilberto Gil and the Broad Band Summer Tour - and which comes to the Power Center on Wednesday for an Ann Arbor Summer Festival show.

Most concertgoers are familiar with signs in theaters that issue admonitions like “It is forbidden to photograph or film this show without previous authorization.” Well, Gil is doing the opposite: He has invited the audience to film or audio-tape the show, using cellphones, digital cameras, tape recorders, etc.

And the shows will also be recorded by a professional camera crew and then posted on the Internet as widely as possible - using a range of different platforms, from a tour blog to, which bills itself as “The Official site of the 3D online virtual world.”

Gil and his group will mostly being playing songs from their latest album, “Banda Larga Cordel.” Many of those songs explore this theme of achieving artistic and cultural freedom through the spread of information via advanced communications technology.

“Gil really is at the forefront of reexamining copyright laws, so that an artist can license his music to anyone he wants to, and share it with whoever he wants to, via the Internet,” says Mary Catherine Smith, host of the “Brazilian Sol” radio show, which airs Saturday nights on WEMU, 89.1-FM. “He believes that, in today’s world, without access to the Internet, you can’t really have a democracy.”

As for Gil’s music, Smith says she loves “the way his work wonderfully reflects Brazilian culture and society and where it needs to go, in order to move forward. And the way he uses his voice, he is able to convey so much emotion, sometimes without even using actual words. He really is one of the ‘musical saints.’ ”

Kevin Ransom can be reached at


Gilberto Gil and the Broad Band

Who: Brazilian musical star and activist.

What: A fusion of samba, rock, folk and more.

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Where: Power Center, 121 Fletcher St.

How much: $36 - $48

Information: Ann Arbor Summer Festival Box Office, 734-764-2538, and online at

Prior to the concert, an Afro-Brazilian Dance Party will be held at the Top of the Park, featuring the Brazilian-American fusion group A Cor Do Brasil.

And on Tuesday at the Downtown Ann Arbor District Library, Gil will hold a discussion exploring the issues of copyright, digital culture and Internet rights.