Os Mutantes is one of the most interesting psychedelic rock bands of the 1960’s. The group was especially important for the counterculture movement in their home country of Brazil. Together with musicians like Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil they are associated with the movement known as “Tropicália”, a cultural movement that combined traditional Brazilian art with foreign influences.
By the time Nirvana played Rock in Rio in 1993, the one time little Seattle band, had become one of the most famous groups in the world. Nirvana played the hits, but being in front of an audience of tens of thousands did not stop them from engaging in their usual concert behavior. This included dressing in women’s clothing, purposely playing badly to get a rise out of the audience and, of course, the destruction of their equipment.
But upon their arrival in Brazil, Kurt Cobain also used the opportunity of being in front of the camera to list one of his favorite bands, Os Mutantes. Kurt mentions how his friend, Bill Bartell of White Flag had taped the first two Os Mutantes albums for him and had asked him to mention the band when playing Brazil.
Cobain also makes mention of some of the trouble that the band met with initially. It was also the case for the other artists associated with the Tropicália movement whose work was met with anger from more conservative groups in the country. These groups did not appreciate the influence of western culture on traditional Brazilian music. The military dictatorship in the country was also hostile towards the musicians, with key figures Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso being practically exiled and relocating to London for a number of years.
And if you happen to speak Portuguese here is a short clip speaking of Nirvana’s visit to Brazil and Cobain’s admiration of Os Mutantes. The video also includes Sean Lennon talking about the group and also performing with them.
As inventive and widely experimental as any of the western bands of the time that embraced the counter culture, Os Mutantes continues to remain widely influential on alternative music.