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Brazilian pop star Gal Costa died Thursday at age 77

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Brazilian vocalist Gal Costa died this week. Her official social media announced the news without citing the cause. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, the 77-year-old was considered one of Brazil's great singers.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Gal Costa was born in Salvador, Bahia, in 1945 and forever sang about her beloved country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AQUARELA DO BRASIL")

GAL COSTA: (Singing in Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: Costa grew up revering another Brazilian singer, guitarist and composer, Joao Gilberto, who pioneered bossa nova.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COSTA: (Speaking Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: She once told Argentina's Canal Encuentro that her world was rocked the first time she heard Gilberto sing. She started singing as a teen and by 1969, released her first solo album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIVINO MARAVILHOSO")

COSTA: (Singing in Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: By then, the mezzo soprano and her friends Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso had become key figures of Tropicalia, Brazil's counterculture arts movement of the 1960s. Their revolutionary style, melding traditional rock and avant garde, was considered subversive by the country's military dictatorship. Gil and Veloso were exiled, but Costa continued to perform their songs as well as her own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY")

COSTA: (Singing in Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: Last year, Costa talked about her career with a Brazilian talk show "Conversa Com Bial."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CONVERSA COM BIAL")

COSTA: (Speaking Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: "I used to say my work was political more for the aesthetics than for words and political discourse," she said. But she also took a stand against Brazil's outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro. After her death was announced, Brazil's newly elected president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, mourned Costa, tweeting photos of them hugging. Online, Gilberto Gil referred to her as his little sister.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GILBERTO GIL: (Speaking Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: Gil says her gentle voice, the charm of her extraordinary singing goes with her, and with us remains the longing, the sadness. Saudade is a Portuguese word for that sensation, something Brazilian music lovers are feeling with the passing of Gal Costa.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEGA DE SAUDADE")

COSTA: (Singing in Portuguese).

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.