Artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails recently enjoyed huge publicity windfalls by distributing their music for free on-line, but they’ve got a way to go before catching up to Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil as digital visionaries.
Long before peer-to-peer file sharing turned the music world into a free-for-all, Gil was distributing his songs on the Internet.
He launched his own Web site in 1996, began streaming his music for listeners to audition, and officially released the first song by Brazilian artist through the new medium. It was a stage in a journey that has obsessed him for a half-century. In the ‘60s he wrote the song “Electric Brain,” which presaged his Internet breakthrough three decades later, and his latest album is titled “Banda Larga” (Warner), or “The Broad Band,” in part a manifesto for a more democratic future driven by technology.
“It has been a dream of mine for a long time, this world we live in now,” Gil said in an interview from his office in Brazil. “It is a natural outcome, a world in which technology allows universal access. It makes music and tools available to large parts of society that didn’t have that kind of access before.”
That “natural outcome” is still a few years off from reaching the poorest of the poor in Brazil, a vast country in which many citizens in the remote interior still do not have electricity, let alone computers.
Which is why Gil, in his latest guise as his country’s minister of culture, is spearheading a project to ensure that each child in the country has a laptop within the next few years.
[Click to read more of Turn It Up – Brazilian visionary Gilberto Gil leads a second revolution]
Viva Mr. Gil! Computer technology has been a commodity long enough so that the basic building materials are available for pennies. Why shouldn’t access to computers be a basic human right?