As an adolescent, Antonio Carlos came to be known as CARLINHOS BROWN, inspired by H. Rap Brown, militant of the Black Panther movement. Brown became a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist of international fame. He is without a doubt one of the most creative of the new generation of Brazilian artists and connected with the world movement of contemporary music, and his fundamental merit is to research what was until recently traditional Afro-Brazilian rhythms and restore them as pop music.
The retired driver Osvaldo Alves da Silva, known as Mestre Pintado do Bongô (Bongo Drums Master), was the one who introduced Brown to the musical universe. Everything the Master knew, he gave to his disciple. At the beginning of the 1980s, Brown began working at the WR Studios in Bahia, where he gained knowledge not only about recording and production techniques but also about instruments until then unknown to him. It was during this time that he and various musicians worked on codifying all the rhythms disseminated throughout Bahia.
By 1985 Brown had his first hit composition "Visão do Cíclope" (Cyclopic Vision) recorded by Luiz Caldas. By the end of the year, there were 26 of Brown's compositions on radio playlists, and he had won the most important award for Bahian music, the Troféu Caymmi (Caymmi Trophy).
A year later, Caetano Veloso, one of the icons of Bahian and Brazilian music, asked Carlinhos to join his band and transformed him into the trump card of his concerts. Caetano's next album, Estrangeiro (Foreigner), featured the talents of Brown on several songs as a musician and composer. Soon a larger public, along with producers and other Brazilian artists, discovered Carlinhos Brown and became aware of his potential. He toured internationally with João Gilberto, João Bosco, and Djavan, making music for the world.
In November 2002, Brown was awarded the UNESCO Youth Prize, an award to a public or private institution that fights for the reduction in social inequalities. He was awarded this prize because he is founder of the Associação Pracatum Ação Social, (APAS), in his neighborhood of Candeal Pequeno, historically one of the poorest neighborhoods in Salvador de Bahia.
Nowadays the list of musicians that have recorded Carlinhos' compositions or recorded with him are as varied as Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa, Nando Reis, Daniela Mercury, Arnaldo Antunes, Marisa Monte, and the heavy metal band Selpultura.
His first solo album Alfagamabetizadó was released to critical acclaim in 1996. In 1998 he followed up with Omelete Mán, which saw a change in style from the axé sound: there were string arrangements and Brown sang a number of tracks in English. Three years later Bahia do Mundo, Mito e Verdadé hit the stores. It was quoted as an encounter between Brazil and Africa, between rock and jazz, between pop and contemporary music.
For his 2004 solo CD, Carlinhos Brown es Carlito Marrón, this magician who has experimented with so many different sounds, tried the Latin vein. He recently said, "Carlito Marrón is a process of 'relatinisation.' This process comes from the heart, it hasn't been researched in books, nor studied, it is an oral process, it's everything that I've learnt from my neighbors, with my friends, listening to music from the entire world and principally from my family.... What I wanted to do was not just re-record music, but re-create a new sound within the Latin scene, using flavors that weren't just Cuban, Puerto Rican, or from Miami or New York. I wanted to say the following: 'Brazil is Latin!'."
To help him on this journey, Brown invited the Cuban musicians percussionist Miguel Angá Diaz and the tres player Papi Oviedo to his studio in Salvador, and their Afro-Cuban influence can be heard throughout the album. Also present on the album are two duets, one with the Spanish flamenco singer Rosario and the other with his fellow Brazilian, Bebel Gilberto. In 2004 this record won the Latin Grammy for Best Contemporary Brazilian Pop Album, Brown's second Latin Grammy; he received his first the previous year for the groundbreaking Tribalistas album.
During the past few years Carlinhos Brown has toured extensively in Spain, Europe, and North America, playing at some of the most prestigious festivals: La Villette in Paris, Nice Jazz, Cartagena's Mar de Músicas, the San Fermines festival in Pamplona, Rosilde in Denmark, Festival de Jazz de San Sebastian, Lincoln Center in New York, and the Barbican Centre in London.
In May 2004 the Forum de les Cultures in Barcelona asked Brown to recreate a Bahian Carnival as one of its inaugural acts. The event took place on the famous Pasaeo de Gracia in the city center and it was an outstanding success; over 400,000 people joined the carnival celebrations. One of the summer hits in Spain in 2004 was a track performed at the carnival by Carlinhos Brown and DJ Dero. "Mariacaipirinha" is a song taken from their joint album Candyall Beat, which was released in May 2004. This project is a collective work where percussion supports dance music, fusing the primitive past with the universal future.
In 2005, one of Spain's main mobile phone operators, Movistar, revamped their logo. Having seen the success of the previous year's carnival in Barcelona and wanting to celebrate this new phase in the company's development, they asked Carlinhos to participate in five carnivals across Spain, this time with two trios. Brown was asked to invite some fellow musicians from Salvador to join in the fun.
The first carnival took place in Bilbao, where more than 250,000 people joined in the festivities. A week later, the trios and musicians were in Barcelona and - like the year before - some 400,000 danced for more than four hours. A couple of weeks later in Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana, over one million people descended on one of the city's main boulevards. In Seville, the crowd rose to some 200,000 and the carnival in Valencia attracted some 250,000. In total, more than two million people participated in this summer's carnivals. In addition to the carnivals, Brown and his band also toured Europe during summer 2005, performing some 40 shows in Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy. After a well-earned rest, Brown worked on his next solo album in his studio in Salvador. This new record, A Gente Ainda Não Sonhou, was released in June 2007.