Nei Lopes was born in Irajá, Rio de Janeiro in 1942. A former attorney, he began his artistic career in the early 1970s when he became a professional composer of Brazilian popular music, particularly samba. He was also renowned for his activism for the civil rights of the black community and, since 1981, has published several books, articles and essays on the subject, including the Brazilian Encyclopaedia of the African Diaspora. In the 1980s, Lopes was one of the supporters of the Pagode movement, which took samba back to the airwaves after an eclipse period. As an established songwriter, he has recorded and performed versions of his own songs as well as other composers’ songs. In the 1990s, Lopes established partnerships with people associated with the MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) label, such as composer Guinga, Zé Renato, the deceased maestro Moacir Santos, and others.