Samba (72)

You just happen to talk about Brazil, and your feet start to move on their own according to the gay and fresh rhythms, don't they? In fact, samba is a symbol of national identity and even the Brazilian cultural manifestation par excellence, which the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro made world famous in the early twentieth century.

Believe it or not, despite noting that clear African influence in the music genre, samba originally comes from Angola, prior to its inhabitants being enslaved and taken to America. Africans themselves were the ones who took those catchy rhythms to Brazil, whereas the style began to spread and became very popular during the 1920s and 1930s, especially in Bahia, where there were greater numbers of people with African descent.

But it was not until the 30s, with the emergence of the first Samba School, under the direction of Ismael Silva, that the rhythms which would now be the ones world-renowned and related to the famous Brazilian Carnival and, especially, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Samba spread, thus, across the country, becoming a typical identity of the spirit of Rio to the rest of the world.

In fact, it is impossible not to relate samba, this percussion and string base, which is so cheerful and rhythmic, accompanied by pleasant voices and catchy lyrics, within such an open and extrovert environment as the people of Brazil, in general, and the people of Rio, in particular, create.

The instruments used for the songs include the cavaquinho, a stringed instrument of Portuguese origin, which, along with different guitars, provide the music with harmony and rhythm, and a wide variety of percussion instruments, which, with their different rhythmic nuances, are the true kings of the ensemble, hence making up the so-called drums. The surdo, a large cylindrical drum made of wood or metal, which is carried around on the Carnival rúas, indicates the tempo with its bass sound. The repenique provides sharper sounds and indicates the rhythmic cuts, whereas to soften them, the set includes the tamborim, which is smaller and flatter with an even sharper tone.

At present, different rhythms can be identified within samba, from fusion of music genres and new styles, such as samba-reggae, up to samba-enredo, which is performed by samba schools, or neopagode, a variant of pagode with more sexual lyrics, which, at the beginning of the 1980s, emerged from the lower classes of Rio to revive samba from the ashes it had been relegated by the massification of the genres of rock and disco.

But it is the musical style of bossa nova, derived from samba, that has reached a musical level that is almost as important among the people of Rio de Janeiro as their dear and beloved samba can attain. Initially known as a music alternative with a mix of European influence, it was not until the mid-twentieth century, with the spread of great musicians like João Gilberto and Tom Jobim, that it began to gain popularity worldwide.

So, be advised: Enjoy the fact that you are located in the cradle of good Brazilian music, another one of the great things the city of Rio de Janeiro offers you.

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