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Columbia College Chicago


Definition of Style

Few places can boast of a "national" music, but Brazil includes its popular musics among the country's most valuable resources. Samba can be seen as a musical way of life, and its major artists are revered in their home country with an informed passion. Its rhythm and feel permeate much of Brazil's popular music of the last century, and innumerable variations appear throughout the country.

The word samba, of probable African origin, began to be used in Brazil in the early nineteenth century to designate popular dances. The rhythm is duple and seemingly derived from the earlier slave batuques, often with the underlying lundu pulse:

Like many other dances of the Americas, samba often includes a soloist dancer or dancers, with a circle of singers surrounding them who will clap and sing repeated refrains.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the samba-song was developed, with verses inserted between the repeated refrains of the samba dance but maintaining the original, syncopated lundu feel. Its infectious rhythms quickly found audiences in America and Europe. In the mid 1930s, for example, singer Carmen Miranda invited samba guitarist Garito (Anibal Augusto Sardinha) to join her American nightclub act; son Garito was playing to sold-out crowds of his own.

In the 1950s, a new fusion of jazz and samba called bossa nova (new thing) spawned huge hits for American and Brazilian artists, such as Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Desafinado" and Stan Getz's "Girl from Ipanema," the latter being one of the most popular songs of all time.

In the latter half of the 1960s, samba took on a new significance as groups such as Os Mutantes (The Mutants), the revolutionary singer Tom Zé, and João Gilberto began to blend it with experimental rock; in the late 1980s groups such as Chico Science's Nação Zumbi blended samba percussion with hip hop and created mangue beat. Like rhythm and blues, blues, and jazz in the United States, samba and its derivatives continue to be the basic source material for popular music in Brazil.

Introductory Bibliography

Browning, Barbara. Samba: Resistance in Motion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Guillermoprieto, Alma. Samba. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Krich, John. Why Is This Country Dancing?: One-man Samba to the Beat of Brazil. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Mariani, Myriam Evelyse. A Portrayal of the Brazilian Samba Dance with the Use of Labanalysis as a Tool for Movement Analysis. Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1987.

McGowan, Chris. The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. New ed. New Orleans: Temple University Press, 1998.

Pinto, Tiago de Oliveira. Samba und sambistas in Brasilien. Wilhelmshaven: F. Noetzel, 1992.

Selected Discography

Brazil-Roots-Samba (Rounder CD 5045)

Carnaval: Sua Historia, Sua Gloria (Revivendo) 16-CD series

Oito Batutas. Oiti Batutas (Revivendo RVCD-064)

Orquestra Brasilia. O maior legado escrito de Pixinguinha (Kuarup KCD-035)