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Brazilian Music: Tradition and Modernity Combined

February 18, 2019
Drummers on the street in Pelourinho, Salvador.

Touching Music from Brazil

Brazilian music piques great fascination, and not only during a trip to Brazil. It is rhythmic, lively, soulful and encompasses much more than just samba and bossa nova. We want to get to the bottom of the mystery and magic of Brazilian music with you. Why is it so special and how does it go from the ears directly to the heart and feet?

Versatility Is the Main Feature

Brazilian music is very versatile, because different cultures have been incorporated into it. Musical styles and instruments of settlers from Portugal, enslaved peoples from Africa and indigenous nations all came together. The result was a creative and stirring mixture, that unites the most diverse traditions and is reflected in modern Brazilian styles.
Portuguese colonists brought instruments from folklore music to Brazil. Among them are the guitar, mandolin, flute, accordion, cavaquinho (small guitar), hand drum and pandeiro (tambourine). The latter is played in samba and is altogether an important part of Afro-Brazilian music.
Instruments of African origin commonly used in Brazilian music are the berimbau (sound bow), atabaque and other hand drums, friction drum (cuíca), shakers and agogô (double bell).
Indigenous peoples contributed maracas (rattles) and other similar variants of shakers.
In addition to the diverse roots of music from Brazil, there are regional differences due to the immense size of the country. MPB (música popular brasileira), however, unites almost all Brazilian musical styles, except classical music. The best known are samba, bossa nova, samba-reggae, music from the Northeast of Brazil and the songs of the Afro-Brazilian religions (Candomblé).

Regional Musical Styles

A closer look at the regional musical styles is worthwhile. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the two big centers of music. They attract many artists and at the same time set trends for the whole country. Samba is at home here. During Carnival, samba-enredo (story-telling samba) is played.
The state of Bahia has the highest percentage of African heritage within Brazil, is characterized by Candomblé and has produced great musicians such as João Gilberto and Gilberto Gil. The capital, Salvador, is the creative engine of Brazilian music and home to the most exuberant street celebrations of Carnival, celebrated with samba-reggae.
Music of the Northeast encompasses the musical taste of the entire region. Especially in Pernambuco, frevo (brass music) and maracatu provide the accompanying music of Carnival. The latter represents an African coronation ceremony, employing shakers and bells.
In the Amazon region, Caribbean rhythms are popular, which can be seen with carimbo, set to music with drums, guitars and flutes. This is the origin of the internationally known lambada.
In the interior of Brazil, sertanejo is common, not unlike country music in the United States. Through its followers, including cattle herders, sertanejo has reached nationwide popularity.
Música gaúcha reigns in Rio Grande do Sul. Characteristic in this music is the use of the accordion, which reflects influences of European immigrants in the state.
Minas Gerais has a history of church and art music due to its baroque-style and mining past. Calango, a folk dance, was also developed here.


Now we look once again at the all-encompassing MPB (música popular brasileira). Almost everything that is heard in Brazil belongs to MPB, from traditional folklore to modern pop music. The term dates back to the 1960s and includes the nationally recognized regional musical styles. International influences from blues, jazz, reggae, rock and pop are also mixed in. MPB is in the hearts of Brazilians of all ages and old bestsellers are often reinterpreted. Lyrics enjoy a high status in MPB. Probably every Brazilian is familiar with the names of Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso.

History of Brazilian

Choro, from Rio de Janeiro, was Brazil's first supra-regionally successful musical style. It surged around 1870 as a mixture of European dance music and Afro-Brazilian music with typical samba melodies.
From here, samba developed in the suburbs of Rio in the 1920s, which also included batuques (dances based on Afro-Brazilian models). One of these dances is called "semba," which probably became samba. Newly founded samba schools represented the poor strata of the population, while a slower samba with intellectual texts found its way into middle-class houses. In the 1930s, the radio helped to spread samba further. The world-famous song Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolor of Brazil) by Ary Barroso was written in 1939 as a part of this wave of success.
Especially in Rio, São Paulo and Recife, the urban centers of samba, new instruments are always being used, in addition to experimentation with singing.
Elements of bolero expanded samba to become bossa nova, a musical style that was influenced by the urban middle class in the 1950s. João Gilberto is a well-known representative of bossa nova, as are the composers Vinícius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, who are responsible for the world hit Garota de Ipanema (Girl of Ipanema). The film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) was an updated version of the classical opera and won an Oscar in 1959, representing the final breakthrough for bossa nova.
In 1968, a musical style known as tropicalia briefly appeared as a political statement in musical form against the military dictatorship in Brazil. Artists like Caetano Veloso, in his successful song Alegria, Alegria (Joy, Joy), consciously took up all musical influences from abroad in protest. They were eventually persecuted and arrested, leading to the abrupt end of the style.
Since the early 1990s, axé has been the most important musical style from Salvador, Bahia. It is similar to samba-reggae, but is characterized by the use of synthesizers. Ivete Sangalo and Olodum, performers of this style, are celebrities within Brazil.
It was also during this period that funk, rap and hip-hop began to make their way into Brazilian popular music. Rock, a DJ culture and electronic music can also be found in Brazil's repertoire, which meets all tastes. In the 1970s and 1980s, MPB was even played in churches.

The music is just as versatile and diverse as the country itself - a mixture of tradition and modernity that tells the history of Brazil. Would you like to listen personally and experience the musical world of Brazil for yourself? We would be happy to organize a music-focused vacation in Brazil just for your taste!

Sources: www.wikipedia.org

Source: Aventura do Brasil