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Samba Is Not just Samba

October 25, 2020
Samba dancer in Rio

A Brazilian symbol

Samba is often called the dance of the Brazilians and is recognized by UNESCO as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity". The Brazilian composer and researcher Nei Lopes described Samba as "the most impressive phenomenon of the 20th century". In 100 years, it went from being a persecuted culture to the symbol of a nation. Today Samba is considered the joyful, lively and rhythmic dance of carnival in Brazil. There are many different styles, just as there are many types of Samba music. It can be said with certainty that Samba is one of the most popular Latin American dances. Today, when people think of Samba, the first thing they think of is the famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro. During the carnival, the Samba schools perform with thousands of elaborately dressed dancers and show their interpretation of this year's theme. Carnival in Rio is a popular and exciting highlight during a Brazil vacation.

Samba schools are cultural, but also economic and social institutions, where families and communities are joining. To put together a carnival procession, dancers, choreographers, musicians, tailors, carpenters and painters have to be hired for a whole year. A traditional Samba school has an average of 4,000 members.

What does Samba actually mean?

There are several versions of the etymology of the term "Samba". One version says, for example, that the term comes from one of the many African languages, possibly the Quimbundo, where "sam" means "to give" and "ba" means "to receive" or "something that falls". Another version says, that the term is derived from the word "semba", an African dance style that was brought to Brazil by African slaves.

Insight into the history of Samba

Samba has its origins in the 19th century in the traditions of African slaves who brought their Batuques (drums) to Brazil, where African and Brazilian cultures merged. In its beginnings, Samba as a sound matrix represented traces of European and African musical structures. The dance parties of the black slaves in Bahia were originally called "Samba". Experts refer to the Recôncavo Baiano as the cradle of Samba, especially to the custom of dancing in circles, singing and playing instruments.

In the beginning, the style marked a strong presence in the Brazilian states of Maranhão, Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Bahia. With the migration of the black population to the city of Rio de Janeiro, this changed and supported the dialogue of Samba with popular music styles like Polka, Maxixe, Lundu, and Xote. However, every African cultural manifestation, such as Capoeira and Candomblé, were viewed with suspicion and criminalized. It was no different with Samba. So the blacks began to hold their parties in the homes of "aunts" or "grandparents", the elders of African descent who welcomed the Batuques. In Rio de Janeiro, the most famous of these places was the house of Tia Ciata.

The first great milestone in the modern and urban history of Samba occurred in Rio de Janeiro in 1916 with the recording of the song "Pelo Telefone", considered the first Samba in Brazil. The song was sung by Donga, one of the main characters in the history of Samba. As it couldn't be any other way, the story followed its course and Samba has been reinventing itself ever since.

Samba in Brazil

Samba is present in all Brazilian regions and in each of these regions new elements are added to the rhythm without losing the characteristic cadence. The best known are:

- Samba from Bahia
- Samba Carioca (Rio de Janeiro)
- Samba Paulista (São Paulo)

Thus, depending on the region, the rhythms, the texts, the dance style and even the instruments accompanying the melody are changed. Samba in Bahia has been influenced by the drums and indigenous songs, while in Rio you can feel the presence of the Maxixe. In São Paulo, the coffee harvest festivals on the farms were the origin of the deeper percussion sounds in the Samba Paulista.

The different samba styles

Like all other musical genres, Samba has many variations. It is about innovation and adaptation to one or the other reality of creative minds. Here we present some of the most famous styles.

The Samba de Roda with its origins around 1860 in Bahia, is the most traditional form of Samba. According to the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Institute for National Historical and Artistic Heritage), Samba de Roda is an intangible heritage of Brazilian culture. The Samba de Roda is closely connected with the cult of the Orixás and Caboclos and with Capoeira. The music has its dance, which is connected with Capoeira. As for the instrumental part, it is played by pandeiro, atabaque, berimbau, guitar and chocolalho (a kind of rattle), which are mainly accompanied by songs and clapping. The Samba de Roda has resisted the processes of urbanization and modernization of the style. In their way, several artists have kept this form of Samba alive over the last two centuries.

The Samba-Canção was created in the late 1920s, during the modernization processes of urban Samba in Rio de Janeiro. At that time the Samba slowly began to replace the Maxixe. The Samba-Canção has a moderate tempo, the slowest within modern urban Samba, and has a more sophisticated view of the melody. The lyrics focus on themes such as love, loneliness and the so-called "dor-de-covelo", which many people today understand as "suffering". With the arrival of the Bossa Nova in the late 1950s, the Samba-Canção lost a little of its place in Brazilian music. However, its significance is immortalized in a collection of works that are being recorded again and again.

The Samba Enredo had its beginning in Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s. This style was created especially for the parades of the Samba schools during the carnival. In connection with the theme of the Samba schools, the Samba-Endredo is characterized by the fact that it presents songs with historical, social or cultural themes. "Exaltação a Tiradentes" is considered the first Samba plot in the history of music. It was written by the singer Roberto Silva and recorded for the carnival in 1955.

The Samba de Gafieira has its origins at the beginning of the 20th century. This style is a ballroom dance and exciting choreographies and rhythms were used. The musical roots of the Samba de Gafieira lie in Maxixe, Choro and Samba-Breque.

The Samba style Partido Alto was created at the beginning of the 20th century within the modernization processes of urban Samba in Rio de Janeiro. According to experts, the Samba Partido Alto comes closest to the original drum rhythms from Angola, Congo and the nearest regions. It combines ancient and modern Samba forms, from improvised verses to the tendency of structuring to a fixed song form. It is also said that the Pagode had its roots in Samba Partido Alto.

Other Samba styles are: Samba de Breque, Samba Exaltaçao, Samba Balanço, Samba de Caboclo, Samba de Terreiro, Samba de Raiz, Samba-Choro, Samba-Sincopado, Samba-Carnavalesco, Sambalanço, Samba no Pé, Samba Rock, Samba-Reggae, Chula, and Bossa Nova.

As you can see, there is not only one Samba style in Brazil. On your next Brazil trip, take your time and try to dance to the cheerful Samba rhythms.

Sources: www.educamaisbrasil.com.br, www.todamateria.com.br, www.wikipedia.org

Source: Aventura do Brasil