When asked about Brazilian music, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is the Samba. This music genre is considered one of the main popular cultural expressions of Brazil and is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage. Its origins are linked to an African dance, imported to Brazil in the XIX centuryby the slaves located in the state of Bahia.
The African dance was imported to Rio de Janeiro, where it mingled with local genres like polca, maxixe and xote, distancing from the original form in the first decades of the XX century. It was in Rio where the samba became a recognized cultural expression, quickly escalating and spreading all over Brazilian territory. The first recorded samba was called “Pelo telefone” and it was an instant hit, introducing the genre to different states and public.
Initially associated with Carnival, soon it would became part of the country’s culture and recognized as one of the most important parts of Brazilian identity. Samba de raiz, how the songs written for carnival festivals are known, was born in the city’s slums – favelas – like Mangueira and Salgueiro. For this reason, the samba was originally stigmatized as part of the crime culture and suffered lots of discrimination. For some time, people would not listen or dance samba in public places fearing repression, especially during the 1920’s.
During the 1940’s, the former president Getúlio Vargas had a especial interest in valuing and improving the national identity and wanted to promote local cultural expressions. During that period, the samba would start suffering less prejudice and even the highest social classes and big media were drawn to the most Brazilian of all Brazilian music styles.
There are many great singers and songwriters but, to name a few, we can highlight Noel Rosa, Cartola, Dorival Caymmi, Ary Barroso, Adoniran Barbosa, Paulinho da Viola, Jorge Aragão, Beth Carvalho, Elza Soares, Dona Ivone Lara, Chico Buarque, Pixinguinha, Carmen Miranda, Nelson Cavaquinho, Elis Regina e Clara Nunes.
The main styles of samba are: samba-enredo, associated with the Carnival parade, pagode, a more romantic and slow variation, and samba de gafieira, much faster and common at ballroom dancing. Brazil celebrates the National Samba Day in December 2nd.