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Stylistic origins Jongo,Lundu, Maxixe, Modinha and Choro
Cultural origins Early 20th century Rio de Janeiro
Typical instruments surdo, tan-tan, pandeiro, cavaco, violão, tamborim, cuíca, repinique, caixa, ganzá, agogô, apito, timbal, banjo
Mainstream popularity Brazil, Latin America, Africa, Japan, derivative bossa nova is internationally known
Samba de breque - Samba-canção - Samba-enredo - Samba-pagode - Samba de roda - Partido Alto
Fusion genres
Bossa nova - Fricote - Samba-reggae - Samba-rock - Sambass

'Samba' ( pronunciation ) is a Brazilian musical genre derived from African and European roots. It is worldwide recognized as a symbol of Brazil and Carnival.



The name samba likely comes from the Angolan semba (or mesemba), a type of ritual music, but this has been disputed.[citation needed] Portuguese ethnographer and folklorist Edmundo Correia Lopes talks about a dance from the Portuguese Guinea to which Brazilian people gave the name of samba, which would be, according to him, a very close relative to Brazilian samba.

According to sambist and samba studies academic Nei Lopes,

The origin of the term samba has always been connected to semba, a Congo-Angolan style of dance characterized by the bellybutton-bump with which the gentleman distinguishes the lady, gesture which was reenacted in old Afro-Brazilian dances. However, much more than bellybutton, the multilingual African term semba also means "pleasing, enchanting" (in Kimbundo), besides "honoring, revering" (in Kikongo). From semba originate disemba and masemba which then yes, mean bellybutton-bump, respectively in Angolan Kimbundo and in Kikongo.

Nei Lopes also points out it should be observed that the bellybutton-bumpy trump, much more than the "gross representation of the sexual act" as was pointed out by Portuguese missionaries of the colonial times, represented an affability, an act of seduction and a reverence from the man towards the woman.



Samba origins

One version for the origin of samba is from an Afro-American couples dance, including capoeira, which was from certain circle dances that originated from Angola and the Congo. Characteristic of the umbigada or folk samba is the way the couples dance navel to navel. In its origins, singing always accompanied the dancing. [1] Just as important is influence from Portugal and Europe, from where come samba's relatively intricate harmonies and harmonic instrumentation.

Samba first appeared as a distinctive kind of music at the beginning of the 20th century in Rio de Janeiro (then the capital of Brazil) under the strong influence of immigrant black people from the Brazilian state of Bahia.[2] The title samba school (escola de samba) originates from samba's formative years.

The term was adopted by larger groups of samba performers in an attempt to lend acceptance to samba and its performance; local campuses were often the practice/performance grounds for these musicians and these escolas gave early performers a sense of legitimacy and organization to offset samba's somewhat controversial talking atmosphere.

Despite some similarities, jazz and samba have distinctively different origins and line of development - one of the factors which adds to this is that Brazilian slave owners allowed their slaves to continue their heritage of playing drums (unlike U.S. slave owners who feared use of the drum for communications).

"Pelo Telefone" (1917), by Donga and Mauro Almeida, is generally considered the first samba recording. Its great success carried the new genre outside the black favelas. Who created the music is uncertain, but it was likely the work of the group around Tia Ciata, among them Pixinguinha and João da Bahiana.[2]

Another version of the origin of samba states:

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and is the birth place of the Samba. Much of the music in the heavily populated coastal areas shows a remarkable combination of African, Native Indian, and Iberian influences. Modern Samba was developed from an earlier Brazilian musical style called Choro. <...> To adherents of the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomble, Samba means to pray, to invoke your personal orixa (god/saint). The African rhythms enveloped in Latino music came from the Yoruba, Congo and other West African people, who were transported to the New World as slaves. In their homeland the rhythms were used to call forth various gods. Candomble preserves these rhythms to this day! It is these rhythms that has heavily influenced Brazilian music making Samba a unique genre of music.[3]

Samba in the 1960s

In the 1960s, Brazil became politically divided with the arrival of a military dictatorship, and the leftist musicians of bossa nova started to gather attention to the music made in the favelas. Many popular artists were discovered at this time. Names like Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho & Guilherme de Brito, Velha Guarda da Portela, Zé Keti, and Clementina de Jesus recorded their first albums.


In the 1970s, samba returned strongly to the air waves with composers and singers like Paulinho da Viola, Martinho da Vila, Clara Nunes, and Beth Carvalho dominating the hit parade. Great samba lyricists like Paulo César Pinheiro (especially in the praised partnership with João Nogueira) and Aldir Blanc started to appear around that time.

1980 to present

In the early 1980s, after having been eclipsed by the popularity of disco and Brazilian rock, Samba reappeared in the media with a musical movement created in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. It was the pagode, a renewed samba, with new instruments – like the banjo and the tan-tan – and a new language that reflected the way that many people actually spoke with the inclusion of heavy gíria (slang). The most popular artists were Zeca Pagodinho, Almir Guineto, Grupo Fundo de Quintal, Jorge Aragão, and Jovelina Pérola Negra.[4]

Samba, as a result, morphed during this period, embracing types of music that were growing popular in the Caribbean such as rap, reggae, and rock. Examples of Samba fusions with popular Caribbean music is samba-rap, samba-rock and samba-reggae, all of which were efforts to not only entertain, but to unify all Blacks throughout the Americas culturally and politically, through song. In other words, samba-rap and the like, often carried lyrics that encouraged Black pride, and spoke out against social injustices.[5] Samba, however, is not accepted by all as the national music of Brazil, or as a valuable art form. What appears to be new is the local response flow, in that instead of simply assimilating outside influences into a local genre or movement, the presence of foreign genres is acknowledged as part of the local scene: samba-rock, samba-rap. But this acknowledgment does not imply mere imitation of the foreign models or, for that matter, passive consumption by national audiences. Light-skinned, "upper-class," Brazilians often associated Samba with dark-skinned blacks because of its arrival from West Africa. As a result, there are some light-skinned Brazilians who claim that samba is the music of low-class, dark-skinned Brazilians and, therefore, is a "...thing of bums and bandits." [6]

Samba continued to act as a unifying agent during the 1990s, when Rio stood as a national Brazilian symbol. Even though it was not the capital city, Rio acted as a Brazilian unifier, and the fact that samba originated in Rio helped the unification process. In 1994, the World Cup had its own samba composed for the occasion, "Copa 94." The 1994 FIFA World Cup, in which samba played a major cultural role, holds the record for highest attendance in World Cup history. Samba is thought to be able to unify because individuals participate in it regardless of social or ethnic group. Today, samba is viewed as perhaps the only uniting factor in a country fragmented by political division [7].

The Afro-Brazilians played a significant role in the development of the samba over time. This change in the samba was an integral part of Brazilian nationalism, which was called "Brazilianism".

"What appears to be new is the local response to that flow, in that instead of simply assimilating outside influences into a local genre or movement, the presence of foreign genres is acknowledged as part of the local scene: samba-rock, samba-reggae, samba-rap. But this acknowledgment does not imply mere imitation of the foreign models or, for that matter, passive consumption by national audiences." — Gerard Béhague Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology ) Pg. 84

Samba in Japan

Samba is quite popular in Japan: some sambistas like Nelson Sargento, Monarco, and Wilson Moreira have recorded specifically for the Japanese market and frequently tour the country.


Common samba

Samba is characterized by a syncopated 2/4 rhythm with a muted beat and a main beat, usually played by a surdo (bass drum) or tan-tan (tall hand drum). Another important element is the cavaquinho, also known as cavaco (a small, four-stringed instrument of the guitar family, brought by the Portuguese; Hawaiian ukulele is a derivative). The cavaquinho is the connection between the harmony section and the rhythm section; its presence usually differentiates samba from softer variations such as bossa nova (although some samba recordings do not use the cavaquinho, including many by Chico Buarque).

The pandeiro (tamborine drum) is the most present percussive instrument, the one whose beat is the most "complete". A violão (acoustic guitar) is usually present, and its presence in samba popularized the seven-string variation because of the highly sophisticated counterpoint lines used in the genre in the lower pitched strings. Samba lyrics range from love songs, through futebol (soccer), to politics and many other subjects. This subgenre supersets all others.

Famous artists who play "common samba" include Beth Carvalho, Paulinho da Viola, Zeca Pagodinho, Wilson Moreira, Teresa Cristina & Grupo Semente.

Partido alto

Partido alto is used to name a type of samba which is characterized by a highly percussive pandeiro beat, with use of the palm of the hand in the center of the instrument for snaps.[8] Partido alto harmony is always in a major key. Usually played by a set of percussion instruments (surdo, pandeiro, tamborim) and accompanied by cavaquinho and/or violão. It is commonly divided in two parts, a chorus and the verses. Partideiros (partido alto musicians) often improvise on the verses, with disputes being common, and highly skilled improvisers have made their fame and career on samba, such as Zeca Pagodinho.

Famous partido alto artists include Candeia, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Grupo Fundo de Quintal, Zeca Pagodinho, and Bezerra da Silva.


Pagode is the most widespread form of samba in Brazil. It started as a movement in the 1980s when three new instruments were introduced with the group Grupo Fundo de Quintal and others at Cacique de Ramos: the tan-tan, a more dynamic surdo, the banjo, with the same dimensions and tuning as the cavaquinho, and the repique de mão (ringing of the hands), an instrument derived from the repique de anel, based on the samba enredo repiniques and commonly used for percussive turnarounds. Usually sung by one singer and accompanied by cavaco, violão and at least one pandeiro, pagode is sung at most parties and informal meetings, being universally found at open-air bars and cafés. Lyrics are playful, usually around love engagement or some funny stunt.

Famous pagode artists include Grupo Fundo de Quintal, Leci Brandão, Jorge Aragão, Almir Guineto and Zeca Pagodinho.

Pagode romântico

Pagode romântico is a newer manifestation of pagode which presents more romantic melodies, frequently in a somewhat slower tempo. It is often frowned upon by the most serious sambistas, and is considered to have started gaining momentum in the state capitol city São Paulo. It has strong use of what many consider commonplace love lyrics, and the way of singing changed to a more delicate, sensually appealing tone, although artists who perform these songs sometimes sing some more traditional sambas in between, too.[4] It became very popular among lower classes and somewhat popular among the urban middle classes in Brazil. In the new millennium, pagode romântico has diminished in popularity, though it still receives some airplay. Today, both styles of Pagode are popular together.

Famous artists associated with pagode romântico include Exaltasamba, Raça Negra, Katinguelê, Turma do Pagode, Karametade and Kiloucura.[4]


The now umbrella term pagode is also used to label a derivative developed in the northeastern state of Bahia in the 90s. This newer music uses either stronger sexually appealing lyrics or childish lyrics. Some groups were considered a sign of decadence for Brazilian music by many.[citation needed] This third style presents some other influences such as Samba duro, Samba-de-roda.

Famous neo-pagode artists include: É o Tchan, Gera Samba, Harmonia do Samba, Swing e Simpatia, and Terra Samba.

Samba de breque

A now defunct type of samba that had as a distinctive feature being interpolated with spoken parts, often dialogues is called samba de breque. Singers had to have an excellent vocal gift, as well as ability to make different voices. Lyrics usually told stories and were funny. Breque does not mean to break, it was the old Brazilian slang for brake because the songs featured many stops.

Famous artists: Moreira da Silva


Radio-friendly romantic and slower variation of the rhythm, samba-canção was mostly the Brazilian counterpart to popular Latin American rhythms like Tango or Bolero, both very popular in Brazil until the 1960s. This style of samba also received a lot the influences of the American ballad from 1950 to 1991 Themes ranged from lyrical to tragical.

Famous artists: Ângela Maria, Maysa, Nélson Gonçalves, Cauby Peixoto, Lindomar Castilho, Jamelão and Agnaldo Rayol.


A samba-enredo is a song performed by a samba school in Rio de Janeiro during its yearly Carnival parade. The term also refers to particular style of samba music typical of such songs. Samba-enredo is well known internationally due to Rio de Janeiro's longstanding status as a major tourist destination during Carnival and to the fact that many percussion groups have formed around the world inspired by this type of samba.

Sambas-enredo are recorded and played on the radio during the period leading up to Carnival. They are generally performed by male vocalists accompanied by cavaquinho and a large bateria (percussion group) producing a dense, complex texture known as batucada. They heavily emphasize the second count of the measure driven by the bass notes of the surdo drums.

Rio de Janeiro's baterias have provided inspiration for the formation of percussion groups around the world, especially in Western countries. These groups generally do not use vocals or cavaquinho, focusing instead on percussion grooves and numerous breaks. These groups operate year round, unlike in Brazil where activity is now confined to the months preceding Carnaval.

Samba-enredo in Brazil used to be played year-round, though often as an exercise on virtuosity.

Famous artists: Neguinho da Beija Flor, Jamelão, Martinho da Vila.

Samba de Gafieira

Samba de Gafieira is a lively, big band-influenced jazz dance of the pre-bossa nova nightclubs, and is one of Brazil's least well-known styles because it was eclipsed by the suave glamour of the bossa nova crowd and the various waves of rock and samba crossovers that followed. Gafieiras were dancehalls, homes to dancers and dance bands, and, in the best Brazilian tradition, many of the best bandleaders, such as Severino Araujo, Radamés Gnattali and Zacharias, drew on many sources to craft their music. They played the kinetic frevo and choro styles, incorporated the muscularity and elegance of North American swing, and eventually gave in to the wave of mellower pop instrumentals and vocal music of the so-called radio singers era.

Other variants

  • Bossa nova (new beat) is essentially a type of samba, played with jazz instruments and sung with softer voices. Influenced by Samba Canção, West Coast Jazz, Mexican Boleros and French Impressionism.
  • Samba-Reggae, a new type of samba from Bahia (from 2001 onwards). The rhythm is influenced by Reggaeton, Calypso and Latin melodies.
  • Samba de Roda is a ritual dance preserved in some Bahian towns. It usually refers to Samba being performed in a capoeira roda (roda refers to the formation of the capoeiristas, or capoeira players, in a circle)
  • Samba-exaltação (exaltation Samba) is a subgenre inaugurated by Ary Barroso's popular song "Aquarela do Brasil".

Other forms

Many Brazilian singers eventually recorded samba, though they were not faithful to the original character of the genre. Jorge Ben Jor for instance mixed samba with rock, funk and jazz and composed songs dealing with unusual themes, like esoterism ("Os Alquimistas Estão Chegando", The Alchemists are Coming) or history of India ("Taj Mahal").

See also


  1. ^ Béhague, Gerard, Samba, 
  2. ^ a b "Samba, A música brasileira em sua essência". Retrieved on 2008-08-23.  (Google translation)
  3. ^ Paul F. Clifford, "Background to Samba".
  4. ^ a b c "Pagode, O samba que vem do fundo do quintal". Retrieved on 2008-08-23.  (Google translation
  5. ^ "The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music" Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006).
  6. ^ R.J.'s Gringo Guides, "The Roots of Racism in Samba in Brazil", retrieved 14 Feb 2008.
  7. ^ Behague, Gerard. "Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music )." Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006).
  8. ^ Almeida da Anunciação, Luiz (in pt). A Percussão dos Ritmos Brasileiros - Sua Técnica e Sua Escrita - Caderno 2 - O Pandeiro Estilo Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: EBM/Europa. pp. 106. 


  • The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil. by McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. 2nd edition. Temple University Press. 1998.
  • Samba on Your Feet by Eduardo Montes-Bradley documentary on the history of samba in Brazil with particular emphasis in Rio de Janeiro. The film is in Portuguese with English subtitles and approaches the subject from an interesting perspective.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary








samba (plural sambas)

  1. A Brazilian ballroom dance.



to samba

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to samba (third-person singular simple present sambas, present participle sambaing, simple past and past participle sambaed)

  1. To dance the samba.




  • IPA: sɑ̃.ba


From Portuguese


samba m. (plural sambas)

  1. samba (dance)



From Portuguese samba


samba f.

  1. samba


Singular Plural
Nominative samba samby
Genitive samby samb
Dative sambie sambom
Accusative sambę samby
Instrumental sambą sambami
Locative sambie sambach
Vocative sambo samby




  1. worship

Simple English

]] Samba is a kind of music, dancing, and singing, which originated in Brazil. It began as a music/dance movement in the 1930s. Samba is said to have originated in Africa, It is believed that it emerged from a dance for couples which was performed amongst African-Americans.


The dance

Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance of Brazilian origin in 2/4 time. In ballroom dance there are three steps to every bar (slow, quick-quick), making the samba feel something like a 3/4 timed dance.

There are two major streams of samba that differ considerably: the modern ballroom samba, and the traditional samba of Brazil. Traditional Brazilian samba includes the samba which is danced solo at Carnival. In that case, the dancers take just one step on each beat.


The ballroom samba has its origins in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. Many steps can be traced back to the Maxixe danced in 1910s. A book published in France in 1928 already described how to perform the samba.[1] The modern ballroom dance was created in England, mostly with steps adapted from those seen in Brazil. This version is now danced all over the world in international competitive dancing as regulated by the World Dance Council.


Ballroom samba, like other ballroom dances, is a form adapted for its suitability as a partner dance. The dance movements, which do not change depending on the style of samba music being played, borrows some movements from Afro-Brazilian traditional dances such those used in candomblé rituals.

The ballroom samba is danced to music in 2/4 time. The basic movements are counted either 1-2 or 1-a-2, and are danced with a slight bouncing action. This action is created through the bending and straightening of the knees, with bending occurring on the beats of 1 and 2, and the straightening occurring on the "a". Samba is notable for its constantly changing rhythms however, with cross-rhythms being a common feature. Thus, common step values (in beats are):

3/4 1/4 1  
3/4 1/4 3/4 1/4
1 1/2 1/2  
3/4 1/2 3/4  

The music

The music is played with different instruments – bass drums (a surdo drum, used for keeping a steady beat), snare drums, a whistle (called an apito[a-peet-oh], used for beginning and ending sections of music), other types of untuned percussion, and different varieties of bells.

Other sections are when the apito blasts one rhythm, and all other instruments respond using another rhythm (that lasts the same amount of time as the first), called a call and response section; and a Samba piece can have instrument solos, when one instrument is playing an exciting rhythm. The apito caller signals the end of one section and the beginning of the next by blasting a short call. Pieces always have clear beginnings and ends.


Other websites

  • Dance Resources Samba syllabus [1]
  • Samba show by Bryan Watson and Carmen Vincelj, former World Professional Latin Dance champions [2]
  • Demonstration of basic figures by experts Allan Tornsberg and Serena Lecca [3]



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