Sunday, July 20, 2008

What is a "Samba"?

Samba is a sort of carnival genre of music and dance. Rooted in Rio de Janeiro, it's the most popular and well-known genre to come out of the Afro-Brazilian culture, a culture created by the slave trade from Africa to Brazil. It's a very percussive, energetic form of music; as its roots are in carnival parades and celebrations, the samba's earliest forms has occasional similarities in dynamic to that of marching bands. But the similarities end there; samba is a full-fledged form intended for dancing, not marching. It's rhythmically unique and culturally vital to Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.

Like many music and dance genres, the samba is rooted in peasant culture. Groups of neighbors in poor Rio neighborhoods played the music together to sing and dance to and soon adapted the style to become part of their yearly carnival celebration. The samba quickly became an integral part of carnival; the celebratory music was played during carnival parades, and its inclusion made carnival samba a large production. Each samba school (a samba group named so because they often practiced in school yards) performing at carnival included singers, dancers, and an overwhelming drum section in addition to other instruments. The samba schools created large, colorful floats and the dancers' costumes were equally as intricate and bright. A samba school's preparations for carnival (which takes place early in the year) would often start as early as July with an incredible number of people working behind the scenes to create the aesthetic. Musicians, too, started this early, working to create an original composition to be used as the yearly parade piece.

Samba stayed largely within the Brazilian underground until 1917 when the first samba recordings appeared; "Pelo Telofone" is believed to be the first recording, though the composition has been attributed to a few different people. This recording and the others that followed brought samba out of the Rio underground and into the limelight; the irresistible energy found in samba quickly caught on in the United States where it became a music and dance phenomenon. The samba dance, a Brazilian tango-based 2/4 step taken directly from the carnival dancers, was altered as it shifted cultures, and soon became the ballroom samba that most Americans know today. The traditional samba is still danced in Brazilian carnival parades.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

If you aren't already a subscriber then please subscribe to our FREE e-mail newsletter on:
Piano Chords & Chord Progressions!