Saturday, July 7, 2012


by Leighton Gage

I have heard many explanations for the birth of the word samba.
And, since, I can’t be sure which one is most likely to be correct, I will refrain from mentioning any of them.
One thing we know for sure is that samba was developed in urban Rio de Janeiro in the closing years if the nineteenth century.
And that like American jazz both the music, and the dance that evolved out of it, is strongly influenced by the rhythms and movements of Africa.
Many people associate it with Carnival in Rio.
They’re right.
Others associate it with Carnival throughout Brazil.
They’re wrong.
In Holinda, for example, the music of Carnival is the frevo.
In Salvador, it’s the axé.
The first samba to be recorded was Pelo Telefone, back in 1917.

Since then, the samba has evolved into many sub-genres, each of which has earned a particular name.
There’s the samba canção (canção means “song”). I'll be featuring a good example of one of those in my next post -- Samba #2 -- two weeks from now.

Then there’s  the samba enredo, performed by the great samba schools of Rio and São Paulo during Carnival. (Samba schools are large organizations of up to 5000 people which compete annually with thematic floats, elaborate costumes and original music.) I'll tell you more about them at Carnival time.

Other forms of the samba include the partido aldo, the samba de gafieira, the samba de breque, the pagoda and the bossa nova.

The last of these was inaugurated by João Gilberto, Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Morais, men who spawned a generation of disciples.
But no one did it better than the masters themselves.
Here are Tom and João performing Desafinado. (Out of Tune.)

About the dance:
You can spot a Brazilian dancing the samba from a kilometer away.
They learn it young.
Watch the rotational hip movement and the footwork.
My wife can do it.
I can’t.

1 comment:

Jaden Terrell said...

I love that dance. I'm too self-conscious to do it myself, but maybe one of these days. No videos of you and your wife doing the Samba?