Samba – The rhythm of a nation

May 1, 2017 — 1 Comment

I could not think of another subject that would fit more perfectly to be my first post. It is my passion, my favourite and everything in my life. But I have always had this question burning my heart, “Where did Samba come from? What is its story? Who invented it?”. I went through many stories about it, many versions and many debates. But it all appears to have the same foundation.

Considered by many popular music critics, artists, historians and social scientists as the most original of the Brazilian musical genres or typical Brazilian musical genre. The records show an immense mixture of rhythms and traditions that cross the history of the country.


It all started with the “batuques” (drumming) of the African slaves who were brought to Brazil in the colonial age, specifically in Salvador, Bahia (the first Brazilian capital). These “batuques” were generally associated with religious elements that were common among the slaves, a kind of ritual connection with their motherland through music and dance, percussion and body movements.

According to some researchers, the word “samba” defined many types of songs performed by the slaves, always conducted by the many types of “batuques” that assumed the characteristics of different areas of the Brazilian states. The most famous dances presented were: “Samba-de-roda” in Bahia; “Partido-Alto” and “Miudinho” in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.


They are the most common representations of Samba in its creation, and here is a brief description of each one:

Samba-de-Roda: mostly traditional in Bahia, this variant of Samba is associated with a dance performed by the women in the circles that named the style. It is played by a set of Pandeiro (tambourine), Atabaque, Berimbau, Acoustic guitars and Shaker accompanied mainly by songs and palms. It is also commonly performed in Capoeira circles.

Partido Alto: mostly common in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it represents the time of a Samba song for improvisation and disputes, humorous or not, around a singalong chorus in the circles of Samba.

Miudinho: it is more related to the dance than to the rhythm, it is identified by the short and small steps of the dancing samba.

Stay tuned to know more about these dances…


In Brazil, we believe that the name “Samba” is a twist of the African word “Semba” originally from Angola and Congo, where most of the slaves in Brazil came from. The word “Semba” describes the way the women were dancing in Samba-de-roda parties in Bahia. Later on, the slave’s dances were called SAMBA. In Rio, the word became well known in end of the 19th century when it was connected to the rural celebrations, the black people and to the northeast of the country (specifically, Bahia).


As of the 19th century, the city of Rio de Janeiro, which had become the capital of the empire, also began to carry a flood of black people from other parts of the country, especially Bahia. It was in this context that the clusters around the Yoruba religions were born in the central region of the city, especially in the region of Praça Onze, where mothers and fathers of the saint acted. It was in this ambience that the first samba wheels appeared, mixing the elements of the batuques with the Polka and Maxixe.

Among the first ones to highlight in the scene, was a group called “Tias Baianas”, a term which describes the women from Bahia, descendants of the slaves, by the end of the 19th century. The most famous of them was Hilária Batista de Almeida, as known as Tia Ciata. With them, Samba became properly known as a music genre in the houses of those “Tias Baianas”.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Samba as a music genre started to grow in Rio, going far from its folk inspiration and getting connected with the daily urban situations and diversity of Rio in that period. It started to incorporate more percussive instruments and became popular.

Tia Ciata was responsible for the settling of Samba in Rio. According to some researchers, there was no successful samba song if it was not performed at Tia Ciata’s house party. And it was in one of these parties that the first samba song,”Pelo Telefone”, was created. The song written by Donga and Mauro de Almeida was the first samba song recorded in 1917. Since then, Samba started its journey through the modernization and gaining, even more, strength in the communities.


Past many stories, many struggles, many rejections, Samba has conquered its place in the Brazilian culture and society. It is today one of the main expressions of the music and identity of the country. But is still the subject of many debates about its history and creation.

Nowadays, Samba has become not just a symbol of the country, but also a big product in its local scenario. I want to highlight some of the most common variants of Samba today.

Samba-enredo: Known by its fast-paced rhythm and also to be the soundtrack of the most famous Brazilian celebration, the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The lyrics usually have a theme with a strong and singalong chorus.

Samba-Rock: Proclaimed last year as Cultural Patrimony of São Paulo. It is a variant of Samba that mix the Bossa Nova with the American rock-n-roll. It is danced in couples and it was created in the 80’s.

Chorinho (little cry): It is the Samba performed in its instrumental form. Mostly highlighting the set of chords, originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Despite its name, the music often has a fast and happy rhythm. It is characterised by virtuosity, improvisation and subtle modulations, and is full of syncopation and counterpoint. Choro is considered the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music.



Along the years since your urbanisation, Samba started to get the attention of the media and all the newspapers of the city. And it was between the end of the 70’s and beginning of 80’s that a whole new generation decided to follow the steps of the creators. They gave Samba a new face.

At the beginning of the 1980’s, with the advent of the band Fundo de Quintal, Samba has gotten a new way to be performed. The lyrics represented an evolution towards the tradition of malicious and ironic samba lyrics, with a much heavier use of slang and underground terms. It was introduced new instruments to the classical Samba formation.

The 4 string Banjo, created by Almir Guineto. It has a different and louder sound than the cavaco; its loudness was an advantage in acoustic environments (samba circle), where the percussion instruments are louder than people singing along. The 4-string banjo is one of the most characteristic instruments of the Samba sound in that generation.


The Repique-de-mão (hand repique) made by Ubirany. It is a version of the Repinique, played in the Carnaval drums. The Ubirany’s adaptation is played by the hand, especially for rhythmic turnarounds.

and the Tan-Tan created by Sereno. It is a smaller version of the surdo (the big drum played with sticks). Used to keep the main beat of the samba song, it is the ‘heart of the Samba’ and played with the hands.


Originally Pagode (Pronounce: [paˈɡɔdʒi]) meant a celebration with much food, music, dance and party. But the term Pagode became popular due to many commercial groups that were including a version of the songs in their own parties and calling this genre of Pagode.

It’s still a big discussion around the term where one side defend that it is a new subgenre of Samba and another side which affirm that Pagode is not a genre but the celebration.

For me, everything is Samba! It is all about the happiness, musicality and the celebration of this iconic Brazilian music. And now it is your time to say, WHAT IS SAMBA FOR YOU?

I hope you guys enjoyed the post. Share, tell the friends, discuss, let’s make the world know about Samba! See you guys soon.

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