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Brazilian Music and its Roots

by admin on November 17, 2014

As many know, Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese during the Exploration Age. They first landed in the country in late 1500 and immediately encountered some native tribes that called the land home. This mixture between native Indian tribes, the Portuguese settlers, and the African slaves they brought with them are what give the Brazilian background their musical flare. Despite the combination of severely different peoples, the camaraderie in Brazilian culture can be easily heard and sometimes even felt through Brazilian music. The African musical traditions, having had the most influence on the Brazilian people, can also be easily traced through Brazilian songs even today.

One of the prevalent Brazilian styles of music that traces back to African roots is the world famous “samba”. The samba is a song/dance that has been part of Brazilian culture for just about as long as the country has existed. Played with African instruments, mainly drums and a guitar, this style of music has a very complicated dance to go along with it. A very happy, extroverted, and free flowing style of music makes the African roots easily noticeable (Samba). One of the most festive times of the year in Brazil is the summer months when Carnaval takes place in Rio de Janeiro. Millions of people flock there to watch or take part in the world famous Carnaval. Carnaval was originally a samba parade where different Samba Schools would display their abilities, but over time it has turned into the largest samba competition in the world.

Another Brazilian style of music based off of the cultural roots is “Choro” which literally means sobbing or crying. This music is typically an instrumental ensemble centered around a mini guitar called a “cavaquinho”. The player of the cavaquinho is usually accompanied by a group playing a clarinet or flute, maybe a couple drums and drummers, and a guitar with anywhere from six to twelve strings. Choro pulls more on the Portuguese roots of Brazil than the deep African roots that the Samba style stems from. Waldir Silva and Jacob do Bandolim are well known Choroist’s in Brazil, although many solo Brazilian guitarists often play arrangements of Choro.

In addition to Samba and Choro, Brazilian music branches off in many other styles that put on full display the cultural background exuberated by Brazilians. Styles like pagode, bossa nova, frevo, forro, lambada, and tropicalismo are other types of Brazilian song that incorporate their own unique dances and styles. Being raised by two Brazilian parents and being surrounded by Brazilian people all my life; it’s easy to notice a Brazilian song and I can confidently say that Brazilians are some of the most musically orientated, and in turn, happy people on this planet. The joy portrayed through a Brazilian singer or songwriter is second to none and I believe this trait can be, in a way, associated with the African roots. The African people, despite many of their living conditions being rough, continue to be happy and let their worries pass aside. It is this aspect of African culture that I think has been deeply engraved into Brazilian culture and therefore passed along into Brazilian music. Brazilian “Carnaval”

The music may stop, but Brazilians will keep on singing! Brazilian National Anthem

by Victor Aguiar


James Burns November 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm

As someone who finds Brazilian music interesting but is mostly ignorant on the subject I found your article fascinating. I plan on exploring styles I was not aware of such as pagode! Also, it shows that you were writing about something you care for and are very knowledgeable of. To add, there is one Brazilian style I know a little about Tropicalia. It is sort of a mix 60s psychedelia and bossa nova, I was wondering as someone of Brazilian origin if you know if this music is also still celebrated in the country? Overall really engaging paper!

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