Samba dance style

History of Samba

When we think of Brazil, three things immediately come to mind: football, Rio Carnival and Samba.

Samba is the national dance of Brazil. Its lively rhythm is the symbol of the festival, the exuberance of the Carnival of Río and its schools that parade every year in the sambodrome of the city. One of the most prominent Samba artists out there in recent years is Daniela Mercury.

But we could mention Milton Nascimento, Jorge Ben, Sergio Mendes, Djavan or more recently, Gilberto Bebel. All the great Brazilian musicians and performers, such as Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Baden Powell, Stan Getz and Caetano Veloso, who have adopted different styles such as Bossa Nova or Jazz, have interpreted or played sambas.

Origins of Samba

Samba is a musical style that comes from the fusion of African and Portuguese rhythms. The word “Samba” is of Angolan origin: “semba” or “mesemba”. This term can have different meanings in the Bantu language: “pray”, “invoke”, “complaint” … as for the Blues, which helps to understand why samba was a religious ceremony among blacks at first. But it is also given as “animated” meaning, “navel against navel”, “dance with joy”, definitions that apply quite to this dance.

The importance of the black community in Brazil, and more particularly in Salvador de Bahía, is at the base of this new musical rhythm that will develop from the beginning of the 20th century. Samba arrives in Rio de Janeiro at this time with immigrants from the state of Bahía.

It is in 1917 that the first Samba is recorded. It is called “Pelo Telefone” and its performers are Donga and Mauro Almeida. It quickly became a success and allowed the Samba out of the classification that is attributed to it, ie a popular music of black Brazilians. We do not know the composers of this Samba but we can think that it is a collective creation in which participated Pixinguinha and João da Bahiana.

Evolution of Samba

In the 1930s, a group of musicians led by Ismael Silva created the first Samba school in the Estacio de Sa neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. This school is named “Deixa Falar” (which in French means “Laisse Parler”). It is this group that will transform the musical genre to adapt to carnival parades.
At that time, the radio will help promote Samba, making it popular throughout the country. The Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas himself is going to give him a big boost by declaring the samba “official music of Brazil”.

The samba will then evolve towards different genres, some quite calm and others more exuberant and taken up by the orchestras during the carnival parades.

In 1939 María do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, better known as Carmen Miranda, is a Brazilian of Portuguese origin who arrives in the United States and who will popularize the Samba in the whole world.
Carmen Miranda will make 14 films in Hollywood between 1940 and 1953 and will sell more than 10 million records worldwide. One of Carmen Miranda’s best-known films is “Copacabana” in which she performs with great talent the song “Tico Tico No Fubá”.

One of the most famous variants of Samba is the Bossa Nova. This genre is created by white musicians and becomes popular in the 1950s with João Gilberto and Tom Jobim.

In the 1960s, the political division of Brazil also affects the musicians. Those favoring the left prefer the Bossa Nova and draw their inspiration from the favelas, these slums of Río e Janeiro. Some artists were discovered at that time, such as Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, Velha Guarda da Portela, Zé Kéti and Clementina de Jesús.

In the 1970s, Samba returned to the forefront on radio with singers and composers such as Martinho da Vila, Clara Nunes and Beth Carvalho. But in the early 80s, the young people leave a little this kind with the arrival of Disco and American singers, to return to Samba only during the carnival days.

But in the mid-80s Samba comes back with a variation called “Pagoda” that uses a small four-string guitar (cavaquinho), and whose lyrics are mostly in slang and very popular tone. The best-known singers and bands of this new style are Zeca Pagodinho, Almir Guineto, Grupo Fundo de Quintal, Jorge Aragão, and Jovelina Perola Negra.

Today, Samba remains one of the most popular musical styles of Brazil, although the appearance of new singers and musicians is much rarer. But Samba will still be the soul of Carnaval de Río and all the other festivals that took place at the same time everywhere in Brazil and with its neighbors in South America.

Dancing Samba

You can dance the Samba as a couple or solo, but the one that has the most favors of the public is the “Samba no pé qui” which is practiced solo during the Carnival.

If the rhythm of Samba is quite basic since it is usually based on two beats, his practice is however quite sporty since all parts of the body will be solicited.

To perform the basic step of Samba we will move back the right foot by making an arc, swinging on the left foot by bringing the right foot.
Then we do the opposite by backing the left foot that makes an arc on the left, we skew on the right foot by bringing his left foot.

By performing these leg movements, the arms will be used to maintain balance by sweeping the air at the pelvis.

To introduce you to the Samba watch as the basic step in this video is practiced and accelerate the movement to be in tempo with the music. When you have assimilated this basic step you will be ready to go dancing Samba during your next trip to Brazil.


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