Begining of Samba Brazil Music - Origins of

Samba Music Orgins in Brazil

In our voyage across the Brazilian Carnaval culture, we definitely need to make a stop at the origins of samba music.  Without this understanding, we believe our readers would simply be unable to comprehend the development of the Carnaval culture in Brazil.  As you will see below, since the late 19th century, samba music sprouted into several directions, and today we observe more than 20 different types of samba.  As an example, the samba performed at the carnival parades in Rio is only one of these variations.  In the other hand, samba-schools in Rio who perform Carnaval show are intrinsically related to the samba music community itself.  The evidence of this mutual relationship goes back to origins of the samba-schools, when many samba composers were in fact their founding members.  In terms of the Carnaval parades themselves, not only the samba-music brings life to the show, but sometimes serves as inspiration for plot-themes.   As you will see below, without the emergence and development of the samba-music, ‘the world´s largest party - the Brazilian Carnaval’, would definitely not exist.

The Brazilian Popular Music – also known by its acronym MBP, has several musical genders, like marcha, canção, baião, xaxado, embolada, frevo, etc…The most remarkable, although, and which became the mark for singing and dancing in Brazil is the Samba.  It would have been the result from the first African rodas de samba in Bahia in the end of XVI century and the beginning of XVII) and, later, the combination with lundu, polka, habanera, tango, and maxixe. The following compositions presented the characteristics of samba:

    Moqueca Sinhá (a kind of lundu) – 1870;
    A laranja da Sabina – 1888;
    A morte do Marechal – 1893;
    Não deixa tirar – 1902;
    Ven cá mulata – 1906.

Samba Orgins of

On the other hand, in general in the Bahia state of Brazil, throughout centuries the black slaves’ dancing parties were also called samba.  From 1538 to 1888, slaves came from different nations and tribes, in which cultures were different one from each other.  Thence, their habits and customs had such influence in Brazilian art and culture being, thus, part of the Brazilian Popular Music and Carnaval. The black people’s usual dance was the Batuque.  The rhythmic hands beat was the signal for calling for dancing.  Batuque performance is led by a character, whose dance consists of moving the body, so that his hips move while the dancer snaps his fingers and smacks his lips followed by a grieving singing, at the same time, other participants around him repeated in a synchronous chorus: this was called the semba de roda or umbigada.  From the slaves’ ships, the batuque went slave quarters, and, there from, to the streets, to later become the samba.

Bahia’s ‘old aunts’, who moved to Rio de Janeiro, without knowing or predicting, planted the seed of a dance and a song in the neighborhoods near the center of the city. Moreover, in XX century, by mixing profane and religious festivals, singings and dances for pleasure and for faith, the “aunties” saw samba players to be born and to grow up on the 1920’s.

Orgins of Samba

They were:

-    Aunt Ciata (famous candy maker and party maker)
-    Aunt Amélia (Donga’s mother)
-    Aunt Prisciliana (João da Baiana’s mother)
-    Aunt Veridiana (Chico da Baiana’s mother)
-    Aunt Mônica (Pendengo’s and Carmem Xibuca’s mother).

Aunt Ciata’s house – on Visconde de Itaúna St, 177 – was one of the first real samba addresses in Rio.  At first, it was a little ‘amaxixado’ (having a kind of maxixe style), then becoming the ‘first part samba’ (the chorus), and the having the second part with improvised verses. Young composers from that time – Pixinguinha, Donga and João da Baiana – got together at Aunt Ciata’s house where they created a musical form, hybrid at times, but customized and Brazilian style.

From this time, 1917, the first samba was recorded, Pelo telephone by Donga and Mauro de Almeida, recorded by Banda Odeon and Baiano for Casa Edson. As Ismael Silva used to say: “Pelo telefone is not samba, it is maxixe.”, and “Se você jurar” by Ismael Silva and partners “is marcha and not samba” – answered Donga.

Samba Word Orgins

Let us see some theories regarding to the origin of the word samba. Samba comes from semba and means navel in the dialect from the slaves who came from Angola and Congo, the same ones who brought batuque and dance circles (mentioned before). According to Francisco Martins dos Santos, a historian, the samba as written music is due to Alexandre Levy, who included it in a gala concert in a work signed and directed by him.

There are people who say the Moors took zamba or zambra to Spain, at the time of the invasion of Iberian Peninsula by Arabians and due to the Castilian accent, the vocable became Ssamba or Ssambra.

In Arabian, the vocable is:
- SHAM – movement, action.

In abá (African language) Ba ou Bá – something that falls, pours, overhangs, that goes down and shakes.

Thence, the sense of music or dance having movements, swinging, shambling, and other waggles.  With Arabian invasion, all of it would have mixed to the core of Africa in centuries VII and VIII, influencing the language, religion, uses and customs, music and dances, and the African race itself.  According to carnaval & samba historian Sérgio Cabral, in 1842, Friar Miguel do Sacramento wrote the quadrinha ( four lined verse )

“Aqui pelo nosso mato
que estava então muita tamba
Não se sabia outra coisa
senão a dança do samba…”

 “Here in our wood
That was much tamba
Nothing was known
Other than samba dancing”
(free translation)


This kind of music and dancing changed in style and name in some states, in accordance with the culture of the slaves from other African regions.

Like this:

-    In Maranhão: tambor de crioula
-    In Rio Grande do Norte: bambelô
-    In Ceará and Paraíba: coco
-    In Piauí: samba and milindô
-    In Pernambuco: samba, coco de parelha, trocada, coco trovado.
-    In Bahia: samba de roda, bate baú
-    In Minas Gerais: samba
-    In Rio de Janeiro: samba, partido alto, jongo and caxambu
-    In São Paulo: samba de roda, samba rural, samba de lenço, jongo.

At the beginning, samba was not a musical gender.  It was a pudic dance, where people got free from conventions and defenses, and had a free act with their bodies.  At the beginning, the samba was called “chiba” or “xiba”, and consisted of a circle dancing with men and women followed by a guitar, viola and cavaquinho, while the dancer was inside the circle dancing alone.

This kind of dance was called rural samba and was settled in São Paulo.  All modalities of chiba were mestizos’ and mulatto’s favorites, who would not do without the “pinga” (cachaça) and the viola sound.

On the second decade of XX century, samba was defined as a musical gender.  Until then, it was called different names, and there was even a confusion made with maxixe, tango and polka, with a Brazilian style, due to the way of being played and due to the instrumental from chorões (literally ‘crying instruments’) - guitar and cavaquinho, still having influence from lundu, modinha, and from the international music from the fast theater - which was a musical one, as well.

The music from black people was a collective creation; it had no defined authorship.  They had no concerning with property among themselves.  It was a first part of a lyric (unknown authorship) and the second with verses improvised at the moment.

Silas de oliveira

The Rodas de batuque (batuque circles) – the famous batucadas, which was later confused with the likewise violent capoeira – were prohibited by police.  Only the malandros, who knew the rules of dancing and who were considered the bambas (experts), could participate on the circles.  After initial performances at hands clapping sound and crying instruments, the several strikes began:

-    Rapa (or rasteira)
-    Tesoura
-    Banda (or banda tocada)
-    Rabo-de-arraia
-    Cabeçada
-    Baiana
-    Bengala
-    Tombo de Padieira

And, suddenly, there was a razor shining in the lampions’ light and a batuque player fell down in blood, while the choir stifled the victim’s groan by singing:

“Pau rolou… caiu!
Lá na mata ninguém viu…”

“There was a fight… fell down!
In the woods nobody saw…”
(free translation)

Here in Rio de Janeiro, these batuque circles were called caxambu, jongo, partido alto, and later, samba circles and batucadas.  Thence, Brazilian musical production came up and was spread in the 20’s.  On the second half of this decade, coming from Estácio de Sá (and from Morro de São Carlos) there were the sambas which would be recorded next decade.

Samba´s Golden Age

Two new facts contributed for a great interest from popular composers, who started composing more frequently for Penha festival and Carioca Carnival: the invention of the phonograph recording disk process and of the radio.  The singer Baiano then recorded for casa Edson since 1902. Odeon Records (in 1907) did the same with Patápio Silva, a flautist.  We cannot forget Pelo telephone – recorded by Banda Odeon in 1917 (with Baiano singing).

In September, 1923, Radio Sociedade do Rio de Janeiro – radio station was created and in October 1924, the Radio Clube do Brasil, PRAB, both having low intensity.  In addition, in 1930, there were the radio stations Mayrink Veiga, Educadora, and Philips, PRAX, where on February 14, 1932, the Casé program was released.  The samba school Deixa Falar is from that time, 1928, which founder Ismael Silva, is Nilton Bastos’ and Francisco Alves’ partner in the samba Se você jurar (1931).

Mano Rubens, Mano Elói, and Edgar are samba players from Estácio, who went up Morro São Carlos. Alcebiades Barcelos and Armando Marçal, through Márcio Reis voice, made history in samba with Agora é cinza (1934).  However, the radio was bringing another name, which would stay among the greatest from MPB – Noel Rosa. Medical School student, living in Vila Isabel, Noel, who died very young, had a meteoric carrier with more than 200 works, including Com que roupa?, which was a hit on carnival of 31.

And, as well as Noel, the radio also brought Almirante, character from Bando dos Tangarás. It is because of him the introduction of percussion instruments in recording studios for the samba Na Pavuna, in the 30’s. It was the first record where we can hear the bass drum, tambourines, pandeiros, rattles, reco-reco mixed with guitars, flutes and cavaquinhos.  It is difficult to say where is the first ostensible and truly samba mark: if in Noel’s composition – Com que roupa?; in Se você jurar, by Ismael Silva and partners, or Almirante and Homero Dorneles’ Na Pavuna. Maybe, the time takes also for the future of Bide e Marçal’s samba – Agora é cinza, to put them in the list of the ones who can be the pioneers.


The 1930´s were a golden age for our popular music and brought great composers and interpreters of MPB in a variety of rhythms and genders.  Here we get to know remarkable singers, composer and musicians in general, in addition to the ones already mentioned, like Geraldo Pereira, Custódio Mesquita, Assis Valente (from the anthological Brasil Pandeiro), Wilson Batista and others, like:

-    Ary Barroso (winner of casa Edson contest) with marcha Dá Nela, recorded by Francisco Alves for Carnival of 1930;
-    João de Barro (called Braguinha by his friends – Almirante’s wife’s brother) who came with the marcha Lataria in 1931 together with Almirante;
-    Lamartine Babo (who appeared in 1927 with Calças Largas) and that would be remarkable with O teu cabelo não nega together with Irmãos Valença in the carnival of 32.
-    Benedito Lacerda (perfect flautist), co-author of successes in that decade like: Macaco olha o teu rabo, Eva querida, and Jardineira;
-    Antônio Nássara (caricaturist and Frazão’s more regular partner) with the marchas Coração ingrato and A.M.E.I.;
-    Dorival Caymmi, who came with O que a Baiana tem?, recorded by Carmem Miranda;
-    Haroldo Lobo came with samba Juro and went on with successes until 65, when he died.

On the other hand, the radio and the records would promote the most popular interpreters, like:

-    Francisco Alves, who would be called “the Voice King”, being the singer of the 1930’s and 1940’s, dying on September 27, 1952 in a car accident in Rio-São Paulo road, at the age of 54.
-    Mário Reis, who made partnership with Francisco Alves, had several successes, and his particular way of singing would be followed later by João Gilberto;
-    Carmem Miranda, “The Remarkable Little Girl” as she was introduced in Mayrink Veiga Radio, and who was a real representative of samba in the United States;
-    Sílvio Caldas, “The Deary Little Caboclo”, was Orestes Barbosa’s partner in the waltz Chão de Estrelas and many other compositions, was the interpreter of Maria, by Ary Barroso and Luiz Peixoto, and Pastorinhas, by Noel Rosa and João de Barro, among hundreds of other successes;
-    Ciro Monteiro, who came from a family with artists like Cauby Peixoto and his brothers, made his presence with the samba Se acaso você chegasse, by Lupicínio Rodriguez, who was from the South of Brazil;
-    Orlando Silva, released by Francisco Alves in his radio program, became “Singer of the Crowds”, maybe the greatest success of all times. Lábios que beijei, Rosa, and Jardineira, were great success of his time;
-    Carlos Galhardo, great interpreter of waltz, left his mark on carnival of 41 with Haroldo Lobo and Nássara’s marcha – Alá lá ô.

Also in the 1940’s and 50’s, there were great interpreters:

Emilinha Borba, Marlene, Jorge Veiga, Dircinha Batista, Araci de Almeida, Jorge Goulart, Linda Batista, Blecaute, Risadinha, 4 Ases e 1 Coringa, Gilberto Milfont, Zé and Zilda, Gilberto Alves, Jamelão, Miltinho, Nelson Golçalves, Carmem Costa, Nora Ney, Ângela Maria, João Dias, Roberto Silva, Ademilde Fonseca, Lúcio Alves and Dick Farney.

The samba is classified today in the following sub-categories:

-    samba-canção, which most inspired model would be Ary Barroso and Lamartine Babo’s Rancho Fundo, which was first called Na grota before Lamartine’s verses;
-    samba-exaltação, in vogue in the 30’s to the 40’s, and which had Ary Barroso as its first devotee with the remarkable and unique Aquarela do Brasil. This kind of composition was an anchor for shows in casinos, highlighting successes like Onde o sol doira as louras espigas, Canta Brasil, Na Baixa do Sapateiro, Brasil Moreno, and others.
-    Samba de breque, born with Luiz Barbosa and Sílvio Caldas, at the beginning of the 1930’s (“Ando cheio de saudade...”), and later identified in Moreira da Silva’s interpretation for Miguel Gustavo’s sambas;
-    Samba de terreiro or de quadra, sang and danced in samba schools out of carnival season.
-    Samba de partido-alto, typically of black origin, such as jongo, and that stays on samba and pagode courts until today;
-    Choro  or chorinho or chorão. Examples, Waldir Azevedo’s Pedacinhos do Céu and Brasileirinho (it was also known as samba-choro¬ for a period).
-    Samba-de-enredo, produced by request having a specific theme for samba schools parade;
-    Samba-de-balanço, a half way for the future bossa-nova.

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