Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



A Brazilian rhythm, becoming that country's most popular music by the 1940s. Ethnomusicologist Oneida Alvarenga (quoted by John Storm Roberts in The Latin Tinge) said that 'the European polka gave it its movement, the Cuban habanera its rhythm, and Afro-Brazilian music added its syncopations'. Of the many samba rhythms, the earliest is the maxixe, a well-known example being 'Os Quindins De Iayá' ('Iaiá's Coconut Candies', sung by Carmen Miranda's sister Aurora in a Walt Disney film, The Three Caballeros '45). The maxixe (also called the Brazilian tango) was a combination of the polka and the lundu, from African drum music, and was regarded as indecent. 'Samba' may have come from the Kimbundu word 'semba', to touch navels as an invitation to dance the lundu. There are references to samba as early as the 1880s. The pianist/composer Francisca 'Chiquinha' Hedviges Ganzaga de Amaral (1847-1935) was a mulatta who was ostracized by her family for struggling against prejudice of several kinds; she was one of the first to combine European elements with syncopated African rhythms, along with her mentor Joaquim António da Silva Calado Jr (1848-80; she played in his group) and Ernesto Nazaré (1863-1934), a pianist/composer who brought the new style to a middle-class audience); the development of choro (which see) and samba was happening at the same time. The first samba to be written down is said to be 'Pelo Telephone', by Ernesto dos Santos (aka Donga) in 1917. Samba words and music were developed for the annual Rio de Janeiro carnivals, where one big hit number usually emerged each year, sung by the dancers with percussion backing. Gonzaga is said to have written some of the earliest Carnival tunes; Jose Barbosa da Silva (aka Sinho, 1888-1930) became famous for a number of them.

The legendary flautist and bandleader Pixinguinha began in choro and became one of the inventors of the samba; a cooler, more sophisticated samba form became known as samba-canção, useful for backing ballads, and the samba eclipsed choro and dominated Brazil's pop until bossa nova in the '50s. Ary Barroso (1903-64) wrote 'Na Baixa do Sapateiro' (better known as 'Bahia') and 'Aquarela do Brasil' ('Watercolours Of Brazil', more famous as 'Brazil'). Barroso also wrote music for revues, hosted a radio amateur hour and was a sportscaster; his tunes were used in Disney cartoons and other films including Brazil '44 (his 'Rio de Janeiro' was nominated for an Oscar). Carlos Braga (aka Braguinha, or 'Little Braga') wrote 'Touradas em Madrid', a hit in the Brazilian carnival '38, and 'Copacabana' a few years later. The Bando Do Lua, later accompanying Carmen Miranda, was among the popular Brazilian groups playing sambas; she introduced many of these tunes in American films, and her biggest hit, 'Mamãe Eu Quero', was a marcha, a carnival samba (march) rhythm; she also recorded 'Rebola A Bola', an embolada ('rolling ball' in Portuguese), a fast samba that gathers speed. In the 1930s Noel Rosa extended the samba's range with his complex, witty lyrics. After the creation of schools of samba, the carnival processions and the music became smoother and more commercialized, larger schools such as Mangueira and Portela attracting their own composers. Samba pervades the popular music scene in Brazil, and most composers have a go at it. The batuque is a slow samba, batucada a carnival rhythm, sambaião a cross between a samba and a baião; there are other variations. Bossa nova contains elements of samba influenced by 'cool jazz', but was a self-conscious creation rather than arising in the streets and dance halls like the others.