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Samba: origins and styles



Samba comes from the angolian word “semba” which means “invitation to dance”. It originates in Bahia, where angolian and congolese slaves used to dance in circles, the so called Bahian samba de roda, where they used to dance a nowadays very popular step: the corta jaca.



Former slaves moved from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro and the Bahian samba de roda gets in contact with Maxixe and Polka and originates the samba carioca.

Maxixe has a big impact on what today is the International Latin Samba: a lot of the style and the steps originates from it


Below you can see a modern representation of the Maxixe



In the 20’s Irene and Vernon Castle popularise in the USA ballrooms the “Brazilian-Maxixe” lately called samba, which will be the precursor of the International Latin Samba. From this period on, International Latin Samba and the Brazilian Samba will have different evolutions.


samba canção

During the years 20’s and 30’s the general trend led to a more melodic, sentimental and moody samba: the samba canção.


samba exaltação

In the 40’s with Aquarela do Brasil of Ary Barroso another genre starts to spread: the samba exaltação, which was an exaltation of Brazil, wanted also by the actual president Vargas.This new genre led to a completely new direction of samba mood: a positive and exalting one. The samba-exaltação become the first success abroad and it is probably the most popular picture of samba nowadays.



Brazilian crooners and composers put samba on the international radar. It was the time when new icons such as Carmen Miranda showed up. Carmen embraced the form of samba, became a star in Brazil and then moved to the USA and Hollywood as a personification of Brazil's exuberant side.


samba batucada

By the 1950s, as samba-canção began to lose its momentum, a more percussive style of samba began to develop in the poor areas and shantytowns (known as favelas). At first called samba de morro because of its development in the morros (the hills of Rio), the style came to be known as samba-de-batucada, and emphasized the polyrhythmic sounds of multiple percussion instruments. This powerful sounding form would in time become the heartbeat of Rio's carnaval.



In the late 50’s and the 60’s, the influence of american jazz came over the brazilian samba and a new genre of samba originated: the bossa nova, which sees among the main exponents Joao Gilberto

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