International » Brazilian Traditions » Samba
The most common form of typically Afro-Brazilian music is the Samba. The term, however, means different things throughout portions of Brazil. For example, in the north it refers to the place where any type of dance is held; around Bahia it means the batuque; in the folk music of South America the samba distinguishes music in duple rhythm devoid of typical Negro syncopation; and, in Rio de Janeiro it stands for that rhythmical genre of popular dance music associated with carnival. The Bahia is loosely called the "rural samba," a generic term for circle dance music of Bantu derivation, of which the samba da roda ("of the circle") is a variety. Although often identified with the batuque and probably derived from the music and dancing of candomble, it is somewhat milder in tempo with fewer accents than its prototype. The technique of responsorial singing continues in the rural samba, and syncopation is employed. The in of the Bahian samba occasionally includes instruments a step away from the more African batuque, such as the pandeiro, tamviolao or guitar, a rattle, and at times the berimbau. The Rio de Janeiro variety is called the "urban samba," and it exists in two forms, the samba de morro ("of the hill") and the "downtown samba." The former is the genre associated with the inhabitants of the favelas or slums of Rio (located on the hills overlooking the commercial and middle to upper class residential areas), who each year prior to carnival learn the new sambas and marchas (marches) in the escolas de samba (samba schools). During the typical meetings of the escola de samba, a dance and music master teaches the new movements and songs for that year's carnival, while the percussion section provides the dance rhythms. The melodies are usually sung in unison chorus by all the dancers after the song leader sings a verse (the style is not responsorial). They are strikingly European, or more correctly, Brazilian European, but not African in their contour, although they are syncopated. The rhythms of the percussion, however, are very complex and extremely sonorous with the added use of double bells, rattles, tambourines, and the puita, a friction drum. Many of the other drums are Western military side drums. The samba of the "elite," the so-called downtown samba, is popular music. The songs, sung in unison chorus, are arrangements accompanied by a typical salon orchestra of brasses and reeds, with a trap drummer providing rhythms that only occasionally demonstrate Africanisms. With this type of music, and others like it farther down the African heritage scale, the point is reached where it is nearly impossible to see the derivations.