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A history of the Samba

The word Samba, and the musical genre
Samba, has for a long time being studied
to uncover its origin. We are publishing
here what we think it is the most accurate.

The word Samba, in Portuguese, was derived
from semba, a word common to many West
African bantu languages. To the African slaves
brought to Brazil during the 17th, 18th, and
19th centuries, the word had a variety of
meanings. It meant to pray, or invoke the
spirits of the ancestors, or the Gods of
African pantheon. As a noun, it could mean
a complaint, a cry, or something like "the blues".

In Brazil, Samba is a woman with the same
function of an ekedi nag˘ in the banto's temples:
A sacred dancer, ia˘, the daughter of the saint.

In Brazil also, the African slaves called samba a
religious ceremony characterized by the rhythm
and choreography of the batuque.
(Batuque: the act of "batucar"; to make some
kind of rhythm using any kind of instrument or
object, and also a Rio's version of martial art "capoeira").
The Jongo, a variant of the Samba, until today is considered a religious dance.

The first known appearance of the word Samba as a Portuguese word
meaning a rhythm and a dance in print appeared in 1838, in the newspaper
"O Carapuceiro", in an article written by father Lopes Gama.

In 1917, Ernesto dos Santos "Donga", recorded his song "Pelo telefone",
and labeled Samba. This is officially the first Samba recording. Since then,
the musicians descendants of slaves started to see the Samba as a new approach
to the batuque from Angola, and determined themselves to integrate it to white
society trough organizations they called Samba Schools.

A pioneer of Samba, Angenor de Oliveira, was quoted as saying "In my childhood,
we played the Samba in the backyards of the old ladies, whom we call "tias" (aunts),
and the police stopped us often, because the Samba, then, was considered a "thing"
of bums and bandits."

Unfortunately, until today in Brazil if a "white" person dedicate himself
to the samba art form, he is considered an intellectual, or eccentric,
but if an African descendent does the same, he is seeing like somebody who
does not want to get a job, or something in that level.

Unlike other societies that cherish the Blues, the Jazz, the Mambo, the Rumba,
the Reggae and others, and sees these musical art forms as a national treasure
and are proud of it, Brazilian society refuses to recognize the Samba as a culture,
as Brazil's main culture and pays no respect to their masters.
We do not have there a Samba museum, or any kind of award to neither people
nor institutions dedicated toward the promotion and preservation of the Samba
culture or even a well-organized structure of promotion of this culture to
international markets. The Samba in Brazil, is still an underground culture.

However, thanks to some people in Brazil and around the world who sees the Samba
otherwise, some artists with their love and dedication, Samba Schools, and to
general people that gather to play, sing and dance the Samba, the culture will never
die, and will continuously grow strong developing new approaches and evolving forever.


We thank Mr. Huntley Barad for his help on copy-desking.

Photo: View of Mangueira community, where the Samba was born in the late 1800's.


We recommend the following CDs for Samba Music:

Batucada Brasileira
Only variations of Samba rhytm

Elza Soares
Elza Soares is the "Queen of Samba".
What Celia Cruz represents for Cuban Music,
Elza Soares represents for Brazilian Music.

Zeca Pagodinho
The hottest "ticket" for Samba music today in Brazil.

In Association with Amazon.com



Also visit

Women Afro Brazilian Connection Images of Brazilian Music 20 Exemplary cases Postcards from Bahia


SAMBA - WHAT IS IT? CAPOEIRA - WHAT IS IT? ESPIRITU