Samba is possibly the style of Brazilian music that is best known in other countries. This is a popular creation, born in the feet and in the voice of the African slaves who were brought over to Brazil by Portuguese colonists. You will read a bit more about this captivating rhythm below.
Samba arose as a way of socialization
No-one really knows where or how samba first appeared, or even where the name comes from. It appears that the word is a variation of the African term ‘semba’ which means ‘umbigada’, an African dance, and a reference to one of the many ways of dancing the samba.
The truth is that the samba was a direct result of the need of African slaves coming from different parts of the continent to socialise without using the spoken word and without the possession of instruments – everything happened at the beat of any available object, the so-called batuques.
For this reason, samba nowadays has so many different variants scattered around Brazil, as each group has created its own form of musical and artistic expression.
Possibly the most famous of all the formats, on the international stage, is urban samba which came into existence in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 20th Century and which can be abundantly seen during the parades of the samba schools during Carnival, both in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo. Other styles that are very well known are the samba de roda and samba de gafieira (in which people dance in pairs).
Samba is more than just samba: it is bossa nova
However, samba acquired its status of a rhythm of the élites when it was influenced by jazz and also served as a base on which the bossa nova came into being, this being another extremely famous style of Brazilian music – who has never heard of The Girl from Ipanema, that has even been sung by Frank Sinatra?
Do not be misled by the simple and popular origins of samba. This is a style of dance that demands a lot of physical fitness and also many hours of rehearsal so that it may be executed to perfection. This is why not all Brazilians can dance the samba as they would like to or as they should – however, most of them will try out a few samba steps, mainly during Carnival.
In addition, it is always possible to learn something during a visit to Brazil and many places will be very happy to help you try. As samba has several variations, maybe one of them could be a suitable option for you.
Above all, you should always remember that samba was created with the aim of creating new ties, keeping sadness away and making new friends, and not to create superdancers. For this reason, you should not be afraid of taking part in this party and closely appreciating a cultural expression that is genuine and also a wonder to watch.