Samba is a musical form whose origins can be traced back to the early days of
Brazil. Samba developed out of a combination of rhythms and musical traditions
brought to Brazil by West African slaves as well as those belonging to South
American Indians and the Portuguese people. The complex rhythmic patterns of the
Samba can be traced back to the trance like music of Brazilian religions such as
Candomble as well as to the speech patterns of phrases in languages such as
Portuguese and Yoruba.
With its beginnings in Brazil, more specifically the northeast state of Bahia,
in the city of Salvador (Brazilís first capital), Samba spread throughout the
country, and the world, to become the Brazilian rhythm genre par excellence
Samba was first introduced in the U.S. in the late twenties in a Broadway
play called "Street Carnival." The festive style and mood of the dance
has kept it alive and popular to this day. Samba entices audiences to reflect
the joy and abandon of tropical days and sultry exotic nights.
The Samba beat is as indispensable to the people of Brazil as rain is to the
forest. At the heart of Samba Music is a "Bateria" of drummers and
other percussionists. Traditional Samba music is in 2/4 time with a high bass
drum beat on the first beat, and the lower foundation beat on the second beat.
The lower second beat is of same or of lesser intensity than the first higher
Samba music is played in settings ranging from small street corner gatherings
to huge community based groups, which can involve thousands of musicians and
dancers at Carnaval time. These larger groups are called Samba Schools and are
named after the school or buildings where the groups originally gather to meet.
The Samba dance is very different from other formal dance forms. Samba is a
unique and specialized dance form using groups of four to six step movements
incorporating side-to-side, forward-and-backward, and circular motions. Men and
women dance Samba differently and together, yet with minimal touching. The dance
for the women can be characterized by high energy symmetrical
foot movements accompanied by elegant hip, shoulder, and arm gyrations creating
a dance that includes the entire body. Men also perform the same characteristic
foot movements, but with limited hip and shoulder gyrations. Men dance around
the women, gracefully incorporating emphatic hops, flamboyant jumps, and
Carnaval, which begins during the week before Ash Wednesday, is Brazil's maior
feriado (major holiday). It is a non-religious holiday, associated with the
Christian religious week of lent, where everyone parties and celebrates before
Ash Wednesday, when all Catholics must traditionally abstain from such behavior
for 40 days until Easter Sunday. In Brazil, Carnaval traditionally starts the
week before Ash Wednesday and ends midnight Tuesday night. In many parts of the
world, this is called Mardi Gras.