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Music of Brasil

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Music of Brasil

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Strong influences on the music of Brazil come from all parts of the world but there's a regional music very popular with influence from Africa, Europe, the natives of the Amazon rainforest and of other parts of the country. Samba is undoubtedly the most internationally famous form of Brazilian music, though bossa nova and other genres have also received international attention.


Brazilian music history

Colonial music

The earliest known descriptions of music in Brazil date from 1578, when Jean De Léry, a French Calvinist pastor, published Viagem à Terra do Brasil (Journey to the Land of Brazil). He described the dances and transcribed the music of the Tupi people. In 1587, Gabriel Soares de Sousa wrote Tratado Descritivo do Brasil about the music of several native Brazilian ethnic groups, including the Tamoios and Tupinambás.

King João VI of Portugal was a noted lover of music, and spent a period of time in Brazil. He sent for prominent European musicians to join him, including Austrian pianist Sigismund von Neukomm and composer Marcos Portugal. A local Brazilian musician, José Maurício Nunes Garcia, an organist and clavichordist, was appointed Inspector to the Royal Chapel.

In 1739, Domingos Caldas Barbosa wrote a series of modinhas that were extremely popular. Modinhas are a kind of sentimental love song of uncertain origin, as it may have evolved either in Brazil or Portugal.

Lundu was the first kind of African music to flourish in Brazil. Lundu, a style of comedic song and dance, was extremely popular and was even performed in the Portuguese court.

Independent Brazil

Brazil became independent in 1822, following the Brazilian War of Independence. Soon after, the African comic song lundu spread from poor blacks to broader, middle-class and white audiences.

Towards the end of the 18th century a form of comedic dance called bumba-meu-boi became very popular. It was a musical retelling of the story of a resurrected ox. These dances are led by a chamador, who introduces the various characters. Instruments used include the pandeiro, the tamborim, the accordion and the acoustic guitar.

Classical music

During the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, the classical music in Brazil was strongly influenced by the music style practiced in Europe, particularly the viennese classical style. The first major brazilian composer was José Maurício Nunes Garcia, a priest who composed several sacred pieces and some secular music. He wrote the opera Le Due Gemelle ("The two twins"), the first opera written in Brazil, but the music is nowadays lost. About 250 works written by him are known in the present days.

Near the end of the 19th century, Carlos Gomes (from Campinas) produced in a number of Italian-style operas, such as Il Guarany (based on a novel by José de Alencar). Brasílio Itiberê was another prominent classical composer, the first to use elements of Brazilian music in Western classical music, in his Sertaneja (1869).

In 1922, the Week of Modern Art revolutionized Brazilian literature, painting and music. Heitor Villa-Lobos led a new vanguard of composers who used Brazilian folk music in their compositions.

By the end of the 1930s, there were two schools of Brazilian composition. Camargo Guarnieri was the head of the Nationalist school, inspired by the writer Mário de Andrade. Other composers including Guerra Peixe, Oscr Lorenzo Fernandez, Francisco Mignone, Luciano Gallet and Radamés Gnatalli. Beginning in 1939, Hans Joachim Koellreutter, creator of the Live Music Group, founded another school, characterized by the use of dodecaphonism and atonalism. Other composers in this school included Edino Krieger, Cláudio Santoro and Eunice Catunda.

Folk music

Drum known as Ilú used in Xambá religion in Pernambuco Drum known as Ilú used in Xambá religion in Pernambuco

The earliest music in what is now Brazil must have been that of the native peoples of the area. Little is known about their music, since no written records exist of this era. With the arrival of Europeans, Brazilian culture began to take shape as a synthesis of native musical styles with European elements (especially Portuguese music) and African music.

Indigenous music

The native peoples of the Brazilian rainforest play instruments including whistles, flutes, horns, drums and rattles. Much of the area's folk music imitates the sound of the Amazon Rainforest. When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, the first natives they met played an array of reed flutes and other wind and percussion instruments. The Jesuit missionaries introduced songs which used the Tupi language with Christian lyrics, in an attempt to convert the people to Christianity [1], and also introduced Gregorian chant and the flute, bow, and the clavichord.

Eastern Amazônia

Eastern Amazônia has long been dominated by carimbó music, which is centered around Belém. In the 1960s, carimbo was electrified and, in the next decade, DJs added elements from reggae, salsa and merengue. This new form became known as lambada and soon moved to Bahia, Salvador by the mid-1980s. Bahian lambada was synthesizer-based and light pop music. French record producers discovered the music there, and brought it back with them to France, where a Bolivian group called Los K'jarkas saw their own composition launch an international dance craze. Soon, lambada had spread throughout the world and the term soon became meaninglessly attached to multiple varieties of unrelated Brazilian music, leading to purist scorn from Belém and also Bahia.

Another form of regional folk music, bumba-meu-boi, was popularized by the Carnival celebrations of Parintins and is now a major part of the Brazilian national scene.

Popular music

The field of Brazilian popular music can be traced back to the 1930s, when radio spread songs across the country. Popular music included instruments like cuicas, tambourines, frying pans, flutes, guitars and the piano. The most famous singer, Carmen Miranda, eventually became an internationally-renowned Hollywood film star. Her songwriter was Ary Barroso, one of the most successful songwriters in early Brazil, along with Lamartine Babo and Noel Rosa.

Música Popular Brasileira

Gilberto Gil Gilberto Gil

Main article: Música Popular Brasileira Tropicalia eventually morphed into a more popular form, MPB (música popular Brasileira), which now refers to any Brazilian pop music. Well-known MPB artists include chanteuses Gal Costa, Maria Bethânia and Elis Regina and singer/songwriters Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, Djavan and others.


In Rio de Janeiro in the 1870s a type of reserved and private music called choro developed out of fado and European salon music. Choro was usually instrumental and improvised, frequently including solos by virtuosos. Originally, a choro band used two guitars and cavaquinho, later picking up the bandolim, the clarinet and the flute. Famous choro musicians include Joaquim Antonio da Silva Calado Júnior, Valdir Azevedo, Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha and Chiquinha Gonzaga; Pixinguinha's "Lamentos" is one of the most influential choro recordings. In addition to composing choros, another composer, Ernesto Nazareth composed tangos, waltzes and polkas. Nazareth was influenced by Chopin but his music had a distinctly Brazilian flavor. Nazareth has also been compared to his contemporary Scott Joplin. The late 1960s saw a revival of the choro, beginning in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, and culminating with artists like Paulinho da Viola. Modern-day choro groups include Os Ingênuos.

Bossa nova

Main article: Bossa nova Antonio Carlos Jobim and other 1950s composers helped develop a jazzy popular sound mixed with a smooth samba beat called bossa nova, which developed at the beach neighborhoods of Ipanema and, later, the Copacabana nightclubs. The first bossa nova records by João Gilberto quickly became huge hits in Brazil. Bossa nova was introduced to the rest of the world by American jazz musicians in the early 1960s, and songs like "The Girl from Ipanema", which remains the biggest Brazilian international hit, eventually became standards.


Main article: Tropicalia By the end of the decade, artists like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil combined American and European styles with eletric guitars and diferent kinds of genuine brazilian music, beginning a genre called Tropicalia. These songs, not unlike the music coming out of Britain and America at the same time, was often very politicized and was perceived as threatening by the establishment. The military government of the time went as far as to exile Veloso and Gil to England.

Música nordestina

Música nordestina is a generic term for any popular music from the large region of Northeastern Brazil, including both coastal and inland areas. Rhythms are slow and plodding, and are derived from accordions and guitars instead of percussion instruments like in the rest of Brazil. In this region, African rhythms and Portuguese melodies combined to form maracatu and dance music called baião has become popular. Most influentially, however, the area around Recife, the home of forró.


Northeastern Brazil is known for a distinctive form of literature called literatura de cordel, which are a type of ballads that include elements incorporated into music as repentismo, an improvised lyrical contest on themes suggested by the audience.


Frevo is a style of music from Recife. In the 1950s, it spread south, to cities like Salvador. In Salvador, frevo bands began playing during Carnaval, originally in trios called trios elétricos. Overtime, the bands moved from playing on pickup trucks to fully amplified bands and stages. Trios eléctricos remain a primary feature of the Salvadoran Carnaval today.


Forró is played by a trio consisting of a drum and a triangle and led by an accordion. Forró is rapid and eminently danceable, and became one of the foundations for lambada in the 1980s. Luiz Gonzaga was the preeminent early forró musician who popularized the genre in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in the 1940s with songs like "Asa Branca".


The brazilian rock n' roll exists since the "first rock song", "Rock Around the Clock", was covered (and also recorded in Portuguese), in 1954. The 1960's had, inspired by the Beatles, many young singers like Roberto Carlos and his Jovem Guarda. The real "boom" of Brazilian rock was in the 1980's, with many bands and artists like Barão Vermelho, Legião Urbana, Lulu Santos, Paralamas do Sucesso and festivals like Rock in Rio.

Heavy Metal

Brazil also has some internationally famous Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bands, like Angra (band), Dr Sin, Shaaman, Sepultura, Soulfly.


Brazil also very bands of Hardcore/Punk, like Cólera, Ratos de Porão, Inocentes, Olho Seco , Garotos Podres, Mukeka Di Rato, Blind Pigs, Dead Fish, Againe, Noção de Nada, Reffer...

Raggamuffin Dancehall

Music original from Jamaica, but in Brazil have the Raggademente, represents of raggamuffin dancehall from South America. He is one of the pioneer raggaman in Brazil and is the principal dancehall artist in the country.

Afro Brazilian music


By the beginning of the 20th century, samba had begun to evolve out of choro in Rio de Janeiro's neighborhood, inhabited mostly by poor blacks descended from slaves. Samba's popularity grew through the 20th century, especially internationally, as awareness of samba de enredo (a type of samba played during Carnival) has grown. Other types of samba include:

Samba de breque - reggaeish and choppy
Samba-canção - typical variety of nightclubs.
Samba pagode - modern popular variety.

Capoeira music

three berimbau players three berimbau players

The Afro-Brazilian sport of capoeira is never played without its own music, which is usually considered to be a call-and-response type of folk music. The main instruments of capoeira music include the berimbau, the pandeiro and the atabaque. Capoeira songs may be improvised on the spot, or they may be popular songs written by older mestres (teachers), and often include accounts of the history of capoeira, or the doings of great mestres.


This type of music is played primarily in the Recife and Olinda regions during Carnaval. It is an Afro-Brazilian tradition. The music serves as the backdrop for parade groups that evolved out of ceremonies conducted during colonial times in honour of the Kings of Congo, who were African slaves occupying symbolic leadership positions among the slave population. The music is played on large alfaia drums, large metal gonguê bells, snare drums and shakers.


Afoxê is a kind of religious music, part of the Candomblé tradition. In 1949, a group called Filhos de Gandhi began playing afoxê during Carnaval parades in Salvador; their name translates as Sons of Gandhi, associating black Brazilian activism with Mahatma Gandhi's Indian independence movement. The Filhos de Gandhi's 1949 appearance was also revolutionary because, up until then, the Carnaval parades in Salvador were meant only for light-skinned people.


The band Olodum, from Pelourinho, are generally credited with the mid-1980s invention of samba-reggae, a fusion of Jamaican reggae with samba. Olodum retained the politically-charged lyrics of 1970s bands like Ilê Aiyê.

Music of Salvador: Late 60s to mid-70s

In the latter part of the 1960s, a group of black Bahians began dressing as Native Americans during the Salvadoran Carnaval, identifying with their shared struggles through history. These groups included Comanches do Pelô and Apaches de Tororó and were known for a forceful and powerful style of percussion, and frequent violent encounters with the police. Starting in 1974, a group of black Bahians called Ilê Aiyê became prominent, identifying with the Yoruba people of West Africa. Along with a policy of loosening restrictions by the Brazilian government, Ilê Aiyê's sound and message spread to groups like Grupo Cultural do Olodum, who established community centers and other philanthropic efforts.

Other Afro-Brazilian music genres

Afro-Brazilian music also include:

  • lundu
    Axé music
  • Brazilian funk
  • Afoxê
    Ilê Aiyê: see - Olodum
    Baile funk


  • Cleary, David. "Meu Brasil Brasileiro". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 332-349. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

Further reading

  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." 1998. 2nd edition. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-545-3

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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