I’ve never met a Brazilian that doesn’t like music. One of earliest memories of my childhood is my mom singing a song from Ataulfo Alves called “Pois é” – “Pois é! Falaram tanto, que desta vez a morena foi embora…” Because Brazil is so big and receives influences from all over the world, the quantity of musical styles is just enormous. The most famous styles are Bossa Nova, Samba and Forró, some believe that the word Forró is a derivative of the English expression “for all”.
Here are some of the most popular Brazilian rhythms in United States and Canada. I’ve posted audio samples of each type of music, paired with a description and some examples of the most famous artists from that genre of music. Feel free to google the artists names to learn more about them and hear other samples of their music. Obrigado!
Bossa Nova started in the 1950′s by a group of young Brazilian students and musicians that were in love with North-American Jazz. Here is a list of famous Bossa Nova singers and bands: Antônio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Billy Blanco, Carlos Lyra, Claudette Soares, Dick Farney, Elizeth Cardoso, Bebel Gilberto, João Gilberto, Johnny Alf, Lúcio Alves, Maysa, Nara Leão, Pery Ribeiro, Roberto Menscal, Ronaldo Bôscoli, Sérgio Ricardo, Sylvia Telles…and more.
The roots of Samba come from the influence of African slavery, in Brazil Samba originated in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. It is a mix of various popular rhythms like batuque from the Bantos slaves and Portuguese rhythms. Here is a list of famous samba singers: Adoniram Barbosa, Agepê, Alcione, Aracy de Almeida, Ari Barroso, Benito de paula, Beth Carvalho, Bezerra da Silva, Cartola, Chico Buarque, Demônios da Garoa, Dorival Caymmi, Elza Soares, Francisco Alves, Jair Rodrigues, Jamelão, Jorge Aragão, Martinho da Vila, Noel Rosa, Paulinho da Viola, Pixinguinha, Zeca pagodinho, etc.
Forró comes from the Northeastern of Brazil where it is very popular and played all year around. At the end of the 90′s this rhythm was transformed and started to receive more and more attention from the Southern part of country and internationally. These are some of the principal singers/bands from this Brazilian rhythm: Luiz Gonzaga, Sivuca, Trio Virgulino, Falamansa, Flávio José, Jackson do Pandeiro, Genival Lacerda and more.
This rhythm is most popular in the State of Pernambuco and the dancers use an umbrella during the performance. It’s one of the coolest and most colorful dances I have ever seen, during carnival frevo is played at all the parties. Some famous singers are: Gal Costa, Moraes Moreira, Carlos Fernando, Elba Ramalho, Alceu Valença and others more.
Maracatu is an Afro-brazilian rhythm played by percussionists that represent the Congo’s Kingdom, it is performed as street theater. It is played with a slightly different rhythm in Pernambuco and Ceará States, some of the most famous Maracatu players are Calé Alencar, Roberto Cruz, Abissal and Nação Zumbi.
Sertaneja is the equivalent of country music in USA. Its roots stem from the countryside of Brazil and it’s the most popular rhythm across the country. A list of the principal bands are: Bruno e Marrone, Chitãozinho e Chororó, Daniel, Gian e Giovane, Jorge e Mateus, Leandro e Leonardo, Tonico e Tinoco and Zezé di Camargo e Luciano.
Another rhythm from the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, Afoxê represents candomblé - an Afro-Brazilian religion. The most famous Afoxê group is the Filhos de Gandi, they perform every year during carnival in Salvador (Bahia).
Repente or Embolada
Repente or Embolada is a rhythm where 2 opponents sing against each other like a competition; they mock and use bad words in the context of the verse. The music is based on the facts of life and making fun of the other opponent or making jokes, the crowd usually forms a circle around the Repentistas to watch the performance. The most famous repentistas in Brazil is Cajú e Castanha.
Lambada is a rhythm from the State of Pará and comes from the Carimbó rhythm (see below). During the 80′s the French group Kaoma released a song called “Chorando se foi” (the original song was written in Spanish) and made the Lambada rhythm very popular in Europe, the Caribbean and United States.
Carimbó is a rhythm that reaches far back into history, from a time when Brazil was a Portuguese colony. The rhythm was created by the native indians. The colonizers called this style of music “the forbidden dance”, because woman used very short clothes and the dance was very sensual for that period of time. The roots of this genre were developed in Belém (capital of Pará State). The name came from a musical instrument called “curimbó” and is made from a tree trunk.
Choro or Chorinho is a Brazilian rhythm from Rio de Janeiro. Despite the fact that the word choro means cry in Portuguese - the rhythm is very happy and up beat. Choro peaked in the 30′s and 40′s and used to be played live on the radio. A list of great choro musicians: Altamiro Carrilho, Armandinho, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Ernesto Nazareth, Jacob do Bandolin, Paulo Moura, Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, and many more.
Samba-reggae is a mix of Samba with Jamaican reggae, created in Bahia. This mix happened because Bahia is the city with the most Afro-Brazilians in the country, and during the 70′s the black movement emerged in Salvador. The result is a type of samba that reinforces the pride of Afro-Brazilians. The biggest representations of this style are: Olodum, Timbalada, Carlinhos Brown.
MpB stands for Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music) and is the rhythm that replaced Bossa Nova. It received influence from samba, pop, jazz and rock. Because Brazil was governed by a military dictatorship regime during the time when MpB emerged, the music was very progressive. Some artists have become successful by playing Bossa Nova and MpB, a few examples are: Elis Regina, Edu Lobo , Chico Buarque and Toquinho.
Funk Carioca is a rhythm from Rio de Janeiro that uses beats from the Miami Bass style. This music receives much criticism because the lyrics are usually full of violence and sexual references.