The Origin and History of the Samba

When African slaves arrived in Bahia, Brazil, with the Portuguese colonization of the 19th century, they brought music and dances called the lundu.

Eye-catching and sensual, the cultural expression would eventually become the “samba” and transform the Brazilian Carnival and beaches in Rio de Janeiro before gaining global success.

Brazilian Roots

The samba is an Afro-Brazilian dance dating back to the West African in the Congo and Angola. Derived from a genre called samba de rod, it became popular in Bahia, a northeastern state.

Created by African slaves brought to Brazil, locals picked up the movements and rhythms.

Evolution of the Samba

During the early 20th century, Brazilians associated their culture and national identity with samba music, and the Bahian Samba de Roda became their primary dance.

The samba evolved from early forms like the Maxixe (ma-sheesh) or Brazilian tango to the modern samba we know today. Graceful steps look simple but require coordination and timing.

Samba Music and Dance

Samba emerged with a 2/4 time signature with a batucada rhythm and stanzas but is usually fast-paced with 50 to 60 beats-per-minute tempos.

Easy to learn, samba can be done solo, in groups, or with a partner, while styles vary.

Samba Instruments and Songs

Accompanying music includes the guitar, cavaquinho, and tamborims, with strong island beats to emphasize exotic movements.

Popular samba songs include:

  • Esto Riko
  • Tico Tico
  • Samba de Janeiro
  • Mas Que Nada

Samba and Brazilian Culture

An integral role in Brazilian culture, the samba gained prominence. In 1928, the first samba school, the Escola de Samba, was established by Geraldo Pereira, a musician and composer, to celebrate Brazil’s African heritage.

Carnival started in Rio in 1933 as Brazil’s annual festival where locals and tourists wear colorful costumes, dance the samba in the streets to live music, and enjoy celebrations.

How To Dance Samba and Bounce

To dance samba:

  • Shift your weight from one foot to the other.
  • Sway your hips and keep your hands on your hips or over your head.
  • Embellish with bold hip movements or wave your arms.

A distinctive step is the “bounce.” With your knees slightly bent, quickly shift from one foot to the other. Practicing will bring fluid, effortless movements.

Samba on the Global Stage

Samba combines different cultures and traditions and has gained popularity and recognition internationally. It spread to other countries and had a significant influence on global dance and music scenes.

In the U.S., during World War II, bands picked up the cultural phenomenon and partnered samba with trumpets, trombones, choros, clarinets, and flutes after the war.

Samba Today

Today, samba is taught globally, and beginners can attend samba schools, which are prevalent in culturally vibrant areas like Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.

Open and restricted international ballroom samba competitions for couples include strict rules about movements to maintain consistency for judges. Among the most prestigious is the Blackpool Dance Festival.

Samba Dance Styles

There are several samba versions with unique steps and canes or umbrellas. Some of the most well-known are:

  • Samba no pé: On the feet, the impromptu version comes from Brazil’s favelas.
  • Samba de Roda: From Bahia, it’s slower and sensual, with female dancers in a circle while men play musical instruments.
  • Samba de Gafieira: A Rio dance with flutes and violins, a dancer leads with improv movements, and others mirror the lead dancer.
  • Samba Axé: Fast-paced and suggestive, it combines modern and traditional elements.
  • Pagode: From suburban Rio, rhythms are relaxed and slow with mandolins and guitar.
  • Samba Reggae: From Rio slums (favelas), it incorporates reggae and samba with percussion instruments and drums.

Learn the Samba at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio!

With African and Brazilian origins, the samba has achieved global recognition. The dance is easy to learn and includes many variations to make your body come alive.

Whether you are a beginner or professional, dance samba for fun, exercise, or to prep for your nuptials.

Take the first step by signing up for a dance class today.

Schedule a dance class at Fred Astaire in Carmel today by calling 317-846-3237.