Considered by some to be the song of Brazil, Samba music has a rich history that has created a special place in the hearts of millions. Samba, the upbeat, celebratory music that defines South American festivals like Carnival and cities like Rio de Janeiro, is thought to have originated in Africa, and made its way to the Americas during the 1800s, as a result of Brazil’s European occupation and the slave trade. Samba is a combination of native African rhythm and Brazilian songs that especially focus on the day-to-day lives of the people.
Samba has a unique sound, as well as rhythm and song. The instruments used to play Samba are unique to the genre, and include a variety of percussion, drums, guitar and horns. The Cuica drum, a main sound in Samba, provides a high-pitched, conversational rhythmic tone that is complimented by the Repinque, a two-headed drum used for slap and open tone sounds. Timbal drums resemble today’s Conga drums, and can produce both low, bass tones, as well as higher tones around the rim. Surdo drums are the foundation of the Samba rhythm, with deep, resounding bass tones. Rounding out the drums in Samba music is the Pandeirdo, a tunable drum that resembles the tambourine in technique and sound.
Samba is more than drums, however, and the rich sound is enhanced through other percussion instruments like bells, shakers, rattles, triangles and whistles. The melody of Samba music is usually heard in the guitar, horn or flute. All of these instruments combined make Samba music not only a complicated and beautiful euphony, but also a challenging and complex style of music that is rivaled only by the personalities of those playing the songs.
Music easily defines a culture, and the Samba is no different in this respect. With the intercultural mix of Brazil and this history behind music throughout Latin America, the Samba may be one of the best examples of how cultures can combine and create a form of art that is not only distinct and memorable, but also shows the determination of people to continue to grow, through a love of rhythm and music. Samba music may be the best definition of the culture of Brazil, a creation of beauty, fun and complexity that continues to recreate itself, and music around the world.