Brazilian music

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The Brazilian music is characterized by great diversity and has always been considered particularly sensitive to external influences. The combination of traditional and modern elements is characteristic.

The development of Brazilian music is closely linked to the European colonization of the country since its beginnings in 1500. It has its roots in the European music of the former colonial power Portugal , in the African music traditions of the slaves who were deported to Brazil and, to a lesser extent, in those of the indigenous people . In addition, the size of the country has resulted in a differentiation into different regional styles. Music traditions, which often go back to the Afro-Brazilian religions , have a strong influence on modern Brazilian music. Special features of the African heritage are the strong emphasis on percussion and syncopated rhythms.

In the Brazilian understanding, música erudita ("learned music"), which includes all forms of art music , and música popular are differentiated. This corresponds more to the definition of pop music than popular folklore music . However, the two are not strictly separated. In a narrower sense, modern urban music is known as Música popular Brasileira or MPB for short . A special feature of the MPB compared to North American and European pop music is that it is not a pure youth culture , but is heard by all age groups.

The best-known style of music in Brazil is samba , which is mainly played in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo . The bossa nova , which combined samba and jazz elements , gave Brazilian music its first international significance in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the 1980s, Samba Reggae from Bahia came to the fore. Today, styles of the Northeast, particularly Pernambucos , which mix the regional musical traditions with funk , hip-hop, and electronic music, are gaining popularity .

Many Brazilian instrumental musicians played an important role in international jazz. The country's art music is less influential.

The basics of Brazilian music

The African heritage

A slave is playing on a berimbau . Lithograph by Jean Baptiste Debret , 1826.

A large part of the Brazilian population are descendants of the African slaves who were deported to America as workers for the plantations from the 16th to the 19th century . These came from the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique , but also from the so-called slave coast in West Africa via the Atlantic triangular trade . Today in Brazil most of the inhabitants of African descent live outside Africa.

The majority of West African slaves belonged to the Yoruba , Fon , Ewe and Ashanti peoples , while those from Angola and Mozambique were Bantu tribes . Since the slaves came from very different African regions and cultures, African musical traditions have not been preserved in their purest form. They mingled with one another, so that specifically Brazilian expressions of the African musical heritage emerged, as happened analogously in Cuba , Haiti and elsewhere. Then there was the suppression of the slaves' own forms of expression by the Europeans, although this was not as radical in Brazil as in North America.

Characteristics of Afro-Brazilian music

The agogô (or a cowbell called a Gã ) structures Afro-Brazilian music.

The strong emphasis on percussion goes back to African music . Characteristic are polyrhythmic structures, syncopated intonations, an interplay between question and answer and short improvisations .

As everywhere where Latin American music is based on African tradition, the music is structured by basic rhythmic patterns, which, in contrast to Cuba, are not played on clave wood , but either on the double bell agogô or on a cowbell (Gã). If these elementary rhythmic figures in the music of Candomblé are just as unchangeable as the clave in Cuban music, they are varied and played around as a guideline in more modern musical styles.

A fundamental figure in Afro-Brazilian music is the rhythmic pattern, which corresponds to the Cuban son-clave and is sometimes referred to as the Afro clave . This is typical, among other things, for Samba Reggae and other musical styles from Bahia as well as for the Havamunha rhythm in the music of Candomblé :

The 6/8 bell voice is particularly common in Candomblé:

A particularly common rhythmic element of samba is the partido alto . The entire rhythmic accompaniment of a piece can be based on this, but in contrast to a clave in the narrower sense, the partido alto does not necessarily have to be played. The two-bar rhythmic figure can have very different characters due to its offbeat / downbeat distribution.

Music of the Afro-Brazilian Religions

An ensemble plays Ilús in the Xangô cult in Pernambuco .

The most immediate adoption of African musical traditions took place in the Afro-American religions of Latin America. For everyone, drum music, singing, clapping hands and dance are elementary and inseparable components of the ceremonies.

In Brazil, the music of the candomblé is particularly influential. Candomblé connects different religions of Africa , some of which are mixed through syncretism with Roman Catholic beliefs in saints, and partly with Indian beliefs. The followers of Candomblé assign themselves and their temple to one of the three "nations" ( nacãos ) Ketu (Yoruba), Angola (Bantu) or Jeje (Ewe-Fon). However, this is only based to a relatively small extent on historical realities. When Indian influences play a role, one speaks of Candomblé- Caboclo . Essentially, Candomblé is rooted in the Yoruba religion .

In addition to the Candomblé, there are other related religions of African origin in Brazil. These include the Batuque in the south and the Xangô cult in the northeast. The Umbanda religion has combined the African tradition with spiritualistic influences. The Afro-Brazilian religions are often summarized under the term Macumba . Although 90% of the Brazilian population belong to the Catholic Church, half also practice an Afro-Brazilian religion.

The Santería in Cuba and Voodoo in Haiti developed under conditions similar to those in Brazil . Even if the various religions have been isolated from one another for centuries and have not influenced one another, there are many musical parallels due to their similar histories. The common origins are particularly evident in the repertoire of the songs that are sung in both the Candomblé and the Santería in Yoruba and are often identical, while the accompanying rhythms and the instruments used vary.

The special role that the candomblé rhythms play in Brazilian music is due to the fact that they are not exclusively reserved for religious purposes. The Afoxé music of Bahia emerges directly from the music of the Candomblé and the Maracatú in the northeast probably has its roots in the ritual of the Candomblé or the Xangô cult. Many rhythms have also found their way into the música popular brasileira .


Three capoeiristas play the berimbau bow . A pandeiro in the foreground , a Xekerê in the back .

The combat dance Capoeira plays a special role in Afro-Brazilian culture. Predecessors probably reached Brazil from Angola as early as the 16th century, where Capoeira has been used since the 18th century.

Since the slaves were forbidden to practice martial arts, they used the musical accompaniment to disguise Capoeira as a harmless dance. In addition to its function as a solo instrument, the Berimbau music bow also took on the task of warning the participants with the help of certain patterns ( toques ) if the police were nearby. A special role in the development of Capoeira is assigned to the Quilombos , in which runaway slaves met and sometimes successfully resisted the Portuguese colonial rulers over a long period of time. After Mestre Bimba founded the first Capoeira Academy in 1932, the sport was gradually officially recognized and today it has the status of a national sport.

The accompanying music in Capoeira is so closely connected to the fighting dance that the game cannot be continued without it. It is played on the main and solo instrument berimbau, the atabaque , the pandeiro , agogôs and xekerês or the reco-reco . The singing and clapping of hands of the audience in the roda (circle) are indispensable components , while two actors compete against each other in their midst.

A similar fighting dance is the maculelê . It is played with two sticks, which also take on rhythmic functions.

Portuguese heritage

The pandeiro was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese as a bell tambourine , but originally comes from the Arab world. It is the most popular instrument in Brazil and is played in samba de pagoda , música nordestina and capoeira , among others .

The musical heritage of the Portuguese can be traced back to the European Middle Ages . Iberian music is based to a large extent on Arabic and to a lesser extent on Jewish tradition.

Processional music is part of Portuguese heritage and is sung in the street on the holidays of the Catholic festival calendar and is usually accompanied by tambourines , guitars and a solo wind instrument.

The dramatic dance game Chegança goes back to the Galician- Portuguese Villancicos of the 18th century, but also shows similarities with the minuet of the 17th and 18th centuries. The scenic folk games tell of the struggle between Christians and the Moors , taking up motifs from stories told by sailors and knight reps . Two other dramatic performances date back to the Middle Ages: The Reisado for the festival of Epiphany and the Bumba-meu-boi , which depicts the death and resurrection of a mythical bull and is also enriched with Indian elements.

The Modinha has its origins in a popular song form used by imperial Brazil. It clearly shows courtly influences from the 18th century and often developed into children's songs and lullabies .

The repente in the Brazilian north-east and the cururu in the south-east and mid -west are based on the European troubadour system of the Middle Ages and Middle Eastern musical traditions . In these musical duels, two repentistas , trovadores or cantadores de viola compete with alternately sung improvisations on a given theme and play on a guitar called viola sertaneja . The Embolada works in a similar way , in which the two musicians accompany each other with pandeiros in the Baião rhythm at a constantly increasing tempo and try to outdo the other.

The musical legacy of the Indians

In line with the relatively minor importance of the indigenous population in Brazilian society, the music of the Indians also had less of a popular effect on the Brazilian música . Where Afro-Brazilian culture mixes with indigenous influences, the term caboclo is used , which also describes mixed race with Indian ancestors.

Such variants are available in different musical styles such as Candomblé de caboclo , Maracatú de caboclo or Samba de caboclo . In the Candomblé de caboclo it is more the religious ideas that have entered the Afro-Brazilian religion than that the music has been influenced. This largely corresponds to the style of the Candomblé de Angola . In maracatú and samba, too, the actual proportion of indigenous music is rather low.

In the northeast are going Caboclinhos back to Indian music, which were influenced by the dramas, rituals and dances, which the Jesuits used to the indigenous population to Christianity proselytize . A trio with a caixa de guerra (a snare-like small drum), a shaker pipe and a whistle is accompanied by Indians who beat the beat with bows and arrows. A complicated dance is performed for this.

In the Sertão , the festa do umbu or the ritual do ouricuri are performed at harvest and fertility festivals , which represent Indian music that is hardly influenced by outside.

Original music of the Indians can be found mainly in the Amazon region and in Mato Grosso , the main settlement areas of the Indians. The two most important genres of music of the Xingu Indians are shamans and war songs, which are performed in alternating chants and accompanied by rattles and the footsteps of the dancers.

Brazilian musical instruments

Instruments of African origin

Batuque drums : Ilús , which are played as hand drums (back) and Xequerês .
Three berimbaus in different pitches

In the field of percussion in particular, numerous African instruments have been adopted into Brazilian music. Some of these have remained unchanged, some have been further developed.

The most important is the atabaque , which is closely related to the Cuban conga . The atabaque is used in candomblé, when accompanying capoeira and in samba de roda or samba de caboclo . In the Candomblé, the low solo drum ( rum ) is played with the free left hand and a stick in the right. These ways of playing later in the Samba on the Repinique , transmitted, which also solos and leads the music. The way the two accompanying drums ( Rumpi and ) are played differs depending on which nation the Candomblé temple belongs to. In Candomblé-Ketu they are played with sticks, in Candomblé-Angola with the hands. In the Xangô cult and in Batuque, Ilús are used instead of the atabaques .

A special instrument is the Berimbau bow , which is the main instrument of Capoeira. Forerunners can be found in Angola and Central Africa.

Audio file / audio sample Berimbau: Listen to the Toque de Angola ? / i

The idiophone family includes the Xequerê , Caxixis and the Agogô double bell . These were taken over unchanged from Africa. The Cuíca grater drum is played in samba .

Audio file / audio sample Listen to Cuíca 1 ? / i listen to Cuíca 2 ? / iAudio file / audio sample

Instruments of Portuguese origin

Musical instruments of Portuguese origin include all the instruments of Portuguese folklore music , European dance orchestras and marching bands .

Typical choro instruments: seven-string guitar, guitar , mandolin , flute , cavaquinho and pandeiro .

Plucked instruments are particularly popular in Brazilian music. Especially in choro , in addition to guitars and basses with mandolins , the seven-string guitar violão de sete cordas and the cavaquinho , instruments are played that are rarely used in Europe. The cavaquinho is one of the most characteristic instruments of Brazilian music and is of particular importance as the only melody instrument in samba.

The accordion (also known as sanfona ) plays a major role in the forró and the lambada .

Afro-Brazilian music also integrated and partially modified Portuguese instruments. The most important percussion instruments in samba, samba reggae and afoxé ( surdo , caixa , repinique ) and in maracatú ( alfaias and caixa) are variants of the large and small drums of European marching music.

The most popular and “Brazilian” instrument is the pandeiro , which is mainly played in samba, música nordestina and capoeira. The pandeiro was also brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, but the origin of this clam tamborin lies in Arabia, from where it was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors .

Musical instruments of indigenous origin

Maracás are one of the few instruments of indigenous music that have become more widespread.

In keeping with the minor role played by indigenous music, few instruments have found their way into Brazilian music.

First and foremost, these are shaking instruments and other idiophones such as maracás and caxixis . Indian flutes and pipes are also used in the música nordestina .

Audio file / audio sample Listen to maracás ? / i

In the original music of the Indians, wind instruments ( pan flutes made of bamboo up to 2.20 meters in length), percussion instruments (simple bamboo tubes that are hit on the ground and slit drums ), buzzers and rattles are used.

Regional styles

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo

Samba dancers parade through the Sambódromo in Rio de Janeiro during the carnival .
The carnival goes back to Portuguese Catholic tradition and was picked up by the Afro-Brazilians in the 19th century. Lithograph by Jean Baptiste Debret around 1826.

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the two centers of the Brazilian entertainment industry and the economic hub of the country. Because of this, the music from this region automatically broadcasts to all of Brazil. On the other hand, both cities attract musicians from all over the country, so that regional to national musical styles can develop here like nowhere else.

This also applies to the samba , which originated in Rio de Janeiro around 1920 and whose centers are now in Rio and São Paulo. Samba can therefore be seen as regional music as well as a national music style. Among the many variations, the samba enredo stands out, which is played by the large samba schools during the carnival season.

Carnival in Rio

In the 1950s, the street carnival of the samba schools supplanted the civic carnival in central Rio. Today the Carnival in Rio ( Carnaval carioca ) is the largest folk festival in the world. The parade of the samba schools called Desfile , each with several hundred musicians and dancers, is broadcast nationwide and musically is all about samba enredo . Playing wind instruments is prohibited by statute, the only melody instrument is the cavaquinho that accompanies the singing.

The highlight is when the groups move into the 60,000-seat Sambódromo , which was built by Oscar Niemeyer in 1984 . This is also where the jury is based and evaluates the various groups according to strictly specified criteria. The first-placed school and the composer of the victorious Samba enjoy high prestige all over Brazil, while those schools with the lowest scores have to “relegate” and are replaced by others in the following year.

The 44 samba schools in Rio are well-organized associations with sometimes several thousand members who take on the preparation, rehearsals and social tasks in their respective district or favela . Due to the high cost of the parades with the elaborate costumes and allegorically decorated floats and because of the great tourist interest, the carnival in Rio is heavily commercialized and there are some connections to the mafia , which the samba schools use for money laundering.


Although Bahia belongs geographically to the northeast, this state is not counted as part of the música nordestina , but rather as a separate cultural area . Bahia is considered the region of Brazil where the African heritage is most pronounced - around 75% of the population define themselves as black or mulatto . A census by the IBGE ( Instituto Brasileiro da Geografia e Estatística ) in 2000 showed 62% mulattos ( parda ), 23% white ( branca ), 13% black ( preta ) and 5% Indian ( indígena ) for the state. The cultural center is Salvador da Bahia , which was also the capital of Brazil until 1763.

Nowhere else is the music of the Candomblé as present as in Salvador. The Ijexá candomblé rhythm is the direct result of Afoxé music, which is played on the street by large percussion groups ( blocos ) at carnival and at festivals of the candomblé .

By mixing Afoxé and the Bahian variation of the samba with the Caribbean Reggae developed in the 1980s, the samba-reggae , which has since also abroad is one of the most popular styles of Brazilian music. Bahian music was lastingly shaped by the development of the light, portable timba in the late 1980s; until then, hand drums in Brazilian music were only used in smaller ensembles that played at a fixed location.

Salvador is a particularly creative center of the música popular brasileira , from which many of the most important musicians in Brazil come, such as Dorival Caymmi , João Gilberto or Gilberto Gil . Most of the musicians from Bahia had already belonged to the Tropicália movement. Since the early 1990s, the Bahian music that has enjoyed national success has been referred to as Axé music. Today the group Timbalada around Carlinhos Brown is the most influential samba-reggae formation, which allows modern elements such as funk and hip-hop to flow into the music.

Carnival in Salvador da Bahia

Members of the bloco afro Ilê Aiyê at the carnival.

The Bahia Carnival is considered the most exuberant street carnival in Brazil. There are the blocos de trio of the white middle and upper classes and the blocos afros of the black population, who mostly belong to the lower class. Both types of carnival clubs have up to several thousand members.

Until 1974, the Afoxé-Bloco Filhos de Gandhy was the only one who carried Afro-Brazilian culture to the Bahia Carnival. It was only with the establishment of Ilê Aiyê that the blocos afros emerged, combining African heritage and black self-confidence with political demands for equal rights. Whites were forbidden from membership in this newly founded association. After the great success of Ilê Aiyê, numerous bloco afros were founded in quick succession and by 1980 the Bahia Carnival was completely Africanized. The group Olodum , which was founded in 1979, has rendered outstanding services to the resumption of African and Bahian music as well as to the social concerns of the Afro-Brazilian population and has significantly shaped the development of Samba Reggae. All blocos, which have up to several thousand members during the carnival, include smaller formations that perform on stage throughout the year. Timbalada and Ara Ketu are other popular blocos with associated bands.

Another phenomenon of the Bahia Carnival are the trios elétricos , musical trios that drive through the city on semi- trailers with 100,000 watt systems. These trios began playing the northern Brazilian Frevo with the electric guitar and an amplified cavaquinho from 1950 . Over time, more and more styles were added to the trios' repertoire.

Música nordestina

The dramatic folk dance Congada influenced the Maracatú . Both include the depiction of a coronation of the Congo king and a queen. In the middle the royal couple, drummers on the left, dancers as courtiers on the right. 19th century photo.

The música nordestina includes the regional styles of the Brazilian northeast with the exception of Bahia. Its center is in Pernambuco , especially in its capital Recife .

A basic musical style of the northeast is the maracatú , which is played with the bass drum alfaia , snare drums ( caixa or tarol ), the shaking instrument chocalho (usually as a whole ) and a bell ( gonguê ). Often there are also flutes. Like the samba in Rio de Janeiro, the maracatú is played by large music parades on the street, especially during Carnival time. It is characterized on the one hand by pronounced syncopation , on the other hand by very deep, earthy bass voices. The solo phrases are also played by the Alfaia, which occurs in three pitches. A maracatú parade represents an African coronation ceremony and the songs also evoke the African heritage. The music is closely related to the Candomblé or the Xangô cult and the Maracatú formations are similarly assigned to African “nations” ( naçãos ). The maracatú was heavily influenced by the still existing congadas and has been played since the 17th century. Today a distinction is made between the urban Maracatú de baque virado and the rural Maracatú rural . If Indian influences are added, one speaks of Maracatú-Caboclo .

A very influential rhythm is the baião . This basic rhythm, with varying instrumentation, forms the basis of most of the styles of the Northeast: Forró , Côco , Ciranda and Embolada .

Sculptural representation of a Forró trios with zabumba , accordion ( Sanfona ) and triangle in folk art Pernambucan .

The most popular style derived from the Baião is the Forró , which is usually played with the zabumba , accordion ( sanfona ), pandeiro and triangle . In the second half of the 1940s, Luiz Gonzaga , the "King of Forró", made his breakthrough in Rio de Janeiro and made the style known nationwide for the first time. Only this success triggered an awareness of the value of their own regional musical culture in the northeast. Jackson do Pandeiro was arguably the most important of Gonzaga's many successors .

The Frevo is a music focused on wind instruments . It developed after 1900 from variants of the march ( Marcha ). At carnival time it is performed on the street and accompanied by acrobatic dances.

Since the late 1980s, the northeast has become one of the most productive regions in Brazil. Chico Science and his band Nação Zumbi began to combine the Baião and Maracatú rhythms with rap , funk and other modern styles, thus developing the new Mangue Beat style. After the early death of Chico Science in the Recife Carnival in 1997, Lenine is the most famous representative of music from the Brazilian northeast. Chico César is one of the most successful MPB musicians using regional musical styles from the música nordestina .

Carnival in Recife and Olinda

Moritz Rugendas : Congada , 1821. With the Congada are the Maracatú related -Umzüge that during Carnival in Recife , Olinda lists and other cities of the Northeast.

The centers of the carnival in Pernambuco are the capital Recife and Olinda . Musically, the carnival in this region is one of the most diverse in Brazil and is characterized by Maracatú de nação and rural , Frevo , Caboclinho , Bumba-meu-boi and Samba . Smaller groups perform Ursos in a bear costume , based on groups of actors from the Middle Ages who traveled through Europe with dancing bears. The music ensemble consists of accordion and string instruments.

In Recife, the groups ( agremiações ) hold a competition in different sections, which is decided by a jury. In addition to the traditional blocos, there are trios elétricos , as in Salvador da Bahia, but they do not take part in the actual carnival parade.

Amazon region

In the tropical north of Brazil, the influence of the Guayana states and the Caribbean can also be felt in the music, the local radio stations play a lot of merengue , salsa and rumba .

The round dance Carimbó is typical for the Amazon region . The name comes from a hand drum of the same name of African origin. It is similar to the atabaque , but is built from a hollowed-out tree trunk. Other traditional instruments are Ganzá, Reco-reco, Pandeiro, as well as guitar and flute. A distinction is made between the Carimbó praieiro in the Atlantic zone of Pará , the Carimbó pastoral in Marajó and the Carimbó rural in the plantation areas on the lower Amazon. Today the Carimbó is often played with amplified instruments and a complete brass section. One of the most famous representatives of the Carimbó is Pinduca , who is also known as the "King of the Carimbó".

The lambada goes back to the Carimbó . He became known worldwide in 1989 through the recordings of the Kaoma group . The style originated in Belém in the 1970s and mixed the carimbó with elements of forró, calango , samba, merengue and reggae .

The regional, traditional music of the Amazon region has also found expression in the Tecno Brega . This genre of electronic music emerged in Belém shortly after the turn of the millennium.

Música sertaneja

The singer Chitãozinho from the duo Chitãozinho e Xororó .

The Música sertaneja takes its name from the Sertão , the rural, dry interior of the northern parts of the Brazilian southwest and northeastern Brazil, but is regionally originally the music of the cattle herders and cattle drivers (Boiadeiros; Vaqueiros; Tropeiros), the ox-wagon driver (Carreiros), of the farmers as well as the rural population of the Brazilian southeast and midwest in general. Since the rural exodus from these formerly mostly poor areas to the urban agglomerations, especially to São Paulo, was particularly great , so did their music, which is now equally true, with the inhabitants of the interior, often disparagingly known as caipiras (rednecks) as a national style of music. Characteristic is a pair of singers who are usually same-sex and who accompany themselves with a ten-sided guitar ( viola ); however, band accompaniment in Sertanejo music has been at least since the 1930s.

After Cornéleio Pires made the first record of a Sertanejo song with the Sertanejo double Mariano e Caçula in 1929 and, thanks to the huge success, further recordings by other doubles followed, the Música sertaneja temporarily became socially acceptable among the rural middle class in the 1930s.

After American country musicians became aware of Sertanejo music from the 1990s thanks to various similarities and there were joint recordings, such as Billy Ray with Chitãozinho e Xororó , Willie Nelson with Zezé de Camargo e Luciano , or Garth Brooks with Juliano Cézar , The Brazilian mass media built the duos such as Leandro e Leonardo or Chitãozinho e Xororó, reviled as duplas caipiras ("backwoods couples"), into nationwide stars based on the example of North American country musicians, and Sertanejo music has since become socially acceptable among the middle class.

Música gaúcha

Gaúcho dance in Porto Alegre .

A similar development as the Música sertaneja made the Música gaúcha by. It was originally the rural music of the population of the state of Rio Grande do Sul ( Gaúchos ), but this has nothing to do with the term gauchos in the neighboring countries Argentina , Uruguay and Paraguay . In addition to influences from neighboring countries, there are those of the Indians, whose ancestors lived in the Jesuit reductions , and of the rural music of southern Germany, Austria, northern Italy and Switzerland, from which the most important part of European immigrants came in the 19th century. The Música gaúcha has meanwhile been adopted by the urban middle class, but remained limited to the state of Rio Grande do Sul and found only limited supraregional distribution.

The best known musicians of the Música gaúcha are Renato Borghetti and Bebeto Alves , who try to catch up with modern developments in the Música popular brasileira . Other musicians strive to combine the Música gaúcha with the Musica sertaneja . The main instrument is the simple gaita accordion .

Music from Minas Gerais

In colonial Brazil, Minas Gerais, rich in gold and diamonds, was the economic and cultural center of the country for a long time. The earliest art music in Brazil originated in the splendid baroque cities like Ouro Preto . The music of the region is strongly influenced by Gregorian chant and church music . The folk dance Calango comes from Minas .

The internationally best known musician from Minas Gerais is today Milton Nascimento , who is also one of the most prominent artists in Brazil internationally.

Sertanejo music is traditionally typical of Minas Gerais .

Supraregional styles: The Música Popular Brasileira

Gilberto Gil is one of the leading figures of the Música Popular Brasileira.

In the Brazilian understanding, Música Popular Brasileira , MPB for short, describes any form of Brazilian music that does not belong to música erudita , i.e. art music and whose distribution is not regionally limited. The spectrum ranges from traditional folklore to modern pop music and includes all mixed forms of it.

Since the term MPB emerged in the late 1960s, this music has picked up not only the country's regional musical styles, but also North American, Caribbean, and European influences such as blues , jazz , reggae , rock, and pop . A characteristic of the MPB is that regional styles develop through the urban centers to music with a national character. Above all, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo took over the function of catalysts here since the 1960s and 1970s. However, with the increase in recording studios , record companies , radio and television companies since the 1980s, both cities have lost influence. Salvador has produced a particularly large number of creative musicians.

In contrast to American and European pop music, the MPB is not a pure youth culture, but is heard by all ages. This results in a stronger historical awareness, reinterpretations of old classics are common practice in the MPB. Not only the performers, but also the composers and lyricists of the songs enjoy special appreciation. Singers like Chico Buarque or Caetano Veloso are also considered to be important poets in Brazil. The texts are not subordinate to the melodies, but rather are superior.


The famous
Banda de Bombeiros
choro brass band with Anacleto de Medeiros , Rio de Janeiro, around 1896.

With the choro , the first national Brazilian music style developed around 1870 in Rio de Janeiro, which was spread across the country through the invention of the record . It was created from a fusion of popular European dance music, such as polka , waltz , mazurka , xote and quadrilles , with Afro-Brazilian music, e.g. B. the Lundu . At the same time, the Brazilian tango ( Maxixe ) emerged - before the Argentine tango , with which it had little in common - and was also played by the choro ensembles. After Brazilian independence in 1889, military and brass bands added choros to their repertoire. It was played and danced mainly in the lower middle class. It experienced its heyday between 1870 and 1920, but is still cultivated today.

Most choral compositions are characterized by a relatively high tempo, a typical Zambatian melody and rhythm structure and improvisations on the theme of the composition. Choro ensembles traditionally consisted of two guitars, a cavaquinho and a flute as a solo instrument. Later they were often supplemented by the pandeiro and other percussion instruments, clarinet and mandolin ( bandolim ). Since the late 1950s, the bass function has often been taken over by a seven-string guitar ( violão de sete cordas ). In art music, the choro was often picked up from the piano, for example with Heitor Villa-Lobos or Chiquinha Gonzaga . The most famous composers and interpreters include Pixinguinha , Jacob do Bandolim , Ernesto Nazareth and Waldir Azevedo .


Moritz Rugendas : Lundú (1821). The Lundú is one of the forerunners of the Samba .

In the 1920s, the choro orchestras lost their importance, jazz bands and salon orchestras emerged, playing foxtrot , maxixes , marchas and sambas . In 1917 the Banda Odeon recorded the first samba on record: Pelo telefone (“Through the telephone”). The song became a hit in the carnival. With Pixinguinha , a musician of particular importance for the breakthrough of samba, who already had a prominent position in the choro scene.

Samba originated from the mixture of choro with the batuques that were played in the suburbs of Rio. Under batuque one understood a dance from Afro-Brazilian precursors such as Jongo , consisting of Angola coming Semba and the Lundu had developed. These dances were accompanied by drums. The term Samba probably goes back to semba .

In 1928, the first samba school called Deixa Falar (“Let them talk”) was founded in Rio , followed shortly afterwards by the Estação Primeira de Mangueira , the most traditional samba school in Brazil that still exists today. This made music an important mouthpiece for the lower classes in Rio, to which the majority of the black population belonged. This style was called samba de morro , the samba from the hills, by which the favelas of Rio were meant.

Samba, however, also found its way into the white, middle-class circles. The Samba Canção emphasized the melody more, had a much slower tempo and more polished lyrics. With the advent of radio , the samba spread very quickly and became the country's musical pulse generator in the 1930s.

In 1939 Ary Barroso composed the famous title Aquarela do Brasil , which was also known in the short form Brazil and was interpreted in countless ways. In the same year the samba singer Carmen Miranda went to the USA, where she rose to become the highest paid actress and singer in Hollywood .

A favela in Rio de Janeiro today. In the 1950s, the samba of the lower classes was called samba de morro , the samba from the hills.

Since the 1930s, the samba differentiated in different directions. Pagoda is played in small ensembles . The voices of the bass drums (be Surdos ) on hand drums ( Surdo de mão ) transferred and the smaller percussion Pandeiro and Tamborim accompanied. The cavaquinho and singing play an important role as a melody instrument. The most original variants are the Samba de roda and the Samba de caboclo , both of which are played with atabaques.

Today both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and now Recife are centers of the urban samba, albeit mostly mocked by the cariocas, the inhabitants of Rio, because they consider themselves "inventors" of it. In Rio alone there are between 40 and 50 large samba schools that are mainly active during the carnival season and play samba enredo with percussion groups of several hundred drummers . For several decades there has been a trend towards tuning the instruments higher and higher and playing the samba faster and faster. In a smaller line-up, this form of samba is called batucada .

Bossa Nova

The guitarist and singer Baden Powell 1971. (Photo: Philippe Baden Powell)

In the late 1950s, elements of bolero , foxtrot and cha-cha-cha increasingly penetrated the samba, which lost its typical characteristics more and more during this time. This decline triggered a musical revolution: the bossa nova . Unlike the street samba, the bossa nova emerged in the urban middle class in the environment of bourgeois intellectuality. Above all, João Gilberto shaped the style , both with his quiet singing and his way of playing guitar. The reserved singing reversed the operetta-like bel canto style that had prevailed in samba in the 1950s.

The initial spark for the international breakthrough of Bossa Nova was the film Orfeu Negro , which received an Oscar and the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1959 . The film was based on a play by Vinícius de Moraes , who wrote lyrics to samba pieces for four generations of musicians. He moved the ancient myth of Orpheus into the presence of the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. The film music was composed by Tom Jobim and Luiz Bonfá , whose title songs A Felicidade and Manhã de Carnaval were to become classics of the Bossa Nova. In addition, the street samba of the carnival moves through the film again and again.

Vinícius de Moraes and Tom Jobim also wrote the song Garota de Ipanema together , which, as Girl from Ipanema, has become the most famous bossa nova song and has been interpreted by numerous Brazilian and American musicians. Sérgio Mendes achieved a similarly great success with the song Mas que nada . After the Cuban influence on the music of the United States had subsided after the 1953 revolution , Brazil became the most important source of impetus for North American Latin jazz with the bossa nova .

Since the 1990s, the bossa nova experienced a renaissance through reinterpretations such as by Bebel Gilberto and through adaptations in electronic music .


During a brief period around 1968, a musical trend dominated Brazilian music that followed on from the bossa nova, but on the one hand was looking for new forms of expression and on the other hand wanted to take a political position against the military regime: the tropicália , also known as tropicalismo . The musicians explicitly followed the “Anthropophagic Manifesto” that the poet Oswald de Andrade had conceived in 1928, and in which he called for an “artistic cannibalism” that should consistently absorb and unite all influences from home and abroad. This concept has remained valid for Brazilian music to this day.

The singer Caetano Veloso .

The hymn of Tropicalismo was the song Alegria, alegria by Caetano Veloso , which had failed the audience in 1967 because it was considered too "un-Brazilian" and too much rock music . Among the movement's 20 or so records, the programmatic album Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis from 1968 was the most important LP.

The big festivals, which were broadcast live (and initially uncensored) and watched spellbound from across the country, sparked heated political debates. The brief high phase of tropicalismo ended when the military regime began to persecute unpleasant musicians. Caetano Veloso was arrested and spent two months in prison where he heard the screams of the tortured. Even Gilberto Gil was arrested, both had until 1972 to England go into exile.


Axé music has only been used as a musical term since the early 1990s. The term originally comes from the Yoruba and describes "positive energy" in the Candomblé. Axé summarizes music from Salvador da Bahia and largely overlaps with samba reggae , but also records samba, afoxé music, frevo, reggae, carimbó, merengue, salsa , and soca . Important representatives are Ivete Sangalo , Daniela Mercury , Olodum or Carlinhos Brown and his groups Timbalada and Tribalistas . A significant development compared to traditional music is the frequent use of synthesizers , which can be traced back to the local trio elétricos from Bahia.

Dub, drum and bass and electronic music

Cidade Negra , one of the most famous dub groups in Brazil.

São Paulo is the center of the DJ culture and drum and bass metropolis. The most famous representatives include DJ Marky and DJ Patife . Cidade Negra , on the other hand , the most successful dub band comes from Rio. Brazilian music is popular in various styles of electronic music such as nu jazz .

With Pitch Yarn Of Matter , Individual Industry, Morgue Mechanism or Aghast View , artists from the wave , synthpop and electro field also gained popularity across national borders.

Funk and HipHop

The most innovative musical trends of the 1990s were heavily influenced by funk and rap , like the Mangue Beat and Funkeado in Recife. The best-known band is Funk'N Lata from Rio, whose musicians learned Mangueira at the Samba school and combine funk and rap with samba.

Especially in the favelas of Rio, with the Rio Funk (also Baile Funk or Favela Funk ) and the Brazilian Hip-Hop, special styles have developed that have now also gained international attention. The CD Funk Brasil by DJ Marlboro , which was a huge success in 1989, is considered to be the hour of birth of this special variant of Brazilian funk .

In general, the Rio funk is outside the MPB, as the lyrics are much more violent and sexist than the North American gangsta rap and thus remain a phenomenon of the black youth of the favelas. In addition, the music scene is closely intertwined with organized crime, so that the Rio Funk is largely ignored by the major radio stations despite its success.

Rock and pop

Los Hermanos are one of the most famous rock bands in Brazil.

Rock music is one of the most popular styles of music in Brazil and is part of the Música popular brasileira . The centers of rock music are São Paulo, Brasília and Belo Horizonte .

In the mid-1960s, the jovem guarda emerged , whose star Roberto Carlos was the Brazilian musician who sold the most records in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also very successful in Europe, but his music was not so much Latin rock , but rather Latin pop or even light pop music . Within the Tropicália movement around 1968, the group Os Mutantes was the artistically most important representative of psychedelic rock and took up elements of the Música nordestina . Later, the Engenheiros do Hawaii had great success and the band RPM were the first Roqueiros to sell over two million albums in the 1980s.

Elba Ramalho is one of the most successful musicians who have been strongly influenced by American pop music . The TV presenter, actress and singer Xuxa , who also sings in Spanish and English and is internationally successful, is considered a Brazilian icon . In total, she sold over 33 million albums, her best-known hit is Ilariê , which was number one on the charts in almost all Latin American countries.

Punk and metal

During a political and cultural mood of optimism at the beginning of the 1980s, there was a notable punk movement in Brazil . The MPB was hostile to this, but it had an influence on it. The post punk band Legião Urbana became one of the most successful Brazilian groups and Lenine , now one of the most famous musicians in Brazil, began his career with a Brazilian variant of folk punk .

Especially under the influence of the Rock in Rio festival , one of the largest in the world, hard rock bands have also emerged since the early 1980s. The most successful are the thrash metal band Sepultura and the group Soulfly, which split off in 1997 . One of the most influential death metal bands is the group Krisiun, which is known beyond the borders of Brazil .

Christian music in Brazil

In the 1970s to 1980s, under the influence of Christian pop music from North America , the music of the MPB increasingly found its way into church music and Protestant worship in Brazil. Today, little remains of the so-called Música Evangélica , but some musicians such as Guilherme Kerr or Elomar Figueira de Mello try to tie in with this movement using the Música gospel or regional musical styles.

The Protestant religions, which are increasingly gaining influence, have a tense relationship with the music of the Afro-Brazilian religions, while the Catholic Church is largely tolerant of it.

Jazz and Instrumental Music: The Vanguarda

Instrumental music , experimental pop music and jazz are known as Vanguarda in Brazil . It partly overlaps with the MPB, partly with contemporary art music . Pixinguinhas Choros already stood between classical music and what is known today as Música Popular Brasileira . Later, many bossa nova musicians were also considered to be important jazz artists, such as the guitarist and singer Baden Powell .

Percussionists and guitarists from Brazil in particular have a very good name internationally. Airto Moreira , who moved to the United States with his wife Flora Purim in 1968 , was named Percussionist of the Year nine times by jazz magazine Down Beat . This honor was also given to Naná Vasconcelos , who temporarily lived in Paris, nine times in a row. Both played together with the multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal and with the pianist, guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti , who are also among the outstanding Brazilian jazz musicians.

Despite the great success of Brazilian instrumentalists abroad, the vanguarda leads a rather shadowy existence in Brazil. Most musicians make clear references to traditional Brazilian music and can be classified as fusion music .

Art music: The música erudita

The beginnings of classical music in Brazil

The Teatro Amazonas in Manaus was built between 1884 and 1896 in what was then the richest city in the world.

The art music is in Brazil usually as música clássica but also like, in academic circles as música erudita called, taught music. For a long time it was limited to church music and during this period, known as barocco mineiro , it concentrated on Minas Gerais and, to a lesser extent, Rio de Janeiro. Between 1760 and 1800 there were almost 1,000 musicians in Minas Gerais, many of them free mulattos. One of these was José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767–1830), whose work mainly comprised church music, but also some secular works and who was influenced by the Viennese classicism .

Brazilian music experienced a significant development spurt when the Portuguese court fled to Rio de Janeiro in 1808 due to the Napoleonic war . The royal family now employed numerous local musicians and the new residence also attracted European musicians. In this way new, worldly musical impulses came into the country. The return of the Portuguese court to Lisbon in 1822 caused a serious crisis for the música erudita .

From the middle of the 19th century musical life began to unfold again due to the increased immigration of European immigrants to Brazil. After various music societies and a conservatory had been founded in Rio in the 1830s, several theaters were built in the larger cities, four of which had their own orchestra. In the capital Rio in particular, European and above all Italian operas were played shortly after their first performance. With the opera A Noite de São João by Elias Álvares Lôbo , the first Brazilian opera was premiered in 1860. In 1870 the opera O Guarani by Antônio Carlos Gomes even premiered at La Scala in Milan and was then performed throughout Europe. Further premieres of his operas in Milan followed in the next few years.

Before the turn of the century, Brazilian musicians increasingly oriented themselves towards German and French art music, even if Italian opera continued to enjoy great success with audiences. Chamber music and symphonic music now came to the fore . Almost all composers in Europe had received their training.

The influence of folklore on the Brazilian musical aesthetic

Alexandre Levy was a pioneer of "romantic nationalism".

Alberto Nepomuceno (1864–1920) was the first Brazilian composer who dealt intensively with the country's popular music and incorporated it into his compositions. Alexandre Levy (1864-1892) also tried this , who in his Brésilienne Suite referred to a piece in art music as samba for the first time .

The best-known Brazilian composer was Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959), who, as a music teacher, also had a lasting impact on music education in his country. Villa-Lobos had not studied in Europe, left the conservatory after a few months, but traveled all over Brazil as a teenager and studied folk music. Characteristic of his works is the influence of Brazilian folklore, which went directly into his most popular works, such as the 14 Choros (1920–1929) and nine Bachianas Brasileiras (1930–1945). Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907–1993) composed in a free tonal style and took a critical look at the twelve-tone technique, which Hans-Joachim Koellreutter (1915–2005) made known in Brazil , who emigrated from Germany to Rio de Janeiro in 1937 .

New music

The música nova , the new music , was always in the shadow of the “national” art music in Brazil. It was only Hans-Joachim Koellreutter ( see above ) who began to convey twelve-tone music and contrasted national-folk music with a universal formal language. The música viva movement he founded was not without influence and Koellreutter taught composition as a professor at various institutes, including at the Escola da Música da Bahia , which he founded and which quickly became a center for modern music.

Today the música erudita and the música popular mix more and more. There are programmatic reasons on the one hand, but pragmatic and financial reasons on the other. Interest in “ serious music ” is relatively low in Brazil, the market and budgets for it are small.

Music and politics

Gilberto Gil , formerly in exile, still appears on the stage as minister of culture .

The high value that has the music in all sectors of Brazilian society is reflected in the fact that the Cabinet of former President Lula with Gilberto Gil one of the leading musicians of the country has become Minister of Culture. Gil was one of the driving forces of the first nationwide music movement that expressly had political concerns, Tropicalismo at the time of the military dictatorship around 1968. The short but influential movement ended when Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were imprisoned and then had to go into exile until 1972 . Chico Buarque returned from exile as early as 1970, and in the years that followed, despite constant censorship, he would become a symbol of resistance with albums such as Construção . Gilberto Gil has long been considered a mouthpiece for the Afro-Brazilian Bahian people. Other artists such as Geraldo Vandré and Chico Buarque also fled from the dictatorship that had ruled since 1964.

Under the influence of the North American civil rights movement , music in the blocos afro has been increasingly used as a form of political resistance and for the formation of a black identity since the 1970s . The group Ilê Aiyê in Salvador da Bahia played an important role . In the meantime, however, this function has weakened again, as Afro-Brazilian culture has now largely established itself as a cultural identity for all of Brazil.

Representatives of Brazilian music (selection)

See also


  • Arne Birkenstock, Eduardo Blumenstock: Salsa, Samba, Santeria . dtv, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-423-24341-4 .
  • Antonio A. Bispo (Ed.): Brasil - Europe 500 years. Music and Visions / Brazil - Europe 500 Anos. Mosica E Visôes. Report of the International Congress / Anais do Congresso Internacional . Institute for Studies of the Music Culture of the Portuguese Language Area ISMPS, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-934520-01-4 .
  • Simon Broughton, Kim Burton, Mark Ellingham, and others. a. (Ed.): World music . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2000, ISBN 3-476-01532-7 .
  • Ruy Castro: Bossa Nova - The Sound Of Ipanema (A History of Brazilian Music) . Hannibal Verlag, Höfen 2011, ISBN 978-3-85445-367-3 (Original edition: Bossa Nova )
  • Egon Ludwig (Ed.): Música Latinaoamericana. The Lexicon of Latin American Folk and Popular Music . Lexikon-Imprint-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89602-282-2 .
  • Chris McGowan, Ricardo Pessanha: The Brazilian Sound. Samba, Bossa Nova and the sounds of Brazil . Hannibal, St. Andrä-WIERT 1991, ISBN 3-85445-085-0 .
  • Brazil. Introduction to the musical traditions of Brazil , edited by Tiago de Oliveira Pinto. Schott, Mainz a. a. 1986, ISBN 3-7957-1811-2 . (Schott series world music with individual essays on different aspects of Brazilian music)
  • Tiago de Oliveira Pinto: Capoeira, Samba, Candomble. Afro-Brazilian music in Reconcavo, Bahia . Publications of the Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin NF, Abtl. Ethnic music, Volume 7. Reimer, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-496-00497-5 .
  • Dale A. Olsen, Daniel E. Sheehy (Eds.): The Garland encyclopedia of world music. South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean . Garland Publishing, New York a. a. 1998, ISBN 0-8240-4947-0 .
  • Detlev Schelsky: Culture on the move. The Música Nordestina in Brazil . European university publications. Series 22. Volume 208. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1991, ISBN 3-631-42900-2 .
  • Claus Schreiner : Musica Popular Brasileira. Handbook of Folk and Popular Music of Brazil . Tropical Music, Darmstadt 1985, ISBN 3-924777-00-4 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Birkenstock / Blumenstock p. 153.
  2. Brian Hodel: More than Bossa Nova. Popular music of Brazil and the classical guitar. Translated and edited by Hanns-Martin Schädlich. In: Guitar & Laute 6, 1984, No. 1, pp. 50-53.
  3. See the official homepage of the IBGE ( Instituto Brasileiro da Geografia e Estatística ) . McGowan / Pessanha (p. 143) estimated the proportion of blacks and mulattos to be 80%.
  4. ^ McGowan / Pessanha, p. 223.
  5. ^ McGowan / Pessanha, p. 219.
  6. Olsen / Sheehy, p. 253.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 11, 2006 in this version .