Samba celebrates 100 years as one of Brazil’s most typical music genres
Brazil celebrates in 2017 the hundreth year since samba “became” a music genre. Rooted in African culture and mixed with indian and Portuguese traditions it is one of the most typical, recognized and acclaimed creations of the Brazilian culture. Let’s see how it all began. How can one precise exactly when a music is born?
The date is related to the first vinyl recording of a song registered as a samba: Pelo Telefone (By Phone). Officially the composer is Ernesto do Santos, aka Donga. Specialists consider the fact a milestone. For the first time black people had a cultural tradition recognized as Brazilian. Nevermind the rhythm of the song is actually not a samba as we know it today. Before Pelo Telefone the word samba designated any party or dance performed by blacks either in Brazil as well as in the Caribbean and in Africa.
Samba was born in an specific region of Rio known as “Little Africa”. It enclosed Morro da Conceição, with its Pedra do Sal (Salt Rock), and other neighborhoods along and near the Rio harbor. Today in this region is located the Olympic Boulevard. Since the 18th Century it had been the place where black slaves were disembarked from the ships and sold. It was also the place where they gathered, a sort of cultural center, especially near Pedra do Sal.
After slavery was abolished in Brazil (1888), many freed slaves came from other states including Bahia and gathered in Little Africa that soon was expanded farther, reaching Estácio and Cidade Nova boros. In spite of their freedom, black people were not allowed to show their music, dance or religion in public. That’s why musicians gathered in the houses of the “baianas” – ladies that used to sell street food and also organized gatherings in their backyards. Ciata was one of these women. In her house a group of people including Donga composed the song Pelo Telefone, which would be recorded a year later.
In the 1920s, Ismael Silva, Bide and other people who lived in Estacio invented an instrument made of tin and goat leather. They called it “surdo” (a bass drum) that gave form to the modern rhythm of samba. In 1926, they created a group to perform during Carnival and gave a generic name of samba school.
From time to time these guys went to the suburban Rio for the parties of another powerful woman called Esther. There they met three friends Paulo Benjamin de Olveira, Antônio Rufino e Antônio Caetano. These three in 1923, created a carnival block named Baianinhas de Oswaldo Cruz, which would be known years later as Portela the oldest samba school still active.
These meetings originated the authentic samba arising the interest of important intellectuals. From then on, Brazilian music would never be the same again.