Perhaps one of the most popular music and dance styles ever to emerge from Brazil, samba evolved in Rio de Janeiro by the early 20th century and grew to become the quintessential music and dance form associated with Rio's carnaval. With its rich and syncopated rhythm and it's often voluptuous dance moves, samba has circled the globe as one of the most infectious and popular styles from the South American continent.
The word "samba" is thought to be derived from the Kimbundu (Angolan) term semba, which referred to an "invitation to dance" as well as a common appellation for the dance parties held by slaves and former slaves in the rural areas of Rio. These dances involved gyrating hip movements (called umbigada) and had roots going back to the colonial period in the Congolese and Angolan circle dances.
Over time samba gained important influences not only from Brazilian predecessors such as the maxixe and the marcha, but the Cuban habanera and German polka as well. As a song form, samba was extremely popular during the turn of the century, with some of the early recordings dating back to 1911. Among the early pioneers of the song form was Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Jr., known as Pixinguinha, who helped to crystallize the form as well as develop a richer harmony. From the 1920s and into the height of the radio era of the '30s, sambas were slower and more romantic (such as those of Ismael Silva), leading to the subgenre known as samba-canção, which emphasized the melody over the rhythm, and lyrics that were more sentimental and often moody. Brazilian crooners and composers put samba on the international radar, and icons such as Carmen Miranda embraced the form, becoming a star in Brazil long before her move to the U.S. and Hollywood as a personification of Brazil's exuberant side.
Another important development in the legacy of samba took place in the late 1950s which would spark the second international wave of popularity for Brazilian music: the development of bossa nova. Considered an adaptation of the previous samba- canção form, bossa nova emphasized the melodic and vocal aspects of samba in a slower, more romantic style fused with the richness of American jazz harmony. The result was a sound many music critics first panned for its "out-of-tune" qualities, but its popularity soared as pioneers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto brought bossa nova to new heights. Films such as Black Orpheus(with a musical score of sambas and bossa novas composed by Jobim) wowed international audiences with the sounds of authentic Brazilian music.
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