Samba in Brazil

our students love to visit pedra do sal, where samba was born in Brazil.

Hello friends! Today, we are going to talk about Samba in Brazil! Samba, a lively and captivating music and dance form, has deep roots in the cultural fabric of Brazil. Its history is intertwined with the nation’s social, political, and artistic developments, making it a powerful reflection of the country’s diverse heritage and identity. From its origins in the African diaspora to its evolution into a symbol of Brazilian culture, the history of samba is a rhythmic journey that sheds light on the nation’s complex history. Let’s dive today into history of samba in Brazil, and get to know famous samba songs and dance moves.

Samba: Roots in Brazil

Samba is the name of a dance and a musical genre, and it’s one of the elements that most strongly represents the Brazilian popular culture in several parts of the country. We have several types of samba in Brazil, and each type has its own preferred musical instrument. The music can be played with a variety of instruments, some with awesome Brazilian roots. If you want to understand more about the roles these instruments play in Brazilian music, take a look at our Dica about Brazilian instruments!

Samba is more than just music and dance; it’s a reflection of Brazilian identity and pride. It embodies the resilience, creativity, and diversity of the nation. Samba’s ability to bring people together, celebrate their heritage, and voice their concerns has solidified its place as a cultural cornerstone of Brazil.

History of Samba in Brazil

Samba was introduced in Brasil in the colonial period of our history by the Africans who were enslaved. Therefore Samba in Brazil was born from a mix of Brazilian culture and African culture. Samba was originated from the sounds brought by the enslaved Africans that came to Brazil. The biggest association of these sounds were with religious elements that could create a ritual communication between music, dance, instruments, and movements of the body. In doing so these sounds and rhythms were slowly incorporating other elements of music, especially in Rio de Janeiro it the 19th century. As a result of its connection to black culture, samba in Brazil was criminalized and is sometimes still seen with prejudice, but this is changing more and more each year.

Pedra do Sal

pedra do sal is where samba was born in brazil.

Speaking of that, have you ever heard of Pedra do Sal? Pedra do Sal is a big rock under the Morro da Conceição that was known as Little Africa. This name is because it was where many of the slaves were bought and traded. You could also find terreiros de candomblé and quilombos there. The name Pedra do Sal was given because the ships came to the port and discharged the salt there. This place is very important because it is where Samba in Brazil was born. You can go there with our RioLIVE! to enjoy a nice roda de samba where you can listen and dance to the music while watching people play it live.

Carnival and Samba Schools

salgueiro is one of the most famous samba schools in rio de janeiro

One of the most defining moments in the history of samba was its incorporation into Brazil’s famous Carnival celebrations. Carnival, known for its vibrant parades, elaborate costumes, and festive atmosphere, became a platform for samba to gain wider recognition. In the early 20th century, samba began to be performed in Carnival parades, with various groups competing to showcase their musical and dancing prowess.

This period also marked the establishment of samba schools. These schools were community-based organizations that brought together musicians, dancers, and artists to create and perform samba during Carnival. The samba schools not only preserved the cultural heritage of samba but also transformed it into a formal art form. The collaboration and creativity that flourished within these schools played a crucial role in shaping the evolution of samba.

Global Influence and Cultural Expression

As the 20th century progressed, samba began to transcend national boundaries and gain international recognition. Its infectious rhythms and passionate melodies captivated audiences around the world. In Brazil, samba’s popularity grew beyond Carnival and became a staple in various music genres, including bossa nova, MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), and more.

Samba also became a platform for social commentary and political expression. Many samba songs addressed issues of inequality, poverty, and racial discrimination, giving voice to marginalized communities. This socio-political dimension of samba added depth and significance to its cultural impact.

Modern Evolution and Fusion

In the contemporary era, samba has continued to evolve, fusing with other musical styles and adapting to new trends. It has embraced electronic music, hip-hop, and other genres, creating a diverse array of subgenres and cross-genre collaborations. While remaining rooted in its traditions, samba has shown its ability to adapt and resonate with younger generations.

Types of Samba in Brazil

samba enredo is the main genre for carnival songs

Let’s delve into the different types of samba in Brazil, their histories, and unique characteristics:

Samba Enredo

Samba Enredo, also known as “Theme Samba,” is closely associated with Brazil’s vibrant Carnival celebrations. It is performed by samba schools during Carnival parades. Each samba school selects a theme or storyline for their parade, and Samba Enredo is the musical composition that narrates this theme. The lyrics often tell a story or convey a message related to Brazilian history, culture, or current events. Samba Enredo is characterized by its energetic rhythm, elaborate instrumentation, and powerful choruses. It’s a fusion of traditional samba elements with orchestral arrangements.

Samba de Raíz

Samba de Raíz, or “Root Samba,” is a more traditional and authentic form of samba that harks back to the genre’s African and Afro-Brazilian origins. It emphasizes acoustic instruments and often features intimate gatherings and a strong sense of community. It is a more stripped-down, raw, and emotionally charged style of samba that showcases the heart and soul of the genre.

Samba – Reggae

This is a fusion genre that combines elements of samba and reggae, originating in the northeastern region of Brazil. It emerged as a result of cultural exchange between Brazilian and Jamaican music traditions. This style incorporates reggae’s laid-back rhythms and socially conscious lyrics with samba’s infectious melodies and danceable beats. Samba – Reggae often addresses social and political issues, making it a powerful medium for expression.


Pagode is a more recent development in the samba landscape, emerging in the late 1970s and gaining prominence in the 1980s. It is characterized by its upbeat tempo, catchy melodies, and often playful lyrics. Pagode often features a group of musicians gathered in a circle, playing instruments like pandeiros, cavaquinhos, and tamborims. It’s a social and interactive style of samba that encourages audience participation.

Samba with Hip Hop

Samba’s versatility has led to collaborations with various genres, including hip-hop. This fusion combines the rhythmic and melodic elements of samba with the lyrical flow and urban aesthetics of hip-hop. This genre often addresses contemporary social issues, reflecting the realities of urban life in Brazil. The combination of samba’s cultural depth and hip-hop’s socio-political commentary creates a dynamic and thought-provoking musical experience.

Samba – Rock

Samba – Rock, as the name suggests, is a fusion of samba and rock music. It gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s during a period of musical experimentation in Brazil. This style incorporates the guitar-driven sound of rock with samba’s rhythm and melody. Samba – Rock artists reinterpret classic samba songs or create original compositions that infuse the energy of rock into the traditional samba structure.

Let’s finish by watching this video made by our our teachers from Rio & Learn! It’s all about the types of samba in Brazil!

Famous Samba Music

Now that we know about the history of samba in Brazil, let’s listen to some of the best Brazilian samba songs! This way, you can be prepared to dance samba in Brazil when you come study with us!

Aquarela do Brasil

This iconic and famous samba music was composed by Ary Barroso in 1939 and has since become one of Brazil’s most recognized and beloved songs. Its vibrant melody and lyrics pay homage to the beauty and diversity of Brazil’s landscapes and culture. The song has been covered by numerous artists and is often associated with Brazilian national pride.

Mas Que Nada

Written and performed by Jorge Ben Jor, “Mas Que Nada” is a lively famous samba-funk fusion music that gained global popularity. The song’s infectious rhythm and catchy melody have made it a dance floor favorite. It has been covered by numerous artists and remains a staple of Brazilian music.

Canta, Canta Minha Gente

Composed by Martinho da Vila, “Canta, Canta Minha Gente” is a joyful samba song that celebrates the spirit of unity and togetherness. With its uplifting chorus and lively rhythm, the song has become a symbol of communal joy and celebration in Brazil.

Trem das Onze

Written by Adoniran Barbosa, “Trem das Onze” tells the story of a man who missed the last train home at eleven o’clock and had to explain his absence to his mother. The song’s emotional lyrics and melodic charm have made it a classic samba tune that resonates with people of all ages.


“Tristeza” is a classic Brazilian samba music composed by Haroldo Lobo and Niltinho. The song’s title translates to “Sadness” in English, and its lyrics convey feelings of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia. “Tristeza” is characterized by its emotive melody and evocative lyrics, making it a favorite among samba enthusiasts and performers.

O Samba da Minha Terra

“O Samba da Minha Terra” is a Brazilian samba song composed by Dorival Caymmi, a renowned singer-songwriter and one of the most prominent figures in Brazilian music history. The song’s title translates to “The Samba of My Land” in English. Released in 1939, this song has become an emblematic representation of Bahian culture and the joyous spirit of samba.

Feitiço da Vila

“Feitiço da Vila” is a classic and famous samba music composed by Noel Rosa, one of the most influential figures in the history of Brazilian music. Released in 1936, the song’s title can be translated to “Village Spell” in English. The lyrics narrate the story of a man’s fascination with a woman from a specific neighborhood (“Vila”) in Rio de Janeiro. The song captures the essence of the cultural and social dynamics of the city during that era. “Feitiço da Vila” is renowned for its clever wordplay, witty lyrics, and catchy melody.

Kizomba, Festa da Raça

One samba enredo that stands out as particularly renowned and influential is “Kizomba, Festa da Raça” by the Unidos de Vila Isabel samba school in 1988. This samba enredo was created and performed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. The samba enredo was composed by Martinho da Vila. This samba enredo is often considered a masterpiece due to its powerful and emotional lyrics, its relevance to Brazilian history, and its captivating melody. Thank you, Zumbi!

Samba Dance in Brazil

Now you must be wondering, how it is the samba dance in Brazil? You could learn how to sambar with us during our RioLIVE! activities, but if you are still not able to come to Brazil, take a look at how easily it can be to learn the first steps!

We hope you liked learning a little about Samba in Brazil and its history. Which from the famous samba music we listed was your favorite? Which are some of your favorite best Brazilian samba songs? Do you know how to samba dance just like we do in Brazil? Check out more about our school at our Facebook and Instagram!
See you in the next Dica!

Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Brazilian Funk
Slavery in Brazil
Black Consciousness Day in Brazil

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