Brazil, in general, and Rio de Janeiro, in particular, are perhaps best known musically to the world at large for their vibrant song and dance tradition called samba, an essential component of yearly secular Carnival celebrations. In many Brazilian cities, Carnival celebrations take place in the four-day period leading up to Ash Wednesday in the Roman Catholic calendar. Both Carnival and samba coalesced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were in part a product of the emancipation of slaves in 1888 and the migration it set off of freed plantation slaves to cities such as Rio and Salvador. While details of the creation and early evolution of samba are not totally clear, most sources concur that it has cultural and musical roots in Africa. Thus it is proper to refer to the samba tradition as an Afro-Brazilian form of expressive culture.
The samba tradition is an organic one and has changed with the times. Many popular styles of music have evolved that are labeled with the word ‘samba’ (for example: samba carnavalesca (Carnival samba), samba baiana (Bahian samba), samba-lenço (handkerchief samba), samba rural (rural samba), samba de breque (break samba), samba de terreiro (yard samba), and many more [Reily, 313]), but here we will focus primarily on the instruments that are most strongly associated with the Carnival samba traditions of Rio and Salvador. At the heart of Carnival are music/dance associations called ‘escolas de samba’ (‘samba schools’) in Rio and ‘blocos afro’ and ‘afoxés’ in Salvador.
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