Homeland of Samba and Bossa Nova
Brazil's popular music developed parallel to its classical music and it also united traditional European instruments --guitar, piano, and flute-- with a whole rhythm section of sounds produced by frying pans, small barrels with a membrane and a stick inside (cuícas) that make wheezing sounds, and tambourines. During the 1930's Brazilian popular music played on the radio became a powerful means of mass communication.
In the mid 1960's, the haunting, story-telling lyric of The Girl From Ipanema, carried by a rich melodic line, was the first big international hit to emerge from the bossa nova movement of Brazilian singers and composers. It put Brazilian popular music on the map and brought instant fame to composer Tom Jobim.
The bossa nova appeared in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950's. At first it was played as an intimate music in the apartments of Rio's middle and upper-middle classes. The music mingled the Brazilian samba beat with American jazz. Later on bossa nova became a trademark of a new concept of music - a little sad, sometimes sung off-key, and where the lyrics have great importance.
But the most typical of Brazilian popular music is the seductive rhythm of the samba. No one is sure of the exact origin of samba. Some people believe that samba was born in the streets of Rio de Janeiro with contributions from three different cultures - Portuguese courtly songs, African rhythms and native Indian fast footwork. Others believe samba is simply African in origin and that it evolved from the batuque, a music based on percussion instruments and hand clapping. Today in Brazil, popular music continues to explore new rhythms and new melodies. Its interpreters and composers make use of all music's resources to compete for and please the world's many music audiences.
Music in Brazil has clearly developed through two distinct movements: the written tradition (transposed from European music), also called "learned" or "concert", and the non-written tradition (resulting from the mixing of European, indigenous and African music). Both have developed in their own way and, as has also happened in many other countries, they have converged at certain points. In Brazil, those encounters between the popular and learned traditions have a specific importance because there is no doubt that therein lays one of the extraordinary features of Brazilian musical production.