Music is an enormous part of everyday life in Brazil. And it is an art form that anybody can immediately understand, regardless of their native language.
The music of Brazil is one of the most exciting discoveries for many visitors, whether it is the upbeat forro they hear playing from a taxi’s radio soon after they first arrive to the traditional lure of the samba beat that drifts out of an afternoon jam session at a local bar.
From the moment you arrive in Brazil, you will be charmed by its music as much as you will by its people and scenery. And the local rhythms of Brazil will stay with you long after your trip has ended.
Brazil’s Rich Musical Heritage
Here are some of the different types of music you will find when you arrive in Brazil:
- Samba — Samba is the the type of music most often associated with Brazil. It was born in the neighborhoods around the docks of Rio de Janeiro and was first played by dock workers in the early 20th Century. It features a fast-driven beat that is banged out on percussion instruments, including the deep bass bumbo and the smaller atabaque, as well as tambourines and stringed instruments like the cavaquinho, which resembles a minature guitar.
Samba music is often played outdoor by musicians who arrange themselves in circles. These samba circles can spring up quickly and without notice, but there are often designated areas where musicians traditionally gather.
- Bossa Nova — A jazzier version of the samba is the bossa nova. Unlike the cathartic and communal samba, the bossa nova is more intimate and introspective. It is more melodic than the samba, although it also sometimes features strong percussion. But you are more likely to hear the drums played with brushes with the bossa nova, rather than being banged out by hand.
The bossa nova was born in the 1950s in the bars of Rio’s wealthier South Side neighborhoods, such as Ipanema. In fact, one of the most famous examples of the bossa nova is the well-known song, “The Girl from Ipanema”.
- Forro — The northeast region of Brazil has one of the nation’s richest musical traditions. From these arid back country regions come many musical styles, the most famous of which is the forro. The forro is a fast, syncopated rhythm that is driven by the accordion and a rustic drum known as the zabumba. When poor rural migrants left their hometowns for the big cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero, they brought forro music with them.
Today, forro is very popular, although it was once considered the “music of maids and doormen”. It can be heard everywhere, playing from radios and emanating from the nightclubs in some of Brazil’s poshest cities.
Regardless of your musical tastes, you will find something to love in Brazil’s rich musical culture. From the primal, steady rhythms of the samba to the cool sophistication of the bossa nova to the heartfelt rusticness of the forro, Brazil offers a magical musical experience.