Samba School

The dances are very sensual. You’ll see at Carnival and in the streets … the way they dance, especially the women … the way they move around in almost magical ways- it’s amazing.

Mike Quinn on Open Source

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

They’re young, but they could school you [carf / Flickr]

In the words of Phil Connor, it’s carnival time… again. And while New Orleans is selectively sprucing up for Mardi Gras, nobody does it like Brazil.

There are the feathered costumes, undulating dances, and weeks-long parties in this farewell to meat, but underneath it all, above it all, around it all, is the music: Carnaval samba. And at a time when popular live music is evaporating all over the world — Jamaica with its sound systems, selectors, and DJs, America with our rappers and producers — Brazil is as live as ever.

So we’re pulling apart the rhythms live in studio tonight, listening for European polka and African lundum, tracing their percussive roots and local variations. O.S. samba school is in session.

Fernando Brandao

Assistant Professor, Berklee College of Music

Marcus Santos

Brazilian drummer

Teacher, Brazilian Cultural Center of New England

Marcio Roberto

Brazilian percussionist and music therapist

Mike Quinn

Producer, Carnaval Brasileiro in Austin, TX, and Boston, MA

Update, 2/16/06 6:45 pm

Chaos here. (This is Brendan writing.) We’re trying to cram two musicians, two guests and Chris into a studio, along with Robin the engineer madly running mic cables, David with a clipboard trying to keep the world from exploding and me, generally in Robin’s way, trying to take pictures.

It’s a small studio.

Samba in the studio

David Miller, Ferndando Brandao, Marcus Santos and Marcio Roberto before the show. [Brendan Greeley]

Samba in the studio

Marcus Santos and Mike Quinn [Brendan Greeley]


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  • nother

    A few years ago I had the pleasure of experiencing Carnival in Bahia. In Rio you watch Carnival, in Bahia you participate. It is said that there are 1 1/2 million people dancing on the streets at any one time. The atmosphere is electric, all consuming, a drugless high. People kiss strangers in the streets. You have intimate dances with multitudes of people. No words are spoken for hours at a time, it’s all body. By the way, I do not recall seeing any nudity while I was there, as opposed to Madi Gras in New Orleans where the nudity became tiresome. (Did I just say that?)

    There are two distinct musical formats:

    The Afro Blocos are large drum based troupes (some with 200 drummers) who play in the street, accompanied by singers atop mobile sound trucks. ……… The basis of the rhythm is the enormous surdo (deaf) drum with its bumbum bumbum bum anchorbeat, while the smaller repique, played with light twigs, provides a crack-like overlay. I will never forget the feel of 200 drums rumbling through my body.

    The enormous trios electricos, 12 meter sound trucks with powerful sound systems that defy most decibel counters, are the second format. These trucks, each with its own town band of up to 10 musicians, play songs influenced by the afro blocos and move at a snail’s pace through the streets, drawing huge crowds. Each Afro Bloco and bloco de trio has its own costume and its own security personnel, who cordon off the area around the sound truck. The bloco members can thus dance in comfort and safety.

    Add to all this, beer that amounts to about 50 cents American, people whose language probably lacks a word for inhibition, weather that makes you want to disrobe, ocean water that makes you believe in mermaids (although that could be the effect of too much cashasha, hmmm…) and you come away with something muito bom – to say the least.

  • cheesechowmain

    What is the relationship between Bossa Nova and Samba, if any?

    Is Carnaval related to any sort of religious ceremony (similarly, Fat Tuesday and Lent)

  • cheesechowmain

    Wiki has information about Carnaval and Samba…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnaval

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossa_nova

    BTW, my cats are really enjoying this show.

  • fiddlesticks

    I agree that carnival drums put you into a trance. I too experienced it in Rio. I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. While I love American Jazz, I draw the line at Samba and other trance inducing rhythmic sounds.

    I prefer the meditative sounds of a Coltrane or even the at times chaotic rhythms of a Charlie Parker.

    Btw: has anyone here read Julio Cortazar short story El Perseguidor (The Pursuer)? It’s a terrific story about Charlie Parker.

  • cheesechowmain

    fiddlesticks, I’ve not read the story you’re referring, but, I’m going to check it. Thanks for the recommendation. Is “Blow-Up : And Other Stories” a reasonable book to find this story?

  • jobimlover

    Thanks for opening up ears to the astounding music of Brazil. Fernando, Marcos and Marcio are three of Boston’s best Brazilian musicians, and I enjoyed hearing their (and Mike Quinn’s) takes on the music. I thought Mike’s comment about the rhythms in Brazilian speech was on the mark, whether the music comes from the speech rhythms or vice versa.

    And now, how about a show about Jobim, Gilberto, and bossa nova? A good read on the subject is Ruy Castro’s “Bossa Nova.”

  • fiddlesticks

    I am nit sure about Blow up and Other Stories, you’ll need to check the table of contents there.

    I have a collection called “End of the Game” which has the story. In Spanish you can find it in a collection called, “Ceremonias.”

    btw: Cortazar also wrote “Axelotl” one of my favorite stories. He was a brilliant short story writer.

  • myotis evotis

    Where does “capoeira” fit into all this. I think I hear some rhythmic overlap but must admit ignorance.

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  • Ben Jonson

    I enjoyed your show on samba

    you might want to check out the Orson Welles radio show Hello Americas – A TRULY GREAT SERIES AND A GREAT intro to latin american rhythyms AS WELL AS a wider idea of America (send me an address and I would be glad to mail you a copy)

    also the Orson Welles film Its All True (still available ay Amazon or Tower I think — if you cant find it I’ll donate my video)

    both projects intimately ties up with his hollywood downfall

    while tour at it how about a show on Welles himself (did’nt really enjoy your show on one of my other heroes-George Orwell-as much but more on that anon perhaps)

  • nother

    I think you missed the boat a little on this show. I loved the idea and it was great to hear the live music but I think it would have been interesting to dig a little deeper. If you did a ROS on the big subject of jazz, I’m sure you would have discussed the connection of race and class to the music. It should have been the same with Samba. You touched on it, but…

    Brazil, like the US, has a MAJOR problem with racism. (In fact I think it might make an interesting show to compare how the two countries have dealt with their histories of slavery and the decedents of those slaves.)

    This from the following link: http://www.gringoguides.com/sambaracism.shtml

    “The subtle racism that pervades Brazilian society even affects the way they feel about one of Brazil’s greatest art forms: samba. Samba has it’s roots in West Africa and comes from a word connected with the summoning of African deities called orishas. The Catholic Portuguese masters tried to convert their slaves by force and so the ritual dances for the spirits were hidden under the guise of praising the saints.�

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