The Origins of Samba
I stumbled across this precious video showing the music of the Reconcavo Bahiano, in the interior of the state of Bahia. As you will see the people who live there are of mostly of Arfican origin and have kept close their culture, untouched by mainstream commercialism. In a way their lifesyle reminds us of the people living in the hills of Jamaica. The isolation has preserved their culture in a way that can give us an insight of how popular culture was in Brazilian big centers a century ago, at least among the working classes.
Their music is similar to the one that originated Samba in Rio de Janeiro, despite the presence of an electrified mandolin. The rhythm began in Candomble sessions where, in a similar way to what happens in Africa, the music is based on everyone repeating a chorus while the main singer responds and improvises to it. American Gospel music and salsa have the same pattern.
It is not my intention to give a thorough history of Samba here, but in Rio de Janeiro the Samba we know originated from similar sessions as the ones in the video about. The genre was brought by afro-brazilian immigrants from the state of Bahia. It began as religious gatherings and popularized itself as a way to congregate people around music. After that it took several different avenues, many of which were commercially successful, and from there it became known all over the world.