Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
by Clark Historical Society
Since its earliest roots in history, Rio de Janeiro has been a center of culture. As one of the major ports of the Portuguese Empire and the Western Hemisphere at large since the 17th
century, the city has seen its share of immigrants, whether in the form of merchants and peasants from Europe and Asia hoping to find a new life or riches, or African slaves brought by the Portuguese to work on the farms.
Rio culture has come to absorb these myriad influences, along with Portuguese and native traditions, and as a result has created its own unique nightlife.
As the Portuguese began to develop plantations in Brazil, the settlers brought African slaves to work on their plantations. Although outnumbering their European masters, the slaves’ lack of weapons and protection forced them to perfect a fighting skill that was masked as a dance.
With the spread of slaves into urbanized areas came the growth and diffusion of Capoeira throughout the country, and the first major effort by the authorities to outlaw its practice through imprisonment. Although emancipated in 1888, slaves found themselves unemployed and homeless, and thus used their skills for thievery and terrorism. Soon after Capoeira was once again outlawed forcing the practice of Capoeira to remain hidden.
However, the 20th century saw a major effort in the regulation of Capoeira through the establishment of schools in major cities and as a result it has become a legalized aspect of the Afro-Brazilian culture.
Capoeira focuses primarily on proving one’s superiority without seriously injuring his opponent. One major part of Capeoira is the roda (the wheel) where participants gather together and sing songs, play instruments, or clap their hands in order to create a rhythm for fighters, though this was originally to disguise their task as purely a cultural activity. Among the items used in the roda is the Berimbau, a string instrument of African origin that was used as the primary source of music and rhythm in the roda.
In addition, like the gospel songs of American slaves, fighters developed songs that both celebrate their own culture, a fusion of African culture and Catholic spiritualism, and provide instructions and support for defiance against their European masters.
Samba, a Brazilian style of music and dance with African origins, is a staple in Rio de Janeiro’s illustrious nightlife. It originated in the early 1900′s and has since played a crucial role in Rio’s Carnival, as well as in Brazilian dance clubs that revolve around this distinct music and dance style. Samba incorporates contagious beats and rhythmical dance moves.
It has become an internationally recognized symbol for the Brazilian Carnival and is often regarded as one Brazil’s
most celebrated cultural expressions, amounting to iconic status for Brazil’s national identity. Samba serves as the soundtrack for parades during Carnival, and is also responsible for the essential Samba Schools; which can range from actual schools of dance to collaborations of local neighbors. A climax of the whole carnival celebration is the ever-popular competitions that rival Samba Schools have between one another.
The name “samba” originates from the Angolan word for religious rhythm- mesemba. Samba rapidly grew in practice and popularity in the early 20th century, predominately in communities of black immigrants from Bahia. In 1917, the first samba recording, titled “Pelo Telefono,” was created. The samba movement further expanded in the 1930s, as the first Samba School was founded.
The first generation of Samba Schools is largely responsible for transforming the music and dance genre into one that is better suited for the carnival celebrations.
In following years, samba has branched off into various directions. One of the most notable new styles of samba is bossa nova: a more harmonically complex style. Bossa nova was developed by middle class white people in the 1950s and appealed to a more internationalized audience.
In the subsequent decades, samba was prevalent on the radio and still very much a part of 1970s culture in Brazil. However, in the 1980s, samba was driven underground, as styles like Brazilian rock and disco became more popularized.
Since then, samba has made a return, thanks to a musical movement created in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Today, samba’s presence is felt in dance clubs throughout Rio, carnival celebrations, and on international ballroom dance floors.
Rio De Janeiro is best known for its Carnival festivals, which specialize in its prominent use of sensational costumes and dancers. Carnival is a celebration in Roman Catholic countries and communities that promotes the consumption of meat and merry-making in anticipation of the upcoming season of Lent, a forty day season of penance that ends in Easter.
Like its French-Creole counterpart Mardi Gras, the festivities of Carnival are more extravagant than its more somber counterparts in Europe.
Brazilian Carnival has its origins in 1641, when the bourgeoisie of Rio de Janeiro imported the practice of throwing balls and other parties from Paris. The late 19th century saw the arrival of cordões (or cords), the traditional pageant groups and performers that Rio Carnival is known for.
The highlight of the modern Carnival festival is the Rio Samba Parade, which came as a result of various block parades, which culminated into one large festivity held in the Sambodromo, a venue made for this sole purpose.
It is here in the Sambodromo that the various samba schools in Rio de Janeiro compete against each other. Each samba school picks its theme, songs, dances, costumes, float design, and then sets its thousands of volunteers to work making its dream a reality.
The combined effort of each of these samba schools creates ones of the most dazzling and spectacular shows on earth. The people of Rio and Brazil as a whole pride themselves in their over the top street party, and use it as a means to not only entertain themselves but also to give the world a taste of their rich and distinctive culture.