Samba is type of music born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the turn of the 20th century. It originated when slaves from Bahia (another Brazilian state) migrated to Rio de Janeiro, and there came into contact types of music considerably different from what they were used to, such as the xote, the maxixe, the lundu, and the polka. The immigrants from Bahia, whose musical style came by way of Africa, quickly incorporated the different genres popular in Rio de Janeiro into their own, thus creating modern samba.

Soon after this, in order to pass on their knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, gain acceptance into the wider culture, the immigrants from Bahia set up samba schools. Though established in the early 20th century, these schools are still as popular as ever, and some groups boast a membership of thousands.

One of the most important points in its history comes in 1917: a song called ‘Pelo Telefone’ (‘By Phone’) was recorded, considered by many to be the first true piece of samba music. Due to ‘Pelo Telefone’, the genre soon became popular, spreading across the country. Initially treated in a discriminatory fashion, as it originated with black immigrants, it eventually became popular with the white middle classes, and was a staple genre on many Brazilian radio stations.


Samba dancer

As its popularity spread, samba gave birth to many styles of music, such as pagode, bossa nova, or samba-canção.

As its popularity spread, samba gave birth to many new styles of music, such as pagode, bossa nova, samba-canção, samba de gafieira, samba-enredo and partido alto, many of which are now extremely popular in their own right.

Samba also gained popularity throughout the world. In the 1930s, nationalist leader Getulio Vargas declared it to be the official music of Brazil, and, as Brazil began to grow as a powerful force in world football, the genre became associated with the national team. Nowadays, it is known so widely that there are many samba schools in various countries around the world. It also continues to be a force in Brazilian music, with many contemporary singers and musicians incorporating it into their own sound, such as Marisa Monte, who combines samba with modern pop, and Marcelo D2, who combines samba with hip hop.

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