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Samba Schools  

Carlos Sandroni and Felipe Barros

Samba schools are musical and recreational associations linked to carnival, created in Rio de Janeiro between 1928 and 1932 approximately. The first competitive samba school parade was held during the 1932 carnival, and since then they have held annually, always during carnival. Samba schools were also created in São Paulo later in the 1930s and gradually spread throughout Brazil, expanding internationally from the 1970s onwards. Since the end of the 1950s, the samba school parade has been recognized as the principal event in the Rio de Janeiro carnival. It is characterized as a performance involving music, dance, costume, and artwork. In the 1930s, each school sang up to three different sambas: the rule of just a single samba per parade was established later. Instrumental accompaniment is produced by the bateria, a set of membranophones and idiophones, which is perhaps the most the most characteristic element of a samba school. In addition, a small group of guitars and cavaquinho (a type of ukulele) provide the harmonic base for the singing. A group of judges mark the competition: points are organized by theme, music, dance, and outstanding features. The parade has gone through numerous transformations over the years. One such was the growing importance of the enredo, the central theme or story guiding the parade as a whole. In the 1950s, the composition of the sambas for the parade came to be driven by the need to present each aspect of the enredo in the music and lyrics, which led to the creation of a new type of samba, the samba-enredo. At time, the sambas performed in the parades were not very different from the sambas released on records and sung in different contexts in festivities. In the 1960s, the coordination of all aspects of the parade, with the aim of showing the enredo in the best manner possible, led to the emergence of a new role, the carnavalesco, who is charged with choosing the theme and designing and planning everything related to the parade’s visual and scenic dimensions. Increasing public interest in the samba schools was accompanied by the growth of the parade itself, implying ever greater costs, connections, and conflicts with the public authorities and with different private economic agents, including in some cases illegal economic activities, such as gambling. The importance of the parade of the samba schools for the city of Rio de Janeiro was expressed in the construction in 1983–1984 of a new and immense urban structure, known as the Sambódromo. Designed to shelter the parades without disturbing urban circulation, as had happened until then in the mounting and dismantling of stands, the Sambódromo is used throughout the year. Its open spaces host various festive events in the city, while the closed ones are used for activities linked to public education.

Article

Popular Music before 1945  

Carlos Sandroni

Commercial recordings in Brazil were first made in 1902 in Rio de Janeiro. During the first two decades of the 20th century, however, the recorded repertoire centered around the same musical genres established in the final decades of the previous century: for sung music, this meant modinhas, lundus, waltzes, and cançonetas; for instrumental music, this meant polkas, maxixes, marches, and tangos. During this period, sheet music for pianos and musical bands played a greater role in disseminating popular music than did mechanical recordings. This included dissemination by the medium of radio, which had begun in the country in the early 1920s but only expanded when its commercial operation was authorized in the 1930s. Of the leading musical genres of the period, samba and carnival marches (always sung) came into their own during the 1930s. Rio de Janeiro, at that time the capital of the republic, the cradle of the burgeoning phonograph recording industry, and the center of the still extant sheet music publishing business and radio broadcasting, is key to understanding Brazilian popular music of the time. During the entire period, however, migrants from other regions, especially from the northeastern states of Bahia, Pernambuco, and Ceará, made crucial contributions to popular music. These contributions became particularly significant during the final years of that decade with the success of baião, a sung musical genre with a distinct northeastern flavor whose influence would stretch into the 1950s.

Article

Rio de Janeiro: A Sociocultural History  

Paulo Cruz Terra and Marcelo de Souza Magalhães

The city of Rio de Janeiro underwent profound changes between 1870 and the early 20th century. Its population grew dramatically, attracting migrants not only from abroad but also from other regions of Brazil. It also expanded significantly in size, as the construction of trolley and railway lines and the introduction of real estate capital powered the occupation of new areas. Meanwhile, urban reforms aimed at modernization transformed the social ways in which urban space was used. During this period, Rio de Janeiro went from being the capital of the Brazilian Empire to being the capital of the Brazilian Republic. It nevertheless maintained its position as the cultural, political-administrative, commercial, and financial center of the country. Against this backdrop of change, the city was an important arena for the political struggles that marked the period, including demonstrations in favor of abolition and the republic. Rio de Janeiro’s citizens were not inert during this period of transformation, and they found various ways to take action and fight for what they understood to be their rights. Protests, demands, petitions, and a vibrant life organized around social and political associations are examples of the broad repertoire used by the city’s inhabitants to gain a voice in municipal affairs. Citizens’ use of public demands and petitions as a channel to communicate with the authorities, and especially with city officials, shows that while they did not necessarily shun formal politics, they understood politics to be a sphere for dialogue and dispute. The sociocultural history of Rio de Janeiro during this period was therefore built precisely through confrontations and negotiations in which the common people played an active role.