The Mystery of Samba Essay

This essay has a total of 776 words and 4 pages.

The Mystery of Samba



Vianna, Hermano. The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and National Identity in Brazil. (1999).
In "The Mystery of Samba", Vianna discusses samba in a different light than other authors
have. He explains that although samba has become a symbol of their culture and something
they are proud of, that it was not always that way. The author is not interested in where
samba originated or about the history of its players, he says "I am thinking of samba's
transformation into a 'national rhythm," when it was suddenly 'discovered' by the nation
as a whole and adopted as a defining element of brasilidade or Brazilian identity" (Vianna
10).

Around the 1920's and 1930's samba was viewed as music that was for lowlife people, it was
not considered appropriate music for the elite. After the 1930's, however, great sambista
players paved the way for the music to gain popularity. Also, carnivals were becoming
very important events that displayed Brazilian nationality, and these carnivals were
helping to make samba popular. The "mystery" is how did this music changed to being a
source of pride for the people of Brazil?

Technology was a huge factor in popularizing samba, and when radios began playing the
music in the 1930's it started to catch on. Great sambista players also caused the music
to gain popularity, and paved the way for the outbreak of popular music in the 1960's.

Samba music is the main topic that Vianna speaks of, but he means for it to be symbolic of
Brazilian culture: "Just as samba is a central mystery of Brazilian popular music, race
mixing is a central mystery of Brazilian social thought" (Vianna 12). Peter Fry gave an
interesting viewpoint as to why samba, music of the lower classes, was chosen as something
to be a national symbol. Fry says that "the conversion of ethnic symbols into national
symbols masks a situation of racial domination and makes it especially difficult to
uncover" (Vianna 13). So according to the author's viewpoint, samba is raised up in order
to hide the awful truth of the racism in Brazil.

Vianna goes on to describe the exact way in which samba became such a national symbol. He
points at that a national identity was forming and that samba and popular culture were
going to paint a picture of what that identity was, whether it be an accurate
representation or not. He says that this transformation was not sudden, but rather a
gradual process. The author points out that encounters among different groups are what
created a national identity and popular culture.

Samba, as Vianna reveals, may not have had authenticity or history, that it was just made
up. What he is driving at here is that it is not music that was completely created by the
poor people of Brazil alone. Influences from outside Brazil and from other classes had an
effect on the music.

Continues for 2 more pages >>




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