I recently got my hands on a really interesting book that was a best-seller in Brazil a few years ago. Translating the title for you, it’s called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Brazilian History, by Leandro Narloch (Amazon). While it covers many aspects of Brazil’s history and places them in a new light, the author is a trained journalist, not a historian. Nonetheless, it’s an engaging read (though you’ll need a good level of Portuguese to read it).
The chapters of the book cover the Amerindians, slaves, famous writers, samba, Paraguayan war, a character known as Aleijadinho, Acre, Santos Dumont, the Portuguese Empire and Communists. While all of these subjects appeal to the lover of Brazilian culture, the chapter on samba is perhaps the most intriguing. It talks about how samba started out influenced by European and American styles of music and mixed with a Brazilian style called maxixe. In samba’s second coming, the new style (what we consider samba to be today) was born, and it was closer to a marcha, or Carnaval song. I’ve translated some excerpts from the samba chapter below.
“The new samba musicians consciously went against the previous style. They praised the periphery and the morros of Rio though many were white and had a more refined origin than the sambistas of the first generation. The marketing of poverty worked. In the middle of the 1930s, the new style already carried the image of cultural expression of the morros and blacks. It had become folklore, a cultural value that should be preserved and protected from external influences.”
(Basically, people started to see) “poor people’s music as if it were the original samba, fighting against it being deformed by capitalism. In fact, the opposite happened. Samba was born from musicians who wanted to earn a living, please the audiences, and practice self-ethnography. “The interesting thing is that the ‘authentic’ was born of the ‘impure’, and not the other way around, but in a later moment the ‘authentic’ starts to pose as the first and original kind, or at least closer to the ‘roots’,” says anthropologist Hermano Vianna in the book, The Mystery of Samba.”
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