Samba is a Brazilian musical genre and dance style, with its roots in Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions, particularly of Angola and the Congo, through the samba de roda genre of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, from which it derived. Although there were various forms of samba in Brazil with popular rhythms originated from drumming, samba as a music genre has its origins in Rio de Janeiro, the former capital of Brazil.
Samba is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Considered one of the most popular Brazilian cultural expressions, samba has become an icon of Brazilian national identity. The Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle), was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2005. It is the main root of the samba carioca, the samba that is played and danced in Rio de Janeiro.
The modern samba that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century is predominantly in a 2/4 time signature varied with the conscious use of a sung chorus to a batucada rhythm, with various stanzas of declaratory verses. Traditionally, the samba is played by strings (cavaquinho and various types of guitar) and various percussion instruments such as tamborim. Influenced by American orchestras in vogue since the Second World War and the cultural impact of US music post-war, samba began to use trombones, trumpets, choros, flutes, and clarinets.
In addition to distinct rhythms and meters, samba brings a whole historical culture of food, varied dances (miudinho, coco, samba de roda, and pernada), parties, clothes such as linen shirts, and the Naif painting of established names such as Nelson Sargento, Guilherme de Brito, and Heitor dos Prazeres. Anonymous community artists, including painters, sculptors, designers, and stylists, make the clothes, costumes, carnival floats, and cars, opening the doors of schools of samba. There is also a great tradition of ballroom samba in Brazil, with many styles. Samba de Gafieira is the style more famous in Rio de Janeiro, where common people used to go to the gafieira parties since the 1930s, and where the moves and identity of this dance have emerged, getting more and more different from its African, European and Cuban origins and influences.
Samba is a local style in Southeastern Brazil and Northeast Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador and Recife. Its importance as Brazil’s national music transcends region, however; samba schools, samba musicians and carnival organizations centered on the performance of samba exist in every region of the country, even though other musical styles prevail in various regions (for instance, in Southern Brazil, Center-West Brazil, and all of the Brazilian countryside, Sertanejo, or Brazilian country music, is the most popular style).