The Story Behind the Sparkle
Today Brazilian samba is best known for Carnaval’s spectacular parade, dazzling costumes, and wicked fast paced dance steps. However, we at Joy Brasileira believe that to truly appreciate and celebrate the dance styles of Brazilian Carnaval, we first must dive into the rich cultural heritage behind the dance.
Samba’s roots were planted in the Brazilian state of Bahia, where the transatlantic slave trade uprooted many african people, transported them to the coastal cities of Brazil, and enslaved them to work in sugar cane plantations. These African Brazilian people faced a long life of hardship and through that relied heavily on a sense of community and religious life. The African communities in Brazil developed the religious traditions of Candomble which featured ceremonial and community driven celebrations of song, dance, rhythm, and prayer. These communities would gather together and dance vivaciously to the beating heart of African percussion.
When slavery was abolished in Brazil, a mass exodus of now freed African Brazilians from the northern states led a large number of people to the now very popular city of Rio de Janeiro. Not being allowed to integrate into central city society, the black people of Rio were only permitted to settle in the outskirts and hills of Rio de Janeiro forming Favela Communities (impoverished “shanty towns”). Again hardship led to great art and community and samba schools started blooming all over Rio de Janeiro. These schools were a creative and artistic outlet and a way for these communities to show their pride and unity.
The samba community has had many growing pains. It was originally seen as crude and in bad taste by elite Brazilian society and was temporarily banned. It wasn’t until the 1920s that its reputation as a proper song and dance form was universally recognized. It has undergone racial and societal scrutiny, rhythm changes, costume changes, and still it stands as a major identifier in Brazil.
The samba we appreciate globally wasn’t always an easy-going joyful process and for that reason we honor the ancestors who came before us and paved the way to us being able to celebrate samba dance with you all freely and proudly here in Cincinnati.
For more detailed information on the history of samba dance see link: