About the music

All you really need to know is that Samba is exhilarating percussion music from Brazil, developed in Schools of Samba principally in Rio de Janeiro and performed in processions and carnivals. It's played on large drums called surdos, along with a whole range of smaller instruments such as agogos (bells), tamborims (a bit like small tambourines which you hit with a split stick) ganzas (metal tubes filled with beads that you shake) snare drums and pretty much anything else that makes a percussive sound.

The driving force of the groups is the 'bateria'. This is an array of drummers and other percussionists led by a director, or maestre, who conducts and signals with whistles the various breaks, solos, whoops and hollers which can all add up to a delicious assault on the senses, by turns thunderous and lilting.

In common with most samba schools in the UK, Poco Loco was born of a desire to create the life, joy and swing of percussive samba music and bring that sound to a wider audience in North West England. We count ourselves as newcomers, but we follow in the great tradition of all community samba bands the world over.

Samba

Samba, along with Bossa Nova, is the most easily recognized style of Brazilian music. Its African-derived sway hits the listener in the heart and hips.
Drums are the soul of Samba.

The unquestioned heart and soul of Rio is Samba, its birthplace. There is no more powerful rhythm in the world. Samba seizes your body and says shake, quiver and express yourself.

Samba's most important root is derived from lundu, a song form and circle dance brought to Brazil by Bantu slaves. The bantu word "semba" meant to pray or invoke the dieties or ancestors and their tradition honored sacred dancers called an ia˘ which means daughter of a saint. This sexy, playful dance includes navel touching to invite the next dancer forward. Today a typical encore of a samba dance performance will have the dancers bringing the audience onto the stage to dance in a grand finale.

The power of African drum poly-rhythms is a complex language which defies language but is very much felt nonetheless. Early in the 20th century, many Northeastern Afro-Brazilians immigrated to Rio. Often they gathered at the homes of Bahian matriarchs in the Plaza Eleven district and it was here the early samba rhythms emerged. The most prominent of these women who were called Aunts was Tia Ciata who was also know as a daughter of the CandomblÚ deity, Oxum. It was here that the first samba song was recorded in 1917.

 

Samba can be performed by a single guitarist or a mob and there are a variety of sub-styles. Samba Cancao (Song Samba) is, not surprisingly, primarily about melody, but can be performed by one person or everybody within earshot. Samba do Pagode (Pagoda Samba - referring to the many-tiered silhouette of a Chinese pagoda) involves breakneck, competitive verbal improvisation. Samba Breque stutters and explodes to a rhythm related to those of Reggae and Ska. Samba Enredo (Story Samba) is the roistering child of Carnaval and the streets.

There are literally hundreds of great Sambistas (Samba singers) in Brazil. Many of the greatest are from the favelas (slums) or poorer districts of cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Salvador.

Carnaval

The relationship between Samba and Brazil's huge Carnaval festivals is a byword.
At the heart of Carnaval are the Sambas de Enredo (Story Sambas), presented by enormous Escolas de Samba (Samba Schools). These are huge troupes of singers, instrumentalists, drummers and dancers who compete for the top prize at Carnaval every year. They began as informal gatherings of singers. One of the better known convened near a school and the participants were jokingly dubbed "professors", hence "Samba School". Before Carnaval, each Escola chooses a subject for their Samba and hands it in to the powers that be. The members then vie with one another to compose that year's entries.

The Rio de Janeiro Carnaval is the world's biggest and rowdiest party and must be experienced to be believed, but has become rampantly commercial over the years. Nonetheless, a head-on encounter with a Desfile (Samba School on parade) is like being engulfed by a conquering army of total strangers who really want to make friends! To get an idea of what the Rio Carnaval was like before its present incarnation, the film "Orfeo Negro (Black Orpheus)" is widely available for home viewing. Another option is to attend Carnaval somewhere other than in Rio. Salvador, the capitol city of the North-Eastern province of Bahia, holds especially wondrous revels, but there are several local bashes around the country well worth checking out.

Batucada

The simple definition of Batucada would be a percussion jam session, but that doesn't begin to describe the awesome power a tight ensemble is capable of producing. Percussion is the bare bones of Samba, but the larger Bateria (drumming) ensembles within the Samba Schools make breathtakingly complex walls of sound. The throbbing heartbeat of the surdo drum (somewhere between a bass drum and a tom-tom) underpins rattling snares, layers of hand-held percussion such as cowbells and triangles and tambourines, and the panting, surreal shrieks and moans of the cuica, a friction drum. Recordings of the mighty Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel are gems beyond price. Iris Musiques in France has compiled two CDs of Padre Miguel at its hugest, 300-plus strong, and the best tracks are under the direction of the late, great Mestre Andre. Iris Musiques has also put out a collection of footballer Batucada. Soccer and Batucada - now there's a true meeting of Brazilian obsessions!

 

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