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 autho…

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