To the rest of the world, Brazil looks like a kaleidoscope of races, foreign in its demographics to virtually every other culture on the planet. From the density of the Amazon rainforest to the all-inclusive street parties of Carnival in Rio, the Federative Republic of Brazil, ostensibly the world's most diverse nation, seems to push nearly every aspect of life to almost mythic proportions. Brazil's portrait is one painted by the immigration of people from nearly every ethnicity, evoking a primordial utopia where cultures and colors collide. First discovered by Europeans on April 22, 1500, by Pedro Álvares Cabral, Brazil was once a colony of Portugal named after the native brazilwood discovered and harvested there. Later, sugarcane, gold, and coffee became main sources of exploit, and the country's politics became quickly dominated by agrarian oligarchies at all levels of government. During this period most natives were either exterminated or assimilated into the Portuguese communities. Large numbers of African slaves were brought in for plantation labor and the notorious triangular trade for slaves, sugar, and rum was born. Slavery was outlawed in 1888, but Brazil has become South America's largest economy, arguably thanks in part to its early, slave-fueled agricultural development.
[...] More so than in the past, the politicized memory of black history began to influence samba and songwriting. It is worthy to note that this process of re-africanization actually started quite early in the process of samba's growth by reemphasizing drum beats in versions of sambas that had previously been devoid of them. As Cendrar's friend Mario de Andrade noted in 1924, [Europeans] who visit hear the heavy drumming, great, they love it. But if it is without syncopation, they make a face, saying ‘That's Italian music'”(Vianna 75). [...]
[...] The groundwork for this sudden acculturation and celebration of the formerly African samba into Brazil's national music was set by the publication of Brazilian Gilberto Freyre's seminal book, The Master and the Slave, in the 1930s. In it Freyre basically glorifies the mulatto culture of Brazil because it provides the means for the nation to develop culturally. The liberating impact of Freyre's celebrated work made samba seem inexorably Brazilian at a time when Brazil needed a national identity of its own to stand up to European societies that were considered the pinnacles of modern culture and refinement. [...]
[...] Yet while samba purists may argue that the musical form's evolution of incorporating non-African influences over the past century seems like the commodification of a culture, the acculturation of samba has in fact prominently preserved an unquestionably African sound and identity that has helped make Afro-Brazilian culture a truly integral part of Brazilian national culture. Modern Brazil has become one of the key global players of the current era. From the ecological goldmine of the Amazon rainforest to the ingenuity of its policies towards intellectual rights, Brazil has developed into Latin America's hub for agricultural, technological, and economic progress. [...]
[...] Works Cited Browning, Barbara. Samba: Resistance in Motion. Indianapolis and Bloomington: Indiana University Press Chasteen, John Charles. "The Prehistory of Samba: Carnival Dancing in Rio de Janeiro, 1840-1917." Journal of Latin American Studies 28(February 1996): 29-47. Crowley, Daniel J . African Myth and Black Reality in Bahian Carnaval. Los Angeles: UCLA and the Museum of Cultural History Galinsky, Philip. "Co-option, Cultural Resistance, and Afro-Brazilian Identity: A History of the "Pagode" Samba Movement in Rio de Janeiro." Latin American Music Review [...]
[...] From the beginnings of Gilberto Freyre's emphasis on the benefits of accepting racial mixing to the popularity of Afro-Brazilian customs in Paris, samba has been in the global community's public eye, keeping the actions of the African community relevant rather than on the fringe of Brazilian societies poor. Coupled with the conscious activism of black consciousness movements and the re-Africanization of certain aspects of samba, there is no doubt, especially from the perception of the non-African world, that samba is a fundamentally African custom. [...]
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