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Re-Africanization and the popularity of the Brazilian Samba

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Brazil's portrait.
    1. Plantations - not the only spheres of influence.
    2. A diverse and multi-faceted process of appreciation and acculturation.
    3. Modern Brazil.
  3. The earliest forms of samba.
    1. The practice and dance expression of samba.
    2. How was it possible for marginalized samba to enjoy such a meteoric rise in popularity?
    3. Other reasons for samba's sanction.
  4. The Brazilian government.
  5. The cultivation of negritude.
  6. The beginnings of Gilberto Freyre's emphasis on the benefits of accepting racial mixing.
  7. Conclusion.

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. [...]

[...] Samba emerged as a musical genre after its birth in the region of Bahia, known as ?Little Africa,? with percussive African beats providing the rhythm for Candomble religious dances, and later, Carnival parades?(Bastos 6). Once slavery came to an end, mass migration to Rio de Janeiro from Bahia commenced, and samba was introduced to Brazil's old capital. Continuing the practice of samba, samba schools were established as a creative and artistic outlet for poor communities. More than just song and dance gatherings, samba schools became a way for marginalized black neighborhoods to unify self-sufficiently under a common identity and form a loyal front against their oppressors. [...]

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