In part one of our Hip Deep Brazil series, we travel back in time to Rio de Janeiro in the early 20th century to explore the birth of Brazil’s most iconic sound: samba.
Beginning with the arrival of poor nordestinos in the city after the end of slavery in 1888, we follow the exploits of the early sambistas as they forged the genre that would come to represent the nation. Brazilian scholar Carlos Sandroni shows us how Afro-Brazilian religious music and popular styles like modinha transformed into the syncopated samba beat. Then, media scholar Bryan McCann guides us through the glamor and political intrigue of 1930s Rio as samba explodes as the popular music of choice throughout the country. We speak with samba greats from the old guard to the young bloods, including Dona Yvone Lara, Heitorzinho dos Prazeres, Paulão 7-Cordas and Luciana Rabelo. In closing, we find out how samba, an ambitious radio station and a populist dictatorship worked together to shape Brazilians’ ideas about race, society and the Brazilian nation itself.