Brazilian Music

The Diversity of Brazilian Music

Although Brazil is one of the largest countries in the world, most people are only aware of two of the musical styles from this country. These two popular styles are samba and bossa nova.

In spite of this, there are many more types of regional music featured in Brazil such as:

  • forró
  • funk
  • zouk-lambada
  • lambada
  • choro
  • frevo
  • maracatu
  • MPB
  • sertanejo
  • Brazilian rock
  • axé
  • brega

Music plays a very important role in Brazilian life. The various kinds of music from this country are thought to be diverse and unique.

Early Origins

The earliest record of musical activity was in 1549 from Jesuit priests. Ten years after this, the priests established many settlements for native Brazilians (the Reduções), which included a musical education.

After a century, the Reduções of the southern Brazil had a strong, developing sense of culture.

It is said that the indigenous people in this time period were very influenced and amazed by European music.

There was much more active musical interest in the 18th century. This occurred most in the more developed regions of Brazil.

Private orchestras became more widespread and the churches offered a larger variety of music.


Brazilian popular music mainly started with the samba in the late 19th century. In 1929, the radio was a vital way to spread songs to a greater amount of people.

Music that was especially featured was novelty Samba in its current format.

Common samba songs included instruments like cuicas, tambourines, frying pans (‘played’ with a metal stick), flutes and guitars. Important Samba composers in this period included Noel Rosa plus Lamartine Babo and (around World War II), Ary Barroso.


Choro is a popular style of music in Brazil. The word Choro literally means “cry” in Portuguese.

The instrumental form of this style began in 19th century (followed by samba) in Rio de Janeiro and was originally played by a trio of flute, guitar and cavaquinho (a small chordophone with four strings).

Ernesto Nazareth, a famous musician in Brazil, published his first choro (No Caio Noutra) in 1878 when he was 14 years old. Another famous Choro composer was Chiquinha Gonzaga

By the 1930s, Choro became successful in mainstream music. This occurred in the beginning of the radio era when bands played live on the air.

By the 1950s and 1960s, Choro was taken over mainly by samba and bossa nova in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bossa Nova

Music that came from other countries continued to provide influence in Brazil throughout the twentieth century. One of the most popular kinds of music that came from Brazil’s understanding of jazz was called the bossa nova.

This was the earliest global music of the Americas. It became much more famous when it was the music for the stage play Black Orpheus.

This was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. After this, Jobim’s samba song “The Girl from Ipanema” became one of the most famous songs in the world that came from Brazil.

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