1# Definite Samba Guide - Brazilian Samba Explained

What is Samba? Samba Music and Rhythm

Samba is a general term for various cultural manifestations that take place in Brazil. It’s a fruit of the African Diaspora and the interplay between different cultures within Brazil. Brazilian culture has produced many popular styles of music, and Samba is definitely is one of the most prominent.

It originated in Bahia, in the Reconcavo region, and became one of the most important symbols of Brazilian Culture after being caught in the international radar, being mixed with other rhythms, and being incorporated into world music groups.

Samba is not a rhythm or ballroom dance of Brazilian origin, nor a rhythm born in Rio’s Favelas. Samba has a historical development across Bahia, later coming to Rio, and was majorly based on African influences.

Several specific rhythms have been recognized by Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage, such as Samba de Roda, the first Samba musical genre developed in colonial Brazil. The use of percussion instruments to build a rich and syncopated rhythm, a samba dancing style called “Sambar”, which features solo dance moves and dance forms based on hip movements and quick foot movements are some of the universal elements of Samba as a culture.

What is Samba Dance?

The word Samba comes from the Bantu terms which remount to the “Umbigada” (navel), a dance that survived the Trans-Atlantic voyage and is basically a part of the Samba de Roda dance, where the person in the circle does a navel-to-navel (Umbigada) dance move, and the person who received it goes to the center to dance. It’s the same origin of the word Semba, an Angolan rhythm, although they are different rhythms and traditions, stemming from similar origins.

Disclaimer: This article does not propose to speak of the History of Samba through all the branching variations – There is just so much. We’ll cover the history and origins of the main variants though.


Samba Master Tinho Pequeno pictured in his house

Tinho Pequeno – Samba Master

This article is dedicated to the ‘Masters’, the oral teachers who were to Brazil what Griots were to West Africa. They were responsible for maintaining traditions, teaching new generations, and preserving oral history.


Opanije.com is a platform where you can learn percussion with traditional Brazilian References, to see more check out:

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If what you’re looking for is a detailed Guide on the Instruments used in different Samba musical genres and varieties, we also have a Samba Instruments Guide:

Samba Instruments


Agô Samba! African slaves and Indigenous People x Colonial Ballroom Samba

Agô is a Yoruban word used in Brazil.

In Brazil, Agô is a humble ask for passage, license to enter, realize rituals, or speak of spiritual and ancestral themes and places.

To speak of the History of traditional Samba music within Brazil is not a small feat. The continental proportions, geographical and ethnic diversity created several unique cultural expressions.


Let’s backtrack and settle some basic facts. To understand what is Samba, we first need to understand the social and ethnic  make-up of Brazil.


The pre-colonial name of the land now known as Brazil was Pindorama. The name is in Tupi, one of the most widespread languages in Native Indigenous People from Brazil, as used by the Tupi-Guarani people


Brazil Traditional Indigenous map

Ethno-Historic Map of Brazil and outlying regions, by Curt Nimuendaju

HD Source


It’s estimated that there were over 400 different ethnicities in 15th century Brazil. More than three million indigenous people lived in the territory that became Brazil.


Indigenous culture has contributed to all aspects of Brazilian Culture. In culinary, art, medicine, and customs, traditional indigenous knowledge became part of Brazilian life.

Unfortunately, as in the Andine countries and the USA, the indigenous people in Brazil suffered genocide. At least 70% of the Native people from Brazil suffered decimation from European contact. The present population is below 900,000 indigenous citizens, which is a far cry from the pre-colonial three million.

Meanwhile, Portuguese traders and nobles profited from colonial exploitation, setting up their courtiers, and families in forts situated in the cities.


Bahia – Samba’s Home


The first town in Brazil founded by the European Invasion forces was Cabrália, in present southern Bahia. The first Capital of the Colony was Salvador, now the capital of the state of Bahia, which is where the Brazilian Diaspora first set its feet. It’s the seed of Brazil.

This first region of the colony was named Bahia, which is the Portuguese word for Bay.

Salvador was the original Brazilian capital, the first effort to organize the exploitation of the Colony. It became an important port for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

One of the most expressive examples of the African Exodus, Diaspora molded the city as is today. It’s known to be the blackest city out of Africa, where African Culture and Religion are still worshiped, such as the cult of Orixás, Voduns, and Nkissis.

Pelourinho Sunset View, the place of African slaves and after responsible for the origins of Samba Groups such as olodum

Source: Nick Potts, Getty Images



Brazil alone stood for 40% to 45% of all Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Even after being the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, illegal slavery, and corruption rolled on for decades. West African slaves were the first to arrive in Bahia and influenced strongly the Bahian culture.

From 1826 to 1850, 1.662 enslaved Africans disembarked in the United States.


In Brazil, there were 1.099.018 African slaves disembarked in the same period.




It’s evident why Brazil has the most African descendant population in the Americas, as well as why it has the second largest Black population in the world, after Nigeria.


Salvador and the outlying regions of the State of Bahia were the African melting pot of the 18th and 19th Centuries. African Cultures encountered in Diaspora, from the Muslim West-African people to Occidental Africans, where some former slaves would become businessmen and organize revolts, such as the Malê uprising in Salvador.


African slaves brought their spirituality, and in Brazil, they made Candomblé. This new religion was based on old roots, the major being: the Yoruba, Bantu, Gêge, and Fon people.

A rich cultural mix was present, nurturing cultural expressions and rhythms present in Brazil, such as capoeira and Samba de Roda which would define Bahia’s intangible cultural heritage.


Samba de Roda – Samba Origin in Bahia

Samba de Roda, which could be freely translated as Samba of Circle (of People) is recognized as the first form of Samba. Its origins are in the middle 1800s in the region of ‘Recôncavo’. It is home to the Historical cities founded within close reach of Salvador.


You can learn more, with in-depth information about Brazilian Rhythms in our Guide to Brazilian Rhythms!
Brazilian Rhythms Guide

Recôncavo‘ was all coastal and interior regions of the ‘Bahia de Todos os Santos’, which can be translated as All Saints Bay.


Bahia de Todos os Santos – All Saints bay


When asking what is Samba, it is essential to understand that there were many other traditional cultural expressions on its side. It was part of a group that also contained Barravento, Capoeira, Congo de Ouro – all Afro-Brazilian traditions in similar communities.

The rhythms were also permeated by the symbols, chants, and culture that originated in Candomblé houses, the ‘Terreiros’.

The cultural background of these traditional cultures living side by side is pictured in a movie called ‘Barravento’. Portraying the relationship between these cultural manifestations and Candomblé. The film passes within a fishing community in a Bahian village:



Samba de Roda demonstration, with samba dancing in the middle of a circle of people playing and clapping


Samba-de-Roda scene in Barravento.

Spiritual Samba – Dance and Rhythm 

Samba de Roda is ever-present in Candomblé and other Afro-Brazilian religions. The rhythm is especially played to the spiritual entities from the Brazilian ground.

Cabila or Cabula, sometimes called Samba de Cabila or Samba de Caboclo, is certainly one of the main rhythmic sources and origins of Samba de Roda, played in Candomblé and Umbanda Terreiros.
Samba de Cabila, Samba de Caboclo, and Samba de Roda are played to ‘Caboclos’, ‘Marujos’, and ‘Boiaderos’ are examples of spiritual entities understood to be native to Brazil. They are believed to be of mixed indigenous and African ethnicity. They embody what is known as the native Brazilian spirits, called ‘Encantados’ which translates to ‘enchanted’.


For the African spiritual entities, there are traditional rhythms that differ between affiliations, such as Ijexá and Opanije. While played differently in each ‘Terreiro’, these rhythms share common rhythmic properties. Meanwhile, for the native entities, Samba was used commonly, rhythmically very even. The use of Samba in ‘Terreiros’ created a specific kind of rhythm, closely tied to Samba de Roda, the Samba de Caboclo.

Cabloclos are spiritual entities in Brazil, born from a mixture of Native Indigenous and African people.


Samba was introduced to traditional festivities in Salvador via the ‘Terreiros’. These places of Afro-Brazilian traditions, through their traditions, made safe havens for Afro-Brazilian cultural expressions. These expressions ranged from Candomblé, Samba, and Capoeira, and many other cultures based on African origins.


Terreiros in Brazil have traditionally African names. One convention is that most names start with ‘Ilê Axé’, which can be translated as ‘house of power’, or ‘house of vital energy‘, Ilê meaning House, and Axé the latter.


Candomble Master poiting at the camera in front of a Terreiro

“Pai Adauto” Candomblé Master

Source: Opanije.com Archive

The exterior of the ‘Terreiro’ pictured is Ilê Axé Oya Onminidê. It is situated within the Federação neighborhood in Salvador.


Traditional Samba

Traditional Samba is composed in many forms, such as:


  • Played either with string instruments, forming one of the original expressions, Samba Chula.
  • In Capoeira it is often played with ‘berimbau’, ‘pandeiro’, and ‘Atabaques’.
  • In religious centers, its tradition to be only with ‘Agôgo’ and ‘Atabaques’, symbols of Samba de Caboclo.

The central piece that unified ‘Samba de Roda’ was the short musical chants, accompanied by a chorus and palms. Often a knife and a plate, which became a traditional Samba instrument, giving the name of Plate to their players, such as by Dona Edith do Prato’ and Dona Aurinda do Prato, who is also a Chief Priestess in Candomblé, in the ‘Vera Cruz Island’, a mere hour Ferry boat trip from Salvador:


Samba Master Dona aurinda do prato plays traditional enamel plate and knife

Photo by: @juliarodr.gues

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You can start learning with traditional style teachings: no theory or textbooks!

Learn by oral teaching methods: Discover a new way to understand Rhythm!

To Observe and listen are the basic principle upon which our teachers, and their teacher, and so on for several generations, learned, and so can you!

You can also check out our Shop, to find Atabaques, Pandeiros, Agogôs, Caxixis, and many other Brazilian instruments, each one made by master craftsmen such as Mestre Dinho, from Pelourinho in Salvador.

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Malandros – From Rio de Janeiro Favelas

Afro-Brazilian women in Salvador, especially those from Candomblé, bought the freedom of many enslaved Africans and Afro-Brazilians. The sisterhood “Irmandade da Boa Morte” was one of these groups. For their religious affiliations, they were persecuted by the police force in Salvador, and some fled to Cachoeira, at the heart of Bahian Tradition, and one to Rio de Janeiro.

  Tia Ciata was the name of the sister from the “Irmandade da Boa Morte” who arrived in Rio. She is accounted as being one of the key figures in fostering Samba in Rio, bringing the traditional Samba de Roda from Salvador to Rio. This was the seed of many different expressions in the new forms of Samba that originated in Rio. Many experts say that Tia Ciata, and other Bahian women brought samba to Rio de Janeiro.

Tia Ciata was a Bahian-born Candomble practicioner who moved to Rio to escape persecution of Afro-Brazilian religions in Bahia, where Samba de Roda was already established. She played a pivotal role in stimulating and cultivating Samba in Rio by opening up her house and Terreiro as one of the first places where Samba singers and players would meet.

The urban adaptations of Samba, in Rio, were heavily influenced by the influx of African and Afro-Brazilian population from Bahia, and newly arrived Africans. One of the first urban changes to Samba was the influence of European harmony, and acoustic guitar that reformed Samba. This influenced early urban Samba in Bahia as well, in recordings and expressions.


The traditional forms of Samba were not pictured in media, because of prejudice and association with African cults. They were, however, kept strong by the oral ‘masters’, and the traditional communities and traditional forms such as Samba de Roda remain popular to this day.


Brazilian’s Radio first Recording was in Bahia, and it opened possibilities for Samba singers such as ‘Batatinha’ and ‘Panela’, and ‘Riachão’. They represented a form of Samba that was being influenced by both Samba de Roda, as well as the recordings from Sambists from Rio. These recordings were starting to reach and influence Salvador, introducing new instruments. The instrumentation changed, with Spanish guitar and other harmonics being introduced.


Samba traveled far and wide in Brazil, but it was in Bahia that Samba was Born because Brazil was born in Bahia. This is told by ‘Riachão’ an important cultural figure born in Salvador. Riachão was a self-titled malandro, a sly figure, who lived sagely, knowing well how to navigate the diverse and adverse situations found in life.


Riachão’ was one of the oral memory keepers of Salvador, composing several classical Sambas. His Samba’s were re-recorded and reproduced by other artists countless times. His songs were portraits of Bahian society, life in the city, traditions, and affections. In the Brazilian military regimen, some of his songs were censored, when he spoke out on hunger, poverty, and other inequalities. Reflecting on Salvador, the habits, and cultural memory of the people from Bahia, he sang about the happenings and places of the city, as a malandro.


Riachão, Salvador Samba pioneer album, holding a "balaio" in his head and pulling a womens arm

‘Humanenochum Organization: Women in the first place!’



Irreverence was one of the characteristic aspects of the ‘Malandro’ lifestyle. Alternating between melancholic and love songs, happy songs, and real-life history, it was a resistance effort. Sambists from early periods in Bahia had normal jobs, and made Samba for the love of music. ‘Riachão’ was an errand man in a bank, and he tells that everywhere he went bringing documents, people asked him to sing a bit, and so he led his life, joyful as always.


A matchbox is also an important traditional instrument for this new Samba instrumentation.


Caixa de fosforo, a improvised samba instrument


Escolas de Samba – Samba Schools, Traditional Dance, and Percussion in the Avenues

Samba schools have become an enduring tradition in Rio and other Brazilian capitals, promoting social projects and organizing year-round events in communities.

Rio de Janeiro was the birthplace of many Samba traditions. Samba Canção, Bossa Nova, Samba de Breque, and Partido Alto are some of the variants which developed in Rio. Samba began to take a mainstream approach with the Radio era, however the greatest contribution to the national Samba development is arguably Rio Carnival.

Samba rose with radio broadcasts featuring Samba music, which had previously been relegated to the margins. In 1918, a song called “Pelo Telefone” was recorded for the first time, registered by Donga, in disputed authorship. The song form gained popularity and became one of the first Samba songs to trend, establishing the Samba musical genre as popular music.

The Song was composed by several authors at took place at the Terreiro presided by Tia Ciata, a woman from Bahia who introduced the culture of Samba de Roda to Rio and went on to become one of the matriarchs of Samba in the city. The song quickly gained popularity and helped elevate Samba to greater notoriety as a genre.

From Ballroom to the Streets

The musicians which played in the ballroom competitions, the European-based social affairs, were responsible for the ‘Samba carnavalesco’ the type of Samba played in Carnival. These ballroom samba players played for the upper and middle classes’ affairs. These players were responsible for adding European instruments, such as brass and wind instruments, to Samba, as they added the instrumental elements of Valsa and other forms of ballroom rhythms to Samba musical genres.

The players who were in the ballroom were very different from the Samba done in the Favelas, often called Samba de Batucada (Batucada means to make percussive rhythms)because of the predominant use of percussion instruments. However many of the musicians who played in the ballroom samba events lived in the favelas and adapted the same songs to a ballroom version to be played in upper-class events.

Samba Enredo and Samba Canção were responsible for the change of the Samba style, where modern samba was starting to take shape. The Radio era was calling for new adaptations in Samba, and the Brazilian music scene was starting to change, where samba began to get influenced by both ballroom Samba and the Samba made on Terreiros and Favelas.

Samba Schools – Rio’s Carnival takes Shape

The Samba schools that are now a symbol of Brazilian culture have their roots in Rio de Janeiro. The first of these, Deixa Falar, was founded in 1928 by a group of Sambistas (those who play, sing or dance samba).

The growing popularity of Samba was caused by the first Radio diffusions of Samba music, which was previously a marginalized genre. The carnival at the time featured Rancho, Corso, and Carnival Societies. In 1929, one year after the first Escola de Samba was founded , there were already 19 competing groups in the competition.


The popularity of Samba grew quickly, impacted by Radio, and in 1929 the first Samba contest was held, sponsored by journalist Mario Filho. The winner of this competition was Estácio Primeira de Mangueira, followed by Portela, now major Samba-Schools in Rio de Janeiro.

Sambista from Portela posing in front of Samba-School

Historical photo of Portela Samba-School – Source: Portela’s Archives

To participate in the first Samba Schools competitions, there were certain requirements that must be met, including:

  • Meeting the minimum of 100 Sambistas on each Samba-School
  • Presenting a samba de enredo with authentic and unreleased lyrics
  • Having only drums and percussive instruments, all other instruments being excluded from the competition
  • Presenting a dance section entitled “Ala de Baianas”, literally Bahian women, representing the women who brought Samba from its origins in Bahia to Rio, often through Terreiros and Candomblé, such as Tia Ciata

Of the original elements of Samba de Roda, as traditional dance survived in modern Samba, which is symbolized by the ‘Ala de baianas’, a dancers wing representing the traditional garb of Bahian women who were Candomblé practitioners, but was historically performed by men who used razors to defend the group (later the section was reverted to an all female dance wing) . This homage to the Bahian Matriarch’s who fostered Samba development in Rio is still present in modern parades.

Samba Dancer juggling a Pandeiro, while The Baianas dance at the back

The Sambista modern outfit in the front contrasts with the Traditional Bahia outfit in the back- Source: Portela’s Archives

The Samba schools continued to evolve, incorporating elements from previous cultural manifestations, such as the Ranchos, such as Flag bearers and Kings and Queens while maintaining their percussive-only Baterias. In 1934, the União Geral das Escolas de Samba was founded, which consolidated Samba as the main attraction of the Carnival.

Samba schools differentiated themselves from the previously popular Rancho marches by prohibiting the use of brass instruments and instead emphasizing percussive instruments like tamborim and surdo, which were important elements of Afro-Brazilian culture. This democratized Samba by valuing popular and traditional culture that did not require technical or harmonic musical knowledge.

Today, the Baterias are the beating heart of the Samba parades, with Mestres and directors creating arrangements and tuning the drum sections. Each suit has its own function within the drumming performances, including marking the Surdo, snare drums, cuíca, and repique. The solo dance moves are made according to the improvisation, normally done on repique, where the main dancers move according to where the improvisation leads.

Over time, the Samba schools continued to incorporate new elements, and the Baterias remained an essential part of the festivities, fueling the quintessential music and rhythm of the Carnival. The Samba dance and the dancers became the synonym of Brazilian dance, coordinated and synchronized with the syncopated rhythm of the percussion ensemble.

As time went on, Samba schools incorporated elements from rancho celebrations such as having a King and Queen, banner, and flag holders. The Queens, symbols of Brazilian dance and beauty, became particularly fascinating and controversial as their elaborate costumes became more revealing, with some now only wearing body paint and feathers. Interestingly, they are officially addressed as the Queen of the Bateria, which means the Queen of the Samba-school percussion ensemble, the main attraction on the avenues and in the Samba-schools inner dance floor.

The União Geral das Escolas de Samba was established in 1934, and its parades became the most significant event in Rio de Janeiro, leading to the disappearance of previous carnival genres. Today, the Samba Schools’ parade remains the main attraction of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival.

Festa de São João and Samba duro

One of the most Traditional festivities in Brazil is the ‘Festa de São João’, more commonly as ‘Festa Junina’, translated literally as June’s Festivities. The Christian celebrations of Saint John, developed in Brazil a whole set of cultural and musical expressions. In Salvador, Samba Duro is the traditional Rhythm for this event, which is a direct descendant of the Samba de Roda. The players of the Samba-Duro drew upon the Afro-Religions. Much of the rhythm that is present in modern Bahian Samba is derived from this relationship.


In Rio, the organization of Samba schools was fueled by government nationalistic endeavors. Meanwhile, in Salvador, Samba of all forms resisted in community associations and private celebrations. These associations were mainly based on the religious communities, following tradition. Samba, as well as capoeira, and anywhere else where dance, music, drink, and food were together were the main entertainment to the people of Salvador.


The groups of Samba-Duro had different organizations compared to Rio’s Samba Schools. Samba-Duro was a strong cultural movement in the second half of the 20th century in Salvador. It gave birth to many famous groups, usually each one from a determined neighborhood. Such as the Traditional ‘Samba-Fama’, Samba-Scorpions’, ‘Samba-Peão Doido’ and many others. They paraded the streets of the communities, through ‘favelas’ and the city, parading and interacting with the city.


Timbal, surdo, and repique were the instruments used in the ‘Samba-Junino’ movement. These were the groups that were responsible for influencing the next generation of Bahian Music. The characteristic rhythmic solo, drew on the Afro-Religions improvising on the Samba cadency.


“Candomblé is a source of Rhythm”

Samba Master Tinho sitted in front of his house in Salvador , bahia

Tinho Pequeno – Lead instrumentist in Samba-Fama

Source: Opanije archive


BLOCO AFRO – Black Brazil at the Forefront

The first Samba-Schools founded in Salvador was ‘Ilê Aiye’. The group decided that instead of Samba-School naming, they would become the first Bloco Afro (Afro Block). Their Afro-Samba, mixing elements of Candomblé with various traditional Samba rhythms, turned into a classic form present in Bahia’s Carnival.

Candomble head of the Bloco Afro Ilê Aiye

Ilê Aiyê Candomblé’s head, ‘Mãe Hilda Jitolu’ Giving Blessing for Ilê Aiyê Carnival celebrations, in 1987. Source

BLOCO AFRO was the name given to Samba-Schools founded in Salvador. Continuing from Ilê Aiye, came Araketu, Malê Debalê, Muzenza, Cortejo Afro, and many more. This cultural movement had a profound influence on the development of Samba in Salvador, including Carnaval. This represented the growing representation of traditional Afro-Brazilian rhythms in Carnival celebrations.

Before the ’80s, there were various carnival blocks in Salvador that copied the Samba School style, however, they were restricted to the white middle-class. There were also blocks of black and mixed young people, who dressed up as indigenous groups pictured in the Cinema, depicting North American names, such as the Apaxe and Commanche carnival groups.

Ile Aiyê, the first Afro block in Brazil, was founded in 1974 and played a vital role as a center of resistance during the military dictatorship. It has become a powerful cultural source, providing knowledge and a positive representation of the black community while highlighting the African roots of Brazilian culture.

Ilê Aiyê’s objective is to take black people through a decolonized vision of Africa, which regular Samba-Schools did not offer at the moment. Inspired by US civil rights struggles, movements such as Black Power and the Black Panthers, and liberation wars in Africa, Vovô do Ilê and other residents of Liberdade formed a carnival block exclusively for black people. Mother Ilda joined them and participated in the block to reduce the risk of police repression. She is the one who chose the block’s name, which means “house” (ile) and “earth” (aiyê) in Yoruba.


Ilê Aiyê samba percussion ensemble in Salvador Carnival

The Ilê Aiye Parade in Curuzu, the neighborhood where it began. Source: Ilê Archives

Ilê Aiyê was recognized as the cultural heritage of Bahia in 2003, as the block helped to place black people as subjects of their history, telling their stories through music. Olodum, founded in 1979, celebrates 40 years of Afro-Brazilian history and culture, and was also recognized by the UN as an intangible cultural heritage of Bahia and Brazil.

These movements also were inspired by the previous Samba styles present in Salvador. Tinho Pequeno is considered by many to be one of the ‘Masters’ of percussion in Salvador. He was a member of the Samba-Duro group ‘Samba-Fama’. He recalled in a documentary by Opanije.com, how Carlinhos Brown and Tony Mola (Bahian Carnival Piooners) came to ‘Samba-Fama’ to photograph them playing. Brown invited Tinho to become part of ‘Timbalada’, who became a soloist and regent for Timbalada. The group revolutionized mainstream Brazilian Samba, introducing back many traditional rhythms.

Timbalada's percussion ensemble posing for a picture


Source: Opanije Archive

Timbalada introduced new African and Caribbean percussive influences. The hits played in the Carnival, are performed to this day by countless musicians and bands. As Timbalada and other ‘Blocos-Afro’ became known in Brazil, percussion became an even stronger force in Brazilian Music. The Bahian rhythms took over Brazil through Carnival, fueled by traditional rhythms. Drinking from the cultural well of Afro-Brazilian Religions rhythms, what is Samba in Brazil was again enlarged.

Samba drank now from urban movements, Samba-Afro from Ilê Aiyê, Timbalada’s various rhythms, and  Samba-Reggae. Mixing reggae and Samba, Samba-Reggae was popularized by Olodum. Neguinho do Samba, who hailed from the first Bloco Afro of Salvador, ‘Ilê Aiyê’, is accredited with creating and popularizing it. Olodum became worldwide a reference for percussion, Samba-Reggae becoming a key element in Salvador’s Carnival.


The Olodum group was founded to showcase the origin and history of the black population in Salvador. Olodum, short for Olodumaré meaning “God of Gods” in Yoruba, is a reference to the God who created the universe. From 1983 onwards, the group began to promote socio-community cultural activities, creating the NGO Grupo Cultural Olodum. Banda Olodum was created in 1987 and released its first album “Egito Madagascar,” with the song “Faraó”, a carnival classic throughout Brazil.

Paul Simon was one of the artists that came to Brazil and had contact with Olodum, inspiring himself in Bahian music. After making a recording in Pelourinho, he brought ‘Olodum’ percussionists to perform with him in Central Park in NYC. In the tour that followed, the percussionists met Spike Lee, who wrote the script for a music clip that placed Brazil in the spotlight.


Michael Jackson poses with olodum in Pelourinho

Michael Jackson with Olodum in Pelourinho – Source: Clip

Olodum gained worldwide fame when Michael Jackson came to Salvador and recorded ‘They don’t Care about us’. The recording, of ‘Olodum’ on the Historic Center of Salvador, ‘Pelourinho’, became an icon for Brazilian music.


As well as showcasing diverse musical styles, many Blocos Afros also work with local organizations towards social causes such as food security programs or youth education initiatives; thus providing an avenue for members to get involved in their community while celebrating their culture at the same time.

These initiatives have helped build strong relationships between the Bloco Afro and communities, by creating a space where the youth and the community can come together and enjoy traditional culture, helping to preserve the cultural heritage that defined Brazilian dance, music, and feeling.

Get your Brazilian Groove on!

We offer a percussion course that features direct contact with a Master Teacher!

You can start learning with traditional style teachings: no theory or textbooks!

Learn by oral teaching methods: Discover a new way to understand Rhythm!

To Observe and listen are the basic principle upon which our teachers, and their teacher, and so on for several generations, learned, and so can you!

You can also check out our Shop, to find Atabaques, Pandeiros, Agogôs, Caxixis, and many other Brazilian instruments, each one made by master craftsmen such as Mestre Dinho, from Pelourinho in Salvador.

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