Samba de roda, mother of Rio’s Carnival

Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr
Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr

These pre-Carnival days, turn your eyes and ears to Bahia and discover the music that inspired Rio’s Carnival. Samba de Roda, considered by Unesco an Intangible Cultural Heritage of  Humanity, was brought by slaves from Angola and Congo to the state  – more specifically to Recôncavo Baiano, region that includes Salvador. Eventually it was taken by migrants to Rio, where it influenced the rhythms present in today’s Carnival.

The participants of a samba de roda organize a big circle and one individual dances in the center till she gives an umbigada (a movement of the hips in which her belly button touches the belly of someone else). The person that was touched comes, at her turn, to the center of the circle. In other cases, umbigada is substituted by some other symbolic movement, such as a hand movement or throwing a handkerchief. According to Unesco, this tradition is bound to disappear. “The aging of practitioners and the dwindling number of artisans capable of making some of the instruments pose a further threat to the transmission of the tradition”, the organization informs, in the following video, which offers a good sample of samba de roda and of the various musical instruments and moves involved.

In this other video, the performance of Raízes de Angola (Angolan Roots), a samba de roda group from São Francisco do Conde, in Bahia.


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