Music Reviews

This is Samba!

Volumes 1 and 2


Those unfamiliar with Brazilian music often lump it with its Latin and Afro-Cuban brethren, under the heading of “that happy music from south of the border.” That’s about as unfair as lumping truffles with “those mushrooms,” or BMW 2002’s with “those wheeled thingies.” Samba carries with it a tradition of the old school, literally. Formed around communities willing to share their knowledge and create a joyful racket (the so-called “samba schools”) rather than from a fixed group of musicians, Samba carries with it the diversity of a style born of competition and personality.

The liner notes, presented by Japanese producer Katsunori Tanaka, explain all this better than the previous paragraph did. Suffice it to say that samba, while tending to have a very defined rhythm, often pays particular attention to vocals and orchestration, drawing from a wide variety of instruments and percussion. Though both discs are excellent examples of this, I tend to prefer the music on the first volume, especially tracks like the joyous “Todo Passa” medley, by Monarco and the Velha Guarda Da Portela, which features a vigorous tuba bass. The second disc puts me in a more introspective mood.

This is both a great introduction to the genre and a showcase for the subtleties and distinctions within samba. For novices and fans alike.

Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140;

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