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Making Samba

A New History of Race and Music in Brazil

by Marc A. Hertzman

Publication Year: 2013

In November 1916, a young Afro-Brazilian musician named Donga registered sheet music for the song "Pelo telefone" ("On the Telephone") at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro. This apparently simple act—claiming ownership of a musical composition—set in motion a series of events that would shake Brazil's cultural landscape. Before the debut of "Pelo telephone," samba was a somewhat obscure term, but by the late 1920s, the wildly popular song had helped to make it synonymous with Brazilian national music.

The success of "Pelo telephone" embroiled Donga in controversy. A group of musicians claimed that he had stolen their work, and a prominent journalist accused him of selling out his people in pursuit of profit and fame. Within this single episode are many of the concerns that animate Making Samba, including intellectual property claims, the Brazilian state, popular music, race, gender, national identity, and the history of Afro-Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro. By tracing the careers of Rio's pioneering black musicians from the late nineteenth century until the 1970s, Marc A. Hertzman revises the histories of samba and of Brazilian national culture.

Published by: Duke University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v


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pp. vi-viii

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A Note about Brazilian Terminology, Currency, and Orthography

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pp. ix-x

Translating racial labels from Portuguese to English is a challenging task. For example, not all of the terms that Brazilians use to denote some form of African ancestry—negro, pardo, preto, crioulo, mulato, to name just a few—have clear parallels in English, and racial labels in any language are as messy, clunky, and potentially problematic as racial categories...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

My wife and I used to joke that before-and-after-book photos of either one of us would look grim: two young, happy scholars turned old and jaded. While we have said this tongue-in-cheek, there is no denying the fact that my project evolved over the course of what is now nearly a third of my lifetime, a period filled with painful moments and beautiful ones. It ...

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pp. 1-16

In November 1916, a young Afro- Brazilian musician named Donga registered sheet music for the song “Pelo telefone” (On the telephone) at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro. Donga’s apparently simple act— claiming ownership of a musical composition—set in motion a series of events that would shake Brazil’s cultural landscape. “Pelo telefone” be-...

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One. Between Fascination and Fear, Musicians’ Worlds in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro

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pp. 17-30

During the colonial (1500–1822) and imperial (1822–89) eras, myriad sounds filled the streets of Rio, the colonial and national capital from 1763 to 1960. Vendors hawked their wares. People conversed in Yoruba, Kikongo, and Kimbundu and played music on European, African, American, and newly improvised instruments. Passersby could expect to hear ...

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Two. Beyond the Punishment Paradigm, Popular Entertainment and Social Control after Abolition

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pp. 31-65

Around Christmas in 1889, far from the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro, a man was arrested for disturbing the peace in Rio Novo, a small town in the state of São Paulo.1 The perpetrator, José Antônio Piranha, had been hosting a “noisy fandango” replete with drums and singing. Displeased with the fine imposed on him, Piranha contested the charges. While he ...

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Three. Musicians Outside the Circle, Race, Wealth, and Property in Fred Figner’s Music Market

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pp. 66-93

While politicians and officers of the law were designing and implementing the anti-vagrancy campaign, musicians, inventors, and entrepreneurs were transforming the way that Brazilians played, purchased, and listened to music. By the early twentieth century, rituals and musical forms that placed musicians in large circular formations, shoulder-to-shoulder...

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Four. “Our Music”, “Pelo telefone,” the Oito Batutas, and the Rise of “Samba"

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pp. 94-115

In 1902, the same year that Fred Figner produced the first Brazilian record, the writer and folklorist Mello Moraes Filho published a multivolume collection of “traditional songs.” The collection, he wrote unabashedly, was “almost entirely the product . . . of the popular, anonymous muse.”1 While ...

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Five. Mediators and Competitors, Musicians, Journalists, and the Roda do Samba

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pp. 116-145

Donga and Pixinguinha were able to lay claim to palpable and less concrete forms of ownership thanks in part to their relatively privileged upbringings. Those upbringings stand in stark contrast to the terms that commentators have used, almost without exception, to describe even the most successful Afro-Brazilian musicians. Hermano Vianna treats ...

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Six. Bodies and Minds: Mapping Africa and Brazil during the Golden Age

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pp. 146-168

In 1943, an article titled “Scientific Chronicle” appeared in the Rio de Janeiro daily Correio da Manhã. The author sought to use “science” to pinpoint samba’s origins in Africa and to suggest how a modern society like Brazil might harness and civilize a wild and savage part of its past.1 The article was hardly the first or last inquiry into samba’s genealogy....

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Seven. Alliances and Limits: The SBAT and the Rise of the Entertainment Class

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pp. 169-193

In Na roda do samba, Vagalume made two predictions—one apocryphal, the other right on the money. The first had to do with instruments. “There is no doubt,” the journalist wrote, that Tio Faustino’s omelê “will soon be an obligatory instrument in every center where samba is cultivated.” By contrast, the cuíca would soon fall into disuse, he said. He could not have ...

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Eight. Everywhere and Nowhere: The UBC and the Consolidation of Racial and Gendered Difference

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pp. 194-226

Between 1934 and 1937, Vargas effectively subordinated regional and state interests beneath a centralized federal government and elaborated a corporatist structure around which to organize society. A slew of laws and decrees, and separate constitutions signed in 1934 and 1937, shaped the relationship between capital and labor and between employers and...

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Nine. After the Golden Age: Reinvention and Political Change

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pp. 227-243

The UBC’s foundational years occurred during an era of great political change in Brazil. Within the União’s first twenty years of existence, Vargas fell from power, reclaimed it, and then took his own life in 1954. The same years saw the crystallization of de facto urban segregation in Rio and of a conservative “social peace,” sealed in 1964 with a military...

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pp. 244-252

When Donga died in 1974, Brazilian musicians were in the process of adapting themselves to life under the Escritório Central de Arrecadação e Distribuição (Central Office of Collection and Distribution, ecad), a central clearinghouse established by the military government in 1973 to regulate...


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pp. a-f


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pp. 253-298


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pp. 299-336


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pp. 337-364

E-ISBN-13: 9780822391906
E-ISBN-10: 0822391902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822354307
Print-ISBN-10: 0822354306

Page Count: 388
Illustrations: 1 map, 16 figures
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1