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The Berimbau

Soul of Brazilian Music

Publication Year: 2010

The Brazilian berimbau, a musical bow, is most commonly associated with the energetic martial art/dance/game of capoeira. This study explores the berimbau's stature from the 1950s to the present in diverse musical genres including bossa nova, samba-reggae, MPB (Popular Brazilian Music), electronic dance music, Brazilian art music, and more. Berimbau music spans oral and recorded historical traditions, connects Latin America to Africa, juxtaposes the sacred and profane, and unites nationally constructed notions of Brazilian identity across seemingly impenetrable barriers. The Berimbau: Soul of Brazilian Music is the first work that considers the berimbau beyond the context of capoeira, and explores the bow's emergence as a national symbol. Throughout, this book engages and analyzes intersections of musical traditions in the Black Atlantic, North American popular music, and the rise of global jazz. This book is an accessible introduction to Brazilian music for musicians, Latin American scholars, capoeira practitioners, and other people who are interested in Brazil's music and culture.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

I dedicate this work to my grandfather, Kenneth J. Galm, and my father, John K. Galm. My father brought my family to Brazil in 1972, and again in 1977, and this planted the seeds for my continued interest in Brazilian music and culture. My grandfather’s support of my studies in Brazil in the late 1980s and early 1990s enabled me to explore and build upon ...

A Note Regarding Musical Transcriptions

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 3-18

A young woman was on her way to her first trip to Brazil. She had developed a fascination for Brazilian music and culture in her hometown in the United States, and wanted to learn more. It started when she was in a city park, and saw two dancers engaged in a conversation of free-flowing movement. She later learned that this was called capoeira, and it was set ...

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1. Historical Connections and the Emergence of a National Symbol

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pp. 19-33

Descriptions of the berimbau de barriga in colonial Brazilian life were a favorite subject of foreign travelers to Brazil, beginning in the early 1800s.1 Musical bows appeared in marketplaces and were played exclusively by black street vendors and beggars until the 1888 abolition of slavery. Unique African-derived musical instruments were employed ...

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2. Theme and Variations: Tracing a Musical Motif from Bossa Nova to the 1990s

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pp. 34-64

Brazilian popular music composers began to search for a national voice drawing from traditional genres during two distinct periods. (See related discussion in chapter 5 regarding the search for a national voice prior to the 1950s.) The first phase took place with the rise of bossa nova music in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when composers started incorporating ...

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3. Afrocentric Themes of Resistance

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pp. 65-92

Following the transformation of the berimbau’s role in Brazilian popular music from the mid-1990s to the present, new musical ensembles have emerged that are based on ideas of resistance. The musical examples in this chapter demonstrate a shift in emphasis from a Brazilian national identity toward an articulation of an empowered Afrocentric identity ...

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4. The “One Note Samba” Starts to Jam

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pp. 93-115

The berimbau emerged as a solo instrument in several genres of Brazilian popular music from the early 1970s to the present through the work of three berimbau artists: Nan

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5. Creation Myths

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pp. 116-145

An exploration of the berimbau’s presence in Brazilian art music reveals connections that have affected elements of capoeira scholarship. For the purposes of this chapter, I define Brazilian art music as a genre in which music is produced specifically for performances in concert halls. An analysis of the berimbau’s use in Brazilian art music highlights interpretations ...

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6. Visual and Literary Images of the Berimbau

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pp. 146-159

As an extension of its associations with capoeira, the berimbau has come to represent “Afro-Brazilianness” in recent decades, appearing on capoeira academy logos, jewelry, and tattoos.1 Walls of academies become sacred altars that prominently display berimbaus and photographs of “ancestors” (capoeira masters), most of whom are playing or holding a ...

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pp. 160-169

The berimbau is representative of a tradition that has been continually modified and incorporated into many musical genres throughout Brazil and the rest of the world. Through many years as an observer and performing musician, I have been able to reconstruct the history of the berimbau by drawing upon a synthesis of historical and ethnographic ...


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pp. 170-173

Appendix: Musical Examples

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pp. 174-184


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pp. 185-206


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pp. 207-216


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pp. 217-218


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pp. 219


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pp. 220-221


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pp. 222-229

E-ISBN-13: 9781604734065
E-ISBN-10: 160473406X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604734058
Print-ISBN-10: 1604734051

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010