It’s said that music is a truly universal language. No matter what verbal language you speak, music can often substitute for any other communication barriers you might experience with someone else. You don’t need words to tell you a party is going on if you hear a lively beat set to an equally energising melody. You don’t need to know the language someone is singing in to understand that they’re expressing the emotions in their soul via a melody that suits their current mood.
The world of music has its separate genres, of course, such as opera, pop, stage & screen, and so on. Within Brazilian music itself, there are many different genres as well. In this article, we’ll be exploring four of those genres, one of which you’re likely quite familiar with to a greater or lesser degree.
The Four Genres
The first genre we’ll mention is Sertanejo, aka Musica Sertaneja. The word sertenejo comes from the word sertao, which indicates the rural land away from the coastal cities. Musica sertaneja is also called musica caipira, which chiefly include songs about someone living the rural life as opposed to someone living life in the city. ‘
You’ll find a similar type of theme in American country music, of course, but in sertaneja, you won’t necessarily find entire bands with a single name, nor will you find a lot of female artists. Instead, the tradition has usually been either solo singers or duos, usually men.
Sertaneja has gone through four specific phases of evolution, the most recent being sertanejo universitario, or ‘college sertaneja,’ where the instrumentation is
‘stripped down’ to just two acoustic guitars and the two singers.
The second genre is Axe (pronounced Ah-shay), which is connected strongly with the Afro-Caribbean religion called Candomble. Axe is a word that comes from the Yoruba word ‘ase,’ and it generally means ‘soul,’ ‘spirit,’ or ‘good vibrations,’ among other positive definitions.
Axe, as a genre, blends calypso, reggae and marcha as well as Brazilian music such as forro, frevo and carixada. The fusion of all these sub-genres comes together to make a sound like you’ve probably never heard before. Look up videos that contain Axe music (best to use the Candomble term along with it for more accurate results), and you’ll be captivated by how energetic, brilliant and beautiful this genre is. If you like music related to any kind of spiritual or religious practise, and you love music from around the world, Axe just might be for you.
Our next genre is Forro (Foh-ho), a genre of Brazilian music that we mentioned previously as sometimes part of Axe. The music itself comes from the northeastern part of Brazil, draws from both African and European traditions, and the number of instruments is kept to just three: the accordion, a big drum called the zabumba, and metal triangle. Within forro, you will hear other words such as baiao, xaxado, and xamego, all of which describe similar rhythms.
Forro has become international, with various cities around the world coming to know one of Brazil’s most popular music and dance forms.
Our last genre is one you might recognise: Samba. The word doesn’t just describe the dance, it describes the type of music, which has roots in Africa by way of the slave trade and religious traditions of Angola and the Congo, as well as the samba de roda from Bahia.
The modern samba music that showed up in the early 20th century is played primarily in a 2/4 time signature, with certain major instruments, including the more traditional tamborim and the cavaquinho, as well as other modern instruments, such as trombones, clarinets and other inventions of post-WWII music from America.
Samba’s main regions of origin, music-wise, are southeast and northeast Brazil, including but not limited to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but it’s become a strong source of overall national pride.
There are many other genres within Brazilian music, but these are the four that have stood the test of time, and will remain popular for many more years to come.