Atlantic Archives: ‘Radio Africa’ – The Rise of Samba


This week we continue our discussion with Lucio Magano, music researcher for Radio Africa, Brazil’s only radio show showcasing African diaspora music. 

For music lovers curious about Brazil, Lucio looking to the years between 1929 and 1939, which saw the birth of Brazilian radio and the subsequent movement to define the national Brazilian sound. This radio era is when Samba began to spread across the national and international airways.  

Samba’s earliest roots as a music form and a dance are found in the first groups of African captives at the hands of the Portuguese.  The word “samba” derives from the Bantu (Angolan) word semba, which referred to an “invitation to dance” as well as a colloquial term for social gatherings of free Africans in the rural Brazilian settlements.  

The first recorded Samba song, was by the composer Ernesto Joaquim Maria dos Santos, affectionally known as Donga.

According to Lucio, “The ‘Radio Era’ began with a decade that was a turning point for Brazilian popular music, a moment which focused on the commercialization of Samba.”  He also notes that this popularization brought with it a discussion about racial hierarchies as Black musicians became overshadowed by white Brazilians like Carmen Miranda.


AA: What was it like for some of these early Black Brazilian musicians?

Lucio:  While 20th-century Afro-Brazilian artists made dominant contributions to Brazilian popular music, they faced the difficult challenges of making and owning their works, which was being recognized around the world. Black Rio is the name most associated with this musical movement, but it also took hold in other Brazilian metropolises and continues in the present time.

Music movements like Ilê Aiyê, Belo Horizonte’s Quarteirão Soul and Rio de Janeiro’s Bailes Soul in the 70s, all followed each other forming a widespread and diverse musical culture. 

AA: Most Americans associate Brazil with bossa nova and artists like Sergio Mendes. But this doesn’t represent Brazil. What are your thoughts about this?”

Lucio: I really like to dig deep into music, all the music genres.  Sergio Mendes went to the US, more specifically LA, in a moment when Hollywood inspired the art and life of musicians. That breezy atmosphere of Hollywood Hills would make me wonder how it would be without the racism in both the US and Brazil.  Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66 symbolized a time of a breezy LA, easy-going lifestyle and it matched the racial democracy cultural politics ruling at the time in Brazil. 

The  60’s also represented a revolutionary moment in Afro Brazilian music. and we cannot forget to mention the South African queen and king, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. This means we also must mention Northeastern Brazilian accordion master Sivuca (Severino Dias de Oliveira), an albino Black man, who was musical director for Miriam Makeba. 

AA: Which albums would you recommend for African Americans to begin an appreciation for Afro Brazil.

Lúcio: That brings me mixed feelings, too much responsibility *laughs* … I have my own personal list and the list I put out in the public. But really think about everyone’s enjoyment, try these:

Gilberto Gil – “Quanta Gente Veio Ver

Chico Science & Nação Zumbi

O Rappa – “Lado B, Lado A

O Rappa - O Rappa - Lado B Lado A - Music

Tune into Radio Africa: or you can listen to the program from anywhere in the world by downloading the “Educadora Play” app from the Google Play Store or App Store and also through the link:

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