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Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil [Kindle Edition]

Marc A. Hertzman

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Book Description

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.

Product Description


"Making Samba is revisionist history at its best. Marc A. Hertzman takes on cherished myths of Brazilian popular culture and carefully debunks them, demonstrating through pioneering research and painstaking analysis where, how, and why they were created. In addition, he illuminates the links between popular music, race, labor, and intellectual property. This should attract considerable attention; no other study of Brazil has done similar work." - Bryan McCann, author of Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil "Samba, the quintessential Brazilian musical genre, has been at the center of controversies and myths about national identity, racial democracy, and cultural authenticity for nearly a century, with each generation going over more or less the same ground. What these debates desperately needed was a fresh perspective, grounded in new and significant evidence, and that is just what Marc A. Hertzman provides in this deeply researched and cogently argued historical study. Making Samba takes the discussion of music, race, and authority to a whole new level of sophistication. Hertzman explores the changing contours of the music 'business' in Brazil, the spaces that black performers could carve out for themselves, and the costs they incurred when they sought to challenge existing racial, intellectual, and economic hierarchies. The result is a social and cultural history of samba that is by turns fascinating and sobering, and a book that anyone interested in questions of race, music, and nation will want to read." - Barbara Weinstein,author of For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in Sao Paulo, 1920-1964

About the Author

Marc A. Hertzman is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and Director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at Columbia University.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2718 KB
  • Print Length: 382 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0822354306
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (1 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822391902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822391906
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,127,814 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Look at the Origins of Brazilian Samba 26 Jan. 2014
By Richard R - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hertzman's book is a wonderful examination of the origins of Brazilian samba in the 1890-1940 period, just as the country's national identity was developing. In 1888, Brazil freed the last of its slaves, which kicked off a period --not unlike what occurred in the U.S. after the Civil War-- of consideration on what it meant to be a Brazilian. Sharp divides, racial, economic, and urban/rural confronted the nation, and samba emerged as a powerful building block of nationality, something unique to the country that could be embraced by all Brazilians. An American reader will recall that American music forms such as blues and jazz were emerging along a parallel track in the United States.

Hertzman's book is very readable, easily accessible to the layperson, with an excellent set of notes at the end. His observations are powerful -- he notes, for example, that samba was an important element of the evolving national identity ("brasilidade") yet its impact on either the individual artists, and on blacks more broadly, was much more limited. Again, this American reader could not help reflecting on the similarities to the American musical experience of the early 20th century.

Hertzman's launching point is "Pelo Telefone", one of the earliest samba songs, recorded in 1917 by Donga (you can still listen to that recording on YouTube), who is today revered as the original sambista. Hertzman demonstrates that in the environment of the time, intellectual property rights were uncertain and racial prejudices weighed down the nascent music industry --as they did Rio as a whole. In other words, it wasn't quite as simple as Donga walking down to the local recording studio and cutting a record. He succeeded by standing on the shoulders of many others.

Here the story echoes Cecil Brown's 2004 book "Stagolee Shot Billy", in which Brown similarly drills down into the seminal blues song that told of a St. Louis bar fight in 1895. Like "Pelo Telefone", "Stagolee" had an origin in a cultural time and place that was then appropriated and manipulated until the original story became lost under layers of historical evolution.

Elsewhere, Hertzman uses the story of João da Baiana as a jumping off point to examine the long-held view that samba was systematically repressed by law enforcement. The truth, naturally, is much more complicated. Samba emerged from something of a twilight legal realm, working-class, dark-skinned, and quite familiar with the inside of a jail cell, but not actually illegal. Other fascinating characters shine light on other shards of the history: there is the tragic Moreno Dias who challenged views on interracial relationships; the hustler Dudu Neves, and the original recording magnate Fred Figner.

"Making Samba" is a fascinating book. Samba today has a universal feel to it, something that appeals to all music lovers and musicians. Hertzman has done a terrific job placing it in its proper role in Brazilian history, in the period when the country struggled to establish a national identity that encompassed all Brazilians, included those who were recently enslaved. It is a remarkable story, told with a sharp eye and keen ear.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful 11 Sept. 2014
By B. Lehmann - Published on
Outstanding account of Brazilian music history
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