Culture of Brazil


The culture of Brazil is primarily Western, but presents a very diverse nature showing that an ethnic and cultural mixing occurred in the colonial period involving mostly Indigenous peoples of the coastal and most accessible riverine areas, Portuguese people and African peoples. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, together with further waves of Portuguese colonization, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Levantine Arabs, Nipponics, Poles, Helvetians and Ukrainians settled in Brazil, playing an important role in its culture as it started to shape a multicultural and multiethnic society.

As consequence of three centuries of colonization by the Portuguese empire, the core of Brazilian culture is derived from the culture of Portugal. The numerous Portuguese inheritances include the language, the predominant religion and the colonial architectural styles.These aspects, however, were influenced by African and Indigenous American traditions, as well as those from other Western European countries. Some aspects of Brazilian culture are contributions of Italian, German and other European immigrants.Amerindian people and Africans played a large role in the formation of Brazilian language, cuisine, music, dance and religion.

This diverse cultural background has helped boast many celebrations and festivals that have become known around the world, such as the Brazilian Carnival and the Bumba Meu Boi. The colourful culture creates an environment that makes Brazil a popular destination for many tourists each year, around over 1 million.

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. It is spoken by about 99% of the population, making it one of the strongest elements of national identity.There are only some Amerindian groups and small pockets of immigrants who do not speak Portuguese.Reflecting the mixed ethnic background of the country, Brazilian Portuguese is a variation of the Portuguese language that includes a large number of words of Indigenous American and African origin.

Minority languages are spoken throughout the nation. One hundred and eighty Amerindian languages are spoken in remote areas and a number of other languages are spoken by immigrants and their descendants. There are significant communities of German (mostly the Hunsrückisch, a High German language dialect) and Italian (mostly the Talian dialect, of Venetian origin) speakers in the south of the country, both of which are influenced by the Portuguese language. Not to mention the Slavic communities, Ukrainians and Poles which are also part of these minorities languages.

The Brazilian Sign Language (not signed Portuguese – it likely is descended from the French Sign Language), known by the acronym LIBRAS, is officially recognized by law, albeit using it alone would convey a very limited degree of accessibility, throughout the country.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is the second largest in the world, after only of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City.About 2/3 of the population are Roman Catholics. Catholicism was introduced and spread largely by the Portuguese Jesuits, who arrived in 1549 during the colonization with the mission of converting the Indigenous people.
Brazil was a colony of Portugal for over three centuries. About a million Portuguese settlers arrived during this period and brought their culture to the colony. The Indigenous inhabitants of Brazil had much contact with the colonists. Many became extinct, others mixed with the Portuguese. For that reason, Brazil also holds Amerindian influences in its culture, mainly in its food and language. Brazilian Portuguese has hundreds of words of Indigenous American origin, mainly from the Old Tupi language.

Black Africans, who were brought as slaves to Brazil, also participated actively in the formation of Brazilian culture. Although the Portuguese colonists forced their slaves to convert to Catholicism and speak Portuguese their cultural influences were absorbed by the inhabitants of Brazil of all races and origins. Some regions of Brazil, especially Bahia, have particularly notable African inheritances in music, cuisine, dance and language.
Brazilian cuisine varies greatly by region. This diversity reflects the country’s mix of natives and immigrants. This has created a national cooking style, marked by the preservation of regional differences. Since the colonial period,the feijoada has been the country’s national dish. Luís da Câmara Cascudo wrote that, having been revised and adapted in each region of the country, it is no longer just a dish, but has become a complete food. Rice and beans, also present in the feijoada, and considered basic at Brazilian tables, is highly regarded as healthy because it contains almost all amino acids, fiber, and starches needed for basic human nutrition,aside the non-heme iron present in beans

Machado de Assis, poet and novelist whose work extends for almost all literary genre, is widely regarded as the greatest Brazilian writer.
Literature in Brazil dates back to the 16th century, to the writings of the first Portuguese explorers in Brazil, such as Pêro Vaz de Caminha, filled with descriptions of fauna, flora and Indigenous peoples that amazed Europeans that arrived in Brazil. When Brazil became a colony of Portugal, there was the “Jesuit Literature”, whose main name was father António Vieira, a Portuguese Jesuit who became one of the most celebrated Baroque writers of the Portuguese language. A few more explicitly literary examples survive from this period, José Basílio da Gama’s epic poem celebrating the conquest of the Missions by the Portuguese, and the work of Gregório de Matos Guerra, who produced a sizable amount of satirical, religious, and secular poetry. Neoclassicism was widespread in Brazil during the mid-18th century, following the Italian style.

The singer and actress Carmen Miranda led the samba to the world.Music is one of the most instantly recognizable elements of Brazilian culture. Many different genres and styles have emerged in Brazil, such as samba, choro, bossa nova, MPB, frevo, forró, maracatu, sertanejo, brega and axé.

Samba is among the most popular music genres in Brazil and is widely regarded as the country’s national musical style. It developed from the mixture of European and African music, brought by slaves in the colonial period and originated in the state of Bahia. In the early 20th century, modern samba emerged and was popularized in Rio de Janeiro behind composers such as Noel Rosa, Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho among others. The movement later spread and gained notoriety in other regions, particularly in Bahia and São Paulo. Contemporary artists include Martinho da Vila, Zeca Pagodinho and Paulinho da Viola.

Samba makes use of a distinct set of instruments, among the most notable are the cuíca, a friction drum that creates a high-pitched squeaky sound, the cavaquinho, a small instrument of the guitar family, and the pandeiro, a hand frame drum. Other instruments are the surdos, agogôs, chocalhos and tamborins.

Choro originated in the 19th century through interpretations of European genres such as polka and schottische by Brazilian artists who had already been influenced by African rhythms such as the batuque.It is a largely instrumental genre that shares a number of characteristics with samba. Choro gained popularity around the start of the 20th century (1880-1920) and was the genre of many of the first Brazilian records in the first decades of the 20th century. Notable Choro musicians of that era include Chiquinha Gonzaga, Pixinguinha and Joaquim Callado. The popularity of choro steadily waned after the popularization of samba but saw a revival in recent decades and remains appreciated by a large number of Brazilians. There are a number of acclaimed Choro artists nowadays such as Altamiro Carrilho, Yamandu Costa and Paulo Bellinati.

Bossa nova and MPB
Bossa nova is a style of Brazilian music that originated in the late 1950s. It has its roots on samba but features less percussion, employing instead a distinctive and percussive guitar pattern. Bossa nova gained mainstream popularity in Brazil in 1958 with the song Chega de Saudade, written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. Together with João Gilberto, Jobim and Moraes would become the driving force of the genre, which gained worldwide popularity with the song “Garota de Ipanema” as interpreted by Gilberto, his wife Astrud and Stan Getz on the album Getz/Gilberto. The bossa nova genre remains popular in Brazil, particularly among the upper classes and in the Southeast.

MPB (acronym for Música popular brasileira, or Brazilian Popular Music) was a trend in Brazilian music that emerged after the bossa nova boom. It presents many variations and includes elements of styles that range from Samba to Rock music. In the 1960s some MPB artists founded the short-lived but highly influential tropicália movement, which attracted international attention. Among those were Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Nara Leão and Os Mutantes.

Sertanejo is the most popular genre in Brazilian mainstream media since the 1990s. It evolved from música caipira over the course of the 20th century, a style of music that originated in Brazilian countryside and that made use of the viola caipira, although it presents nowadays a heavy influence from American country music. Beginning in the 1980s, Brazil saw an intense massification of the sertanejo genre in mainstream media and an increased interest by the phonographic industry. As a result, sertanejo is today the most popular music genre in Brazil in terms of radio play. Common instruments in contemporary sertanejo are the acoustic guitar, which often replaces the viola, the accordion and the harmonica, as well as electric guitar, bass and drums. Traditional acts include Chitãozinho & Xororó, Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano, Leonardo and Daniel. Newer artists such as Michel Teló, Luan Santana, Gusttavo Lima have also become very popular recently among younger audiences.

Forró and frevo
Forró and Frevo are two music and dance forms originated in the Brazilian Northeast. Forró, like Choro, originated from European folk genres such as the schottische in between the 19th and early 20th centuries. It remains a very popular music style, particularly in the Northeast region, and is danced in forrobodós (parties and balls) throughout the country.

Frevo originated in Recife, Pernambuco during the Carnival, the period it is most often associated with. While the music presents elements of procession and martial marches, the frevo dance (known as “passo”) has been notably influenced by capoeira. Frevo parades are a key tradition of the Pernambuco Carnival.

Classical music
Brazil has also a tradition in the classical music, since the 18th Century. The oldest composer with the full documented work is José Maurício Nunes Garcia, a catholic priest who wrote numerous pieces, both sacred and secular, with a style resembling the classical viennese style from Mozart and Haydn. In the 19th Century, the composer Antonio Carlos Gomes wrote several operas with Brazilian indigenous themes, with librettos in Italian, some of which premiered in Milan; two of the works are the operas Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo (The Slave).

In the 20th Century, Brazil had a strong modernist and nationalist movement, with the works of internationally renowned composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos, Camargo Guarnieri, César Guerra-Peixe and Cláudio Santoro, and more recently Marlos Nobre and Osvaldo Lacerda. Many famous performers are also from Brazil, such as the opera singer Bidu Sayão, the pianist Nelson Freire and the former pianist and now conductor João Carlos Martins.

The city of São Paulo hosts the Sala São Paulo, home of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP), one of the most outstanding concert halls of the world. Also the city of Campos do Jordão hosts yearly in June the Classical Winter Festival, with performances of many instrumentists and singers from all the world. the country by the Marquis of Pombal in the 18th century.

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