Hey African music fans!

My name is Catherine Barnes, and I’ll be contributing a series of articles to this blog on Angolan semba and Brazilian samba. I’m a percussionist and armchair ethnomusicologist fascinated by all rhythms African and of the African diaspora. I recently returned from studying samba in Rio de Janeiro, which is also where I encountered Angolan semba music for the first time. I became interested in the similarities and differences in the two styles, and what better place to explore them than here at Akwaaba Music?

Angolan semba and Brazilian samba share a common ancestor: the massemba dance from central Angola. Known as umbigada, or “belly-bumping” in Portuguese, the dance is characterized by a hip thrust meant to mimic the act of procreation. (source)

Here’s a Brazilian umbigada group performing at the First Forum in Defense of Popular Traditions in Piracicaba, Brazil:

Now check out this recent video of couples dancing semba in Luanda, Angola. Notice the “belly-bumping” movements at 1:40.

Although samba is usually danced without a partner, samba da gafieira, or ballroom samba, has become very popular, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Seu Jorge even featured it in the video for his hit song “Carolina” :

Keep checking back for more information on the similarities and differences between Angolan semba and Brazilian samba!