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Culture of Brazil

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Culture of Brazil

Cultural map of the world according to the World Values Survey, describing Brazil as high in "Traditional Values" and relatively balanced between "Survival" and "Self-Expression values", as with neighboring South American countries and some other historically Roman Catholic Western cultures.

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.[1]

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.[2] These aspects, however, were influenced by African and Indigenous American traditions, as well as those from other Western European countries.[3] Some aspects of Brazilian culture are contributions of Italian, German and other European immigrants.[4] Amerindian peoples and Africans played a large role in the formation of Brazilian language, cuisine, music, dance and religion.[4][5]

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.[6]


  • Language 1
  • Religion 2
  • History 3
  • Carnaval 4
  • Cuisine 5
  • Visual arts 6
    • Painting and sculpture 6.1
    • Architecture 6.2
  • Literature 7
  • Cinema and theatre 8
    • Theatre 8.1
  • Dances 9
  • Music 10
    • Samba 10.1
    • Choro 10.2
    • Bossa nova and MPB 10.3
    • Sertanejo 10.4
    • Forró and frevo 10.5
    • Classical music 10.6
    • Other genres 10.7
  • Popular culture 11
    • Television 11.1
    • Folklore 11.2
  • Sports 12
  • Family and social class 13
  • Beauty 14
  • Holidays 15
  • See also 16
  • References 17
  • External links 18


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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9][10] 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.[11]

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. The Society of Jesus played a large role in the formation of Brazilian religious identity until their expulsion of the country by the Marquis of Pombal in the 18th century.[12]

In recent decades Brazilian society has witnessed a rise in Protestantism. Between 1940 and 2010, the percentage of Roman Catholics fell from 95% to 64.6%, while the various Protestant denominations rose from 2.6% to 22.2%.[13]

Religion in Brazil (2010 Census)[14]
Religion Percent
Roman Catholicism
No religion


The Brazilian people have several ethnic groups. First row: White (Portuguese, German, Italian, Arab, and Japanese respectively), Ukrainian Brazilian, Polish Brazilian and Asian Brazilians. Second row: African, pardo (cafuzo, mulato and caboclo, respectively) and Indigenous (Amerindian) Brazilians.

Brazil was a colony of Portugal for over three centuries. About a million Portuguese settlers arrived during this period [15] and brought their culture to the colony. The Indigenous inhabitants of Brazil had much contact with the colonists. Many were exterminated, 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.[16]

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.[17]

Joinville, Caxias do Sul, Blumenau, Curitiba and brought important contributions to the culture of Brazil.[18][19]


The world-famous Rio Carnaval.

The Brazilian Carnaval is an annual festival held forty-six days before Easter. Carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which, adapted to Christianity, became a farewell to bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ's death and resurrection.

Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. For almost a week festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities.[20]

The typical genres of music of Brazilian carnival are: samba-enredo and marchinha (in Rio de Janeiro and Southeast Region), frevo, maracatu and Axé music (in Pernambuco, Bahia and Northeast Region)


The national dish of Brazil, feijoada, contains black beans cooked with pork, and many other elements.

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.[21] Since the colonial period,[22] the feijoada has been the country's national dish.[23][24] 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.[25] 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,[26] aside the non-heme iron present in beans (best absorbed when consumed together with vitamin C, richly present in bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges and acerola, for example).

Brigadeiro is a very popular candy in Brazilian birthday parties.

Brazil has a variety of candies that are traditionally eaten for birthday parties, like brigadeiros ("brigadiers") and beijinhos ("kissies"). Other foods typically consumed in Brazilian parties are coxinhas, churrasco, sfiha, empanadas, and pine nuts (in Festa Junina). Specially in the state of Minas Gerais, are produced and consumed the famous cheese bun. The typical northern food is pato no tucupi, tacacá, caruru, vatapá, and maniçoba; the Northeast is known for moqueca (having seafood and palm oil), acarajé (the salted muffin made with white beans, onion and fried in oil palm (dendê), which is filled with dried shrimp and red pepper), manioc, diz, hominy, dumpling, and Quibebe. In the Southeast, it is common to eat Minas cheese, pizza, tutu, sushi, stew, polenta, and masses of macaroni, lasagna, and gnocchi. In the South, these foods are also popular, but the churrasco is the typical meal of Rio Grande do Sul. Cachaça is Brazil's native liquor, distilled from sugar cane, and it is the main ingredient in the national drink, the caipirinha. Brazil is the world leader in production of green coffee (café);[27] because the Brazilian fertile soil, the country could produce and expand its market maker and often establish its economy with coffee, since the Brazilian slavery,[28] which created a whole culture around this national drink,[29][30] which became known as the "fever of coffee"[31] – and satirized in the novelty song "The Coffee Song", sang by Frank Sinatra and with lyrics by Bob Hilliard, interpreted as an analysis of the coffee industry,[32][33][34] and of the Brazilian economy and culture.[35][36][37][38]

Visual arts

Arrufos (The Spat), by Belmiro de Almeida, symbol of Brazilian realism.

Painting and sculpture

The oldest known examples of Brazilian art are [43]

Ismael Nery, Nude woman crouching , modernist work undated.

In 1816, the French Artistic Mission in Brazil created the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and imposed a new concept of artistic education and was the basis for a revolution in Brazilian painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic arts, and crafts.[44] A few decades later, under the personal patronage of Emperor Dom Pedro II, who was engaged in an ambitious national project of modernization, the Academy reached its golden age, fostering the emergence of the first generation of Romantic painters, whence Victor Meirelles and Pedro Américo, that, among others, produced lasting visual symbols of national identity. It must be said that in Brazil Romanticism in painting took a peculiar shape, not showing the overwhelming dramaticism, fantasy, violence, or interest in death and the bizarre commonly seen in the European version, and because of its academic and palatial nature all excesses were eschewed.[45][46][47] The beginning of the 20th century saw a struggle between old schools and modernist trends. Important modern artists Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral were both early pioneers in Brazilian art.[48] Both participated of The Week of Modern Art festival, held in São Paulo in 1922, that renewed the artistic and cultural environment of the city[49] and also presented artists such as Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, and Victor Brecheret.[50] Based on Brazilian folklore, many artists have committed themselves to mix it with the proposals of the European Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. From Surrealism, arises Ismael Nery, concerned with metaphysical subjects where their pictures appear on imaginary scenarios and averse to any recognizable reference.[51] In the next generation, the modernist ideas of the Week of Modern Art have affected a moderate modernism that could enjoy the freedom of the strict academic agenda, with more features conventional method, best exemplified by the artist Candido Portinari, which was the official artist of the government in mid-century.[52] In recent years, names such as Oscar Araripe, Beatriz Milhazes and Romero Britto have been well acclaimed.

The Juscelino Kubitschek bridge in Brasília, by Alexandre Chan and Mário Vila Verde


Brazilian architecture in the colonial period was heavily influenced by the Portuguese Manueline style, albeit adapted for the tropical climate. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Ouro Preto in the state of Minas Gerais contains numerous well-preserved examples of this style by artists such as Aleijadinho.[53]

In later centuries, Brazilian architects were increasingly influenced by schools from other countries such as France and the United States, eventually developing a style of their own that has become known around the world. Architects such as Oscar Niemeyer have received much acclaim, with the Brazilian capital Brasília being the most notable example of modern Brazilian architecture.[54] Niemeyer received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, and in 2006 the prize was awarded to Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha.

In recent decades, Brazilian landscape architecture has also attracted some attention, particularly in the person of Roberto Burle Marx. Some of this notable works are the Copacabana promenade in Rio de Janeiro and the Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo.[55]


Machado de Assis, poet and novelist whose work extends for almost all literary genre, is widely regarded as the greatest Brazilian writer.[56]

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.[57] 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.

Brazil produced significant works in Romanticism – novelists like Joaquim Manuel de Macedo and José de Alencar wrote novels about love and pain. Alencar, in his long career, also treated Indigenous people as heroes in the Indigenist novels O Guarany, Iracema, Ubirajara.[58] The French Mal du siècle was also introduced in Brazil by the likes of Alvares de Azevedo, whose Lira dos Vinte Anos and Noite na Taverna are national symbols of the Ultra-romanticism. Gonçalves Dias, considered one of the national poets,[59] sang the Brazilian people and the Brazilian land on the famous Song of the Exile (1843), known to every Brazilian schoolchild.[59] Also dates from this period, although his work has hatched in Realism, Machado de Assis, whose works include Helena, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, O alienista, Dom Casmurro, and who is widely regarded as the most important writer of Brazilian literature.[60][61] Assis is also highly respected around the world.[62][63]

My land has palm trees, Where the Thrush sings; The birds, that sing here, Do not sing as they do there.

Monteiro Lobato, of the Pré-Modernism (an essentially Brazilian literary movement),[65] wrote mainly for children, often bringing Greek mythology and didacticism with Brazilian folklore, as we see in his short stories about Saci Pererê.[66] Some authors of this time, like Lima Barreto and Simões Lopes Neto and Olavo Bilac, already show a distinctly modern character; Augusto dos Anjos, whose works combine Symbolistic, Parnasian and even pre-modernist elements has a "paralytic language".[67] Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade, from Modernism, combined nationalist tendencies with an interest in European modernism and created the Modern Art Week of 1922. João Cabral de Melo Neto and Carlos Drummond de Andrade are placed among the greatest Brazilian poets;[68] the first, post-modernist, concerned with the aesthetics and created a concise and elliptical and lean poetic, against sentimentality;[69] Drummond, in turn, was a supporter of "anti-poetic" where the language was born with the poem.[70] In Post-Modernism, João Guimarães Rosa wrote the novel Grande Sertão: Veredas, about the Brazilian outback,[71] with a highly original style and almost a grammar of his own,[72] while Clarice Lispector wrote with an introspective and psychological probing of her characters.[73] Nowadays, Nelson Rodrigues, Rubem Fonseca and Sérgio Sant'Anna, next to Nélida Piñon and Lygia Fagundes Telles, both members of Academia Brasileira de Letras, are important authors who write about contemporary issues sometimes with erotic or political tones. Ferreira Gullar and Manoel de Barros are two highly admired poets and the former has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize.[74]

Cordel literature is a literary genre very popular in the Northeast of Brazil; according to the poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, it is one of the purest manifestations of the inventive spirit, the sense of humour and the critical capacity of Brazilians from the interior and of the humblest backgrounds.[75]

Cinema and theatre

6th Brazil Filme Fest at The Royal, Toronto.

  • Brazilian ministry of culture (Portuguese)
  • Consulate General of Brazil in San Francisco
  • Eyes On Brazil – Brazilian Cultural Site

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See also

Date English name Portuguese name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Ano Novo/ Confraternização Universal Celebrates the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include counting down to midnight on the preceding night. Traditional end of the holiday season.
March/April (Variable) Good Friday Sexta-feira Santa Christian holiday, celebrates the passion and death of Jesus on the cross.
April 21 Tiradentes' Day Dia de Tiradentes Anniversary of the death of Tiradentes (1792), considered a national martyr for being part of the Inconfidência Mineira, an insurgent movement that aimed to establish an independent Brazilian republic.
May 1 Labor Day Dia do Trabalhador Celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement.
June (Variable) Corpus Christi Corpus Christi A national Catholic holiday which celebrates the Eucharist and the belief of the real presence of Jesus in the host.
September 7 Independence Day Dia da Independência or 7 de Setembro Celebrates the Declaration of Independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822.
First and last Sunday in October Election Day Dia da Eleição or Eleições In every 2 years, Brazilians have the obligation to vote. The first election round always happens on the first Sunday in October; if there necessary a second-round, this will happen on the last Sunday in the same October.
October 12 Our Lady of Aparecida' Day Dia de Nossa Senhora Aparecida Commemorates the Virgin Mary as Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, Patron Saint of Brazil. Also celebrated as Children's Day (Dia das Crianças) on the same date.
November 2 All Soul's Day Dia de Finados Another Christian holiday, it commemorates the faithful departed.
November 15 Republic Day Proclamação da República Commemorates the end of the Empire of Brazil and the proclamation of the Brazilian Republic on November 15, 1889.
December 25 Christmas Day Natal Celebrates the nativity of Jesus.


The idea that physical appearance can denote class, with the implication that modifications in one's physical appearance can be seen as markers of social status extends throughout Brazil. Put within a context of explicit social inequality, the link between the production of beauty and social class becomes quite evident. Brazilians place a heavy importance in beauty aesthetics; a study in 2007 revealed that 87% of all Brazilians seek to look stylish at all times, opposed to the global average of 47%.[136] The body is understood in southeastern Brazil as having a crucial aesthetic value, a value that is never fixed but can be accrued through discipline and medical intervention. This 'investment' on the body is nearly always equated with health, because a person's well being is assumed to be visible on the surface of their body. One of the most common (and harshest) expressions about beauty in Brazil is "there are really no ugly people, there are only poor people."[137]

There are marking differences between perceptions of beauty among working-class patients in public hospitals, and upper-middle class patients in private clinics. Plastic surgery is conceptualized by the upper-middle class mainly as an act of consumption that fosters distinction and reinforces the value of whiteness. In contrast, working-class patients describe plastic surgery as a basic necessity that provides the "good appearance" needed in the job market and "repairs" their bodies from the wear of their physical labor as workers and as mothers. Patients from different walks of life desire plastic surgery for different reasons.

The general attitude in Brazil toward cosmetic surgery borders on reverence. Expressions such as "the power of the scalpels," "the magic of cosmetic surgeries," and the "march toward scientific progress" are seen and heard everywhere. Whereas cosmetic surgery in the U.S. or Europe is still seen as a private matter, and one that is slightly embarrassing or at least socially awkward, in Brazil surgeries are very public matters. To have plastic surgery is to show that you have the money to afford it. In Brazil, modifying one's body through surgery is about more than just becoming more beautiful and desirable. It is even about more than showing that you care about yourself, which is a phrase in the Brazilian mass media. Surgical transformations are naturalized as necessary enhancements. Instead, modifying your body in Brazil is fundamentally about displaying your wealth. But since much is associated with race, changing one's body is also about approximating whiteness.[134] An April 2013 article in The Economist noted that "[looking white] still codes for health, wealth and status. Light-skinned women strut São Paulo's upmarket shopping malls in designer clothes; dark-skinned maids in uniform walk behind with the bags and babies. Black and mixed-race Brazilians earn three-fifths as much as white ones. They are twice as likely to be illiterate or in prison, and less than half as likely to go to university. ... The unthinking prejudice expressed in common phrases such as 'good appearance' (meaning pale-skinned) and 'good hair' (not frizzy) means many light-skinned Brazilians have long preferred to think of themselves as 'white', whatever their parentage."[135]

Brazil has more plastic surgeons per capita than anywhere else in the world.[129] In 2001, there were 350,000 cosmetic surgery operations in a population of 170 million.[130] This is an impressive number for a nation where sixty percent of the working population earns less than 150 U.S. dollars per month.[131] In 2007 alone, Brazilians spent US$22 billion on hygiene and cosmetic products making the country the third largest consumer of cosmetic products in the world.[130] 95% of Brazilian women want to change their bodies and the majority will seriously consider going under the knife. The pursuit of beauty is so high on the agenda for Brazilian women that new research shows they spend 11 times more of their annual income on beauty products (compared to UK and US women).[132] Brazil has recently emerged as one of the leading global destinations for medical tourism. Brazilians are no strangers to cosmetic surgery, undergoing hundreds of thousands of procedures a year, by all socio-economic levels as well.[133]

According to the anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin, "Beauty is constantly lived, breathed and incorporated as a social category in southeastern Brazil. The talk of beauty is pervasive in all kinds of media, from television to song lyrics, and it is a daily concern of people of all incomes and backgrounds. Remarking about a person's appearance is not only socially permissible, it is equivalent to inquiring about that person's health and showing concern for them. If a person does not look his or her best, then many Brazilians assume the person must be sick or going through emotional distress." [125] Vanity does not carry a negative connotation, as it does in many other places. The average weight of a Brazilian woman is 62 kilos (137 lbs),[126] as opposed to 75 kilos (166 lbs) in the United States[127] and 68 kilos (152 lbs) in the United Kingdom.[128]


According to the anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin, "The body is a key aspect of sociability in Brazilian society because it communicates a person's social standing. Those with the resources and time to become beautiful will undoubtedly do so. Members of the upper-middle class use the phrase 'gente bonita' or 'beautiful people' as a euphemism for the people with whom they consider it appropriate to associate oneself with. An up-and-coming locale, for instance, is not valued by its price of admission or its fare, but rather by the amount of 'gente bonita' who frequent it. The imbrication of race and class in Brazil produces this upper-middle class as normatively white, excluding a majority of the Brazilian population from beauty. Afro-textured hair is portrayed as 'bad hair', and a nose considered wider and non-European is also described as a 'poor person's nose'. The physical features that are aesthetically undesirable mark certain bodies as inferior in the relatively rigid Brazilian social pyramid, undeserving of social recognition and full citizenship within the nation... Since the body is considered to be infinitely malleable, a person who climbs the social ladder is expected to transform their body to conform to upper-middle class standards. The working class is willing to spend on beauty not as a form of conspicuous consumption, but rather because it perceives beauty as an essential requirement for social inclusion." [124]

Brazil inherited a highly traditional and stratified social class structure from its colonial period with deep inequality. In recent decades, the emergence of a large middle class has contributed to increase social mobility and alleviate income disparity, but the situation remains grave. Brazil ranks 54th among world countries by Gini index.[123]

As a society with strong traditional values, the family in Brazil is usually represented by the couple and their children. Extended family is also an important aspect with strong ties being often maintained.[121] Accompanying a world trend, the structure of the Brazilian family has seen major changes over the past few decades with the reduction of average size and increase in single-parent, dual-worker and remarried families. The family structure has become less patriarchal and women are more independent, although gender disparity is still evident in wage difference.[122]

Family and social class

IV Pan American Games in 1963,[118] and Rio de Janeiro hosted the XV Pan American Games in 2007.[118] Brazil also tried for the 4th time to host the Summer Olympics with Rio de Janeiro candidature in 2016.[119] On October 2, 2009, Rio de Janeiro was selected to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be the first to be held in South America.[120]

Football (Soccer) is the most popular sport in Brazil.[21] Many Brazilian players such as Pelé, Ronaldo, Kaká, and Ronaldinho also Neymar are among the most well known players in the sport. The Brazilian national football team (Seleção) is currently among the best in the world, according to the FIFA World Rankings. They have been victorious in the FIFA World Cup a record 5 times, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.[106] Basketball, volleyball, auto racing, and martial arts also attract large audiences. Tennis, handball, swimming, and gymnastics have found a growing sporting number of enthusiasts over the last decade. Some sport variations have their origins in Brazil. Beach football,[107] futsal (official version of indoor football),[108] and footvolley emerged in the country as variations of football. In martial arts, Brazilians have developed capoeira,[109] vale tudo,[110] and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.[111] In auto racing, Brazilian drivers have won the Formula One World Championship 8 times: Emerson Fittipaldi in 1972 and 1974;[112] Nelson Piquet in 1981, 1983, and 1987;[113] and Ayrton Senna in 1988, 1990, and 1991.[114]


Brazilian folklore includes many stories, legends, dances, superstitions and religious rituals. Characters include the Boitatá, the Boto Cor-de-Rosa, the Saci and the Bumba Meu Boi, which has spawned the famous June festival in Northern and Northeastern Brazil.[105]


Telenovelas are a marking feature in Brazilian television, usually being broadcast in prime time on most major television networks. Telenovelas are similar in concept to soap operas in English-speaking countries but differ from them in duration, telenovelas being significantly shorter (usually about 100 to 200 episodes). They are widely watched throughout the country, to the point that they have been described as a significant element in national identity and unity, and have been exported to over 120 countries.[104]

Television has played a large role in the formation of the contemporary Brazilian popular culture. It was introduced in 1950 by Assis Chateaubriand and remains the country's most important element of mass media.


The Portrait of the Saci-pererê (2007) by J. Marconi.

Popular culture

  • The mangue beat movement, originated in Recife and founded by the late Chico Science and Nação Zumbi. The music fuses elements of maracatu, frevo, funk rock and hip hop.[100]
  • Axé is a very popular genre, particularly in the state of Bahia. It is a fusion of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and is strongly associated with the Salvador Carnival.[101]
  • Maracatu is another genre originated in the state of Pernambuco. It evolved from traditions passed by generations of African slaves and features large percussive groups and choirs.[102]
  • Brega is a hard to define music style from the state of Pará, usually characterized as influenced by Caribbean rhythms and containing simple rhymes, arrangements and a strong sentimental appeal. It has spawned subgenres such as tecno brega, which has attracted worldwide interest for achieving high popularity without significant support from the phonographic industry.[103]

Many other genres have originated in Brazil, specially in recent years. Some of the most notable are:

Other genres

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.

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.

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).

Classical music

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.[99] Frevo parades are a key tradition of the Pernambuco Carnival.

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.[98]

Forró and frevo

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,[95] 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.[96] 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.[97] 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.


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.[93] 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.[94]

Bossa nova is a style of Brazilian music that originated in the late 1950s.[91] 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.[92] The bossa nova genre remains popular in Brazil, particularly among the upper classes and in the Southeast.

Bossa nova and MPB

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.[89] 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.[90] There are a number of acclaimed Choro artists nowadays such as Altamiro Carrilho, Yamandu Costa and Paulo Bellinati.


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.[88]

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.[86] 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.[87]


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.

Choro "1 x 0" ("Um a zero"), recorded by Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda. Choro (or chorinho) is a brazilian genre of instrumental music.

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The singer and actress Carmen Miranda led the samba to the world.



Theatre was not included in the 1922 Modern Art Week of São Paulo, which marked the beginning of Brazilian Modernism. Instead, in the following decade, Oswald de Andrade wrote O Rei da Vela, which would become the manifesto of the Tropicalismo movement in the 1960s, a time where many playwrights used theatre as a means of opposing the Brazilian military government such as Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, Augusto Boal, Dias Gomes, Oduvaldo Vianna Filho and Plínio Marcos. With the return of democracy and the end of censorship in the 1980s, theatre would again grow in themes and styles. Contemporary names include Gerald Thomas, Ulysses Cruz, Aderbal Freire-Filho, Eduardo Tolentinho de Araújo, Cacá Rosset, Gabriel Villela, Márcio Vianna, Moacyr Góes and Antônio Araújo.[85]

Theatre was introduced by the Jesuits during the colonization, particularly by Father José de Anchieta, but did not attract much interest until the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil in 1808. Over the course of the 18th century, theatre evolved alongside the blossoming literature traditions with names such as Martins Pena and Gonçalves Dias. Pena introduced the comedy of manners, which would become a distinct mark of Brazilian theatre over the next decades.[84]


. Alberto Cavalcanti and Eduardo Coutinho, Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles, José Padilha, Anselmo Duarte, Glauber Rocha Acclaimed Brazilian filmmakers include [83][82][81]

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