Distant Cousins We Love Samba and lambada.

In the ever-expanding dance universe there are family trees. Dances originating from communities with common ancestry share certain traits. Some, like salsa, have similarities to Cuban dances such as mambo, pachanga, and rumba. Cha-cha, also from Cuba, originates from danzón-mambo. Mambo, much older than these two, finds its roots in an older dancing discipline: danzón. Most dances with their origin stories in Cuba can trace their dance DNA back to Africa. Since all of them have, at their core, some form of common rhythm, being proficient at one enables a relatively smooth and quick translation of steps which allows a dancer’s feet to speak another language on a dance floor.

While The Salsa Club only offers salsa, bachata, cha-cha, and merengue dance classes, it, like any consummate dance citizen, appreciates the energy found in other dancing disciplines. Two of Brazil’s aural exports, samba and lambada, are particular musical delicacies.

Samba also known as samba urbano carioca originated in the early part of the 20th century in Rio De Janeiro. Developed by Afro-Brazilian communities living in Rio, its roots come Angola and Brazilian folk traditions. Originally, the word “samba” meant “popular dance”. However, over time, its meaning has been extended to encapsulate the particular dance style as well as the genre of music.

Modern samba, as a musical genre, emerged in the late 1920s in the Estácio neighbourhood of Rio. Spread by commuter rail, and imbued with novel rhythmic experimentations and a fast tempo, it quickly spread across the city. It is now regarded as one of Brazil’s cultural phenomenons. The dance style—quick, expressive, and energetic—has become so representative of Brazil that it is even used to describe the country’s national football team’s playing style: samba football. With notable sambistas (samba artists) such as Donga, Ismael Silva, Heitor Dos Prazeres, Noel Rosa, and Carmen Miranda playing an instrumental role in its formulation and popularisation, samba would go on to develop various offshoots, the most notable being bossa nova.

Lambada, also from Brazil, traces its beginnings to Pará. Adopting aspects from dances like salsa, merengue, and forró, it gained international fame in the 1980s. A partner dance, it involves pairs of dancers stepping from side to side, turning or swaying, and places great emphasis on hip movement. The word “lambada” means “strong slap” or “hit” in Portuguese—numerous music historians suggest the word is more closely associated with the wave-like motion of a whip that lambada dancers mimic.

The music genre reached its peak in 1989 when Kaoma, a French-Brazilian group recorded “Lambada”—the song’s video, filled with images of young dancers having fun, became popular worldwide and helped to spread the dance to places such as the Philippines and Vietnam where it remains popular. In the 1980s, when short skirts were becoming fashionable for women, lambada was enjoying its high point—thanks to Kaoma’s music video and the party culture that accompanied lambada it became commonplace to associate the dance with what was then a racy fashion trend.

One of the benefits of dances sharing numerous similarities is having an endless catalogue of music genres to dance to. As various dances continue to spread and evolve, new rhythms and trends emerge allowing dancers to continuously invent and interpret steps, movements, and patterns, all the time finding new ways of becoming more in tune with the music.

Samba and lambada might not incorporate the same footwork or styling as salsa, but as distant dance cousins, The Salsa Cup appreciates them nonetheless and dedicates this playlist featuring the likes of Carrapicho, Gloria Estefan, Grupo Arruda, Kaoma, and Sergio Mendes to them.

Festa De Um Povo — Carrapicho

Magalenha — Sergio Mendes

Berenice — Grupo Arruda

Samba — Gloria Estefan

Lambada — Kaoma