Samba-Reggae is a music genre that was created in Salvador, Bahia by Afro-Brazilians during the 1970s and 80s as an extension of the Black Pride movement. Through a mixture of Jamaican reggae and Brazilian samba, samba-reggae was born. The first bloco-afro to showcase samba-reggae was Ilê Aiyê, which was created in 1974 and was significant in returning samba to its African roots and identity while establishing a carnival parade in Salvador that Afro-Brazilians could call their own since Black Brazilians were not allowed to participate in many of the Rio samba schools for carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1979, the second bloco, Olodum, was led by Mestre Neguinho do Samba. Mestre Neguinho do Samba was also a former drum leader of Ilê Aiyê and he he eliminated the old-style hand and stick style of playing the repinique drum which now plays fast beats with two sticks like the style played in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. Following Olodum was Timbalada, which is a bloco-afro-that was directed by Carlinhos Brown who brought back the playing of the timbal drum, which was nearly extinct.
Because of these three groups, samba reggae bands such as Didá, Cortejo Afro, of course Batalá, and many others came into existence and created their own samba-reggae rhythms. Through samba-reggae (also known as Afro-Reggae), music genres such as Axé came along and until this very day samba-reggae inspires many people to create, live, and love.
Listen to the sounds and watch the images in this documentary about the birth of samba-reggae. There are no English subtitles, but the music speaks for itself.
Blocos-Afro and Afoxé groups are community organizations that reinforce pride in African heritage and culture through music and dance. Started in Salvador, the blocos also have a social and political mission focused on the upliftment of the Afro-Brazilian community.
Olodum, Ilê Aiyê, Muzenza, Malê de Balê, Filhos de Gandhy, Ara Ketu, Cortejo Afro, Timbalada, and Didá (pictured below) are among the most popular groups that have survived since the late 70s and early 80s. While the afoxés are not political, the blocos are due to their concerns with resistência cultural (cultural resistance) issues such racism in education, employment, etc. Yet at the same time, the many blocos aim to reach an international audience through its music to bring awareness of the culture and plight of Black Brazilians.
Carnaval in Bahia (Carnaval Baiano) is one of the biggest street parties in the world. Every year this carnival brings over 2 million people from all races, religions, and cultures together to its capital city, Salvador. The event lasts officially for six full days, starting on a Thursday, then follows the usual five days of carnival (from Friday to Wednesday at noon). The festival takes place throughout the city at many sites. The most famous being the Campo Grande track (in the upper part of the city), Barra-Ondina track (by the shore), and Pelourinho (the historical neighborhood). It features many different rhythms and several musical performances. The most traditional presentations are the trio elétrico parades (trucks or buses carrying musicians, instruments, and sound systems), and Afro-blocos playing samba-reggae rhythms. Estimations state that approximately 2.5 million people (1.5 million being tourists) participate in the festivities every year.
Watch members of Batala Mundo play in the bloco for Cortejo Afro in Salvador at Carnaval de 2012.