Music and Literature


The music of Brazil was formed mainly from the fusion of European and African elements. Until the nineteenth century, Portugal was the gateway to most of the influences that built Brazilian music, although many of these elements were not of Portuguese origin, but in general European. The first was José Mauricio Nunes García, author of sacred pieces influenced by Viennese classicism. The main contribution of the African element was the rhythmic diversity and some dances and instruments that played a more important role in the development of popular music and people, which flourished especially in the 20th century.

Popular music since the late eighteenth century began to show signs of forming a characteristic Brazilian sound, with samba considered the most typical and in the list of UNESCO’s cultural heritage. Maracatu and Afoxê are two Afro-Brazilian musical traditions that have been popularized by their appearance in the annual Brazilian carnivals. The sport of capoeira is usually played with its own music known as capoeira music, which is generally considered a type of popular call and response music. Forró is a popular type of popular music during the Junina Festival in northeastern Brazil. Jack A. Draper III, a professor of Portuguese at the University of Missouri, argues that Forró was used as a way to subdue feelings of nostalgia for a rural lifestyle.

The choro is a very popular instrumental style of music. Its origins are in the nineteenth century in Rio de Janeiro. Despite the name, the style often has a fast and happy rhythm, characterized by virtuosity, improvisation, subtle modulations and full of syncopation and counterpoint. Bossa nova is also a well-known style of Brazilian music developed and popularized in the fifties and sixties. The phrase “bossa nova” literally means “new trend”. A lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova gained a large following since the 1960s.


Brazilian literature goes back to the sixteenth century, to the writings of the first Portuguese explorers in Brazil, such as Pêro Vaz de Caminha, with descriptions of fauna, flora and comments on the indigenous population that fascinated European readers.

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 the Indians as heroes in the indigenist novels O Guarani, Iracema and Ubirajara. Machado de Assis, one of his contemporaries, wrote in virtually every genre and continues to gain international prestige from critics around the world.

Brazilian Modernism, evidenced by the Week of Modern Art in 1922, was concerned with avant-garde nationalist literature, while postmodernism brought a generation of different poets such as João Cabral de Melo Neto, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinicius de Moraes, Cora Coralina, Graciliano Ramos, Cecília Meireles and writers of international renown who deal with universal and regional themes such as Jorge Amado, João Guimarães Rosa, Clarice Lispector and Manuel Bandeira.