Making Samba

A New History of Race and Music in Brazil

Making Samba

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 1 map, 16 figures Published: April 2013

Author: Marc A Hertzman

Latin American Studies > Brazil, Music, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In November 1916, a young Afro-Brazilian musician named Donga registered sheet music for the song "Pelo telefone" ("On the Telephone") at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro. This apparently simple act—claiming ownership of a musical composition—set in motion a series of events that would shake Brazil's cultural landscape. Before the debut of "Pelo telephone," samba was a somewhat obscure term, but by the late 1920s, the wildly popular song had helped to make it synonymous with Brazilian national music.

The success of "Pelo telephone" embroiled Donga in controversy. A group of musicians claimed that he had stolen their work, and a prominent journalist accused him of selling out his people in pursuit of profit and fame. Within this single episode are many of the concerns that animate Making Samba, including intellectual property claims, the Brazilian state, popular music, race, gender, national identity, and the history of Afro-Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro. By tracing the careers of Rio's pioneering black musicians from the late nineteenth century until the 1970s, Marc A. Hertzman revises the histories of samba and of Brazilian national culture.


“Hertzman skillfully navigates this history, tracing it through the 20th century and taking previous accounts to task for overgeneralization and reliance on outmoded paradigms. . . . This is a fresh, and refreshing, perspective on these topics. For music historians, researchers in Afro-Brazilian music, and serious samba aficionados.” — Genevieve Williams, Library Journal

"In Making Samba, historian Marc Hertzman puts in check the myth of racial democracy by demonstrating how black musicians were marginalized and stereotyped." — Francisco Quinteiro Pires, Carta Capital

“Hertzman’s judiciously research study is not so much a history of the music of samba—or the dance, for that matter—as it is a consideration of the role of samba in shaping Brazilian national identity in the 20th century. . . . Recommended."
— R. M. Delson, Choice

“A sublime example of social history at its best. . . . Of special interest for samba enthusiasts is the magnificent, if lamentably brief, photo gallery of musicians. The book is ideal for the scholars of the music industry, Brazilian music, and the creation of popular music. With commendable English-language translations of idiosyncratic phrases, Making Samba is entirely accessible to those who are new to the Brazilian context.” — Michael Iyanaga, Ethnomusicology Review

“Marc A. Hertzman's diverse, revealing, and extensive archival research for Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil brilliantly illustrates the advantages of a wide-ranging cultural studies approach to Rio's popular music and race relations in the first half of the twentieth century…. Making Samba provides a very rich picture of popular music and the experience of black musicians in Rio between the Empire and the 1950s.” — Jack A. Draper III, Hispanic American Historical Review

"[T]his book is highly recommended for anyone interested in Brazilian culture with a focus on the following keywords: samba, race, gender, national identity, music industry, music journalism, authorship and royalty societies, as well as biographies of many outstanding musicians.”  — André Rottgeri, Popular Music

“The book’s main success is in giving breadth and new, sophisticated contexts to both overlooked and familiar voices. Hertzman is an excellent guide to the financial inequities in that business, making this the definitive history of artist organizations.” — Jonathon Grasse, History: Reviews of New Books

“Marc Hertzman’s book offers an important new perspective on the old adage that history often moves in a circular fashion…. The book stands on its own merits of thick description and neatly positions itself vis-à-vis relevant paradigms.” — Dominik Bartmanski, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“The volume is highly informative about economic matters…. Hertzman’s erudition is clear, and his mastery of the details as well.” — Tom Moore, Music Reference Services Quarterly

"Mark Hertzman's Making Samba  adopts the perspective of samba practitioners (sambistas) as professional musicians to tell a passionate and exhaustive history of Rio de Janeiro's music scene, expanding the literature on samba in a new direction.  . . . Hertzman reconstructs with great detail how sambistas composed, sold, recorded, and claimed their rights over their songs, and how they organized themselves as a professional group." — Pablo Palomino, H-Urban, H-Net Reviews

"Hertzman’s historical research and interpretations are of superior quality. He has amassed useful data and provided insightful analyses regarding the evolving conceptualizations of music, the music profession, race, and national identity in Brazil."  — Marc Gidal, Notes

"This analysis of Rio's inter-war black communities, what the author terms a 'missing middle' sandwiched between periods and places that have drawn greater scholarly attention' (6) is long overdue."  — Lisa Shaw, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

"Making Samba is revisionist history at its best. Marc A. Hertzman takes on cherished myths of Brazilian popular culture and carefully debunks them, demonstrating through pioneering research and painstaking analysis where, how, and why they were created. In addition, he illuminates the links between popular music, race, labor, and intellectual property. This should attract considerable attention; no other study of Brazil has done similar work." — Bryan McCann, author of Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil

"In Making Samba, Marc A. Hertzman narrates with great skill and clarity the complex history of Brazil's foundational musical genre. In doing so, he reveals how this celebrated, often romanticized Afro-Brazilian form emerged out of an acutely material set of social conditions and in close relation to Brazil's modern struggles over race, artistic ownership, and popular culture. By focusing in large part on the actual laboring lives of the musicians who negotiated Brazil's commercial/legal structures and technologies of circulation/dissemination, Hertzman brings alive samba's modern story while also telling a powerful tale about the music's generative cultural power. A remarkable contribution to popular music studies, suggesting compelling parallels with musical traditions to the north." — Ronald Radano, Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Samba, the quintessential 'Brazilian' musical genre, has been at the center of controversies and myths about national identity, racial democracy, and cultural authenticity for nearly a century, with each generation going over more or less the same ground. What these debates desperately needed was a fresh perspective, grounded in new and significant evidence, and that is just what Marc A. Hertzman provides in this deeply researched and cogently argued historical study. Making Samba takes the discussion of music, race, and authority to a whole new level of sophistication. Hertzman explores the changing contours of the music 'business' in Brazil, the spaces that black performers could carve out for themselves, and the costs musicians incurred when they sought to challenge existing racial, intellectual, and economic hierarchies. The result is a social and cultural history of samba that is by turns fascinating and sobering, and a book that anyone interested in questions of race, music, and nation will want to read." — Barbara Weinstein, author of For Social Peace in Brazil

"I'm looking forward to the Portuguese translation, because [Making Samba] is a significant contribution to our [Brazilians'] collective understanding of ourselves, made through an academic reading of the larger social world of samba." — DJ Carlos Silva, radio host for 98.7 Mare FM


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Marc A. Hertzman is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and Director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note about Brazilian Terminology, Currency, and Orthography ix

Abbreviations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. Between Fascination and Fear: Musicians' Worlds in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro 17

2. Beyond the Punishment Paradigm: Popular Entertainment and Social Control after Abolition 31

3. Musicians Outside the Circle: Race, Wealth, and Property in Fred Figner's Music Market 66

4. "Our Music": "Pelo telefone," the Oito Batutas, and the Rise of "Samba" 94

5. Mediators and Competitors: Musicians, Journalists, and the Roda do Samba 116

6. Bodies and Minds: Mapping Africa and Brazil during the Golden Age 146

7. Alliances and Limits: The SBAT and the Rise of the Entertainment Class 169

8. Everywhere and Nowhere: The UBC and the Consolidation of Racial and Gendered Difference 194

9. After the Golden Age: Reinvention and Political Change 227

Conclusion 244

Notes 253

Bibliography 299

Index 335

A photo gallery
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Honorable Mention, 2014 Bryce Wood Book Award (presented by the Latin Ameican Studies Association)

Honorable Mention, 2014 Woody Guthrie Book Award, presented by IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5430-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5415-4
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