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Brazilian Samba drumming

Brazil is famous for the carnival festivals where thousands parade the streets of the Rio De Janeiro dancing to raucous samba rhythms. Samba's interlacing rhythms are made up of several different drums. Each year, the different samba schools will develop a unique samba style in a sort of competition.

Underlying the samba rhythm is the Surdu, a large bass drum that keeps an even pace as if it were meant to walk to. Two Surdu are tuned to different notes and emphasize the downbeats of the measure. A third Surdu (sometimes referred to as a "cutter") will play rhythms between the first two Surdu beats that are distinct to individual samba styles.

Eduardo Mendonca is pictured left playing the Timbal. This drum has a conical shape like an ashiko. But like all of the Samba drums, it is made of very light material so that it can be carried as the samba schools parade through the streets for hours on end. It has a deep bass tone and a light treble tone that is created by striking the rim.

There are several varieties of caixa drum. The caixa that has metal snares is called the Caixa de Guerra (war drum) and is very similar to typical snare drums in tone. These are played with drumsticks in a similar fashion to marching drums. It is sometimes held on the shoulder to project the sharp rhythm over the crowds of dancing paraders.

The pandeiro is a kind of tambourine (by the common American usage of the word) that has a single head with jingles around the rim that accentuate the strikes.

The tambourim is a small frame approximately five inches around with a plastic head. It is struck with a plastic stick, sometimes several small sticks bound together, to create a high pitch crack that syncopates accents to the overall rhythm, usually on offbeats.

If you visit Salvador do Bahia region of Brazil, you are likely to see dozens of groups playing Samba Batucada (large marching band style samba). While in the main squares, small groups gather to play pandeiro and caixa along with guitar accompaniment while the group sings popular samba tunes.

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