Great Brazilian Music


A very peculiar music style that developed hundreds of years ago in northeastern Brazil is repente (sometimes also called cantoria or desafio), whose original roots can be traced way back to the medieval European troubadour culture. Repente is based entirely on the singer's ability to improvise in terms of text and melody and is presented as a kind of verbal martial arts match between two different singers, called “repentistas”. If the repente artist has a good sining voice or not makes absolutely no difference at all, as what matters is the ability to quickly come up with fast and clever rhymes to impress and entertain the audience and “defeat” the opponent. Thus, to its format, repente is very similar to modern rap music. Some music historians have actually even put forward the thesis that repente was one of the main sources of inspiration when North American rap music was first created, just like capoeira was the source of inspiration when break dance was invented in the US during the 1980's. However, despite the obvious similarity between them, there is no proven direct line between repente and modern rap music.

In most cases, repente songs have satirical or humorous lyrics, and the duels often involve a competition where the purpose is to cleverly sling rhymed “insults” at the opponent, with as much finesse as possible. The capacity of many repentistas to, at truly ferocious pace, improvise and come up with these rhymes can indeed be jaw dropping. The rhymes of the repentistas is usually not accompanied by any instrument. Although most repentistas are men, female repente are not at all uncommon.

A different form of repente is the embolada, which can also be considered a subgenre of coco music. The embolada is accompanied by a ganzá and/or a pandeiro, someties presented by one lone singer, instead of taking the form of a duel.