What’s Bossa Nova?

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Bossa-nova originated in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s, inspired by jazz and samba. It was associated with the wealthy and listening to it became more popular than dancing. The dance features undulating movements and is flexible for beginners. Classic songs focus on beaches, women, and love. The music includes samba-like drum beats and is often played on guitar or piano.

Bossa-nova, loosely translated, means “fashionable charm”. This style of music dates back to the late 1950s in the upscale beach areas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The music originates from samba, but is still very different from it, as bossa-nova has a great deal of inspiration from jazz. The term refers to a dance as well as music, but eventually music became more popular for listening than for dancing.

Many people prefer listening to bossa nova sounds rather than dancing to them. Some people even claim that North America has tried to turn South American music into a dance craze. There was a brief bossa nova craze from about 1960 to 1965 in the United States, and some groups still dance it today. The dance features undulating movements and has some samba and rumba steps. A signature of the dance is the stillness of the body, except for the gentle sway of the hips as the knees are bent.

Bossa nova allows dancers to add their own steps to match the rhythm. Waltz or fox-trot steps can also be used with dance if they are short, smooth slides. This flexibility makes it an easy dance for beginners to learn.
While samba began as working-class music, bossa-nova was associated with the wealthy. The song “The Girl from Ipanema” remains as the best known examples of this genre. Most of the classic bossa nova songs deal with the themes of beaches, women and love. The genre began in the Brazilian areas of Ipanema Beach and Copacabana.

Bossa-nova music includes samba-like drum beats, although samba usually has more percussion. It is often played on a classical guitar and sometimes the piano. In the late 1960s the genre became more political in content, giving it more samba-like qualities.

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