"Mas que nada", tracing the origins of Maracatu

Have you ever listened to this beautiful Brazilian song "Mas que nada" and wondered what Maracutu means and its relation to the Samba ?

Mas que nada
Sai da minha frente
Eu quero passar
Pois o samba está animado
O que eu quero é sambar
Esse samba
Que é misto de maracatu


Follow me in this journey of the history of Maracatu ..      


The Maracatu comes from the coronation festivities created by the Portuguese for the Congolese people in Brazil. During these ceremonies the 'Congo king' was elected-only by the people of Congolese descent. This 'Congo king' had no real power, it was only a symbolic position. These ceremonies have known to have occurred  in Olinda and Recife

The dance  traditionally is followed by percussion instruments only. In the music you find strong mystic and religious elements.


With the abolition of slavery and the termination of slave kings and queens, Maracatu emerged as the musical ensemble and dance for ordinary street celebrations (in the Northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco). The festivals evolved to include dancers and a "bateria" (percussion battery).


There are 2 types of Maracatu- Maracatu Nação o Maracatu Baque-Virado, and Maracatu Rural or Maracatu Baque-Solto.

Maracatu Nação/Baque-Virado is the original ceremony and rhythm. In modern times it has became a celebration for the Three Kings and for Carnival.

Maracatu Rural/Baque-Solto originated in the second half of the 19th century in the small towns and countryside of Pernambuco. During the carnival they go on a pilgrimage from city to city and at the end they have an great encounter of Maracatu in Recife.

The groups are called nations and each one has their own unique style which gives the parade a wide variety of colors, music and dance.

The musical ensemble consists of,

Tambores ( Alfaia or Bombo ) A large drum  similar to the Surdo. Usually it is divided in 3 different sizes or tones- low, medium & high.

Chocalhos- Shakers
Caixa de Guerra & Tarol- Snares
Guonguê- It is like an agogô & it is used in some afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies.



This legacy continues today as Brazilian music is often performed in the tradition of the Maracatu. Large ensembles, rhythmic and percussion dominance, costumes, and dancers all create the atmosphere of celebration.

Since the early 1900s, Brazilian music has diversified tremendously. With the incorporation of the drum set into modern music, the role of percussionist often falls on a single individual.


Samba is the most famous Brazilian musical form. Though often thought of as one style, it actually has many variations:

  • Samba rural (rural samba)
  • Samba enredo (theme songs of samba schools)
  • Samba de roda (circle samba)
  • Samba baiana (Bahian samba)

The term Samba is derived from the West African fertility dance ("Semba") meaning "dance of the bellybutton."

Samba developed in Bahia and Rio de Janiero during the early part of the 20th century. Stemming from the tradition of the Maracatu, Samba ensembles had large percussion sections. Samba attained national popularity via Brazilian radio broadcasts in the 1930s. It attained worldwide recognition around 1940 when it became a featured musical style in several Hollywood films, most notably those starring Portuguese singer,  musician Carmen Miranda.


Here are some modern day performances of Maracatu,

"Maracatu Nação Pernambuco"

The American Band "Nation Beat" and Maracatu Estrela Brilhante


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