Bossa nova

From Academic Kids

Bossa nova
Stylistic origins: American jazz and Brazilian samba
Cultural origins: Late 1950s beaches of Rio de Janeiro
Typical instruments:
Mainstream popularity: Major in Brazil, and also in Western Europe and the US
MPB - Tropicalia
Fusion genres
National scenes
Other topics
Bossa nova

Bossa nova is a style of Brazilian music invented in the late 1950s by a group of middle-class students and musicians living in the Copacabana and Ipanema beachside districts of Rio de Janeiro. The name is translated as "the new beat" or "the new way". In Brazil, it became well known through the record "Chega de Saudade", performed by Joo Gilberto and composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. The record was released in 1958.


Origins and history

The music derives from the samba but is more complex harmonically and less percussive. The genre is highly influenced by jazz and became massively popular in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, though its international success was limited to brief periods of popularity such as after the release of the film Black Orpheus and with Stan Getz's releases in the 1960s.

It is not consensus that bossa nova can be called a movement. However, it is recognized for its importance in Brazilian music history. It introduced complex harmonies, close relationship between lyrics and music, and a general concern for arrangement and musical form. It influenced later movements such as Tropiclia and MPB. Bossa nova repertoire consists predominantly of songs, while the instrumental music similar to it is generally called samba-jazz.

Perhaps the best known bossa nova song is Antonio Carlos Jobim's The Girl from Ipanema (A Garota de Ipanema), which is widely known in both its original Portuguese and in English translation.


Bossa nova is most commonly performed on the nylon-string classical guitar, played fingerstyle (without a pick). Its purest form could be considered unaccompanied guitar with vocals, as exemplified by Joo Gilberto. Even in larger jazz-like arrangements for groups, there is almost always a guitar that plays the underlying beat.

Though not as prominent as the guitar, the piano is another important instrument of bossa nova; Jobim wrote for the piano and performed on it for most of his own recordings. The piano has also served as a stylistic bridge between bossa nova and jazz, enabling a great deal of cross-pollination between the two.

Drums and percussion are not considered essential bossa nova instruments (and in fact the creators sought to eliminate percussion), yet there is a distinctive bossa nova drumming style, characterized by continuous eighths on the high-hat (mimicking the samba tambourine) and tapping of the rim.

Lush orchestral accompaniment is often associated with bossa nova's North American image as "elevator" or "lounge" music. While it is present, perhaps excessively, in much of Jobim's own recordings, it is rarely heard elsewhere.


Bossa nova is at its core a rhythm, and one based on the samba. Samba is in turn partially derived from European march music, and emphasis on the first beat carries through to bossa nova (to the degree that it is often notated in 2/4 time). When played on the guitar, the thumb plays the bass notes on 1 and 3, while the fingers pluck the chords in unison on 1 and 2, delayed on 3. Overall, the rhythm has a swaying rather than swinging (as in jazz) feel. As bossa nova composer Carlos Lyra describes it in his song "Influência do Jazz", the samba rhythm moves "side to side" while jazz moves "front to back".

Here is an example of a basic bossa nova rhythm as would be played on a guitar, using a C6/9 chord.

Image:Basic bossa nova guitar rhythm.PNG

In terms of harmonic structure, bossa nova has a great deal in common with jazz, in its sophisticated use of seventh and extended chords. The first bossa nova song, "Chega de Saudade", borrowed some structural elements from choro, however, later compositions rarely followed this form. Jobim often used challenging, almost dissonant melody lines, the best-known being "Desafinado" or "Off-Key".

Origin of the term "bossa nova"

Bossa Nova of course means "New Bossa", but according to Ruy Castro, author of Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World, the word "bossa" itself was "far from new" at the time of "Chega De Saudade," and had "been used by musicians since the days of yore to define someone who played or sang differently....In 1932, Noel Rosa used the word in a samba...which went O samba, a prontido e outras bossas/So nossa coisas, so coisa nossas (Samba, empty pockets and other bossas/Are our specialities." Castro writes that an editor in Brazil, Moyss Fuks, in 1958 wrote a program for a show featuring Roberto Menescal and other performers, and billed it as a "bossa nova evening." Castro writes, "The origin of the expression has never been completely clarified."

List of bossa nova artists

Other artists associated with bossa nova


  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." 1998. 2nd edition. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-545-3
  • Castro, Ruy. Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World. 2000. Chicago: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-409-9.

Related articles

External links

de:Bossa Nova es:Bossa-nova fa:بوسانوا fr:Bossa nova ko:보사 노바 nl:Bossa nova no:Bossa nova ja:ボサノバ pt:Bossa Nova tl:Bossa-nova sv:Bossanova


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools