While reading Geografia Carioca do Samba on Google Books, I started to wonder what makes pagode different from samba. Below are two slightly different views.
Previously seen as a sub-genre of samba, pagode can be considered a sub-product, with essentially commercial interests. Pagode can even be considered a ramification of samba, but not exactly a style of making samba.
Getting directly to the point, pagode isn’t – or shouldn’t be, in my humble opinion – a designation of a musical (sub-)genre. Pagode is a word that comes from centuries ago designating, generally, animated parties by common folk, with music, drinks and food. If you did “hi-fi” when you were young, you were basically promoting a pagode – even if there was no samba, do you see the difference? And it’s with this theme that pagode became popular as a common folk party. A genuine component of popular culture. By the people, for the people.
Samba is another word that has definitions related to happiness, parties, and – of course – music. To have an idea, throughout the country, samba has different names, compliments, basic instruments and musical characteristics, just like pagode. But, even with all the regional differences, samba is still one thing and pagode is another. Samba is something musical and pagode is a type of party. You wouldn’t say you’re going to a funk or a rock. To frequent a place doesn’t mean its name becomes a musical genre. Perhaps, a musical style, but then it becomes completely different because the commercial part comes into play.
In Rio de Janeiro, with the popularization of partido alto groups from the 1970s to the 80s, everything that was done and said in respect to samba was projected nationally – and even internationally. Being so, it was logical that the financial return would awaken commercial interests. Rarely does something popular not become profitable. But, the popularization of the term pagode started to confuse anyone not paying attention but not to the point of not being able to be maneuvered in order to attract capital. Soon, whether samba or pagode, it started to sell well and if the term being spread to designate animated samba parties were “pararatimbum”, today you would call various people “pararatimbunzeiros”. Would that be cool? Funny, surely. The strange thing was to hear that for a bunch of people – through enthusiasm or lack of knowledge – were calling samba and pagode the same thing. And music collections are still being launched with the title “samba & pagode” in the style of “throw everything into the same package and sell it to a bunch of people”.
So, the basic idea – while not trying to define a vast culture in just a few words – is this:
Samba: It’s a musical genre that, even with all the transformations that it’s gone through, still exists and is admired. The difference is just a question of taste. There are older people who don’t see any problem in adding new elements (for example, the notorious cliché of putting a rapper in the middle of the song to give it an air of “garotada papo firme“) without losing the direction of the basic elements that made samba into a culture, and not just a jumble of songs to listen to at parties.
Pagode: This term is where the confusion starts, because initially it was the name for parties, animated get-togethers with drinks, food and samba, or other popular genres, mostly in rural areas. There is also a version that says pagode was this type of party, but made by blacks in the slave quarters. It also designates a song – as a commercial product (since the picturesque 1990s, when the romantic style proliferated). We still have the term “pagode” which points towards a song that is individually sung, ie “I’m going to do a pagode”. It’s a way of speaking, referring to a song that one sings and plays at this type of party. Pagode was already being incorporated as a type of song, which only needed a little push to become industrialized.
The curious thing is that with one meaning or another, it’s always used in a pejorative sense, due to referencing the attitude of common folk. And, incredible as it may seem, a lot of people end up distancing themselves so they don’t look bad. – Source (PT)
Pagode and samba are sub-genres of Brazilian music in constant conflict. Is pagode a branch of samba? There are those that would say one has nothing to do with the other. To understand the relationship between them, Samba em Rede selected publications in which two music researchers talk about the origin of pagode and its transformations.
According to Brazilian music historian José Tinhorão, in an interview conceded to Roda Viva, says that he discovered the word pagode in a play by Portuguese playwright and writer Jorge Ferreira de Vasconcelos (1515 – 1585), with the meaning of a place where one goes to play around and make music.
He explains that the term “pagode” reappears in Brazil in the 1960s, nominated as a rhythm made on the guitar in a slightly accelerated manner. Simultaneously, in Rio de Janeiro, pagode groups arise who intended to make a type of samba de partido alto, with a chorus of two verses. Pagode nowadays, however, transformed into a diluted samba, without substance, made to sell by a cultural industry in the area of popular music
Researcher Euclides Amaral says in his book “Alguns aspectos da MPB” that pagode appears in Rio at the end of the 1970s and the start of the following decade, as a type of spontaneous manifestation of samba players in several places throughout the suburbs. As an example of this, he cites the famous Carnival group Cacique de Ramos.
“At the front lines of this movement, even if some people don’t recognize the importance, are Almir Guineto, Zeca Pagodinho, Fundo de Quintal, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Jorge Aragão, Mauro Diniz, Luiz Carlos da Vila and Nei Lopes (…). Pagode is more a form under which samba ‘reappears’ (…) and basically has two branches: one more connected to partido alto and the other, more well-known as ‘commercial pagode’.
Commercial pagode, a mix of jovem guarde with tambourine in the background, was a phenomenon in Brazil that sold millions of discs by certain groups and artists, principally from Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio. The compositions – perhaps those that generated controversy when the debate is the difference between samba and pagode; is that they are “of a low melodic quality with watered-down, primarily poetic lyrics.” – Source (PT)