Since we are not certain of samba’s exact origin, two main schools of thought concerning it exist. The first maintains that samba is simply of African origin evolving from batuque, a music based on percussion instruments and hand clapping, which could also be related to “Kusamba,” the Ngangela word that means to skip. In the Angolan fertility rite known as “sembra,” navels bounce together. So it, too, could have been a forerunner to Brazilian samba. Umbigada, a ritual performed in a circle in which each dancer is designated to thrust a hip, is also another possibility. The second school conveys the idea that samba is a product of the streets of Rio de Janeiro where Portuguese courtly songs, African rhythms, and fast Indian footwork all come together. (Krich, Music, untitled)
Until the mid 18th century most Brazilian music remained mainly folkloric and anonymous. The lundus and modinhas, sentimental songs, of Domingos Caldas Barbosa are the first examples that we have of the popular music of Brazil. In 1835 the German artist Rugendas depicted a lundu, a sensual forerunner of the samba, as being danced by not only slaves, but also by white middle class people as well.(The Roots of Brazilian Music: Part I)
1838 is the first time that the word “samba” appears in print as a Portuguese word. In “O Carapuceiro” Father Lopes Gama uses it to mean both a rhythm and a dance. However, it does have other related meanings. As a verb, “semba” a word in various West African Bantu languages, could mean to pray or invoke the spirits of ancestors or of the gods in the African pantheon. As a noun, it could mean a complaint, a cry, or something like “the blues.” In Brazil, a Samba is a sacred female dancer, as well as being a religious ceremony which is characterized by the rhythm and choreography of the batuque from Angola. (Brazilian Music: Samba)
Once again we sense the theme of sadness or melancholy in the musical form known as, “choro” from the Portuguese for weeping. Early choro groups usually consisted of two guitars and a cavaquinho. It was called the music of the barbers because the slave musicians who played it were usually trained as barbers as well. The flute, the clarinet and the mandolin were added to later groups. In the Rio style of the 1870s, the choro was primarily instrumental and featured one or more soloists. The groups usually performed European style dance music such as the waltz or the polka. Many times choro groups played in private homes or in botequins, the equivalent of French bistros. (The Roots of Brazilian Music: Part II)
The lundus and maxixe, rhythms that evolved out of plantation work songs were banned by white society. They were, however, popular at Bahía dance parties of the 1870s.