word lambada refers both to the rhythm - a fusion of Carimbó
and merengue - and to the dance, which incorporates elements
of forró, samba, merengue and Maxixe (the 19th century
Brazilian dance which was a tremendous success in Europe).
The dance is sexy,
yes, but it is danced by all kinds of people, of all
ages and sexes, without the "dirty" connotations
given to it by very bad Hollywood movies. It's very graceful,
fast-paced, and believe me, when you have to move your
feet and body that fast on the dance floor without tripping
all over yourself and falling on the dance floor, the
LAST thing on your mind is sex...Anyway, the rhythm originated
in the Amazon, was later adopted by Bahians, who proceeded
to create the steps...and the rest is history!
This is a quite interesting story since
it is made of lots of contemporaneous tales. It's quite
difficult to get the same one version from anybody since
everyone seems to pull out the thing to it's own flavor.
I had the fine opportunity
to start dancing around Brazil very before the explosion
of the so called Lambada, hence I had the chance to follow
the ascension and decline of this rhythm in Brazil and
in other countries.
I have been in Pará
(this is the Brazilian 2nd greatest state located at the
north part of the country, very near to the south Caribbean
isles with a local and secular typical style of culture,
food and dancing) and other states down the north-eastern
coast of Brazil ending at the Bahia state, researching
for this story throughout.
Hence I couldn't resist
and wrote these lines to you...
- The "CARIMBÓ"
Since the time Brazil
was a Portuguese colony (which happened between year 1500
a.d. till 1822 a.d.) there was a common dance in the north
part of the country called Carimbó. It was a loose
and very sensual dance in which the woman tried to cover
the man with many spins and rounded skirts. The music was
played mainly among beats of drums made of trunks of wood,
thinned by fire.
As time passed by,
the dance changed as did the music itself. It had many
influences from the Caribbean music due to its geographical
proximity, and a reminder of this is that even today one
can listen to Caribbean radio stations when at some north
states of Brazil like the Amapá state. This strong
relation also generated some new rhythms like the Sirimbó
and the Lari Lari, and so it changed forever the way the
Carimbó was danced.
The NAME and
After a while, a local
radio station from Belém (Pará's capital
city) started to call these new type of music as "the
strong beated rhythm" and "the rhythms of Lambada"
(Lambada is another word in local language for a strong
hit). This last name "Lambada" had a strong appeal
and began to be associated with this new emerging face
of an old dancing style.
Then the Carimbó
dance started once more to be danced in couples, in a 2-beat
style, something very close to the Merengue, but with
many spins. I once danced this kind of music back in
1983, in Belém and Macapá (Amapá's
capital city). I also bought some LPs from a guy called
Pinduca, who is a very well known singer at the north
of Brazil for it is strongly believed he is the true
father of Lambada, although he never got to be known
The fusion between
the metallic and electronic music from Caribean brought
again a new face to the Carimbó, which started to
be played throughout the north-eastern region of Brazil
(a place well known for its tourist approach), although
this new Carimbó
went with the name of Lambada.
FROM BAHIA - The 1ST BOOM
As the Lambada traveled
through the coast until reaching Bahia (the elder Brazilian
state) it started to receive some influences from the Forró
dance (another strong beated and old Brazilian style of
dance), and finally it became a 4-beated dancing style,
in which we can definitely say it was different from the
The way of dancing
this Lambada was with arched legs, and the steps were done
from one side to the other, and never from front to back.
This was also the time in which the tight skirts fashion
were up, and both things (the dance and the fashion) got
too close to one another. Still today, at some places like
the Lambar (a night club in Sao Paulo) this match of a
girl in a tight skirt and a man in long trousers still
has it appeal on an outdoor.
During these years
the Carnival from Bahia was beginning to increase in popularity,
and so every summer a new kind of dance aroused, only to
disappear during the year due to lack of tourists, and
the arising of another dancing style and rhythm on the
following summer. A few years before the Lambada, we had
the Fricote and the Ti-Ti-Ti among others dances, which
truly disappeared to never be remembered anymore.
Among with the "Trio-eletricos"
(Big movable trucks covered with speakers, on top of which
musicians play during the Carnival in Bahia) the Lambada
started to become popular in Bahia, and established itself
in the city of Porto Seguro. Still, in this first boom
of the Lambada, the south-east region (the most economical
evolved region of Brazil) despised the rhythms which
came from Bahia on a regular base (those were believed
to be only summer hits).
It is worth to mention
that there is a tale concerning about a prohibition to
dance Lambada long ago, back to the 30's, but that is solely
a plain confusion. What really became forbidden was a dance
called Maxixe because of its spicy lyrics and movements.
What really happened to Lambada was that in its peak it
was mistaken for something of pornography, by people who
knew nothing about the dance itself and tried to make "news
out" over something which, at best, was a sensual
way of dancing. The funniest part of all this, is that
many years later, nowadays, there are some really-sexual
related dances like the "dança da garrafa",
like many other ones, and people don't seem to bother anymore
about it. (The "dança da garrafa" is a
kind of dance in which the woman goes alone, dancing and
crouching down over straight up bottle, trying to get the
closer she can with her sex to the top of the bottle without
Although it was recognized
to have became a summer-fever, the Lambada was far away
from having its true world-wide success. The many first
lambaterias (a place to dance Lambada) which opened couldn't
stand the low tourism of the winter station and all of
them closed a few months later, but this wasn't the end...
Meanwhile in Brazil
the Lambada was being buried at winter, some people at
Europe had other plans for it.
At the end of that
very summer, a couple of French business man came to Brazil
and bought the musical rights of something like 300 lambada-music.
They went back to France, and created the Kaoma Band, boosted
up some serious bucks on Marketing, turning Lambada a world-wide
known style, reaching even the far east of Japan in which
Lambada is danced until nowadays.
THE 2ND BOOM
The world-hit was so
strong that brought something almost unbelievable: it came
back to Brazil, but this time at the economically evolved
south-east region (a region on which decades over, Brazil
imported foreign music). This re-insertion of Lambada changed
the way people danced, and for the first time in more than
30 years since the Beatles, young couples started to dance
together once more. If today we in Brazil have thousands
of Ballroom dancing schools, a web-list, and plenty young
happy people dancing together, we owe it to Kaoma's international
This second wave I
call the 2nd Lambada Boom. This was a far greater happening
which let us with strong new marks on our culture. Besides
the fact that young people came back to the Ballroom dancing,
the Lambada became internationally known as much as the
A funny irony on this
story is that the world most known Lambada music: "Chorando
se foi" (which means: the one who left crying) is
in fact a Bolivian music called "Llorando se fue"
(which has the same meaning). At the cover of that Bolivian
album, the title was Lambada, and here goes another tale:
that Lambada had its origin in Bolivia, which definitely
is a great mistake.
With world repercussion,
the dance reached far distortions. Due to a lack of fine
Lambada dancers to make films and shows, most professional
dancers started changing the way it was danced. Rock spins
and steps were added (like those from Jive and East coast
swing) , and also some acrobatic movements became more
Just to make a point,
I myself remember to have watched to a Lambada contest
"Lambateria UM" (a place of Lambada) in which
the contestants were to be eliminated if ever they became
separated during the dance.
Among with the Lambada
music playing in every radio station, some musician tried
to follow the trend and recorded some songs who became
real hits. Some of these guys were like Sidney Magal and
de Belém. Soon enough although, these well-known
singers showed themselves as just a few guys wanting to
make some easy money and were forgotten as a reference
on Lambada music.
AND THE NEW MUSIC
After these up's &
down's the Lambada composers were starting to fade away.
The music and dance lost its strength, and let hordes
of millions of fans all over the world helpless.
Some very resistant
dancers started to use other music styles to keep on dancing
this so early discovered pleasure before it died forever.
This way, people gathered
the habit of using many of the Caribbean music like Soca,
Merengue, Salsa and Zouk to dance the Lambada. (During
that time...) There was also another band which sold plenty
discs in Brazil associated with Lambada: the Rumba band
called The Gipsy Kings.
Finally the dance recovered
most of its original way and style, with less acrobatic
moves, smoother, intimate and closer contact. Unfortunately
as stated by some people like Israel Szerman (a Brazilian
teacher), nowadays the dance changed its name to Zouk (on
most parts of Brazil), mainly because of our orphanage.
After all, I inquire
myself whether it is indeed so wrong the dance should now
be called Zouk. One way or the other Zouk is a kind of
step-father or even an adoptive-father to our Lambada dancing
This issue seems to
philosophical to me. The main purpose on bringing this
text to you is to contribute on a history which I had the
luck and opportunity to live along, and so try to record
the truth as it did really happen.
Happy shall be the
people whose country has a so rich culture in which one
can choose its own national rhythm.
And even happier shall
be the people who can take care of its own culture as it
shall never die.
A great hug to all "Lambadeiros"
Chico Peltier -
Sao Paulo - Brasil
Translated by Claudio Falcao of Rio de Janeiro