“Semba Dilema”: On Transatlantic Musical Flows between Angola and Brazil


  • Nina Baratti Harvard University




In the song “Semba Dilema”, Dom Caetano traces the intimate musical connection between Angola and Brazil back to the dramatic experience of the slave trade. To do so, the Angolan singer recalls an old and lively debate about the origins of samba, according to which the Brazilian genre would have originated from the Angolan musical style known as semba. Taking a cue from this song and a dialogue with its composer, the article explores some of the real and imagined, historical and  contemporary affinities between semba and samba. It thus resorts to historical resources and theories, and ethnographic materials that the author collected in Luanda in June and July 2018, in an attempt to eventually suggest new questions and research avenues on the study of music in the Atlantic Lusophone world.