Brazilian Percussion Ensemble: Samba-Reggae

March 8, 2010 11:32 am in World by Joshua Dekaney

Born in Salvador, Bahia on Brazil’s northeast coast, samba-reggae is as its name implies: a fusion of samba and reggae.   The music is both folkloric and Música Popular Brasileira (MPB).  For Carnaval bloco-afro annually parade on foot with massive percussion sections of surdos, repeniques, timbaus, and caixas. MPB artists are driven through the streets of Salvador performing on Trio Eléctrico, huge stages fixed above gigantic sound systems pulled by tractor trailers.


  • Timbalada
  • Ilê-Aiyê
  • Filhos de Gandhy (Afoxé)
  • Olodum

Música Popular Brasileira (MPB) Artists

  • Daniela Mercury
  • Caetano Veloso
  • Ivete Sangalo
  • Margareth Menezes
  • Gilberto Gil
  • Carlinhos Brown
  • Marisa Monte

In October 2009 Mestre Neguinho do Samba, the creator of samba reggae, passed away.  Mestre Neguinho leaves a legacy of samba reggae through his directing of Olodum and Ilê Aiyê and the creation of Escola Didá which provides women and children from Salvador a chance to play and continue the music.   Both a musical ensemble and a movement for social change, Olodum is most widely known to foreigners for their performances with Michael Jackson, David Byrne, and Paul Simon’s 1990 release Rhythm of the Saints.

Samba Laranja Reggae

Here is a nice arrangement dedicated to Mestre Neguinho that includes three different tempos and feels of samba-reggae.   This arrangement can be played in small or large ensemble, by doubling, tripling, etc. each part.  Feel free to open up, vamp sections for solos, and substitute with whatever sounds you have.

  1. Samba Laranja Reggae PDF
  2. Video and MP3 of this arrangement at

Texts for Brazilian Percussion Ensemble

  • Gilson de Assis.  Brazilian Percussion.  Advance Music
  • Daniel Sabonovich.  Brazilian Percussion Manual.  Alfred Music
  • Antonio Adolfo.  Brazilian Music Workshop.  Advance Music

Instrument Definitions

Surdos are double-headed large bass drums varying in size from 18”-24”in diameter and are paraded either with a shoulder or waist strap. Played with two mallets in Bahia and one mallet/one hand in Rio de Janeiro & São Paulo.  Knee pads and/or shin guards are HIGHLY recommended.

Repeniques are small double-headed tenor drums varying in size from 8”-12” in diameter.  In Bahia repeniques are most commonly worn with a waist strap, drum between your legs, and played with two long sticks. In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo a shoulder strap is the norm, placing the drum a bit higher across one side and played with one stick/one hand.

Timbau is a conical shaped hand drum of 13” to 14” that is played with the hands.  It is tuned very tight and high similar to a djembe sound, but with a plastic head.

Caixa is a snare drum usually 14″ diameter varying in depth from 2″-6 1/2″ with a waist strap.  In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo a shoulder strap is the norm, played with traditional grip, but I’ve even seen them helded by hand or on a shoulder!

A tamborim is a small single-headed frame drum, usually 6” in diameter, and is played with a light stick or a split stick for Escola de Samba in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Ganzá is also sometimes called chocalho and is a vessel shaker or rows of pandeiro jingles.

Pandeiro is the Brazilian tambourine from 8”-12” in diameter.  In the right hands it can sound like an entire section.  Check out for amazing videos on this fantastic instrument.