Arts and Culture for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: April 2014


Your introduction to culture in Brazil is most likely to be a musical one; probably starting with the catchy rhythms blaring from the radio in the taxi or bus from the airport, but certainly as soon as you alight on a busy city street.  

Over the centuries, successive waves of immigrants, from all over the world have brought their own music with them to Brazil. This has then been absorbed, merged, morphed and changed into uniquely Brazilian styles; which have then been re-exported back to the rest of the world.

The most famous Brazilian style is samba; you can hear some samples of ‘traditional’ samba here. However, it is the substyle called batucada (or batacuda), usually performed by large groups of drummers, which is most likely to set your heart racing. There is a good example here. Samba and more recently batucada have become popular worldwide. You can see batucada being performed here at a festival in Hastings in the UK. Truly global music, thanks to Brazil.

On the radio in Brazil the most popular style of music you will hear is sertanejo which originated among the workers in the countryside of Brazil. It tends to feature vocalists against a background of guitars and rhythm. There is an introductory mix here.

Other Brazilian styles are the bossa nova (for a selection, listen here), and MPB (música popular brasileira) which represents the fusion of all of the above plus various other influences (for a selection, listen here).

Classical music including opera is also available in Brazil, though the main centres for it are São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. There is a useful guide to tell you what is on in São Paulo here.

Museums and Art Galleries

There are museums in Brazil to suit all tastes. Notable is the architecturally stunning Museu Imperial de Petrópolis, once the summer palace of the emperor Dom Pedro II. It is filled with antique furniture, treasure and other objects. There is a well set up virtual tour of the museum here to whet your appetite. It is also worth the 1½ hour bus ride (with one change) out of Rio de Janeiro for the views from the bus windows. At the other end of the scale is the Museu Entomológico Fritz Plaumann in Seara, Santa Catarina, which houses a collection of 80,000 examples of insect life from Brazil. There is a useful list of museums here.

São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have the best art galleries in Brazil. In Rio, the newly-opened Museu de Arte do Rio houses an excellent collection of Brazilian and international art, and the Museu de Arte Contemporanea Niteroi is definitely worth visiting, not only for the art, but also for its stunningly designed modern building with spectacular views. São Paulo holds two internationally important art fairs; the SP Arte (once a year) and the São Paulo Bienal (once every two years). It is also the home to several excellent galleries including the Museu de Arte de São Paulo which has one of the best collections of European art in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Pinacoteca do Estado which caters to more modern tastes.