Shaw, Lisa 1966-

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SHAW, Lisa 1966-


Female. Born 1966. Education: University of Salford, B.A. (honors; Hispanic studies, French); University of Liverpool Institute of Latin American Studies, Ph.D.


Office—Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, England. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Leeds, Leeds, England, senior lecturer in Portuguese. Visiting lecturer at University of California, Los Angeles, 1999.


The Social History of the Brazilian Samba, Ashgate Publishing (Brookfield, VT), 1999.

(With Stephanie Dennison) Popular Brazilian Cinema, 1930-2001, University of Manchester Press (Manchester, England), 2004.

Contributor to scholarly journals and associated publications.


With Stephanie Dennison, writing Contemporary Latin American Popular Culture, for ABC-CLIO, Latin American Cinema: Modernity, Gender and Nationhood, for McFarland, and Brazilian National Cinema for Routledge.


Lisa Shaw, a professor of Portuguese at Leeds University and a specialist in Brazilian civilization and popular culture, examines the sociopolitical history of popular Latin dance music in The Social History of the Brazilian Samba. Matthias Rohrig Assuncao, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, called Shaw's work an analysis of "the interaction between class, 'race,' and state intervention in the emergence of samba between 1930 and 1945." Shaw begins with an examination of the origins of samba in the Congolese and Angolese round dances, called batiques, that were popular among enslaved Africans in colonial Brazil.

"As a distinct musical form, samba developed within the lower-class Afro-Brazilian community of a rapidly growing Rio de Janeiro in the early part of the twentieth century; it was here that samba became intrinsically linked to Carnaval," observed Larry Crook in Notes. Samba became a means of urban folk expression in the hillside slum areas of Rio and evolved into a form of popular music when Rio's music industry began to develop. "Shaw is best when analyzing samba lyrics as historical documents and providing insights into their social and political contexts," Crook remarked. "She shows that the lyrics of samba in the twenties, thirties, and forties dealt with two main themes: the malandro (a black hustler) and women and love affairs." Early samba music glorified the malandro's "easy-going way of life, exploitation of women, and aversion to work," as well as an affinity towards crime, noted Samuel Araujo in Latin American Music Review, while women occupied "an ambiguous role between the devoted lover and despicable cheater."

With these themes as background, Shaw explores in depth the lyrics and careers of three prominent samba writers and musicians. Shaw presents "a competent and meticulous analysis of these lyrics, ground which few scholars have explored in such detail" in other works, Assuncao remarked. One writer, Ataulfo Alves, came from a humble background but associated with a higher class crowd as a musician. In doing so, however, he willingly altered his lyrics to be more acceptable to a middle-class audience. Alves also abandoned the "streetwise spiv style" he had acquired from a malandro he knew while growing up, Assuncao noted. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Ari Barroso, a white, middle-class composer who sought to infuse his lyrics with a type of stylized black speech, which was at best artificial and which symbolized the efforts by the government to influence popular Brazilian culture. The most successful of the three lyricists, Noel Rosa, drew from the slang of shanty towns as well as the speech of Brazil's educated middle class to create a sophisticated, original amalgam of the two ends of Brazilian culture. Rosa "was perhaps Brazil's most gifted popular composer of all time," Crook remarked.

Complicating the works of the sambistas was the rise of Getulio Vargas's political regime in 1930. Vargas wielded official censorship and used it to co-opt popular culture and employ it as a state propaganda tool. In particular, he attempted to alter samba lyrics and music to promote a state-approved nationalistic ideology and to encourage adopting the newfound work ethic supported by the regime. The malandro regenerado (reformed malandro) took the place of the traditional malandro, encouraging hard work rather than debauchery and leisure. Although Shaw noted that "songwriters could receive considerable commercial rewards" by adhering to the party line of the regime, Vargas's policies were not always successful at remolding samba to fit his propaganda purposes. Rosa, for example, was steadfastly anti-authoritarian and was unwilling to conform to the limitations on samba music and popular culture imposed by the Vargas regime.

Crook concluded that The Social History of the Brazilian Samba is "an informative introduction to the development of commercial samba in the period 1930-45." The book's greatest value is found in Shaw's "extensive commentary on the lyrics balanced with her sensitive attention to the political, social, and cultural contexts [in] which they were written."



Latin American Music Review, fall-winter, 2000, Samuel Araujo, review of The Social History of the Brazilian Samba, pp. 241-246.

Notes, June, 2000, Larry Crook, review of The Social History of the Brazilian Samba, p. 955.

Times Literary Supplement, January 7, 2000, Matthias Rohrig Assuncao, "From Samba to Salsa," p. 10.*