Pagode is a style of samba that really represents the feelings and expression of the “povo” (the people), as the blues did for so many years here in the United States, or rumba does for the people of Cuba. It is not a style played in a large ensemble, but rather is traditionally played in a much more intimate context, where the percussion accompanies string players, including a “cavaco” or “cavaquinho” (a small four-stringed guitar much like a ukelele), and sometimes a seven-string guitar or even a small banjo, along with vocals. As such, the percussion has to be small in both size and number, as the classic pagode group is seated around a table in an entirely acoustic setting, like a home, a bar, or a small social club. Obviously the vocals and stringed instruments need to be heard over the drums, so unless you’re in a place with a sound system, the majority of the percussion is hand held, and intentionally supportive in nature. The form of this music comes out of the older style of samba known as “partido alto,” and involves a great deal of group singing, where the lead singer goes back and forth (sometimes in a call and response, sometimes in different verses) and eventually encourages and gives way to entire group and audience participation. Check out recording artists like Fundo de Quintal, Zeca Pagodinho, and Arlindo Cruz to hear what this style sounds like. These groups can also expand to a bigger band size when moved to a stage setting, where they may add drum set, bass, and other instruments.

The instrumentation of a pagode group generally consists of a “tan-tam” and a “rebolo” (hand-held bass drums played with your hand), the “pandeiro” (similar to a tambourine), a “reco-reco” (a metal spring played with a metal scraper), and a “repique de mão” (a small metal drum played with your hands). Different groups then add other instruments depending on size, context, and style, so that you can also find a “repique de anel” (a small double-headed drum played with your hands with rings on your fingers to help make really percussive sounds), surdo, cuica, tamborim, and so forth.

Here on the site we demonstrate all these instruments, and show you how they fit together to create the ensemble mesh for the strings and vocals.