Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Nicholas Whelan

Mentor: Hal Mckusick


Title: From Samba to Bossa Nova


My Senior Project is about the magnificent musical culture of Brazil. Focusing on the rhythmic aspect, my project describes the transformation from Brazilian "Samba" to the very famous "Bossa-Nova". With origins that run back to the African slave trade, the music of Brazil unites all of its people, no matter what social class they belong to. By writing a historical and cultural essay and creating two original compositions, I hope to exhibit the evolution of music from a handful of religious African rhythms to the wonderful modern genre, bossa-nova.




PowerPoint Presentation


Ever since I began Jazz Band in my sophomore year, I have had an appreciation for jazz and especially bossa nova, because of the variety of percussion instruments that it usually consists of. Ever Since I was in middle school, I have had fun making songs and beats using the program Garageband. This program allows the user to compose songs by arranging notes played from built in instruments, and put the melody over built in drumbeats. It wasn’t until my freshman year that someone told me I could make this more than just a hobby. I first wanted to create a bunch of jazz compositions, but then I realized that musical theory and chord progressions are not my strongest subjects. I chose to do a bossa nova that includes a percussion breakdown, because rhythm is my strong point. I knew I would still need more help and influence to write the melodic parts of my song so I researched the artists involved in the boss nova movement in the mid 20th century. After looking through books, surfing the Internet, and watching documentaries, I realized exactly how much there was to know about bossa nova. It is a Brazilian music style and it evolved from an earlier genre known as samba. This was when I decided to include historical aspects in my product, and I felt that the best way to do this was to write an essay. My essay is called “From Samba to Bossa” and it showed the change in Brazilian popular music by chronologically examining many Brazilian music styles that influenced both samba and bossa nova. I also include the social and political effects the music had on the country, such as samba being appropriated to enforce nationalism in Brazil, and the lower and middle class split due to the different tastes of music. 

Works Cited

Behague, Gerard. "Afro-Brazilian Traditions." The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music; South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean . New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. , 1998. 342-343.

Brasil, Brasil: From Samba to Bossa. 20 Oct. 2009 <>.

Collison, Ellen. A Brief History of Choro. 04 Jan. 2010 <

Mckusic, Hal. Bossa nova Nick Whelan. 08 Oct. 2009.

Perrone, Charles A. "Popular Music of Brazil." The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music; South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Vol. 2. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998. 107-111.

Reily, Suzel Ana. "Brazil: Central and Southern Areas." Sheehy. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music; South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998. 312-317.

Schusterman, Michelle. The Music of Candomble and Afoxe; African Religion and Rhythms in Indigenous Brazilian Music. 15 Jul. 2009. 20 Nov. 2009 <

Thompson, Daniella. Joao Gilberto is bossa nova. 04 Jan. 2010 <>.

Community Member (Details)

Sophia Kobolakis – Music Teacher, Music Composer