For Those Who Love Lambada & Zouk



For those who love Lambada and Zouk

Many people believe that lambada – both music and dance – are products of the Caribbean culture. Others believe that “lambada” and“zouk” are different words used for the same rhythm and dance.  But that is not true.  To understand how the lambada appeared we need to know more and separate music from dance in this big boiler of rhythms.


“The Caribbeans” and the Lambada

Instead of Caribbean, maybe it would be better to call that region“The Caribbeans”, since those islands were dominated by Europeans from different countries, giving each island a peculiar characteristic.  In this conception, the Caribbeans would be four: the Spanish, the French, the English, and the Dutch Caribbean.

Each of them has been influenced to a greater or a lesser extent by the natives, the colonizers, and the Africans.  In the music, this influence led to a great diversity with something in common:  almost all countries use chord instruments that came from Europe and the African percussion (basically from the Yoruba).


Zouk Music

Caribbean music, which is also a spice in many Brazilian rhythms, has always played a great influence in the northern region of Brazil, especially in the state of Maranhão. Zouk is one of these styles of music, originated in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.  It is usually sung in “creole” a mix of French and African. Researchers believe that it´s rhythmic basis comes from the Arabian culture. This same basis is also found in many countries like Spain and Portugal, on the African continent and in practically all America.

One of the versions about the appearing of the zouk music says that it was created to divulge Martinica. The result was partial though: the rhythm has spread in the world, but being divulged trough France, in many places, including Brasil, many people believe that this music is French.

The Dance Zouk

Zouk - that means “party” - is a dance similar to the “Merengue” in the sense that it is danced changing the weight basically in the heads of the musical times.  Zouk is practiced in the Caribbean, mainly in the islands of Guadalupe and Martinica, and its choreography is little elaborated.


The music Lambada

Born in the state of Pará, lambada is a Brazilian music style based in the carimbó (in its traditional form, accompanied by drums made of a hollow trunk, tuned by fire)and the "guitarrada"( massive electric guitar sound), also influenced by many rhythms like cumbia, merengue, and zouk. Local people from Pará say that a broadcasting station called “lambadas” the most vibrating songs.  The adjective “lambadas” then became a noun, naming the rhythm that has the musician Pinduca as it’s the most important name. This mixture of carimbó with electronic and metallic Caribbean music became popular.  However, the great success happened when French businessmen bought the Copyright of hundreds of songs.  With a huge structure of marketing and good musicians, the group Kaoma released the lambada in Europe and other continents.  Adapted to the rhythm, the Bolivian song “Chorando se foi” became a summer hit worldwide.

In the external and domestic markets, an intense period of compositions and recordings followed.   Dozens of groups and many singers took advantage in the success of the rhythm. That was the case of Sidney Magal, Sandy and Junior, Fafá de Belém and the group Balão Mágico.  This is a recurrent tale: the merit of a Brazilian product is recognized in Brazil only after its success in the external market.  After the over-exposure phase, the lambada suffered natural exhaustion, the sales lessened, and the production had to stop.


The Dance Carimbó

Before talking about lambada, let's remember one of its roots: the Carimbó.

Believed to have its origin in the Tupinambá Indian tribe, it´s an ancient dance belonging to the Amazonian folklore until today very commonly practiced. It has since long a clear Spanish influence and has as main characteristics movements in which the woman tries to cover her male partner with her skirt, the gallantry, many turns and rotations of the head.


The Dance Lambada

The dance lambada has its roots in the north of Brazil, from a mixture of carimbó, some dances from the northeast and figures from the maxixe, such as the "balão apagado".  In its first period, the lambada arrived in the northeast, without fixing roots there.  In this period the main characteristic of the lambada was the proximity of the partners. Soon the lambada arrives at Porto Seguro and is enriched.  The houses “Lambada Boca da Barra” at Porto Seguro and “Jatobar” at Arraial D'Ajuda can be quoted as references. They also played Flamenco Rumba (the so-called Spanish lambada) and the zouks (also known by then as French lambada).

By the end of the 80's lambada entered the global mainstream with the success of the French pop group Kaoma, which had some Brazilian dancers in their shows.  Inside and outside Brazil, the lambada (both music and dance) became a phenomenon of sales and was even present in the soap-operas (e.g. Rainha da Sucata, 1990), movies and TV-shows. The competition in the spectacles developed dared choreography, with many turns and acrobatics.


A new style: the Lambada Carioca

After many years of success worldwide, the lambada knew its decline and stopped being recorded.  The Djs simulated the funeral of the music style.  The dance, however, survived through music from France, Spain, Arabia, United States, Africa and the Caribbean among others. Just to give an example, the flamenco rumba band Gipsy Kings sold a lot in Brasil because of the dance.  There was a search for a music style with the reading that allowed people to use the movements from the lambada.  From all music styles, zouk was the one that fitted best, becoming the preferred music to dance the lambada.

Dancing the lambada with slower music with more time and pauses that practically did not exist in the lambada music allowed a broad exploration of sensuality, plasticity, and beauty of our creation. Movements gained softness and flows, changing to the measure that the dance was incorporating and changing with other modalities; the inter dancer relation change regained value and acrobatics became almost exclusively movements for stages. Many types of research also contributed, even outside the social dances, for instance, the contact improvisation ones.

The Night Club Ilha dos Pescadores (Fisher's Island), Rio de Janeiro, run by “Tio Pio” had the lemma “Lambada will never die while there is at least one lambada dancer”.  During all the time that lambada was “out”, the house resisted hosting the dance on Sundays.  This resistance helped to consolidate the transition from the lambada from Porto Seguro to the Carioca Lambada style.

Nowadays both styles still survive.  The style from Porto Seguro (usually called lambada) uses faster songs (lambadas, zouks, Arabian songs, etc), multiple turns of the woman and a lot of movement of the shoulders.  This style gives emphasis on the movements either in the even times of the song*1 or alternating evens and odds.  The Carioca style (also called lambazouk, lambada zouk, zouk, zouk love, zouk Brasileiro, zouk carioca, and many other names) is usually danced to slower songs like the zouk love and the kizomba (love).  It is more sensual, with many spirals, twists of the torso, contact, and emphasis in the odd times of the songs*1. There can be also found a broad mixture of both styles and some sub-styles.



Day after day more Brazilians and foreigners appreciate our culture.  The dance lambada has represented a broad professional growth.  In the period 2006/2007 about ten events around the world focused the lambada - competitions, meetings, seminars and conferences like the Br Dances Congress in Rio de Janeiro, and others in Barcelona, Brasília and Porto Seguro.

There are specialized dances and teachers in many states of Brasil, and many countries around the world.  Even though some people call zouk the lambada by mistake, a large number of people live in this dance style.  It is worth to note that many teachers have been meeting to find common ways of unveiling the lambada.

The whole history of the lambada has been very fruitful: a significant number of the most talented contemporary social dancers appeared through the lambada; the accessibility of the dance in pairs to the young people; the international visibility acquired – lambada is our dance in pairs that is best known abroad (even more than samba).  It represents the rescue of our rights of dancing embraced.


Luís Florião – Teacher, researcher of Brazilian dances and creator of the “Movimento Lambada Brasil”. /

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