Zezeh Brazil lives for samba. From a very young age she discovered samba peeking over her neighbor’s wall at their family gatherings, feeling the power of the rhythm, freedom of dance and the community spirit that infuses it all. She has spent her life immersed in that spirit and since settling in the area years ago has brought that passion to our community through dancing and teaching samba in DC.
We chatted about the African origins of Samba, expressed in a connectedness to the earth and to healing your body through movement and rhythm. Zezeh pointed out regional differences of samba based on where enslaved Africans ended up within Brazil. We also discussed the different types and settings for samba, from small nightclubs to neighborhood gatherings and full-blown carnival street parades. We asked her what makes them all “samba,” and where does the word samba come from?
Zezeh doesn’t like to think in terms of “learning” samba. She feels it is something that you commit to and that you give yourself to and stay with your whole life. You can never fully learn samba, you can only live samba. Rhythm and dancing are merely the outward manifestations of the spirit of samba. Even the intricate costumes for carnival are more about community than anything else. The flamboyant sequins and feathers aren’t just a look-at-me thing; it’s a slow, communal process to make those costumes. More than anything, samba is defined by a communal energy. When Zezeh teaches samba her first thought is of all the ancestors and mentors who have channeled that energy into her life, and how she can instill their wisdom in her students’ hearts.
Zezeh teaches samba Saturday afternoons 3-4:30pm @ Espaco Cultural Samba Trovao (4318 Hamilton Street, Hyattsville, MD). She stresses not only the dance, but also the spiritual side of samba. As she says, “Sharing happiness is samba. If you dance samba and don’t smile there’s no point.” So check out Zezeh’s facebook page and if you want to get involved with samba in DC just give her a ring: 202.821.5013
[Click play at the top of this post to hear our interview with Zezeh]