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Lesson 1: Learning “Mas Que Nada”

Aim: What are the rhythmic and cultural elements that define the samba?
Summary: Students learn a samba song and the underlying samba rhythms, and are introduced to the cultural context for the genre.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide, drum, tambourine, desktops, metronome
Standards: National 1, 2, 9, 11
Vocabulary: pandeiro rhythm, samba, samba school, syncopation

“Mas Que Nada,” written in the 1960s by esteemed pop singer-songwriter Jorge Ben, is a classic samba. Samba is rooted in the musical and religious traditions of Afro-Brazilians in Bahia, and grew up in the favelas (extremely poor neighborhoods) of Rio de Janeiro more than 100 years ago. Many subgenres have evolved in the decades since.

Fabiana Teaches “Mas Que Nada”

“Mas Que Nada” Demonstration

Brazilian artist Fabiana teaches “Mas Que Nada.”

Learn to Sing “Mas Que Nada”

  • Listen to “Mas Que Nada,” Track 42.
  • Learn the chorus lyrics using “Mas Que Nada” pronunciation, Track 43.
  • Learn to sing the chorus using “Mas Que Nada” chorus, Track 44.

“Mas Que Nada”


Oariá raiô
Obá Obá Obá
Oariá raiô
Obá Obá Obá

Mas que nada, sai da minha
Eu quero passar pois o samba
está animado
O que eu quero é sambar.
Este samba que é misto de
É samba de preto velho
Samba de preto tu.
Mas que nada, um samba
como esse tão legal
Você não vai querer que eu
chegue no final.




Oariá raiô
Obá Obá Obá
Oariá raiô
Obá Obá Obá*

Oh come on! Get out of
my way
I want to pass because the samba
is exciting
What I want is to samba.
This samba which is a mix of
It’s an old black man’s samba
Black man’s samba.**
Oh, come on! A samba like this,
so nice
You won’t want me to come
to the end.


This is believed to be an incantation for the orixá, or spirit, Obá.

** The preto velho is the spirit of an old, black slave, which is an archetype of the wise old man.

Learn to Play the Pandeiro Rhythm in “Mas Que Nada”

Your students will learn about the pandeiro rhythm, and will explore how it is played on the pandeiro. Note that playing this pattern at tempo is a challenge, and it is not expected that most students will achieve that goal. Instead, the aim is for them to experience the act of drumming using different parts of the hand, and to provide a fun challenge.
  • One of the basic samba rhythms is a constant stream of eighth notes that establish the steady beat. This rhythm is played on the pandeiro, a frame drum that is unofficially referred to as the national instrument of Brazil. It is similar to the tambourine, with jingles that make a drier, crisper sound.
  • The pandeiro is held in one hand and played with the other, using three different parts of the hand: the thumb, the fingers, and the heel.
  • Two versions of the pandeiro rhythm are show below, one in 4/4 and the other in 2/4. You can do this activity on a drum or tambourine if you have one. If percussion instruments are not available, the activity can easily be done on a desktop.
Two hands with palms and fingers outstretched
  • Start out playing the rhythmic pattern slowly using the quarter note version. As your students master the pattern, they can gradually get faster. You can clap the quarter notes or use a metronome to set a clear tempo.
  • When the class is ready, try playing along with “Mas Que Nada,” Track 42, using the slower, quarter note version, and attempting the full speed version as well.
  • If your students are comfortable with the pandeiro rhythm, there are two additional samba rhythms that can be layered on top, using different percussion instruments or clapping.
  • The first rhythm simply outlines beats 1 and 3, which are the strong beats in samba. The second rhythm adds syncopation—the “and” of the beat.

Samba Schools

The samba school is a quintessentially Brazilian phenomenon. There are more than 100 neighborhood-based samba schools in Rio de Janeiro alone, and some of the biggest ones have several thousand participants. All year long, these volunteer-led guilds prepare for their appearance in the Carnival parade. At the same time, they function as multidimensional community centers, providing services such as educational programs and medical care; engaging in political activity; and bringing neighbors together.

Creative Extension

Design Your Own Samba School Flag

In Design Your Own Samba School Flag (PDF), your students will have an opportunity to name their own samba school and create a samba school flag. They can do this activity individually, in small groups, or as a class.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words pandeiro rhythm, samba, samba school, and syncopation to the Musical Word Wall.

Don't Forget

Image Credits

“Carnival” by CP DC Press.

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