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Ritmo Embolada: An Introduction of Brazilian Rhythm

Designed by: Hiromi Takasu
University of Washington

‘Embolada” is a form of poetry and song that has set refrains. The refrains allow singers to organize their next improvised stanza in their heads—even as the music is sounding. (McGowan,1991) This form of traditional music is active in the northeastern region of Brazil. Embolada has a fast rhythm and complex tone that deftly incorporate varied lyrics and onomatopoeia. Embolada is mostly improvised following a dialogue by the “Embolador”, who sings while hitting the Pandeiro at short intervals in between verses. The singer needs considerable skill, experience, and a sense of humor . Embolada is sung in the streets; it is influenced by American rap music and African music. Using the Embolada rhythm, students can improvise lyrics and sing solo.

Suggested Grade Levels: K-2
Country: Brazil
Region: Northeastern Brazil
Culture Group: Brazilian
Genre: Ballad, Sonnet , Folklore
Instruments: Voice, Pandeiro, Hand drum, Xylophone, woodblocks, drums
Language: Portuguese
Co-Curricular Areas: Social Studies, Language Arts
National Standards: 1, 2, 3,4, 6, 7,8
Prerequisites: None


Through these lessons segments, students will

  • Learn to Listen with attention and detail to musical components
  • Recreate body percussion, with and without music
  • Create dialogues (in parody)
  • Sing in rhythm


Click to view recording details

“Monta no Jumento Embolada”
from Songs and Dances of Brazil (1956) | FW06953

“O'Embolada, Embole Embolada”


“No Meu Ranchinho - Embolada”

“E Foi a Vaca- Embolada: Introduction in Samba a Time”

Lesson Segments:

    1. An Introduction to Embolada Music (6,7)
    2. Performing “ Monta no Jumento Embolada” (2)
    3. Improvising a dialogue and have solo singing with Embolada rhythm (1,3,4,8)

1. An Introduction to Embolada Music

      • Before first listening to the music, ask students:
        • What sorts of instruments do you hear? (Hand drum, pandeiro, voice, guitar)
        • Can you identify the number of instruments? (3)
        • Which rhythm is continuously sounding in this piece? (Four-eighths in percussion part)
      • Listen again to the recording, and ask additional questions:
        • Who carries the melody of the song? (Singer; solo voice)
        • Is there a regular rhythm that can be identified by instrument? (There are regular rhythms on both guitar and pandeiro components.)

Assessment: Gauge whether students can identify the sound of Voice Check their capacity to sing the song and to demonstrate the rhythm patterns they have heard.

2. Performing “ Monta no Jumento Embolada” (National Standards #)

      • Show photos and watch a video (available on the internet with the keyword “embolada”) in order to impart an understanding of how Brazilian people perform embolada.
        • Discuss how the dialogue of embolada occurs in call-and-response fashion. (Teacher demonstrates embolada form and shows students how call-and-response occurs. Students will discover that embolada is mostly improvised following a dialogue by the embolador, who sings while hitting the pandeiro at short intervals in between verses.)
      • Students listen for the rhythm, and then join in clapping the rhythm.
      • Students listen again for the guitar component.
        • How many times do you hear the pattern repeat? (12 times)
        • Teach the accompaniment part in aural-oral fashion.

Assessment: Gauge whether students can identify and perform the melodic and rhythmic percussive components of the musical selection.

3. Improvising new dialogues and singing the embolada rhythm in pairs.

      • Choose one student and teacher to demonstrate improvisation with the students that ensues when performing in Brazilian embolada style.
        • Use aspects of daily life to create a dialogue. Also use the students’ native language.
        • Split the class up into instrumentalists and two singers. (Instrumentalists will perform on pandeiro, hand drum, woodblocks, or xylophone.)
        • Encourage students to try solo singing (once sufficient time has been given to singing together).
      • With students arranged in a circle, invite them to perform three parts, as notated—singing, chanting, and playing on various percussion instruments (including xylophones, woodblocks, or drums).
      • Invite the students to play at faster speeds once they have learned their parts.

Assessment: Note the accuracy of rhythm patterns in performance.



Carlin, R. (2008). Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways. New York: Smithsonian Books.

Davis, Darién J. (2009). White Face, Black Mask. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press.

McGowan, C. and Pessanha, R. (1991). The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. New York: Billboard Books.

Murphy, John P. (2006). Music in Brazil: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Liner Notes: “Songs and Dance of Brazil”