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Pimba is a Portuguese term for a variety of popular Portuguese pop and folk solo singers and bands, possibly inspired by Schlager, who focus on simplistic catchy songs with rough lyrics frequently driven by metaphors with sexual meanings, or focused on basic and clichéd romantic stories.
Many pimba songs use vulgar puns and jokes or address topics suggesting sexual behaviour, seemingly to gain popularity, as in the hit singles "Queres Ketchup, Maria?" ("Do You Want Ketchup, Maria?", which when spoken sounds similar to "do you want me to suck you, Maria?"), by Quim Barreiros, or "É o ECU!" ("It's the ECU!"—ECU was the proto-name for the euro, which sounds like "it's the arse!"), by Banda Lusa.
Pimba musicians are influenced by the rural areas of the country and the emigration phenomena which permeated Portuguese society throughout the 20th century. Although it is based on some elements of Portuguese folk music, pimba is basically straightforward functional pop music with simplistic harmonies and melodies, minimal lyrics and heavy use of rhythm boxes and synthesizers. It is designed to be a cheap form of entertainment for dancing parties and weddings - pimba performers (mostly duos or trios featuring a singer, accordionist and/or cheap electronic keyboards, or simply a singer with backing tracks) surfaced during the 1980s as a cheaper alternative to serious folk musicians and traditional bands and orchestras.
Pimba is very popular among Portuguese immigrants and in certain rural areas of the country - however, because of its lack of artistic and technical depth and derivative nature, it is generally considered an inferior genre of music by the Portuguese population.
The style is particularly shunned by artists and promoters dedicated to genuine Portuguese folk and traditional music.
Pimba singers can be said to use the same themes as folklore and target the same audience, though some (such as Marco Paulo or Tony Carreira) shun the title and call themselves "poetic" or "romantic singers" in an attempt to claim serious artistic recognition. A parallel between pimba and American country music audiences can be drawn - nevertheless the lyrics of country are usually of a more serious nature and its musical content is more complex and based on genuine folk tradition.
Pimba music is a cheap and mass-produced affair - extremely basic harmonic structures and catchy, short melodies, sometimes lifted from existing Portuguese folk songs, other times thinly veiled adaptations (or even outright plagiarism) from mainstream pop music. It draws superficially from Portuguese folk music (particularly with the use of the accordion and certain popular rhythmic structures), but mixes it with instrumentation and basic arrangements from Anglo-American pop music. The lyrics are also simplistic and rough, based on clichéd dramatic love stories, partying, repetitive use of expletives and straightforward overt sexual innuendo.
Until the 1980s, the word "pimba" was merely a common, non-offensive slang word, generally used to express the accomplishment of an action or an unexpected event (roughly equivalent to the English expression "wham!"). In 1993, pop rock band Ex-Votos released an album called Cantigas do Bloqueio, with the hit single "Subtilezas porno-populares" a.k.a. "...E pimba", a song about the sexual fantasies of a degenerate man - it was so successful that popular singer Emanuel was quick to jump in the bandwagon and create a song with the same expression ("pimba") being repeatedly used in the chorus as a pun for a sexual act. Another very popular pimba performer is Quim Barreiros, who started his career in the 1970s and makes extensive use of similar ambiguous words and references to genitalia. Other famous pimba singers include Ruth Marlene, Agata, Saul Ricardo and Toy.
Since the 1990s, the word "pimba" has been informally used as an adjective to identify this kind of music, its sense being quite derogatory, synonymous with tacky. Use of the word has spread to describe TV shows, radio programs and other media, fashion, etc., so that "pimba" has acquired the general meaning of a cultural attitude that lacks intellectual content or quality and is tasteless and vulgar, disconnected from literacy or genuine popular traditions.
- Marques, Francisco, "A música Pimba - Um fenómeno musical", ed. Sete Caminhos (ISBN 989602087-6).