Axé (music)

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Axé (Portuguese pronunciation: [aˈʃɛ]) is a popular music genre originating in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil approximately in 1986, fusing different Afro-Caribbean genres, such as Marcha, Reggae, and Calypso. It also includes influences of Brazilian music such as Frevo, Forró and Carixada. The most important creator of this music style was Alfredo Moura, conducting Carlinhos Brown, Luiz Caldas, Sarajane and others. The word "axé" comes from a Yoruba religious greeting used in the Candomblé and Umbanda religions that means "soul", "light", "spirit" or "good vibration".


When Daniela Mercury released O Canto da Cidade in 1992, axé entered the mainstream pop music scene and became one of the most popular genres in Brazil. Two years before, the American and European release of Margareth Menezes' Elegibô took the style to international audiences.

Roots of Axé[edit]

The root of axé is in guitarra baiana, a 1950s guitar style that used electric guitars to play the frevo from Pernambuco. This genre was purely instrumental, and remained so until the 1970s, when Moraes Moreira (of the band Novos Baianos) went solo.

Axé was officially labeled after Luiz Caldas released his album Magia in 1985, and became popular after Daniela Mercury's album "O Canto da Cidade" became a hit.

Carnival bands like Filhos de Gandhi, Olodum and Muzenza then fused the electric frevo with maracatu and Olodum rhythms, African ijexá and Caribbean merengue. Olodum's afro-music fusion was a Bahian success in the 1980s and was followed by deboche (debauchery), an electric frevo/ijexá fusion.

Axé in 1990s[edit]

In 1974, carnival in Salvador began taking shape. A group of Afro-Brazilian civil rights activists formed Ilê Ayê, a music ensemble that derived their heavy rhythm from Candomblé’s religious ceremonies. Quickly, Ilê Ayê gained a huge following, allowing them to influence other artists to incorporate the samba-reggae style and heavy beats to their music. [1]

The release of O Canto da Cidade set the stage for artist and bands like Ivete Sangalo, Banda Cheiro de Amor, Banda Eva, Bandamel, Asa de Águia and Chiclete com Banana.

Though axé was very popular through the 1990s, it had famous detractors like Dorival Caymmi. On the other hand, Caetano Veloso supported it.

Notable Artists[edit]

Axé today[edit]

Currently, the biggest axé music stars are Ivete Sangalo and Cláudia Leitte.

Axé Bahia is a six-member eurodance/axé music group from Brazil, who achieved fame in South America with their single "Beijo na Boca", particularly the Spanish-language version, "Beso en la Boca".

International Exposure of Axé[edit]

A notable moment in axé’s history was Ivete Sangalo’s success in the United States. After selling out 70,000 capacity soccer stadiums in Brazil, Ivete Sangalo sold out Madison Square Garden in 2010. In an interview before her MSG concert, she affirmed that, “When I started in Brazil, I was also unknown, and Brazil is a gigantic place with lots of talent. I haven’t come here with the pretension of being well known, but what I’ve come do to here, I’ve come to do right”. In this concert, she was able to bring to the United States a “mini-version of Carnaval”. [2] Ivete Sangalo was the only artist to participate in all editions of the concert Rock in Rio Lisbon, as well as participating in Rock in Rio Brazil, Spain and United States.

Another remarkable instant for axé music was when Michael Jackson recorded his 1996 hit ''They Don’t Really Care About Us'' in Bahia. Spike Lee directed the video clip for this song, and the video clip was filmed in the historical neighborhood of Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia, and in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Michael Jackson collaborated with Olodum in this video, which featured 200 members of the band playing their different kinds of drums to Salvador’s samba-reggae music. Due to this video, Olodum was exposed to 140 countries, increasing the outreach of the Afro-Brazilian samba-reggae music.


  1. ^ The Story of Axé Music in Brazil
  2. ^ Brazilian superstar Ivete Sangalo plays NY arena


External links[edit]