The history of the tamborim in samba school baterias.
(most of thei except the conclusion is adapted from an article by Dra. Marianne Zeh)
Back in 1928, the first samba school in Rio was Deixa Falar, in the district of Estácio de Sa in Rio de Janeiro. The sambistas of Estácio had to create a new sound strong enough to support hundreds of dancers, but with the sound of samba, not a marching band. To do this they introduced several new instruments to make the sound better balanced for parading. Amongst these were the surdo (invented in Estácio), the cuica, an ancient instrument, and the tamborim.
The actual inventors of the tamborim were Bide and Bernado. Bide was a professional percussionist, and one of the founders of Deixa Falar. The first tamborins were quadrangular and had a hide head. Before playing, they had to be heated in front of a fire to tune them up. Every player had to carry old newspapers to create a fire for tuning, and sometimes they would need to stop in the middle of the parade to create a little fire to retune their drum.
In the 1930s, the Samba Schools paraded with about 300 people in total, and 25 - 30 in the bateria. According to Sergio Cabral, they would have three surdos, tarol, tamborim, pandeiro, cuica, chocalho, reco reco and knife & plate. In the second part of the song, they would play more softly, to allow the crowd to hear the singer's improvisations.
There is a popular story that these early tamborins were covered with cat skin. However, according to Mestre Marcal, they always used cow skin. Marcal explained that cat skin was much too thin and easy to tear; it was about the same quality as chicken skin. Tamborins only ever used cow skin. Being covered in skin rather than nylon, these early tamborins sounded very different to the modern instrument. They were deeper, and more resonant. The early tamborim sticks (baquetas) were short and thin, and made of wood or bamboo. In Carnaval, players would have to carry a whole bunch of bamboo sticks tucked into their trouser belts because they were forever breaking. Sometimes, despite bringing dozens of sticks to carnival, a tamborim player could be left with none before the parade had ended.
The development of the modern tamborim
Samba school drum baterias got bigger, and instruments changed. By the 1980s, the sound of the old wood and skin tamborins was too gentle to be heard. The tamborim took on its modern form with a metal body, and nylon skin and playing stick.
Originally there was no formal arrangement of tamborim patterns. People generally improvised around some traditional rhythms. The main one was the 'teleco teco' - invented by Estácio and still widely in use today not only in samba schools but in all forms of samba, and on all sorts of instruments from cuicas to beer bottles. By the 1980s, Tamborim arrangements had started to become more complicated. The subida, the afoxe, and various patterns emphasising the melody and lyrics started to be heard. The basic teleco - teco pattern changed - people stopped tapping the back of the skin with their fingers as part of the pattern (the tempo is now too fast and the volume of the other drums too loud).
The tamborim stick, and tamborim arrangements
Tamborim players worked hard on solving the problem of fragile tamborim sticks. In the 1980s in the bateria of Imperatriz, tamborim players started experimenting with flexible plastics. Imperatriz used a single strand stick, which fit in well with their style at that time, which used little of the carreiteiro turning technique in their arrangements. The basic rhythms were provided by the caixas, repiniques and chocalhos; the tamborins could add decoration; a rhythmic arangement to accompany the words and the melody of the samba song.
The move to a plastic stick allowed a change in the patterns that could be played on the tamborim. In the 1990s, in thebateria of the samba school Mocidade, the tamborim stick was further developed into a shorter more flexible 7 strand version, by Amaro. The stick he invented has been widely copied in recent years, including one that is cheekily marketed as the "Mocidade tamborim stick". Amaro's 7 strand flexible sticks allowed a new way of playing carreteiro, called 2 & 1. The flexibility of the stick allows the player to take advantage of the stick's springiness to pay a note on its own, meaning that the drum does not have to be hit as often . Instead of hitting 3 downstrokes, the drum can be hit twice for the same result. This technique is much less tiring to play at length and at speed. Some modern players prefer the older 3 & 1 technique, and a single stand stick, saying that the results are more precise. However in most Rio baterias its not the technique a player uses, but the accuracy of sound they produce, that matters.
The leader of the Mocidade tamborins in the 1990s, Jonas, used the possibilities of this new stick to create revolutionalry new tamborim arrangements. Instead of the tamborins playing with the melody, Jonas created arrangements where the tamborins played more in the gaps in the melody, creating a type of dialogue. He created some very sophisticated arrangements, and soon the other schools were following his example. It was Jonas who first created more than one arrangement for the same samba, one to speed things up, one to give the players a rest, more to frame specific arrangements for the rest of the instruments. And each arrangement had its own choreography.
Today the choreography of the baterias is an integral part of any samba school's parade, but this all started in the ala of tamborins in Mocidade.
(In the last few years I have noticed a simplification in tamborim arrangements. Several alternatives for one song meant that after carnival, people had trouble picking up or remembering what to play. These days people seem to be striving for originality and difficulty within an apparantly simple arrangement. After all, the songs that are played year in and year out at many different samba schools rehearsals are the ones where everyone remembers the arrangements - Giselle).
Source: "O criador na tradição oral:
a linguagem do tamborim na escola de samba" by
Dra. Marianne Zeh 2006
Read the original article (in Portuguese) here: http://www.anppom.com.br/anais/anaiscongresso_anppom_2006/CDROM/COM/02_Com_Etno/sessao01/02COM_Etno_0105-023.pdf