Less than fifty years after the Portuguese discovery of Brazil in 1500, Jesuit missionaries laid the foundations for the teaching of music. The performance, teaching, and composing of music were valued and rewarded among the Portuguese colonists in the Royal Chapel of Dom João VI in Rio de Janeiro and attained an excellences that rivaled musical establishments in Europe. In the twentieth century, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos achieved recognition throughout the musical world as an interpreter of the spirit of Brazilian art and the unique aspects of Brazilian music.
Musical activity that spanned four hundred years is known to only a few scholars, composers, students, and performers of musica erudita in Brazil... The national sources available to Brazilian composers of art music today include an Iberian heritage dating back several centuries; a tradition of rhythmic improvisation, which has flourished in terreiros (places of worship for African cult groups); and folk music, which represents musical traditions from many ethnic sources.
The music of the original Indian inhabitants and the Indian tribes that still preserve traditional music appears to be of greater interest to anthropologists than to contemporary Brazilian composers and remains isolated from the art music of the twentieth century. The most powerful influences have been Western European music of the concert hall, predominantly Iberian and Italian, with considerable French influence in the nineteenth century; the sophisticated salon and theatre music of the nineteenth-century tradition, which represents a synthesis of various dance rhythms, European and African; and the rhythmic improvisation (batucada) tradition of African origin.
David P. Appleby, The Music of Brazil (Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press, 1983), preface.