“New Trend” in Portuguese, Bossa Nova came to be when Samba was fused with Jazz during the 1950s and 60s going on to become one of the most recognisable Jazz styles in the world. At its heart, Bossa Nova relies on just guitar and voice, with Joao Gilberto probably the most famous for stripping the style to its essentials. At the more elaborate end of the scale percussion, piano, strings and flutes provide detail and texture and bring the style closer to Jazz than Samba. Either way, there will almost always be a finger-picked, classical guitar taking the lead rhythm duties.
So, how do you know you’re listening to Bossa Nova? Well, the first clue is the emphasis on the second beat in the bar, just like in Samba. On the other side, while the majority of Jazz-influenced music tends to have swing beat, Bossa rhythms sway. When taken with those accented second beats, this sway helps Bossa become a passionate and, at times, sexy music that doesn’t require a huge amount of energy to drive it along. No doubt this is why it sounds so good when it's sound tracking an intimate meal for two, or in a movie during that scene no couple in the back row of the cinema ever sees.
Bossa Nova in short: The sway of a Bossa Nova rhythm means it sounds unmistakably Brazilian.
Try listening to: ‘Garota de Ipanema’ by Tom Jobim, ‘Canto de Ossanha’ by Baden Powell, ‘Rico Suave Bossa Nova’ by J Dilla.