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Ben RatliffThe Mystery of Samba presents a densely argued academic thesis, written for a Brazilian academic audience.... The most important point in the book is one that Vianna never simply states, but it's nevertheless the tune you're whistling when you finish: Popular music isn't only what one turn to when taking a rest from important things like writing social history. It can actually work, if sometimes indirectly, to change the world.
— Lingua Franca