There are certain countries, the names of which fire the popular imagination. Brazil is one of them; an amalgam of primitive and sophisticated, jungle and elegance, luscious jazz harmonics — there’s no other place like it in the world. And while Rio de Janeiro, or its fame anyway, tends toward the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, Bahia bends toward the atavistic…
Have you ever noticed how different places scattered across the face of the globe seem almost to exist in different universes? As if they were permeated throughout with something akin to 19th century luminiferous aether, unique, determined by that place’s history?
It’s like a trick of the mind’s light (I suppose), but standing on beach or escarpment in Salvador and looking out across the Baía de Todos os Santos to the great Recôncavo, and mindful of what happened there (the Bahian Recôncavo was final port-of-call for more enslaved human beings than any other place throughout the entirety of mankind’s existence on this planet), one must be led to the inevitable conclusion that one is in a place unique to history, and to the present…
“Chegou a hora dessa gente bronzeada mostrar seu valor / The time has come for these bronzed people to show their value”…
Brazil as a nation began in Bahia (per the sublimity above; video by Betão Aguiar ; words & music by Assis Valente of Santo Amaro, Bahia; venerable in leather hat in Salvador’s Centro Histórico: Bule Bule) and grew to straddle — jungle and desert and dense urban centers — both the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Brazil absorbed over ten times the number of enslaved Africans taken to the United States of America, and is a repository of African deities (and their music) now largely forgotten in their lands of origin.
Brazil was a refuge (of sorts) for Sephardim fleeing an Inquisition which followed them across the Atlantic (that unofficial symbol of Brazil’s national music — the pandeiro — was almost certainly brought to Brazil by these people).
Across the parched savannas of the interior of Brazil’s culturally fecund nordeste/northeast (where wizard Hermeto Pascoal was born in Lagoa da Canoa — Lagoon of the Canoe — and raised in Olho d’Águia — Eye of the Eagle), much of Brazil’s aboriginal population was absorbed into a caboclo/quilombola culture punctuated by the Star of David.
Three cultures — from three continents — running for their lives, their confluence forming an unprecedented fourth. Pandeirista on the roof.
Nowhere else but here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(Bahia-Online’s logo was designed by Walter Mariano, professor of design at the Federal University of Bahia, in Salvador. It represents a sugarcane cutter, and the fact that Brazil’s music is inextricably planted in the massapé — alluvial soil — of Bahia, Brazil)