Salvador, Bahia Meets New Orleans, Louisiana

I wonder if any two such widely separated cities have ever been so thoroughly joined at the hip. Unruly urban centers ruled often by political ruffians where wide swathes of the populace are wont to take to the streets by the tens of thousands in song and dance in Afro-Dionysian not-quite-frenzy.

Both serving as nodes of wider regions:

1) Salvador > the Recôncavo and then the sertão (backlands) and, going futher afield, comprising one of the nodes of Brazil’s nordeste (Northeast), the deep/wide rainforest-rimmed sunparched cradle of much of Brazil’s African-based music.

2) New Orleans > the Mississippi Delta and regions culturally hearkening back to these (for the early blues don’t seem to have been strictly confined to the Mississippi Delta).

Then the exoduses:

From New Orleans and the South in general to Chicago and other cities in the North.

From Salvador and Bahia to Rio de Janeiro down the coast. In both cases by Afro-hyphenates in search of employment.

Zigaboo Modeliste
Zig: Joined at the hip with the sambadeiros of the Brazilian nordeste

That’s the forest. Down the centuries there have been many trees, but narrowing the focus on the North American side to our time (or that of the more venerable members of our time, but including the present) there is one small gathering of towering arboreal crowns unheard of by way too many people and something of a musical footnote to too many others. These are the men collectively known as “The Meters”: Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste. Their second-line funk — Zigaboo’s evershifting drumming front-and-center of the four-member rhythm section that comprised(s) the band — is, to see things from one angle, the Brazilian hinterlands transposed to the American South.

Unbolt Zigaboo’s drums and substitute hide for plastic and set the man on the littoral of the Brazilian nordeste and he’s playing (when playing Hey Pocky A-Way) samba de coco (so named, so the story goes, because coconuts — coconut is coco in Portuguese — were often broken open to this rhythm to remove the “meat” for traditional cooking).

There you go! We’d love to see you down here in Salvador but if you’re in the U.S. or Canada you can reach the same oversoul without going any further south than the Louisiana steam-valve popularly referred to as “the Crescent City”.

Jay Mazza on Kermit Ruffins
BTW, another connection between Salvador and New Orleans is writer/journalist Jay Mazza, based up there in NOLA. Jay is certainly the greatest what’s-goin’-on-musically guy in New Orleans history. His books, columns, blogging*, wisdom & wit can be found online. Whatever you might think of your husband/wife/boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s)/pangenderfriend(s)…Jay is the essential NOLA companion.

*Jay blogs at