Category Archives: Folklore

Brazilian batucada around the world

Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr
Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr

Batucada, the joyful, noisy, fast pace percussive ensemble, capable of speeding up one’s pulse, is gaining the world. You can watch performances of local batuqueiros from Birmingham to Singapore. Check here how very different cultures interpret this African Brazilian tradition.

in Kobe, Japan (Bloco Feijão Preto)

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Rare videos of Mestre Bimba, Capoeira grand master

Bimba in action

Pelé is the king of soccer. The Gracie family rules in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. In the universe of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, the big name is Manuel dos Reis Machado, aka Mestre Bimba. Born in 1900 and deceased in 1974, Bimba codified the fight, developed a learning method, introduced new elements, such as the uniform (white t-shirt and pants), performed for the governor of Bahia and president Getúlio Vargas and, this way, gained respect for a martial art till then illegal.

There are very few images of Bimba practicing capoeira, playing berimbau and giving interviews. These are some of them:

 This is the full version of 2007 film “Mestre Bimba, a Capoeira Iluminada”:

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Gorgeous Maracatu

Maracatu Baquenambuco. Photos by Passarinho/the local Government of the city of Olinda/Flickr
Maracatu Baquenambuco. Photos by Passarinho/the local Government of the city of Olinda/Flickr

Maracatu is one of the best examples of fusion of Portuguese, African and Native Brazilian traditions. It is, basically, a street procession of a king, his queen and the court, followed by a percussion band. It evolved from the crowning of the Congo king, a popular festival apparently originated in Olinda, Pernambuco state. The music evolved from the chants played during Congadas, folk cerimonies that culminate with the election of the king and the queen of the Black Nation.

The details may vary and may include a multitude of princesses, fake Natives covered in feathers and baianas (women dressed in huge baloon skirts, white turbans and golden necklaces). They may pass around the calunga, a rag doll attached to a baton. The group is followed by the percussion orchestra that plays drums of different sizes, shakers, snares and agogô.

There are three main styles – Maracatu Nação, Maracatu Rural and Maracatu Cearense, this one practiced in the state of Ceará. Maracatu Nação or de Baque Virado originated in the early 18th century in Olinda, while Maracatu Rural, initiated in the 19th century in the countryside of Pernambuco. It includes a pilgrimage and a big reunion in Recife, the state capital.

Same source. Photo by Evane Manco
Same source. Photo by Evane Manco


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What makes a soap opera a success today?

Álbum_Cordel_EncantadoCordel Encantado, the 6 o’clock soap opera that ended last Friday, was a rare success in a country that is getting tired of old TV formulas. Approved by both critics and audience, it mixed fairy tale and traditional cordel literature, elements of European royalty with Brazilian folklore and History. Set at  the Northeast outback (sertão), it was produced with film quality, good acting and direction. The love triangle involving Açucena, Jesuíno (the good guy) and Timóteo (the evil one) was not, of course, particularly innovative, but was pretty typical of 6 o’clock plots, less sexy and violent than novelas exhibited later in the evening.

Check here for the videoclip made to promote Cordel Encantado at the Emmy Awards:

And you can watch the last chapter in this website.

Have you seen this soap opera? Did you like it?

Also, if you are interested in Northeastern music, check Cordel Encantado’s soundtrack, interpreted by Gilberto Gil, Maria Gadú, Lenine, Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, Zé Ramalho and Alceu Valença, among many, many others. Pretty cool team, indeed.


Misterious peacock – when cordel literature seduced the country


OPavoMisterioso_180 (1)“O Romance do Pavão Misterioso” (The Romance of the Misterious Peacock), published in 1920, is one of the most famous stories of literatura de cordel – those booklets produced in a domestic press, illustrated with rustic woodcuts and sold in street markets, hanging from clothes-lines (thus the name, cordel). It is also one of the very few cordel stories that made their way into mass culture.

Attributed to José Camelo de Melo Rezende, it tells the story of a Turkish man, Evangelista (“the son of a capitalist”, says the rimed story), who creates a peacock-shaped flying machine to seduce and kidnap Countess Creuza, the imprisoned daughter of a Greek nobleman. You can read the whole story online (in Portuguese).

In this lovely 1975 short video, extracted from the documentary “Nordeste: Cordel, Repente e Canção“, a cordel salesman recites parts of Romance do Pavão Misterioso.

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Xaxado, the outback dance

Xaxado is a popular dance from the sertão (outback) of the state of Pernambuco, in the Northeast. It is frequently associated to Lampião, the mythical outlaw that scared the region in the beginning of last century, that used to dance with his men after their victories. Even today the dancers wear rifles and leather hats similar to the bandit’s and his cangaceiros in their presentations. The name xaxado is attributed to the noise made by the cangaceiros’ sandals as they strike the sand.

Live statue of a cangaceiro photographed in São Paulo by Vana Gwen/ Flickr
Live statue of a cangaceiro photographed in São Paulo by Vana Gwen/ Flickr

Originally, it was danced only by men, organized in a line. The leader would sing the song and the other participants would answer back in chorus, insulting their enemies or praising their own bravery. They frequently mark the rhythm hitting the floor with their rifles.

Xaxado was discovered by the mass media thanks to composer Luiz Gonzaga, that you can see performing it in this film.

And here is Grupo de Xaxado Os Cabras de Lampião, from Serra Talhada, Pernambuco. Sorry, the quality of this video is not ideal.

Great documentary about forró, the popular Brazilian ball

Painting by Camilo Tavares
Painting by Camilo Tavares

This documentary, produced in 2008 by journalists Adriana Caitano and Galton Sé, is a great overview of Forró Pé-de-Serra movement. It shows how traditional forró – the big balls originally from the Northeast region – became popular among the young middle class of Brasília and the Southern cities, far from its origins. Played mostly with three instruments – triangle, zabumba drum and accordion -, it mixes a bunch of rhythms, such as baião, coco, quadrilha, xaxado and xote. Forró Pé-de-Serra is celebrated every year in three major yearly festivals – Rootstock (in São Paulo), RioRoots (in Rio) e Festival Nacional de Forró de Itaúnas (ES).

If you need English subtitles, look for the “cc” caption button on the bottom of the video.

Check also: The kings of Baião

Pifano, the Brazilian flute

Zé do Pífano. Photo by Fabio Pozzembom/ Agência Brasil, through Wikipedia

Pífanos or pifes, the Brazilian flutes, are a product of the cultural fusions so typical in the country.  On one hand, they are made of bamboo, just like the instruments used by several Native groups, but they have holes positioned like the ones in European flutes. Pífanos are very common in the Northeast region. Their high notes are absolutely irresistible, as you can check in the following videos, featuring pifeiros João do Pife (from Alagoas), Edmílson do Pífano (from Caruaru, Pernambuco) and Zabé da Loca, a lady that got this nickname because she lived for 25 years inside a cave, in the state of Paraíba.

João do Pife

Edmílson do Pífano

Zabé da Loca

This post was inspired by the amazing portal Luis Nassif Online.