Posts Tagged ‘Checking out a beautiful Orissa doll’

Our Visit to Salvador da Bahia

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

We were met at the airport by our friends Joao Junqueira (A brazilian guitarist from CU Boulder) and Daniel Ondaro, another friend and guitarist also from Boulder.  We stayed in a high rise apartment about 20 minute walk to the city beach.  From our high rise, we have views of the ocean, lots of trees and flower, and the bar a few doors down.  It is pretty quiet, except for occasional fireworks, which just go off from time to time in Salvador, as an expression of the exuberance of the local people.  The first night we walk down to the beach and sit in a bar and restaurant, listening to lively samba band, drinking beer and rum, and inhaling diesel fumes from the cars and trucks going by.  We have a great meal of local fish, vegetables and rice, manioc.  Everything seems so exotic, especially the language!  Joao and Daniel serenade us on guitar and pandeiro at the apartment all hours of the day and night.

Next day we all go to the giant crafts market, Mercado Modelo.  It is totally overwhelming to see all the fabulous art, which reflects the vitality of the Afro-Brazilian culture.  We go up an outdoor elevator which takes up to the top of the hill, a 300 year old part of the city called the Pehlourino.  This place is so beautiful, and old, and is being rebuilt through the efforts of Unesco, and is now the heart of the city for art and music, and on Tuesday nights is it HOPPING!!!!! 

This is an incredible place, a huge plaza with amazing catholic churches on each corner, crumbling with age, but resplendent with giant chadeliers, gold leaf painting on the ceilings, and rich with the smell of frankensence.  This plaza was originally where slaves were bought and sold, blacks brought over from Nigeria by the Portuguese.  Their labor built this place.  Incredible old cobblestone streets stretch out from the plaza in many directions, winding down the hill,lined with fascinating shops, inns (pousadas), art galleries, capoeira schools (martial art of Brazil), music shops (selling every kind of percussion instrument, really expensive drums, and beribaus), and lots of restaurants and outside cafes. I stop in one music shop, where there is an old man with grey dredlocks, who has a really mysterious and powerful aura about him.  He is working on a drum.  He sells me some seed pods that I like to play in my music , because they make a tinkling, rustling sound.

The architecture is really enchanting, especially at night!!!  Wrought iron balconies, bright colors (reds, purples, blue, green, yellow, orange), lots of mosaic, and everything crumbling with age also.  This used to be a red light district, according to Joao.  The energy, color and beauty of this place and people is awesome.

We have lunch is a cool outdoor restauant and do a lot of people watching. The women in Brazil are gorgeous and very sexy.  The men as well!  Salvador is 85% Afro-Brazilian, people of all shades from dark black to honey colored, and they are beautiful, fun loving, friendly people.  There is an old gentleman in the restaurant working there, and he is dressed all in white, and he glows with kindness and an inner light.  We get caught in a brief rain shower, and end up in a small museum looking at beautiful statues of gods and goddesses of the Afro-Brazilian candomble religion,  called Orissa.  (More on that later.)  Here and there you see people begging.  There is so much poverty in the city of 2 million.

We go out for dinner and to hear music, and on way home take a wild taxi ride, carrening down the narrow winding streets very fast, with pedestrians running to get out of the way!!!  That is the way it is driving in Brazil!!!!

The dollar is very weak, and everything is really expensive here compared to our expectations.  Oh well…..

Tuesday we go to the beach, and play in the water and drink watery Brazilian beer, which waiters just seem to bring to you automatically when you sit down in their beach chairs.  Life is good!!!!

That night we all go in the wild taxi cab to the Pelhourino to hear two live dance bands.  I had no idea what we were getting into!!!  It was like a mini-carnaval experience, with the streets (which were pretty quiet last night when we were there)  filled with thousands of people!  There were amazing small (but loud!!!) samba drum bands playing in the various streets, creating such an intensity.  There were lots of beautiful black people dancing samba.  Some people were in costume, and everyone was having fun.  The evening was unforgettable:  so wild, chaotic, loud, vibrant, sexy, alive, uninhibited, and crazy!!!  The people were kind and sweet and FUN!  Lots of drinking, dancing, drumming and singing.  Around 2 AM Claire and I went out into the street and sat in a somewhat deserted cafe, and just laughed and laughed at what an amazing experience it all was.

The next morning we woke up early to go off in a cab to attend an Afro-Brazilian religious ceremony called candomble.  We went to a retreat center about 25 minutes ways, but still in the city.  A very peaceful place, with many kind Afro-Brazilians who practice this ancient African religion of the gods and goddesses from Nigeria (the Orissa.)  You had to wear long pant and long skirts in order to get into the inner sanctum where the Mother Saint was presiding, with an elderly gentleman next to her.  This month the god Xango (the god of fire) was honored, and the ceremony was held in a small building created as a shrine to him.

A few of the men and women went into trance and came out the door shaking and mumbling, only to come back in again.  People came in and prostrated to the altar and sat to speak with the Mother Saint.  It is a poly-theistic religion.  We got a special tour around the grounds and peeked into the different small houses for the gods and goddesses. Only the Mother Saint is allowed to enter these rooms, except during the once-a-year ceremony when each god or goddess is honored and prayed to by the visitors.  It is a matralineal lineage, and women perform the major roles, with men in supportive roles. The beauty of the Bahian culture comes directly from these candomble roots - the dress, music, food, art, rituals, vitality.  Below is a picture of me holding a religious doll of the female deity Oxum, goddess of the streams and rivers.

In earlier times, the Brazilian government attempted to suppress this religion.  Currently the evangelical churches are trying to get people away from it also, but it is such an expression of the whole Bahian culture!!!  I loved going to this place, and felt that I was touching the heart of Brazil through meeting these gentle religious people.


That night we went to a music and dance presentation of the Brazilian Ballet Folklorico, gorgeous drummers and dancers, dancing the gods and goddess that we had visited only that morning.  There was an amazing dance of the Fire god with a basket of live coals on his head and in his hands.  Also loved the goddess of the ocean (Imanja) and of the streams and rivers (Oxum).  Also a dozen capoeira martial artist/acrobats/dancers bounding around the stage with so much energy.

Next day we visited the school where Joao and Daniel have been studying and doing research.  It is a foundation for children, to enrich their lives and pass on the musical heritage.

It is fun to be with Joao who is curious about the culture, always talking with people and asking them questions about their lives.  I feel like we are getting a special tour!!!

Later we went to Daniel’s favorite city beach, swam and people watched.  It was really lovely.

That night we went out to a yuppie samba bar!  It was a full moon and the goddess energy was very strong, walking back along the beach.

ON TO PRAIA DA FORTE

Claire and I left Salvador and spent our last few days in a beautiful beach resort, called Praia da Forte.  I highly recommend this place if you want to get away for a great beach vacation, and restful experience.  We swam, enjoyed long walks along the beach, shopping, eating great food, and hearing local musicians.  We were really sad to go home!!!!