Salvador Central: FAQs
Sprawled across broad equatorial latitudes, stoked and steamed and sensual in the widest sense of the word... limned in cadenced song... its very name born in heat and embers, Brazil is a conundrum wrapped in a smile inside an irony.
Great places to stay in Salvador are HERE...

Salvador Musicians


Frequently Asked Questions

...and others less frequently asked!
  • Q: Who is the most famous foreigner to have "lived" in Bahia?
  • A: Robinson Crusoe.  He was a plantation owner before setting out from the Baia de Todos os Santos, shipwrecking, and washing up on a desert island off the coast of Venezuela.

From Chapter 4, wherein...

He Settles in the Brasils as a Planter —
Makes Another Voyage and is Shipwrecked


"We had a very good Voyage to the Brasils, and arriv'd in the Bay de Todos los Santos , or All-Saints Bay, in about Twenty-two Days after. And now I was once more deliver'd from the most miserable of all Conditions of Life, and what to do next with my self I was now to consider."

"To come then by the just Degrees, to the Particulars of this Part of my Story; you may suppose, that having now lived almost four Years in the Brasils, and beginning to thrive and prosper very well upon my Plantation; I had not only learn'd the Language, but had contracted Acquaintance and Friendship among my Fellow-Planters, as well as among the Merchants at St. Salvadore, which was our Port; and that in my Discourses among them, I had frequently given them an Account of my two Voyages to the Coast of Guinea, the manner of Trading with the Negroes there, and how easy it was to purchase upon the Coast, for Trifles, such as Beads, Toys, Knives, Scissars, Hatchets, bits of Glass, and the like; not only Gold Dust, Guinea Grains, Elephants Teeth, &c. but Negroes for the Service of the Brasils, in great Numbers."

  • Q: Who is the most famous foreigner to have visited Bahia?
  • A: Some might say it was Michael Jackson, who was here in 1996 to record They Don't Care About Us in Pelourinho with Olodum (Spike Lee was here together with Michael, directing the the video for Michael's song), Michael perhaps edging out Paul Simon, who was here in 1990 to record, also with Olodum. David Byrne has been here a number of times (he directed a documentary about bloco afro Ilê Aiyê), and I once saw Sting leaning on a building watching Filho de Gandhy turbans being stitched together on members' heads in front of the Gandhy headquarters where I'd just had mine done. (I didn't recognize him, his hair not being blond and spiky anymore. People were walking up to this guy and shaking his hand, and so I figured he was probably a famous novela (evening soap opera) actor from the south of Brazil. Curious, I went up to say hello too, asking if he was an actor, and the good fellow replied in Portuguese "Eu sou músico". Still in the dark, and not wanting to insult the gentleman by asking who the hell he was, I said simply "É um prazer em conhecé-lo!" (Pleasure to meet you!) and shook his hand. He was very nice about it, and it was only some time later that I saw a current photo online and realized who the mystery man had been.) Anyway...

Expanding our time frame considerably, and with all due respect to the gentlemen above and numerous others who I haven't mentioned (hello Quincy Jones?), I feel the honor must go to Charles Darwin, who landed in the Baía de Todos os Santos with the Beagle on February 28th, 1832.

Q: Is it safe to drink the water here?

  • A: Not out of the tap it isn't. The water is treated with chlorine (you can smell it) but its potability is unreliable. Everybody has a water filter at home, and most people simply pour water from the tap into the filter. More fastidious people first boil the water and then filter it, and a lot of people buy their water in 20 liter bottles. Bottled water for drinking can be bought cheaply everywhere.
  • What is the voltage in Bahia?
  • That depends on where in Bahia you are.  In Salvador, Cachoeira, Ilheus and Itabuna the voltage is 127. In Lençois, Praia do Forte, Morro de São Paulo, Boipeba, Santo Amaro and Maracangalha the voltage is 220.
  • Maracangalha?
  • Dorival Caymmi (Bahia's most celebrated composer, born 1914) was going to go there, with Anália or without!  (Maracangalha is a small community outside of the slightly larger community of São Sebastião do Passé, which is close to Santo Amaro, which sits just north of the Baia de Todos os Santos)

Dorival Caymmi

Eu vou pra Maracangalha eu vou
Eu vou de uniforme branco eu vou
Eu vou de chapéu de palha eu vou
Eu vou convidar Anália eu vou
Se Anália não quiser ir eu vou só
Eu vou só, eu vou só
Se Anália não quiser ir eu vou só
Eu vou só, eu vou só sem Anália mas eu vou

I'll go to Maracangalha, I'll go
I'll go dressed in white, I'll go
I'll go in a straw hat, I'll go
I'll invite Anália, I will
If Anália doesn't want to go, I'll go alone
I'll go alone, I'll go alone
I'll invite Anália, I will
If Anália doesn't want to go
I'll go alone, I'll go alone without Anália but I'll go

Dorival Caymmi

  • Q: Does Salvador have a theme song or hymn?
  • A: As far as I'm concerned it does...and that would be É d'Oxum, a paean in ijexá by wonderful Gerônimo and his writing partner Vevé Calazans.

    (Oxum is the Yoruban divinity associated with sweet water, depicted as aware of her considerable beauty and charms.  "É d'Oxum" would be "It's Oxum's".)

É d'Oxum
(Gerônimo & Vevé Calazans)

Nessa cidade todo mundo é d'Oxum
Homem, menino, menina, mulher
Toda a cidade irradia magia
Presente na água doce
Presente na água salgada
E toda a cidade brilha

In this city we are all Oxum's
Man, boy, girl, woman
The entire city radiates magic
Present in the sweet water
Present in the salt water
And the entire city shines

Seja tenente ou filho de pescador
Ou importante desembargador
Se der presente é tudo uma coisa só
A força que mora n'água
Não faz distinção de cor
E toda a cidade é d'Oxum

Whether lieutenent or a fisherman's son
Or an important judge
If a present is given we are all the same
The force that lives in the water
Doesn't doesn't distinguish between our colors
And the entire city is Oxum's...

The city is hers...
  • Q: So the song above says "The force that lives in the water doesn't doesn't distinguish between our colors..."  Would it be then that Brazil is truly a society of racial harmony, without prejudice?
  • A: Unhappily not everyone here shares Oxum's sensibility (as expressed by Gerônimo and Vevé Calazans); there is plenty of prejudice here. But there is a way in which Brazil is way ahead of the United States, and this is that the lower economic classes mix, mingle, marry, and live side-by-side as if, surprise!, it were the most normal thing in the world. And there are a lot of families whose roots are an impossibly tangled mixture of African, Indian, and European bloodlines (and Arabic and Jewish to boot). But the upper echelons of society tend to be of European lineage, and there are carnival blocos in Salvador wherein the obvious absence of darker skin is no accident.
  • Q: Why do so many race-car drivers come from Brazil?
  • A: I don't know, but a large part of the population drives like they think they are chasing glory at Hockenheim or Indianapolis. So the watchword(s) are watch-your-everlovin'-ass-when-you're-crossin'-the-street, baby! I've heard numerous times that Brazil has the highest accident rate in the world, and I'm inclined to believe it. It really is necessary to be careful if you or anybody you know values your life.

Indy Racing League 2004 Champion Tony Kanaan leads the pack at the Indianapolis 500.  Where's Tony from?  Absolutely right!  Salvador da Bahia!

  • Q: Is the weather summertime-great all year round?
  • A: A lot of people have that impression; I'm embarrassed to think that I was one of them. And no, it isn't. There are seasonal variations. It can even snow at higher elevations in the south of Brazil during the winter. That doesn't happen in Salvador of course, but the winter months (June, July, August) can be very rainy, and some days are out-and-out jacket weather. In the interior these months feel like brisk autumn in the United States and nights are often cold enough that heavy blankets are brought out. But unless you plan to be on the beach every day, none of this is bad. This is the season of São João (a big festa which falls on the 24th of June) and forró (funky Brazilian hillbilly music). Hey, this is Bahia! Did you think the partying was going to stop? (And whatever the case, don't worry, there are still plenty of decent beach days during this time of the year.)
  • Q: Speaking of the weather, is the tropical Bahia sun really all that much stronger than the European or North American summer sun?
  • A: You bet your blisters it is! It's easy to think otherwise because the seabreeze and lower humidity generally keep things fresh. But you've got to remember that it's like having a nuclear reactor up there, and if you don't remember it, you're going to fry. (You can translate this to "sunblock & sensibility".)
  • Q: Is it true that you can't throw toilet paper into the toilet in Brazil?! What do you do with it?!
  • A: Generally speaking, and with few exceptions, you carefully place the "soiled tissue" into a trash receptical sitting next to the toilet, where one would hope it doesn't stew too long before somebody gets around to cleaning the thing out. The unfortunate truth is that the Brazilian Plumbing Ethos is part of the general Brazilian Construction Ethos, ergo: nobody's going to see it; why waste money doing it right? Narrow pipes cost less than fat pipes, never mind that they are also easier to clog up.
  • Q: So that's why they so often have that little water-pistol-on-a-hose gizmo next to the john?
  • A: That and for "feminine hygiene".
  • Q: Okay, as long as we're being open about things, are Brazilians as sexually liberated as they are reputed to be?
  • A: In a nutshell: yes. But that doesn't mean it's okay to come here and act like a horny jerk. A lot of guys get here (I'm going to tackle this from a man's POV) and fall prey to a misconception based on the locked eyes and meaningful lingering glances, of the sort that James Bond gets, directed at them. It's like presto chango! somehow they've been miraculously transformed into Very Desirable Males, and all it took was a plane trip! Well, maybe they are desirable in the dark eyes which behold them, but more often than not they are being naive tourists and the owner of the dark eyes is not staring into their souls, but rather their pockets. So far no problem really, but some of these guys, instant Lotharios, adopt a completely unsuitable attitude towards all Brazilian women, assuming that they are fair and easy game. That's not only not true, it's disrespectful. Brazilians generally do have a more easy-going attitude towards sex than their North American or Western European counterparts, but charm, good humor, and above all a sense of the limits of decency are a part of the mix. Guys who don't understand this and assume otherwise are, well, jerks!
  • Q: What kinds of trees line the streets in Salvador?
  • A: Almond and tamarind are the most common.  Mango and avocado are common backyard trees.  Of course there are plenty of coconut palms around as well, and lots of the lush dendé trees which provide the "nut" from which the oil so essential to Bahian cuisine is derived.
  • Q: What's the difference between a sambista and a sambador?
  • A:  I knew you were wondering that!  Their hats.  And the hats they wear are a function of the type of music they play.  A sambista plays Rio-style samba and wears a jaunty white straw fedora appropriate for a street-smart city slicker.  A sambador plays Bahian samba-de-roda and wears a darker hat appropriate for a salt-of-the-earth field-worker.


  • Q: So what's with those crazy forró hats?!
The Hat
The Music Maker
The Bad Guy
  • A: Those are cangaçeiro hats. Cangaçeiros were, depending on your perspective, either bloodthirsty bandits or antiestablishment Robin Hoods (the most notorious being Lampião), who, in either case, terrorized the backlands of Brazil's Nordeste. And whatever your opinion of the cangaçeiros might be, you can't take away from them the fact that their hats were very cool, so cool in fact that the style was adopted by the great Luiz Gonzaga, and hence by others who play the music of this part of Brazil.

Why, if it isn't David Byrne!

  • Q: Moving along then, what exactly is the connection between the American midwestern state of Indiana and Bahian samba-de-roda?
  • A: Anything Goes! The Cole Porter song in the musical of the same name uses a clave (okay, that's a Cuban and not a Brazilian term) identical to that used in Bahian roots samba (and that of Luiz Gonzaga's baião forró rhythm too). The clave came to Cole Porter by way of the Charleston, a dance which (incidentally) originated in a community with roots in West Africa. And the urbane Mr. Porter was (of course) from Peru, Indiana.

Cole Porter & Company
Sambista? I doubt it! Beguinista? For sure!

  • Q: What kind of jokes do Brazilians tell?
  • A: In the spirit of Americans telling Kentucky jokes, Canadians telling Newfie jokes, the English telling Irish jokes, and the Irish telling Kerryman jokes, the Brazilians tell, among other things, Portuguese jokes.
  • Q: Why are your pages so red?
  • A: Red is the color of Xangô. White is too. Red and white! I think that's pretty cool!
Salvador Apartment Rentals!

Thinking about an apartment? What Alain has to say may be interesting!

Alain's Apartments in Salvador: Click HERE for information and listings!!!

by writer Ben Paris
The Good, the Bad, & the Beautiful
Apartment Rental Salvador: Alain!

Apartment Rental Salvador: Alain

An American in Brazil
A-Class Service & Communication!
Apartment Rental Salvador: Daniel!

Apartment Rental Salvador: Daniel

A San Francisco Native in Brazil
A-Class Service & Communication!
Home - Salvador Central

Home: Salvador Central

A Tour Guide to
Salvador & Environs

A Tour Guide to Salvador

Salvador, the City

Salvador & Its Spirit

A Short History of
Salvador da Bahia

A Short History of Salvador da Bahia

Carnival in Salvador

Carnival in Salvador

Salvador's Old City: Pelourinho

Salvador's Old City

Salvador's Neighborhoods, Streets,
Praças & Byways

Salvador's Neighborhoods

Blood, Sweat, & Prayers: Salvador Sites
& History

Salvador Sites

Once Upon a Night in Brazil:
A Short History of
Brazilian Music

A History of Brazilian Music

Sweet Fields, Bitter Harvest:
The Music of Bahia

Music of Bahia

About Us

About Us

The Sacred & the Profana: Festas


Food & Eating Out in Salvador

Food in Salvador

Drinking in Salvador

Drinking in Salvador

Salvador's Beach Scene

Salvador's Beaches

Islands in the Bay

Islands in the Bay

What's On in Salvador

What's On in Salvador

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Download GREAT
Brazilian Music

Download Great Brazilian Music

Ubiquitous Deities: Candomblé


Capoeira: Dance Like a Baryshnikov, Hit Like a Kalashnikov


Salvador's Afoxés & Blocos Afros

Salvador's Afoxe's & Blocos Afros

Percussion Classes in Salvador:
Heaviest Hands

Percussion Classes in Salvador

Brazilian Music
Workshops & Tours

Brazilian Music Workshops

Group Lodging in Salvador:
Professional & Student

Group Lodging in Salvador

Learning Portuguese:
Lessons & Classes

Learning Portuguese

Money Matters

Money Matters

Buying Property in Salvador

Buying Property in Salvador

S.O.S. Brazil: Volunteer Work

Volunteer Work

How to Avoid Being
Robbed & Cheated

How to Avoid Being Robbed & Cheated

Off Salvador's Beaten Track

Off Salvador's Beaten Track

How to Get Around:
Buses, Taxis, & Cars

How to Get Around

Black Market: Bahian Bazaar

Black Market

Outside of Salvador

Outside of Salvador

Other Voices

Other Voices

Kindred Spirits &
Fellow Travellers

Kindred Spirits

Fiction from Bahia

Fiction from Bahia

Dental Help in Salvador

Dental Help in Salvador

Current Weather & the Forecast

Current Weather

Apartment Rental Salvador: Alain!

Apartment Rental Salvador: Alain

Apartment Rental Salvador: Daniel!

Apartment Rental Salvador: Daniel

A Seaside Musical Guesthouse!

A Seaside Musical Guesthouse

An English-Owned Hotel!

An English-Owned Hotel

ALL Available Hotels
in Salvador!

All Hotels in Salvador

YOU Are Invited!!!

Pardal & João, Salvador Central
Me and João do Boi of the village of São Braz, Bahia
I link to João. João links to...

This is an invitation from me (black hat, right) to a music project built as an escape valve, a way to take music from anywhere to potentially anywhere else on the planet.

Unlike traditional media pipelines, which are either expensive or limited, ours is built on common humanity, on the phenomenon of six degrees of separation. Degrees of separation are links between people, connections forming pathways which extend throughout human society (which is why word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of publicity there is).

We've put an online music codex on the air, mirroring this. To give you a personal example of how it works, I link to a roots samba-de-roda (analogous in Brazil to the delta blues in the United States) group in a fishing village in Brazil. New Orleans writer/journalist Jay Mazza links to me. Trumpter Kermit Ruffins links to Jay. Other people link to Kermit. And other people link to those people. And...

Now there are LOTS of pathways leading to the musicians in that rural fishing village in Brazil. And music which would seldom be heard beyond the village border can be heard by interested people all over the world.

Jay - Salvador Central
Jay Mazza w/ Lionel Batiste
Jay links to me...

The musicodex in and of itself is probably not a mechanism for generating great commercial success, but it IS most definitely a way for news of musicians and their music to penetrate far and widely, outside of usual circles and localities. It is giant steps reducing the wide world to a mom & pop record shop (I'm the pop), wherein musical discoveries can be made and passed on.

Mankind has been making music for at least 50,000 years, and word-of-mouth has been around since humans could talk. Drawing on 21st century technology, we've put them together in a new way...

And you're invited.

Kermit Salvador Central
Kermit Ruffins links to Jay Mazza...

Airto - Salvador CentralBelpa - Salvador CentralBobby - Salvador Central
Airto Moreira - Belpa Mariani - Bobby Sanabria

This could be the start of something big...