Salvador da Bahia, Brazil Central
The Deep Guide to Brazil's Essentiality
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.
There are, per the small-world phenomenon, six (or so) steps between Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock and Ry Cooder and you. Between every nightclub singer in Havana and you. Between every fiddle player in Donegal and every whirling dervish in Istanbul and every throat singer in Tuva and you. Between you and every musician and producer you've ever heard of...and millions you haven't.
The codex (Latin for book) allows people to create their own curated lists of recommending links, taking other people directly to musicians (and others) they believe should be heard. Among other things this system allows us the privilege of being able to take the advice of people in a position to know deeply what outsiders to their music can't.
Moreover, codexed people are universally interconnected, the connections following the mathematics and sociology behind the small world phenomenon. A logical consequence of this is that for the first time since man began making music over 30,000 years ago, ALL musicians and their music can potentially be found by everybody everywhere within the vicinity of planet Earth.
With all we've had, we haven't had that!
It's easy to be an integral part of this solution to a millenia-old conundrum. Set up a hyper-discoverable, world-wide-wired MusiCodex page absolutely free (from where you can also link out to your Spotify Artist Page, Facebook, Twitter, webpage, blog, download sites, etc.). Non-musicians welcome too.
All are. To a brave new music world, a musical democracy curated by the deepest, most subtle and powerful recommendation software ever devised: the collective human mind.
I'm an American who's lived for the past twenty-two years in Bahia, Brazil, where I opened a record shop (Cana Brava Records) devoted to the primordial samba of the Bahian backlands and where I spend the time I can out in the small communities (fishing villages usually) where this music still exists.
"Sparrow" is the English-language version of what Brazilians call me...Pardal. David Dye was here last year and I organized a show for his World Café:
Given that there is fascinating music all over the world, and that there was no organized way of discovering that most of it even exists, I felt compelled to invent a way.
Before moving to Brazil I lived in New York city and "rescued" unpaid royalties for Led Zeppelin, Mongo Santamaria, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Philip Glass, the estate of Duke Ellington, Jim Hall, Ray Barretto, Airto Moreira, Astrud Gilberto, The Cadillacs (Earl Carroll), The Flamingos (Jake and Zeke Carey), among others.
Salvador sits on a vast bay -- a Baía de Todos os Santos (the Bay of All Saints), which at 1,100 square kilometers, 70 kilometers from north to south, and 60 kilometers from east to west (at its widest point) is the largest in Brazil. A Baía de Todos os Santos is fed by the Paraguaçu river (among numerous smaller sources), which opens into the smaller bay of Iguape, which in turn gives onto the principal bay. The largest town along the Paraguaçu is Cachoeira.
What appears to be the other side of the bay as you
look out over the water from Salvador, is actually the ilha (island) of Itaparica (ee-tah-pah-REE-kah).
Itaparica is the largest of the bay's 56 islands, and there are two ways of getting there: the
ferryboat and the pequena lancha,
or small boat (actually, if one is approaching the island from the far side of the bay, there is a short bridge). The pequena lancha has my vote, unless you're taking a car
The pequena lancha leaves from the Terminal Marítimo -- a blue-and-white
building behind the Mercado Modelo -- and takes you right across to Mar
Grande (a forty minute or so trip). It's not a small boat like, say, a rowboat (something I feel is necessary to point out given that pequena lancha = small boat), but it's small enough that the ride across
the bay feels like an adventure in itself for more landlocked people...sun, sea, and air.
Mar Grande (Big Sea) is a small town with a nice enough beach
and some great barracas. The beach scene is especially hot
(people-wise) during the summer months of January and February.
Disembarking at Mar Grande
Ponta de Areia (Sandy Point)
is a huge, wide beach close to the northern tip of the island,
kind of like the Daytona of Itaparica (in terms of the beach
itself anyway). It's a good place to spend a day, again and more particularly, during Brazilian summer. Lots of barracas.
Transportation from place to
place on the island is available in the form of kombis (a word familiar to German-speakers), usually Volkswagen vans
which tend to congregrate at disembarkation points and which will
drop one off anywhere along their routes. Likewise they will pick
up anyone flagging them down at any point along those routes.
There are also city-type buses running from Bom Despacho,
the island's landing point for the big ferry-boat.
Of the smaller islands (meaning not Itaparica), one of the most popular as
a destination via schooner or ferry boat is the Ilha de
Maré (Tide Island), located in the northern area of the bay.
Boats generally pull up to the praia (beach) of Itamoabo, and because
there is no pier one reaches the beach by getting off the boat into waist-deep
water and wading up to dry ground. Itamoabo is nice, though not particularly
beautiful in and of itself, and it is lined by the usual Bahian assortment of
slap-dash barracas and bars serving beer, carangueijo (crabs), and fish.
Disembarking at the Ilha (Island) of Maré
Some three hundred meters or so along the island's coast to the left (as one faces out to the water) is a truly lovely little beach called Praia das Neves (Beach of the Snows, not much frequented except during high Brazilian summer) which has several houses set up as beachbars, very sweet and organized.
Maré is home to a small population of fishermen. Their communities are not visible from either of the two beaches described above, and are only reachable by boat or walking (not that I'm suggesting an excursion unless one happens to be curious). From Itamoabo a small sidewalk wends its way up a hill, then back down to the community of Santana where, on the weekends, the inhabitants will be doing what the visitors on Itamoabo are doing -- sitting in simple bars drinking beer and talking.
Itamoabo; the walk in the middle leads to back the village of Santana
The next community along -- Praia Grande(Big Beach) -- is only reachable by following the water's edge (or wading if the tide is high). This is perhaps why Praia Grande started its life as a quilombo.
From Praia Grande on one may (or could rather, I'm not recommending this) continue to follow the island's shoreline and circumnavigate; or there is a "shortcut" (a trek along a narrow twisting trail with some very muddy spots, also not recommended!) up through Atlantic rainforest, over the deserted center of the island, and down to the peaceful (and poor) little community of Botelho on the island's far side.
Botelho sits directly across from the Port of Aratú (an industrial boil on what would otherwise be a beautiful landscape) and is home to Maré's only pier. On weekends when the weather is nice Botelho's small, open-air bar is packed with off-islanders who've arrived by speedboat.
Continuing along the coast takes one past the island's high-walled brothel and on to the community of Neves, and thence back to Itamoabo.
Mariene de Castro
Walmir Lima in Cana Brava Records
Ah, eu vim de Ilha de Maré minha senhora
Prá fazer samba na Lavagem do Bonfim
Saltei na rampa do mercado e segui na direção
Cortejo armado na Igreja da Conceição
Aí de carroça andei, comadre,
Aí de carroça andei, compadre
Ah, quando eu cheguei no Bonfim minha senhora
Da carroça enfeitada eu saltei
Com água, flores e perfume,
escada da colina eu lavei
Aí foi que eu sambei, compadre
Aí foi que eu sambei, comadre...
Aí foi que eu sambei, compadre
Aí foi que eu sambei, comadre...
Ah, I've come from Tide Island my lady
To samba at the Lavagem do Bonfim
I got off at the market ramp and headed for
the cortege Ready at the Church of the Immaculate Conception
From there I went by wagon, comrade,
From there I went by wagon, compadre
Ah, when I arrived in Bonfim my lady
From the decorated wagon I descended
And with water, flowers and perfume,
I washed the stairway on the hill
And it was then that I sambaed, compadre
And it was then that I sambaed, comrade...
And it was then that I sambaed, compadre
And it was then that I sambaed, comrade.
The fishing village of Santana on the Ilha de Maré
The Ilha do Paty & As Paparutas
As Paparutas dancing to Bahian samba (samba-de-roda) with dishes typical to the region
The Ilha do Paty was once the location of a quilombo (village or collection of villages founded by runaway slaves from the region's numerous sugarcane plantations), and the quilombo continues there to this day (although, like Brazil's other quilombos, it is no longer known as such, the currently used term being remanescente do quilombo ("remains of a quilombo"). In English that sounds dead, and these places are very much alive. There is no regular boat service to the island, one of two principal points of embarkation being the fishing village of Santo Estevão, below.
The Ilha do Paty, with the village at the bottom (thanks Google!)
Paparutas on their off hours
Mario of Santo Estevão on the rudder,
returning from Paty.
Cajaíba, New Luxury on the Northernmost Island
Casa Grande (the Big House) on the Island of Cajaíba
The expansive residence in the paradisical setting above was the abode of the tyrannical Barão de Cajaiba (Baron of Cajaíba), infamous for his cruelty to his slaves. Not surprisingly, there was a quilombo hidden away on another island in the area, one which still exists to this day.
Cajaíba from the air, with São Francisco do Conde in the upper right-hand corner. Cajaíba fits into the northernmost point of the bay like a piece into a puzzle.
And, in a twist of modern irony, the entire island was recently purchased and will be developed as a luxury resort.