On Salvador, Bahia, and the Bahian Recôncavo...
Brazil's cultural cradle.
SALVADOR BAHIA CENTRAL
The Old City, Pelourinho
The concrete -- or stone rather -- reason for this neighborhood's name was taken down and away on September 7th, 1835. But the metaphor remains, echoing through Pelourinho's byways like the doleful remonstances of aggrieved spirits.
"Pelourinho" means pillory. And Salvador's pelourinho last stood at the top of the sloping Largo do Pelourinho, final point in a journey which began in the city's first open market in the Praça da Feira (today known as Praça Municipal -- the open square at the top of the Elevador Lacerda). The pelourinho stood at the market's center.
Then sometime between 1602 and 1607 -- period of the Governorship of Dom Diogo Botelho -- the pelourinho was moved by governor's decree to the Terreio de Jesus.
But the Terreiro de Jesus was the site of the Jesuits' church and school, and the screams and groans interfered with church services and teaching. So it was removed again and repositioned at the bottom of the Ladeira de São Bento (where Praça Castro Alves is now located).
Again it was removed, for the penultimate time, in 1807, and taken to the largo which would come to bear its name. It would stand there for another 28 years.
Pelourinho Rises Again! Viva!
...Rescued for the second time (now!) the first being when the area was rebuilt beginning in 1993. Ironically, the seeds of the area's second phase of decline were planted with the first rescue. That reconstruction was done under the aegis of Antônio Carlos Magalhães, at various stages of his career mayor of Salvador, governor of Bahia, federal senator, and minster of communications. Sr. Magalhães ruled Bahia like an old-time South American coronel, and upon his death in 2007 his chafing political enemies abandoned Old Salvador as if it had been Sr. Magalhães' personal fiefdom...never mind that Brazil's first capital was born centuries before its rescuer. It would be like (and excuse my American take on this) Bloomberg happy to see Times Square in New York City go back to hell just to spite Guiliani! But the world goes 'round and every four years the World Cup comes 'round. And with the 2014 taking place in Brazil, Salvador being among the host cities, the old quarters are being repainted...entire streets are being re-cobbled...policing has become vastly more effective, and some brilliant Bahian music is being presented, almost better than in the glorious old days! More on the entertainment to come!
In the pink! An elementary school in Pelourinho gets a rosy-cheeked facelift! All buildings are going back to their centuries-old original colors (as determined by scrapings and analysis)!
Amendoin (Peanuts) at your table!
If you are in Pelourinho and looking for information, a good source is Bahiatursa. The organization has an information center (with
maps and other resources, and attendants speaking a number of languages)
at Rua das Laranjeiras, No. 12, at one corner of the Terreiro de Jesus. Any policeman or shopkeeper can tell
you where it is, or point you in the right direction.
Folclórico da Bahia presents a wonderful and amazing show of dance and capoeira in the Teatro
Miguel Santana in Pelourinho, at Rua Gregôrio de Mattos, 49. Performances are
Monday through Saturday -- with the exception of Tuesdays -- at 8:00 p.m., and they run an hour or so in duration. Tickets are R$20 (last time I checked) and half-price for students. Advance purchases
of tickets can be made at the theater on show days, beginning at 2
p.m. during the week and 4:30 p.m on Saturdays.
Balé Folclórico da Bahia
Cane Fire & Cloves
Interested in cachaça? Cachaça is to Brazil what rum is to the Caribbean, it's the
national distilled spirit (okay, I know the Caribbean isn't a "nation"!).
Pelourinho has an interesting place called "O Cravinho" (literally: "The Little Clove") where the
approach to cachaça is something akin to that of a Frenchman
to his wine, or a German to his beer, or a Scotsman to his whiskey.
The O Cravinho Annex
O Cravinho is owned and run by Julival
Santos Reis, a gentle man with the manner and appearance of a field
biologist. Sr. Reis will gladly and knowledgeably discuss (in Portuguese)
distilling methods and the various types of woods utilized in barrels
used to age cachaça, pointing out which of the barrels lining
the walls in his establishment are constructed from which type of
tree (massaranduba is a common one).
Sr. Reis' establishment consists of a bar/restaurant
in ambient amber-colored wood and a small annex to the right of the
restaurant entrance where bottled cachaça may be purchased.
The restaurant is a popular place where entering often means squeezing
past patrons gathered at the very popular bar towards the front. (Curious
about what those people are drinking out of those little cups? There's
something on that here.) Further back,
behind the restaurant section, is a courtyard (shared by various other
establishments) with live music seven nights a week (the entrance is one store-front to the left of O Cravinho's entrance, under a sign reading Fundo do Cravinho (Back of O Cravinho). Sunday is the most animated night back here, with music (pagode fundo de quintal) starting up at 5 p.m. (or so) and running until 10. Cover is 2 reais. O
Cravinho's address is Praça 15 de Novembro (Terreiro de Jesus),
No. 3. The phone number is 3322-6759.
Filhos de Gandhy Headquarters
Another interesting place to have a lean and a cravinho is at the hole-in-the-wall establishment Preto Velho, operated out of a doorway at Rua Gregório de Mattos, 38, across the street from the Filhos de Ghandy headquarters. Preto Velho is owned and operated by Domingos Teixeira Lemos, a man who was born and raised in Pelourinho and who has lived every one of his 87 years there. At one time his establishment was a restaurant, but with the death of his wife several years ago the place shrank to a simple bar. Sr. Lemos occasionally has other batidas on hand as well (jatobá and erva doce, for instance).
Bahia's Sons of Gandhi
de Gandhy headquarters, it's a culturally jamming place to
be on Sunday evenings, from 4 p.m. (or so) until 10 p.m. (or so). Men dance as if in a house of candomblé, to live music -- percussive ijexá -- in the big downstairs hall, while friends and family eat abarás and drink soft drinks and beer on the mezzanine.
The vibe is very, very good and the place gets very, very packed.
Admittance is free.
Lua's Atelier: Exterior
Berimbaus are on display and for sale all over Pelourinho. One interesting place
which deals in berimbaus and more is Mestre Lua's Atelier Percussivo,
located at Rua Inácio Ociole, No. 3 (a small street close to
the Igreja São Francisco). Mestre Lua is a capoeira master
who crafts percussion instruments (berimbaus, atabaques, bongôs,
timbaus, cuicas, congas, djembês, and more) of great beauty
and quality, and his shop looks like something of a living museum.
The difference is that these instruments are made to play. They are
also pricier than others to be had, but even so they are far less
expensive than anything similar purchased in the United States or
Europe. The phone number at the shop is 3488-3600, and Mestre Lua's
home phone is 3636-8118. Mestre Lua also organizes percussion classes and workshops, sometimes on
his property on the island of Itaparica.
Some of Lua's Instruments
Lua's shop; that's Mestre Bigodinho seated there.
who sells berimbaus in Pelourinho -- and who you'll almost certainly
see if you're in Pelourinho anytime during the day -- is Mestre
Gajé, who, in his pre-mestre days, is pictured below,
third from the left. The photo was taken over 40 years ago
(it's actually a still from the film Dancá de Guerra (War Dance). The hippie to
the left is venerable Mestre Bola Sete, author of
a book bearing this photo on its cover. The two players
are João Pequeno and João Grande.
Meste Gajé is third from left
Mestre Gajé nowadays
Mestre Gajé sells
berimbaus in Praça da Sé, the entryway to Pelourinho...painted (for tourists; a practice
originated in the '50s by Mestre Waldemar da Paixão, another
story; actually a lot of other stories) and unpainted (for
people who will actually play them).
It's up to you...
If you are a musician, when was the last time you used Myspace Music? And how is Facebook supposed to go beyond your "friends" to divulge your existence and activities? Well there's a new network, launched from Brazil, born in music and doing it in a much more intriguing way!
Capoeira on the Fly
Want to see berimbaus and drums (and the human spirit and body) in action? There's an excellent high-energy two-hour (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 10 reais cover) demonstration/show of capoeira on Tuesday nights (night of the above-mentioned benção) at the renowned Academia de Mestre Bimba (located at
Rua das Laranjeiras, 01, just off of the Terreio de Jesus). These beatboy (and girl) Baryshnikovs clap, sing, wield the ancient art of capoeira and its accoutrements, and soar!
From the Works of Pierre Verger
An Eye for the Real Magic
Depending on where you're staying in Bahia, on where you've gone, what you've seen and done, it may have crossed your mind that Old Bahia -- that Bahia of myth and magic -- hasn't been much in evidence. You may have wondered whether it even exists anymore. Well setting that question aside for now (the answer being: it does) Bahia is lucky to have been the home a marvelous chronicler who worked in the medium of black & white photography.
I'm speaking of Pierre
"Fatumbi" Verger, born in Paris on the 4th of November,
1902, passed away in Salvador on the 11th of February, 1996.
A small sample of Verger's vast work hangs in the Galeria Pierre
Verger at the entrance to Praça da Sé (on Rua da
Misericórdia) -- resonantly beautiful prints which truly capture
the soul of Bahia. The Galeria also sells T-shirts with Verger
photos on them, and this is one place in the Cento Histórico
where the presence of T-shirts doesn't seem to cheapen or lessen the
authenticity of the area. The Fundação Pierre
Verger has a comprehensive site here,
showcasing Verger's photos not only of Bahia but of a plethora of
other places around the world.
Passion Blooms in Old Bahia
Donald Duck hangs in Pelourinho with Zé Carioca and gets all steamed up over Carmen Miranda's baby sister Aurora as she sings magnificent Ary Barroso'sOs Quindins de Yayá ("Yayá's Sweets"; Yayá is an archaic African-Bahian term of respect for a woman). The clip is from Disney's 1944 release The Three Caballeros.
Can you blame the guy?!
High Pelô fashion ("Pelô" is the local abbreviation for "Pelourinho") in hair may be had at a number of places both on the street and in small, storefront shops. Natalice Passos (pictured below), Queen of bloco afro Ilê Aiyê in the year 2000, weaves hair (for women, men, people black, white, in-between, and otherwise) in a shop called Negra Jhô (and owned and operated by the same) on Rue Frei Vicente, 4.
Main Entry: sen·za·la
Function: noun 1 Brazil: slave quarters 2 Angola: village
...was located behind the Colégio dos Jesuitas (which stood on the site currently occupied by the old School of Medicine), where it stretched out and across the hillside descending from behind the houses on Rua Alfredo de Brito (originally Rua Portas do Carmo) to the cidade baixa (lower city). Nowadays the area is called "Roçinha" (ho-SEEN-ya), and although enforced servitude was abolished (in Brazil) in 1888, poor Roçinha hasn't managed to climb much above a standard of living laid down for it centuries ago.
Entrance is via an archway set on the left-hand side of Rua Alfredo de Brito as one descends towards the Largo do Pelourinho from the Terreiro de Jesus, a couple of doors down from the A Cubana Sorveteria (ice-cream shop), and just past a clearly marked address -- #16. The area used to host music, reggae mostly, several nights a week, and then was taken over by undesirable elements.
Those elements are have been removed, and the area is now undergoing construction...implantation of family housing.
15 Mysteries to Pelourinho
From its first location in the Igreja dos Quinze Mistérios (Church of the Fifteen Mysteries) in 1832, to its present location in Pelourinho (acquired in 1883), this society of black men and women has for 172 years endeavored to help others in need by everything from purchasing freedom from slavery then to buying medicine and paying funeral expenses now. More to come...
Bahia's Greatest Lived Here
Dorival Caymmi lived in this house at Ladeira do Carmo 35 as a young boy.
Dorival asks "What is it that a Baíana has?" (O que é que a bahiana tem...a bahiana, or baíana, depending on whether one utilizes the old orthography or the new, being of course a Bahian woman), in the song that put him into the eye (and ear) of Brazil's public, and then the world's (in the voice of Carmen Miranda).
Camafeu de Oxossi
Camafeu de Oxossi (far right) with Jorge Amado (second from right)
Camafeu de Oxossi was a force-of-nature. Born in 1915 in Gravatá (across the street from Pelourinho), his father died when Camafeu was seven years old, and not liking the way he was treated by his new stepfather he lit out to fend for himself in the streets in and around Pelourinho.
Camafeu was baptized Ápio Patrocínio da Conceição, but according to Jorge Amado "Ápio Patrocínio da Conceição did not exist, it was just a nickname they gave him when he was born." The christening was struck after a lucky run in a jogo de sorte, a gambling game, in Pelourinho. The guy he cleaned out called him "Camafeu" (a camafeu is a bas-relief cameo) after a lucky character in a film in town at the time. The Oxossi part came later, for this: Camafeu had a stall called Barraco de São Jorge in the old Mercado Modelo and São Jorge, or Saint George, is syncretised with the orixá of the hunt in candomblé, Oxossi. Voilà! A name fit for a legend!
Camafeu studied at the Escola de Aprendiz de Artífice close to Praça da Piedade, sold shoelaces, shined shoes, worked as a sailor and then later on the docks of Salvador, eventually coming to own a barraca (stand) at the Mercado Modelo (the first Mercado Modelo, which burned down in 1969, some say at the hand of the mayor).
Camafeu didn't take the business seriously, partied with friends there, and wound up having to sell the place. The mercado's administrator allowed him to put a couple of boards over an old fountain and at this makeshift stall Camafeu sold clothes and used shoes, eventually earning enough money to get back into the game, buying a couple of barracas, and then a couple more, all side-by-side, joining them together. Here he sold materials for candomblé (he was an Obá de Xangô in house of candomblé Ilé Axé Opô Afonjá) and wandered the mercado aisles, berimbau in hand, singing the cantigas de capoeira (he was a highly respected capoeira master). His barraca was, according to Jorge Amado, a meeting place, a nexus, a musical conservatory. Sr. Amado went on to say that culture in Salvador is born, nurtured, and affirmed in some pretty strange places. With his illustrious pen he immortalized Camafeu in several of his books, including O Sumiço da Santa (The War of the Saints), Pastores da Noite (Shepards of the Night), and Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands).
The 1980 Philips records release.
Camafeu was a Filho de Gandhy and was the afoxé's president from 1976 to 1982. He died in 1994 and at his funeral, while being interred in the cemetery of the Ordem Terceiro de São Francisco to the accompaniment of Catholic prayer, a song in Yoruban was lifted to the skies by babalorixá Luís da Muriçoca, and all present joined in.
Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, in Pelourinho
Jorge Amado of the Wayward and Picaresque
The writer as intense young man.
Dona Flor and husbands (one dead and one living) descend the Largo do Pelourinho.
The fellow sitting next to Camafeu de Oxossi in the photo in the preceding section is (should you not know) the best known of Brazil's writers, Jorge Amado. Sr. Amado got off to an early start, publishing his first novel O País do Carnaval (Carnival Country) in 1931, when he was just eighteen years old. His second novel Suor (Sweat) was written while he was a student living in Pelourinho (at Largo do Pelourinho 68 -- the old address -- which is actually located on Rua das Portas do Carmo, just around the corner from where Batatinha -- see below -- lived), and Pelourinho, with its wild and colorful cast of characters and misfits, would become the setting for many of Amado's novels and short stories.
Bright Melancholy and the Diplomat
of Bahian Samba
Batatinha (Oscar da Penha, born on
the 5th of August, 1924 and in his youth a resident of Beco do Motta 2)
played the matchbox and composed many lovely sambas.
Batatinha's childhood home at Rua Leo Vilgildo de Carvalho (popularly known by the old name Beco do Motta) 2
This is a song with an interesting provenance, a true story: Batatinha as a young man was out in the surging crowds that are part of Carnival in Bahia, when from the multitude emerged a lovely young woman, asking if she might borrow Batatinha's small embroidered towel, a standard component of samba school carnival kits back then. Batatinha complied. The moça delicately dried her face, handing the towel back to Batatinha, thanking him before disappearing, never to be seen (by Batatinha) again...leaving behind in the towel her beguiling scent and sweet memories of what could have been had he perhaps taken the initiative...
His LP (recently reissued on CD), named for a song, itself named for a true event during Carnival...
Batatinha died on the 3rd of January, 1997, aged 72
years, leaving behind muito saudade!
Pérolas Finas (Fine Pearls)
Three artists who spent most of their time here in Pelourinho, at Cantina da Lua, are Batatinha, Riachão, and EderaldoGentil. Above find a clip of the three together singing a song of Ederaldo's, Ederaldo singing and playing guitar to the accompaniment of the others.
Cantina da Lua, hangout
for the Bahian Ratpack: Edil Pacheco, Riachão, Walmir Lima,
Batatinha, and Ederaldo Gentil
As always, Ederaldo's lyrics are touching, movingly wrought. A translation into English follows (for the Portuguese, just listen!).
Gold and Wood
Gold sinks beneath the sea
Wood remains above
Oysters are born of the sediment
Creating fine pearls
I wouldn't want to be the sea
It would do to be the source
Much less be a rose
Simply the thorn
I wouldn't want to be the pathway
Perhaps the shortcut
Much less the rain
Just the dew
I wouldn't want to be the day
Just the dawn
Much less be the field
Just one grain
I wouldn't want to be life
Just the moment
Much less a concert
Just a song
King of Carnival (a continuation...)
I had the honor of meeting one of Bahia's great bambas (sambistas), a man so profoundly affected by the fall of samba from its place as the premier popular music of Bahia (to be replaced by what is now commonly called "axé music") that he spun into a deep depression and for years hasn't left his apartment, rarely seeing anybody but his immediate family (principally his sister Denise, who cares for him)...
Now, one might question the...stability or whatever one would like to call it...of somebody who would be so far derailed over the falling-from-popularity of one's musical style, and the story is a complicated one (more complicated than I myself know), but Ederaldo Gentil had a good distance to fall.
He was born in the area of Largo Dois de Julho and as a child was raised in the nearby central Salvador neighborhood of Tororó during a time (the '60s) when Salvador had samba schools. Ederaldo belonged to the Filhos de (Sons of) Tororó.
In 1967 his samba enredoDois de Fevereiro won the school's yearly contest, meaning that this was the principal song which the school would march to during Carnival. In the same year won Salvador's contest for Best Carnival Song with a composition entitled Rio de Lágrimas (River of Tears). He went on to win the competition for Best Carnival Song for the next three years in a row.
In 1969 Ederaldo had some sort of a disagreement with the Filhos de Tororó, resulting in the amazing fact (amazing to me, certainly) that of the ten samba schools marching in Bahia's 1970 Carnival, nine of those schools went out singing an Ederaldo Gentil composition as their samba enredo! The only one that didn't go out singing one of his songs was the one he'd had the disagreement with!
In 1972 he got back together with his companheiros in the Filhos de Tororó, and the school went out that year with an Ederaldo Gentil composition celebrating the 50th birthday of Bahia's most beloved mãe-de-santo (candomblé priestess) Mãe Menininha do Gantois, the samba In-Lê-In- Lá. This song also won that year's competition for Best Carnival Song.
In the years to come a number of Ederaldo's songs were sung by Brazilian recording stars of national stature, including Alcione, Leny Andrade, Eliana Pittman, and others, and Ederaldo recorded several albums of his own. He was an established member of Bahia's bamba royalty (I call them the Bahian Ratpack), a group which played together and drank together (usually at Clarindo Silva's Cantina da Lua, on the Terreiro de Jesus) and which included Batatinha, Riachão, Walmir Lima, and Edil Pacheco, all great sambistas.
In the late '80s Carnival changed, and in Carnival '91 Ederaldo and some of the other bambas tried going the axé music route, on top of a trio elétrico. It was a flop and that was the last straw. Ederaldo withdrew.
1999 a group of distinguished musicians including Gilberto Gil, Beth Carvalho, Elza Soares, João Nogueiro, and Carlinhos Brown recorded a record (CD) of Ederaldo's compositions entitled Pérolas Finas in order to help him out financially. It has since become a collector's item.
And so there I was, sitting in his apartment, addressing the man. He suffers from clinical depression. I asked him if he still plays his guitar, and he answered no. According to his sister he has good days and bad days. He's sixty-five years old but surprisingly enough looks a good deal younger. I told him he isn't forgotten, much to the contrary. Among the cognoscenti of samba, he's a legend. I don't think it registered. But I'm going back.
Luiz Dórea...Nego Fua, the Rooster of Maciel (o Galo do Maciel), toughest guy in Bahia (retired), with scars from knife-fights and bullets to prove it. Fua
has lived at the corner of Rua Maciel de Cima (João de Deus) and Rua J. Castro Rabelo for 53 years, with his Bar Galícia on the ground floor. A couple of
years ago I
personally saw him, aged and infirm, wade into a corner fight between two young guys, one armed with a knife, and break it up.
Fua is a local
legend and a sweet-tempered man, beloved by everybody in the community. His wife Morena sells churrasco (barbecue) on the corner on weekend nights.
And finally, if you're curious, a square of broken marble at the top of the Largo do Pelourinho (in front of what is now the Casa de Jorge Amado) marks the spot where the pillory stood, that stone column to which slaves were bound, beaten, humiliated and tortured, the pelourinho which was eventually to give Salvador's first neighborhood its name.