Tours through old Salvador -- the Centro Histórico -- and for the more adventurous, into the Recôncavo around the other side of the bay (analogous in Brazil to the Mississippi Delta in the United States), to the sambas-de-roda and festivals out there (depending on what's going on). To learn something about samba-de-roda (primordial, African samba), the following two entrances below into our music section will put your hand on a heartbeat unlike that anywhere else...


Salvador's Centro Histórico: Pelourinho

  • What is nowadays called "Pelourinho" is Salvador's Old Town, the most extensive architectural conjunction of colonial-era churches and houses in South America. The yellow house in the middle here - No. 35 on the Ladeira do Carmo - was a childhood home for Dorival Caymmi, who would go on to so magnificently and intimately capture the essence of Bahia in song. Below is Caymmi (second from left, ten years old) at the time he lived here...

    Caymmi is above right, with Josué de Barros (center; discoverer of Carmen Miranda) who lived in Salvador's neighborhood of Santo Antônio além do Carmo, a couple blocks beyond Caymmi's childhood home. To the left above is Assis Valente, of Santo Amaro at the north end of the bay, writer of quintessentially Brazilian songs and who is said to have killed himself for the love of Carmen Miranda.

    Assis wrote Brasil Pandeiro, a paen to Brazil's spirit, sung below by Brazilians across Brazil including Bule Bule in Salvador's



    Bule Bule's Chainlicity page is here.

    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 remonstrances 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.

    Choro, a distinctly Brazilian music, in the Largo do Pelourinho
    The players are: Ivan Sacerdote, Dudu Reis, Gilson Verde, Vitor Sales e Sebastian Notini.
    The song is "Noites Cariocas" (Rio Nights), by Jacob do Bandolim.

    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.

    And with the 2014 Cup having taken place in Brazil, Salvador being among the host cities, the old quarters were repainted...entire streets were re-cobbled...and some brilliant Bahian music was and is being presented.

    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)!

    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. Bahiatursa is just up the street from our Cana Brava specialty record shop!

    Brazil's first medical school, on the Terreiro de Jesus; it was rebuilt in 1903

    Intimate Theater

    The Balé 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$40 (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.

    The Balé Folclórico

    Cane Fire & Cloves

    The O Cravinho Annex

    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.

    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.

    Afoxé Filhos de Gandhy

    The Filhos de Gandhy headquarters is 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. The address is Rua Maciel de Baixo (also named Rua Gregório de Matos), 53.

    Filhos de Gandhy is an entity devoted to peace, the creation of which was inspired by an act of violence on the Indian subcontinent and the manifestations of which, although rooted deeply in Africa, were born in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

    And in common with one of the subcontinent's great religions, Filhos de Gandhy was born beneath a tree -- not a Banyan tree but a mango tree rather, growing on a steeply inclined street (Rua do Julião, now sometimes called Rua Campos Sales) running through one of Salvador's poorest neighborhoods. The men who were gathered there -- stevedores, dockworkers -- had no idea they were making history; they were simply honoring it while trying to have some fun. Carnival was about to begin and they were forming a bloco (carnival group) of their own. One of the men beneath the mango tree...Durval Marques da Silva -- Vavá Madeira...suggested a name. It was suitable to all, and the theme followed naturally.

    A little more than a year earlier -- on the 30th of January, 1948 -- the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated. Vavá suggested that they honor this man who had fought so profoundly and achieved so much in a nation which -- like their own -- was racked by poverty and rife with social injustice, a man who wielded peace as a mighty instrument of change. The others liked the idea, and thus the Filhos de Gandhy -- Sons of Gandhy -- were born. Peace would be their instrument as well, played out in the rhythms of ijexá on atabaques and agogôs.

    A Carnival bloco needs fantasias -- costumes -- and several of the men there under the tree had recently seen a film which made it to sleepy Salvador ten years after its 1939 release: Gunga Din, starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. It was an easy choice; the fantasias would emulate the clothing of Rudyard Kipling's redoubtably intrepid waterboy...

    Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you
    By the livin' Gawd that made you
    You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

    But there was a problem. Shipping in the Port of Salvador had fallen off since the war and work was intermittent. On top of that the Federal Government -- a dicatatorship -- had announced post-war cost cuts and the stevedores' income had taken a hit; money was tight. To the rescue came the working girls of the area -- the ladies of Julião. Not only did they include (some, not all of) these men among their patrons, but they also included them as their friends. A number of the sheets utilized in the abadás (a name given to the flowing fantasias, based on the robes worn by the uprising slaves of Bahia's 1835 Malê Rebellion) worn that first year were provided on loan by these women, and when the men paraded, the women followed, food and refreshments in hand. Like Dostoevsky's Sonya Marmeladova, benevolence and generosity were not precluded by their profession.

    Why did the women follow the men, and not march together with them? Nothing to do with social strictures. The concern was for the most part with the inevitable fellow-travellers who would join in from the sidelines and march along uninvited. The thought was that restricting the ranks of marchers to men -- men who weren't partaking of alcohol while parading -- would help to ensure the reign of peace in that small part of the world over which the Filhos de Gandhy had some personal control. These were, of course, stevedores out for Carnival -- not saints playing harps in Heaven -- and drinking did happen on the sly. But the governing spirit of the rule was observed, maintained, and preserved, and the passing of the Filhos de Gandhy during Carnival in Bahia has since become an iconic emblem of dignity and brotherhood.

    The Filhos de Gandhy Chainlicity page is here.

     The Filhos de Gandhy started out as a bloco. They became an afoxé. What's the difference? A Carnival bloco is any group which marches together during Carnival. An afoxé is a group which utilizes religious percussion and dancing in secular settings, the religion in this case being West African candomblé. Carnival blocos of the time included wind instruments and the Filhos de Gandhi played percussion instruments exclusively. Beyond this they sang to Ogum, Ologum-edé, Oxalá, Oxum, and Exu. The government body having to do with Carnival said they were an afoxé. The Filhos didn't argue the matter; they voted on it. An afoxé in spirit, they became one on paper as well.

    Years passed and the organization faltered. There were financial problems and the group moved from one headquarters to another. For all the axé (life force) they carried with them, no preordained upward trajectory seemed to leaven their path. Things got so bad at one point that it looked like the organization would have to fold. That it didn't was in no small measure due to the efforts of two amazing men.

    The first was force-of-nature Camafeu de Oxossi, musical collaborator of the great Baden Powell, obá (minister) de Xangô (god of thunder and war), capoeirista-cum-restauranteur who wandered -- berimbau in hand -- the aisles of the Mercado Modelo playing the cantigas of capoeira.

    When Camafeu de Oxossi died and was being interred to the accompaniment of Catholic prayer, a song in Yoruba was lifted to the skies by Luís da Muriçoca, and all present joined in.

    It's Carnival in Pelourinho!!! Right outside Cana Brava Records! British director Toby Gough, left; Charles Butler of Hotel Redfish, center; Ben Paris, writer and tour guide, right.

    Ben will happily show you, as you wish, places many visitors see and places visitors very seldom get to: Ben Paris

    Prospector on the Premises!

    This is Turiba, a prospector/gem cutter-grinder/gold-and-silversmith in the shop directly across the street from me. Bahia is a gem state, bringing up diamonds and emeralds, among other stones, and there are a number of precious/semiprecious stones and jewelry shops in Pelourinho, including an H. Stern on the Terreiro de Jesus.

    Quite frankly this is something I know nothing about, but Turiba is a very nice man who knows this stuff inside out, from getting it out of the ground to putting a stone-in-a-setting into one of those fancy little boxes, and he says he's cheaper ("less expensive" maybe; we are talking about gems and gold and whatnot) than everybody else if you're in the market for such, it might behoove you to visit him. And don't forget me and the samba! We're right across the street!

    O Cravinho do Carlinhos

    This is Bule Bule in the bar two doors up the street from me, O Cravinho do Carlinhos, with Dona Vera, proprietress and Carlinhos's wife. They've been on the premises here for some 40 years and are super-nice people. Cravinho (little clove), as noted elsewhere on the site here, is a drink made by soaking cravo (clove) in cachaça then adding sugar and other flavoring agents. Good food and drinks!

    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).

    The 1980 Philips records re-release of Camafeu singing capoeira and candomblé

    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 also 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).

    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.

    Church of the Ordem Terceiro de São Francisco in Pelourinho; the cemetery is in Liberdade

    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

    Among Batatinha's many lovely songs is one with a particularly interesting provenance: 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...

    A record named for a song named for a small but memorable Carnival event

    The entire building above (including Batatina's house) has been taken over by a fellow named Antônio, who is from the Brazilian state of Sergipe and who is thus and quite naturally called "Sergipe" (sehr-JEE-pee)...who runs a minimarket with the world's greatest (cheapest) prices...which is where I tend to buy my beer in Pelourinho. Plus I (and a lot of other people) like the total lack of pretentiousness to the place (one can take one's beers outside to the plastic tables there).

    Pérolas Finas (Fine Pearls)

    Three artists who spent most of their time here in Pelourinho, at Cantina da Lua, are Batatinha, Riachão, and Ederaldo Gentil. 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

    I had the honor of meeting Ederaldo, 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 didn't leave his apartment, rarely seeing anybody but his immediate family (principally his sister Denise, who cared 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 enredo Dois 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, 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 suffered from clinical depression. I asked him if he still played his guitar, and he answered no. He was sixty-five years old but surprisingly looked a good deal younger. I told him he wasn't forgotten, much to the contrary. Among the cognoscenti of samba, he was a legend. I don't think it registered.

    He's dead now, but among the cognosecenti, he is a legend.

    More than Tuff Enuff

    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 some sixty 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.

    Museu da Cidade and Casa de Jorge Amado

    And finally, there is no marker to reverse-commemorate the spot upon which stood the column to which slaves were bound, beaten, humiliated and tortured...there's only the name, and it's incumbent upon us to make of that what we will.

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