Welcome to beautiful, benighted Brazil! The site you're on began as, and still is, a Guide to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil & Environs. "Bahia" is the old spelling for "bay", and the great bay which gave (the Brazilian state of) Bahia its name has a couple of unique distinctions:

1) More slaves entered this bay than were taken to any other place on the planet.
2) These slaves (or enslaved people rather), in vast testament to the human spirit, created arguably the most soulfully and physically uplifting music ever sung and danced to.

This music in Brazil is analogous to the delta blues and early jazz in the United States in that it is the deep source of so much which would develop out of it. But unlike the blues, known worldwide and played from Tokyo to Timbuktu, this primordial Brazilian music — still played by the descendents of the people brought to work the sugarcane plantations here — is virtually unknown, even in Brazil. Disparagement yields untold lost riches. So...

In order to alert the world to this music's existence, and that of the splendid people who make it, we've borrowed from pre-Civil War African Americans' "grapevine telegraph" (you know, origin of the expression "I heard it through the grapevine"?), allowing anybody to participate in recommending these people to anybody who might land on the recommender's page. But now the magic manifests itself:

For this to work for Raimundo Sodré and João do Boi and Bule Bule, it has to work for Herbie Hancock and Tommy Peoples and Quincy Jones. Because we're not talking about recommendations which reach to the next page and stop. We're talking about internet vectors, long series of recommendations, forming a vast interlinked grapevine capable of taking people from one person to any number of people in any number of places, playing any number of styles and variations of styles of music. Thus one might start with someone one knows personally, a friend maybe, or with somebody one knows of, a highly talented and respected musician, and wind up...God knows only where...there are pathways to (among so many other, better known, places) even the little villages on the far side of the Bay of All Saints, where so much inhumanity was unable to kill perhaps the noblest human virtue of all: the desire not merely to survive, but against all odds, somehow prevail. Music and the arts are powerful stuff. -- Sparrow Roberts

 

This is your world too. Please spread the word about the ultimate means in spreading the word about the creative people who live in it (are you one of them?)!

Salvador's Neighborhoods

  • Neighborhoods and Streets

    and Backstreets and Byways


    There are two neighborhoods in Salvador that just about every visitor gets to know. One is Pelourinho (Pillory), which has its own "chapter" in the "Table of Contents", and the other is Barra (Bar, as in reef, and pronounced "BA-ha"), which has a number of hotels and the two beaches closest to the city center (with the exception of some very small beaches frequented only by very local people).

    Farol da Barra in Salvador, Bahia
    Farol da Barra and the new calçadão (literally: "big sidewalk")

    Barra is the tip of the peninsula upon which Salvador is situated, the very tip of which is presided over by South America's first lighthouse, the Farol da Barra.

    This farol (from the island of Pharos off the coast of Alexandria) was built into and over the existing Forte de Santo Antônio after a ship wrecked somewhere off of what is now the neighborhood of Rio Vermelho on May 5th, 1668, the lighthouse becoming operational in 1698 (some things tend to take a long time in Brazil).


    From just below the lighthouse proper; that's the island of Itaparica across the bay

    The fort/lighthouse houses a worthwhile nautical museum (10 reais entry), and to boot one gets to climb the spiral staircase up to the lighthouse beacon!

    An antique map hanging in the museum forms the basic artwork for a really, really grooving swinging-in-ten-directions-at-once recording by Gordon Sheard together with some of Salvador's most happenin' músicos...

    A more recent construction is the calcadão, the big sidewalk, Brazil's analog to a boardwalk, extending along the Farol beach to and through Porto da Barra. The calçadão is a good thing! It brings people out: strolling, jogging, kids on bicycles and roller skates and skateboards...people sitting in the cafés petiscando (enjoying bar/snack-type food) and drinking whatever. The calçadão is a commons and people make use of it, lending a village feel to the neighborhood. It's untold thousands of passerby steps in the right direction for the city.

    But there is, of course, a lot more to Salvador, including:

    Ladeira de Conceição -- A ladeira is a sloping street, and the Ladeira de Conceição slopes down from the Praça Castro Alves (named for poet Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves) to the Igreja da Conceição in the lower city. The street is lined with workshops, metalworking and stonecutting, set into arches under the Ladeira da Montanha, which runs above, and brothels.


    View from the entrance to Salvador's best-known brothel, Marinalva's
    (is there a bordello anywhere in the world that can beat this?)


    Creative housing then, workshops now.

    Twenty-three of these arches were built, completed in 1879, in order to support the Rua da Montanha, now called the Ladeira da Montanha, a more gently inclined communication between the upper and lower cities. The Ladeira da Montanha became well-known for the meretricious establishments which grew up along its 894 meters.


    Rua Manoel Vitorino, just off of the Ladeira da Conceição


    The Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia, from which the ladeira derives its name.

    Solar do Unhão -- A solar is a manor house, and there certainly aren't any of those in the vizinhança (neighborhood) of Solar do Unhão, the area being named for the Solar do Unhão proper, itself named for one of the early (1692 and thereabouts) owners (Pedro de Unhão Castelo Branco, who held the post of provedor-mor dos defuntos, responsible for looking after the finances of the dead with the idea that the Portuguese Crown would be sure to get what was "theirs"). In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the house served as the locale for a series of factories (including the manufacture of snuff) and then warehousing (reasons for which the original interiors are completely gone), and in the sixties the buildings were refurbished by the Bahian state government. Nowadays the Solar houses Salvador's Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM), and the grounds are the location of Saturday nights' Jam no Mam, a big jazz jam session which brings in hundreds of people (from 6 to 9 p.m.).


    The vizinhança of Solar do Unhão


    The Solar do Unhão proper


    The igreja of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (another one) on the grounds of the Solar do Unhão, raised in 1757.
    The oratório to the left is dedicated to Santa Luzia.

    Dois de Julho (2nd of July) -- is the area around Largo (Place) Dois de Julho, close to the city center. This is where Dona Flor's first husband Vadinho died dancing samba during Carnival, and one of the streets in this area -- Rua do Sodré ("Sodré" is a Portugese surname) -- is where Dona Flor lived with both her first and second husbands and where she had her cooking school. The junction of Rua Carlos Gomes and Rua do Cabeça (which is one of the access streets to Dois de Julho; "Rua do Cabeça" is "Street of the Head, or Head Street", which in this sense -- given the masculine "do" rather than the feminine "da" -- denotes the head of something as opposed to a head unattached) was the fictional location of Dona Flor's second husband's pharmacy. That pharmacy -- like so much local color in Jorge Amado's fiction -- was based on an actually existing pharmacy (Amado locating his fictional establishment upon the site of the real one -- Pharmácia Luz -- which is now a pastel shop).


    Jorge Amado's fictional cuckolded (by a spirit) pharmacist was a "part-owner" here decades ago.
    This place is now a Chinese-owned pastel shop.

     During the time in which Amado's novel was set (early 1940's I believe) the area was, as described by Amado himself in the novel, lower middle-class, and for the most part it continues to be so today. At the top of Rua do Sodré* -- which leads from Dois de Julho down to the Museu de Arte Sacre (Musem of Sacred Art, in the church of Santa Tereza) -- are several small and very typically Bahian bars, one of which serves infusões and where my friends and I like to sit and observe the local life. As sunset approaches this area becomes very questionable.

    * (The street was named for Jerônimo Sodré Pereira, of Santo Amaro, Bahia -- a town located at the north end of the Baía de Todos os Santos -- an area in which Sr. Pereira owned sugarcane plantations. He built a mansion on this street, the edifice nowadays housing a public school. Around the corner, on the Ladeira de Santa Tereza, No. 7, for many years lived somebody who had been purchased as an African (of an ethnicity now known as Yoruba, although the term wasn't used in his time; here in Bahia the term for these people was Nagô) by Jerônimo, Domingos Pereira Sodré, whose life and history have been so capably delineated and set forth by João José Reis in his book Domingos Sodré, um sacerdote africano (Domingos Sodré, an African Priest). Somewhere along the line of these wealthy planation owners and their intermingling with African women was sired the progenitor of the family of Raimundo Nonato Pereira Sodré, Raimundo Sodré, that magnificent repository of Afro-Bahian music.)


    Raimundo Sodré, with (from left) Asa Branca, Kiko Souza, Gustavo Carybé, and Pururú

    Preguiça (Laziness) -- The far end of Rua do Sodré (from Dois de Julho) runs into the Ladeira da Preguiça (a "ladeira" is a sloping street), which in turn winds its way down to the lower city. The ladeira (the descending or ascending of which would nowadays invite robbery of anybody obviously a tourist) was in Salvador's early years the principal thoroughfare for the transportation of arriving cargo from the lower city to the upper. Slaves did much of this work (their compatriots in this being burros and donkeys) and in return for their backbreaking labor they were made to constantly endure cries and accusations of laziness. "Ladeira da Preguiça" is the title of a song Gilberto Gil song wrote for Elis Regina in 1971.


    Elis Regina sings Ladeira da Preguiça


    The bottom of the Ladeira da Preguiça gives onto Contorno, in the cidade baixa.


    The Cemiterio dos Pisos -- where floor and wall tiles get a second life -- lies at the bottom of the Ladeira da Preguiça

    (Much more to be moved to this page from our old site, when we get the time!)

Salvador Central Members/Nodes

    There's a lot of spectacle in Bahia...

     

    Carnival with its trio elétricos -- sound-trucks with musicians on top -- looking like interstellar semi-trailers back from the future...shows of MPB (música popular brasileira) in Salvador's Teatro Castro Alves (biggest stage in South America!) with full production value, the audience seated (as always in modern theaters) like Easter Island statues...

     

    Carlinhos Brown's Museu do Ritmo (Rhythm Museum; an entertainment venue) all done up Bahian faux tribal showbiz style...glamour and glitz and press agents...

     


    Carlinhos Brown: Man with a Shtick...er...Stick

     

    And then there's where it all came from...the far side of the Baía de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints), a land of subsistence farmers and fishermen, many of the older people unable to read or write...their sambas the precursor to all this, without which none of the above would exist, their melodies -- when not created by themselves -- the inventions of people like them but now forgotten (as most of these people will be within a couple of generations or so of their passing), their rhythms a constant state of inconstancy and flux, played in a manner unlike (most) any group of musicians north of the Tropic of Cancer...making the metronome-like sledgehammering of the Hit Parade of the past several decades almost wincefully painful to listen to after one's ears have become accustomed to evershifting rhythms played like the aurora borealis looks...

     

    So there's the spectacle, and there's the spectacular, and more often than not the latter is found far afield from the former, among the poor folk in the villages and the backlands, the humble and the honest, people who can say more (like an old delta bluesman playing a beat-up guitar on a sagging back porch) with a pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine) and a chula (a shouted/sung "folksong") than most with whatever technology and support money can buy. The heart of this matter, is out there. If you ask me anyway.

     

     
    Alumínio Saturno, resident of Pitinga, Bahia, chuleiro and subsistence farmer; now with God