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...


Welcome to scintillating Brazil (where since the days of slavery music has functioned like an oyster's pearl). And welcome to a music & arts discovery engine based in Salvador and built not on artificial intelligence, assigned curators and share prices, but on REAL intelligence, OPEN curation and an African-American legacy.


My name's Randy Roberts (here in Brazil they call me "Pardal", that's "Sparrow" in English) and I love the highly misunderstood musical form samba (at its beginning, samba was in Brazil as the delta blues were in the United States...the soulful source of huge music that would come after). A couple of decades ago I "rescued" unpaid royalties for people including Mongo Santamaria, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Led Zeppelin, Jim Hall, Phillip Glass and others. Then I came in search of samba's Holy Grail, something that could not be found on the shelves of Manhattan record shops alongside Brazilian millionaires like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil...

Canecutter in Bahia, BrazilPardal and Joao in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Why should ANYBODY not like me, not enchanted by a primordial form of African music in backlands Brazil, care if a grapevine rises from the pounded earth that João do Boi (to my left above) dances upon in his village in Bahia (per the youtube clip filmed at ground zero)?

Because that grapevine runs up through New York City, over to Co. Clare, Ireland, to Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin, Niger, Uganda, Pakistan, Australia and lots of other places.

Meaning that people scattered across the globe, who've never heard of João, can nevertheless be led along the grapevine recommendation-by-recommendation, arriving wide-eyed in João's village. João's music, rarely heard beyond the village borders before this blithe empowerment, now can be heard even from earth orbit.

And what's true for João is true for EVERYBODY on the grapevine. YOU can sign up and recommend João by clicking on his page. Then people who know you, or find you, can go directly to him. Or maybe João's not your style. You recommend a guitar shredder in Boston. Who recommends (among others) a bass genius in Copenhagen. Who recommends (among others) a drummer in Ivory Coast. Who recommends (among others) a singer in Rio de Janeiro. Who recommends (among others)...João do Boi. As per the Kevin Bacon game / six degrees of separation phenomenon, there's almost always a way.

SO WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU, MY FRIEND? If you're a musician (it's not necessary to be a musician to participate) and people by their own criteria feel that you are worth their recommending, they can likewise click on YOUR page and YOU will appear in their GRAPEVINE FORWARD >> tab (they will appear on your << GRAPEVINE BACKWARD tab). You will be part of a complicated system of trails carrying people to other people. Your village borders will disappear over the horizon.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine was inspired by pre-Civil War African Americans' "grapevine network" (origin of the expression "I heard it through the grapevine"), a poor peoples' way of working together to spread the word. It's part of and is run from a specialty record shop in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil (our outsider's inside guide to Salvador is here!) We are proud to have received a visit from David Dye of World Café a couple of years ago (our interview and the show we produced were broadcast on NPR). Writer/NPR producer Michelle Mercer's been in. As has been music writer James Gavin. And documentary filmmaker Simon Brook. And David Byrne. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And lots of others including scores of the greatest musicians you've never, ever heard of.

Assigned curators can be knowledgeble and enthusiastic but they can't know everything. Within these pages parallel universes are bridged and connections (some highly unlikely) forged. This is OPEN music curation, discovery by the most powerful, far-reaching and subtle software ever written: the collective human mind. If you care, be a part of it.

Ubiquitous Deities

  • Ubiquitous Deities: Candomblé


    It's night in Salvador and you hear drumming. It may be coming from one of the numerous terreiros de candomblé scattered throughout the city. Most terreiros will permit visitors to attend their ceremonies. Should you go, dress respectfully. Trousers for men, and women should wear longer skirts. White is best because it is respectful to all the orixás.

    ("Orixá" is commonly translated as "god". A more accurate representation would perhaps be "saint". Candomblé posits a monotheistic supreme being -- usually referred to as Olodumaré or Olorum (in candomblé ketu) -- with the orixás being called upon as intermediaries between earthbound humans and the all-powerful, much as a Christian will pray for a saint's intercession on his or her behalf.

    Orixá is by far the most common term in Bahia for these entities (the candomblé ketu term), although they are also referred to as Nkisi in candomblé angola and Voduns in candomblé jeje.)

    If you speak Portuguese and would like to find information with respect to various houses of candomblé, where they are located, what nights they hold their ceremonies, and when they have their special festas, a good place to go is the FEDERAÇÃO BAIANA DE CULTO AFRO BRASILEIRO, located at Rua Portas do Carmo, 39 (1st floor) in Pelourinho.

    It's said that Salvador has a (Catholic) church for every day of the year, they're all over the place. But this number -- or whatever the true number is -- pales in comparison to the number of terreiros de candomblé in Salvador. An amazing project, the Mapeamento dos Terreiros de Salvador truly and literally puts this into perspective, detailing 1,155 terreiros (and this doesn't include Itaparica!), with maps, satellite and other photos, leaders' names, addresses and contact and other information.

    The practice of candomblé was at one time prohibited in Brazil (unofficially for centuries, and then officially by law between 1937 and 1945, during the Estado Novo of dictator Getúlio Vargas, who at the same time ironically, as part of his plan for the manipulation of the popular consciousness as a means for the further consolidation of his power, promoted Brazilian music and music which promoted Brazil, e.g. Ary Barroso's Aquarela do Brasil), and thereafter in Bahia a licence was required, the same that was required by nightclubs and gambling establishments. After a personal appeal by Mãe Stella of Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá to the governor of Bahia (Roberto Santos, in office from 1975 to 1979), this requirement was lifted, and new terreiros sprouted -- for the most part among the more humble neighborhoods -- like singing flowers weaving to the lovely melodies and gloriously complicated rhythms calling down to Salvador Iansã and Yemanjá, Dandalunda, Oxossi and Xangô...

    Candomblé Angola on the Beach

    February 2nd, 2012. A group from Irará, Bahia at the Festa de Yemanjá. A woman to the left has been possessed.

    Although for historical reasons candomblé ketu (from what is now Nigeria) is more common in Salvador and in Bahia generally than candomblé angola, candomblé angola was the first to arrive (with the Bantus) and its rhythms form the base for what is now called "samba".

    Here is candomblé ketu, in Salvador...

    Candomblé ketu in Salvador's neighborhood of Castelo Branco

    Salvador's two best-known and oldest continually functioning houses of candomblé are Casa Branca and Gantois (the latter named for the Fleming upon whose land the terreiro was originally founded).

    Address: Av. Vasco da Gama, 463 - Vasco da Gama
    Tel: 3334.2900
    *Mãe Altamira Cecília dos Santos

    Casa Branca (White House), or Ilê Axé Yá Nassô, is usually cited as Salvador's first house of candomblé, but it might be better said to be Salvador's oldest continually functioning house of candomblé because candomblé was practiced in the senzalas and on the terreiros of the sugarcane plantations both before (and after) the house was established. The "house" (in an organizational sense) was first located on the Ladeira do Berquo -- now known as Rua Visconde de Itaparica -- behind the Igreja (Church) da Barroquinha (the church is easily visible from Praça Castro Alves; it burned in 1983 but has since been rebuilt as a small theater).

    Ceremonies are on Sunday nights, beginning at 8 p.m., but it's always best to contact the terreiro; there's a post Carnival hiatus of some months when ceremonies don't take place, and there are other such spots in the calendar as well.

    GANTOIS (Ilê Axé Yá Massê)
    Address: Alto do Gantois, 23 - Federação
    Tel: 3336.9594
    *Mãe Carmem

    The terreiro do Gantois branched off of that of Casa Branca due to a dispute in succession, and Gantois' beloved fourth mãe-de-santo, Mãe Menininha, who presided from 1922 to 1986, was probably the most sung religious leader of all time.

    Mãe Menininha, front and almost-center

    Without the resources to build cathedrals, their temples of worship simple houses within the means of runaway or freed slaves, African-Brazilians reached inward for what they could project out, and the result of their soul-searching was soul-stirring music and dance. These are the Tincoãs of Cachoeira, Bahia (a tincoã is a bird native to the region), in extremely rare footage. Mateus, their primary composer (building on melodies and rhythms of candomblé) is the only surviving member of the group.

    Mateus at a terreiro de candomblé in São Francisco do Conde

    The lower quadrant features another song of Mateus' taken straight from candomblé (and elaborated upon). The first singer there is Thalma de Freitas, accompanied on piano by her father, Maestro Laércio de Freitas. Second voice is Mateus' daughter Fabiana, and Mateus himself plays guitar.

    The deities which are the subjects of the song are both mother figures, the first being Yemanjá, and the second Nanã. Saravá!

    As for Mateus himself, he was brought up in the terreiro Roça do Ventura, a Jêje candomblé in Cachoeira. The Jêje house in Salvador is Bogum, in the neighborhood of Engenho Velho de Federação...a principal runtó (ordained drummer) is Luizinho do Jêje.

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