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
Beaches of Salvador & Bahia
Salvador is literally surrounded by beaches. They are where people go to relax, cool off, chill, socialize, eat, drink, dance, exercise, surf, and of course swim. They vary from crowded city beaches great for meeting people to tropical idylls up and down the coast.
One of the first beaches that most people get to know in Salvador is Porto da Barra, site of Bahia's first European settlement, Vila Velha, or the Old Village. During the 1960's it was a hangout for Tropicalistas Caetano Veloso (who sang of the beach in his song "Qual é Baiana?") and Gilberto Gil and their crowd, and it continues to be very much of a hangout today.
The beach is set within the bay and the water is much calmer than on the oceanside beaches; it's good for swimming. On weekends, especially Sundays, Porto da Barra can get very crowded, and it's a good idea to keep a good eye on your stuff. Sandals, sunglasses, and like items can disappear in an instant, the magicians usually being innocent-enough looking kids playing around in the sand near you.
Moving out, the next beach is Farol da Barra. Farol means a beacon; here "lighthouse" (the word "farol" is derived from "Pharos", the name of the small island of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, where a great lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built). The end of the beach closest to the lighthouse is rocky, with protected pools making it a good place for kids to safely play in the water. The far end of the beach is usually surfer territory.
The Farol da Barra
From here the beaches run in a more-or-less solid line up to, oh I don't know, Venezuela probably. But the next important point-of-reference within the context of what I'm laying out here is Itapoan (also spelled Itapuã). Itapoan used to be a village quite apart from Salvador, but it has since been aborbed into the greater Salvador metropolitan area, and you fans of Brazilian music may have heard the place mentioned in the eponymous (and nonpareil) Tarde em Itapuã (Afternoon in Itapoan), composed by Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes.
Tarde em Itapuã, sung by Toquinho and Gilberto Gil
The beach at Itapoan starts at almost right angles to the general lay of the beaches running up the coast, then it rounds a bend and a bit further up is another lighthouse, the Farol de Itapoan. The waters off the first stretch of beach are protected by rocks and reefs and tend to be calm and good for swimming, while the waters on the far side of the lighthouse are strong, unprotected Atlantic surf. A lot of locals surf here but there are powerful currents in the waters off the lighthouse and they are only recommended for strong swimmers who know the area.
The Farol de Itapoan
But don't let me scare you out of the water; I'm not Peter Benchley. Moving back in the direction we've come from there is the long, lovely, arcing, coconut-palm backed praia (beach) of Piatã ( a very broad beach with hard-packed sand). The waters of Piatã are generally safe in that the slope of the sand into the water is very gentle and the depth of the water accordingly increases very gradually (however, the currents around the rocky area at the beach's far end -- to the left as you face the water --can be strong and dangerous).
The next beach to the north of Piatã, just around the point at the right side of the photo to the left, is Plakaford. The beach is so called because some years ago there was a big sign along the road there for Ford automobiles, and the Portuguese name for "sign" is placa. (I don't know where the "k" -- now officially banished from Brazilian Portuguese -- came from.) Plakaford is good for families with kids in that the waters are gentle, protected by rocks and reefs. The beach lays between Piatã and Itapoan.
Mangroves along Rio do Inferno
Moving south out of Salvador takes one down to three coastal islands: Tinharé, Cairu, and Boipeba. Cairu, though verdantly lovely, is surrounded principally by mangrove forests and hence is not a beach island. Tinharé and Boipeba, on the other hand, are home to extensive palm-lined beaches protected from the strong Atlantic surf by virtue of either their orientation or their offshore structure. Tinharé's principal community of Morro de São Paulo is generally far better known than that of the island upon which it sits, while the name of Boipeba's principal community is identical to that of the island as a whole (although the village is usually referred to as Velha Boipeba -- "Old Boipeba"; it was founded by Jesuits in 1537).
* Rio do Inferno -- Hell River, photo at right -- is not (for the information of anybody who may be planning to travel along it) a scary place. Forming the southern boundary of Tinharé and traversed when en route to Boipeba from point-of-embarkation Torrinha (on the island of Cairu), the name was derived from the difficulty of navigating through shifting sandbars where the river (actually a saltwater estuary) gives onto the open sea.
Evening at Boipeba
Barra Grande, on the peninsula of Maraú, Bahia
Barra Grande: Baía de Camamu (Bay of Camamu)
Barraca Mar e Coco (Sea and Coconut), close to Moreré, on the island of Boipeba
Mar e Coco's wonderful moqueca de camarão (shrimp)
Barraca Mar e Coco
Praia de Moreré: As unlikely as it might seem, when David Byrne was here he heard Psycho Killer booming out of a sound system somewhere!
The island of Maré
Itamoaba, on the island of Maré
And the praia (beach) at Ribeira, with the Igreja (church) de Bonfim in the distance
Table of Contents
An Introduction to Salvador da Bahia
A Brief History of Salvador da Bahia
Pelourinho: The Centro Histórico
Our Cana Brava Record Shop in Pelourinho, specializing in samba and related styles
Important Salvador Sites
Festas: The Sacred & the Profana
Carnival in Salvador, Bahia
Candomblé: Ubiquitous Deities
Capoeira: Dance Like a Baryshnikov; Hit like a Kalashnikov
Salvador's Afoxés & Blocos Afros
Fiction from Bahia
The Music of Bahia
› Currently working musicians from Bahia are here!
A Short History of the Music of Brazil
› Currently working musicians from Brazil are here!
A Tour Guide to Salvador & Environs
The Beaches of Bahia
Fab Apartments to Stay in While You're Here!
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