Salvador Central: Prudence
Sprawled across broad equatorial latitudes, stoked and steamed and sensual in the widest sense of the word... limned in cadenced song... its very name born in heat and embers, Brazil is a conundrum wrapped in a smile inside an irony.
Great places to stay in Salvador are HERE...

Salvador Music

Off Salvador's Beaten Track

Most visitors to Salvador get to know two areas: Pelourinho and Barra. Some will get up the the coast a bit to the praia (beach) of Piatã. But there's a whole lot more to Salvador than this. Here I'm going to talk about some areas where you'll be unlikely to see anybody but locals:

Beco de Gal -- You wanna samba? This is the place! A Salvador institution!

Lady Gal herself!

Tucked into a small alley (beco) is a very local place run by Gal (Maria das Graças da Silva Oswaldo), samba singer and afficionado extraordinaire.  The tunes (live) are top notch and the vibe is very chilled. Wednesday night is the big night here, the music starting around 10:30 or so and running until 3 a.m. (why Wednesday? that story's here). Getting on towards midnight the pace usually picks up and the dance "floor" is jammed with gyrating bodies (and they gyrate very well indeed!).

Note: Gal's place is now on the Dique de Tororó, Gal having been forced out of her beco. It's still an interesting place, but this place doesn't have the intimacy that Gal's "original" place had, nor the same magic.

Gettin' Down at the Beco

And while I'm on the subject of samba, there's also this place...

It's the football (soccer) field of the Esporte Clube Tejo (Tejo Sports Club) in the neighborhood of IAPI.  On Mondays, after the game is over and the sun has set... the samba begins.

Garcia -- [* Note: The outside pagodes described here have been prohibited by the prefeitura (city government). They had become too popular and the influx of people into the neighborhood was disturbing some of the local residents. This area nevertheless remains an interesting and lively place to go (for those so inclined, anyway) on Saturday nights.]

Garcia has two ends: The fim de linha (end of the line; the bus line, that is) end, and the Campo Grande end. The Campo Grande end is middle-class, while the fim de linha end is a bairro popular (working-class neighborhood) that cooks on Saturday and Sunday nights with pagode fundo de quintal. Pagode is a popular samba form, and "fundo de quintal" means "backyard". It's a style where the players sit around informally and play for themselves, their friends, and families. Two sides of the square in this part of the neighborhood have such bands, and the bands are surrounded by people dancing (get into the mix and you'll see some really good moves!) and having a general good time. This is Salvador at it's most fundamental. It's beautiful. Buteco de Farias is a restaurant on the square (Farias is the owner's last name, as in Rubens Farias) with great and inexpensive and very-typical-for-this-sort-of-area food. It's a simple place, but that's the beauty of it.

The music starts between 8 and 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 7 and 8:00 p.m. on Sundays. Saturdays wind up around 1:00 a.m. and Sundays an hour or so earlier. A cab from Campo Grande will cost you five reais or so (I'm guesstimating there), or you can get a bus (the sign on the front will say Fazenda Garcia; that's "Garcia Farm") at the bus stop on the street (Avenida Leovigildo Figueiras) to the right of Teatro Castro Alves (as you face the theater), across the street from the theater. That's also the best place to get a cab (getting a cab at the wrong spot will mean taking a huge spin around Campo Grande, and possibly several other blocks as well). Garcia is great, and it's a huge change from the usual tourist areas.

Ribeira -- Is a neighborhood or bairro (ba-EE-ho) on the bay side of the city, not too far from the Igreja (Church) de Bonfim on the peninsula of Itapagipe in the lower city (cidade baixa). It has a long stretch of beach and barracas and barzinhos (literally: little bars; this term is used to denote the simple unpretentious bars that Salvador is full of). Sunday is the big day, with seemingly endless streams of people eating, drinking, listening to music, dancing, and socializing. The view across the bay to islands and hills on the far side is lovely, and the boats on the water are usually moving under the power of either wind or human muscle (as opposed to waters off Barra).

Getting to Ribeira is easy by bus. Just take the Elevedor Lacerda in the Praça Municipal (very close to Pelourinho) down, get off, and walk to the bus stop directly in front of you. Buses going to Ribeira (with big signs on the front saying so) pass every several minutes. Ribeira is the end of the line. Now, getting back by bus can be a different matter; if you leave in the afternoon you'll probably be forced to battle your way onto the bus with hoardes of unruly kids. Once your on, any bus which passes through Comércio (or downtown, where the bottom of the Elevador Lacerda is located) will get you close to where you started out from. Or if you are feeling more gentil (and have some change in your pocket), you can take a taxi.

São Tomé -- Is another beach on the bay side. It's beyond the peninsula where Ribeira is located and, again, is the end of the line. You can get the bus at the same place you get the Ribeira bus, and getting back by bus is no problem (each way takes the better part of an hour). One of the interesting things about getting to São Tomé is getting there. The bus follows Avenida Suburbana, and the suburbs in Brazil, in great contrast to the U.S. or Europe, are where the have-nots live. These are favelas (shantytowns), scattered up in the hills like houses-of-cards, wherein reside the majority of Brazil's population. Most visitors to Salvador never see this and leave with a mistaken impression of Brazil's living standards.

Anyway, the beach at São Tomé is beautiful in its small-community way (in spite of a ship-loading pipeline located off to the beach's left) and on Sundays it's very lively. If one wishes to go a bit further, there is a long pier (you can't miss it) and from there you can get a boat to the island of Maré ("maré" means "tide"), about twenty minutes away. There's no pier in this area, so everybody jumps out into waist-deep water (in terms of the average adult) and wades up to the beach. It's fun! There are plenty of boats back; you just wade back out and jump on. More information on Maré is located in the "Islands in the Bay" section.

Disembarking at the Ilha (Island) of Maré

At Sete Portas: Some of the Primary Ingredients in Bahian Cooking

Sete Portas (Seven Doors)-- Is the smaller of Salvador's two primary "open air" markets, the larger being the Feira de São Joaquim, located down on the water just beyond the ferryboat terminal. Both are cornucopias of local life and color, with one very noticable difference -- the level of cleanliness. Sete Portas wins handily on this account. Both markets sell -- in addition to many other things -- fruits and vegetables from the interior, fresh fish, meats (and other animal parts; not for the squeamish), tobacco (in big, sausage-like rolls), a wide variety of medicinal leaves and roots, beads, statues, incense, and other items for use in candomblé ceremonies, handcrafted items (brought into São Joaquim from the little town of Maragogipinho on colorful sailboats which look like they could be pre-Phonecian), live chickens, and, at São Joaquim, live goats.

The ceramics in Salvador's feiras begin here, in Maragogipinho, along the Rio (River) Jaguaripe, close to Nazaré das Farinhas.

Lunch (almoço) at Sete Portas can be grand. Mocotó and sarapatel are popular, the latter being Bahian-style chitlins; the former made using cow legs as a base (these foods are remnants of the slave days, when the meat went to the "big house", leaving the leftovers to go to the senzalas). You can get stews (ensopadas) served up with great heapings of aipim (similar to manioc), or typical workingman's lunches of chicken or beef served with rice, beans, and salad, all in the most traditional of ambiences. Nothing will set you back more than the equivalent of several dollars, and if it's hot inside, well, the beer is cold.

Sete Portas is within walking distance of Pelourinho for the adventurous stroller (via Baixa dos Sapateiros), and it's even closer to Santo Antônio.

YOU Are Invited!!!

Pardal & João, Salvador Central
Me and João do Boi of the village of São Braz, Bahia
I link to João. João links to...

This is an invitation from me (black hat, right) to a music project built as an escape valve, a way to take music from anywhere to potentially anywhere else on the planet.

Unlike traditional media pipelines, which are either expensive or limited, ours is built on common humanity, on the phenomenon of six degrees of separation. Degrees of separation are links between people, connections forming pathways which extend throughout human society (which is why word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of publicity there is).

We've put an online music codex on the air, mirroring this. To give you a personal example of how it works, I link to a roots samba-de-roda (analogous in Brazil to the delta blues in the United States) group in a fishing village in Brazil. New Orleans writer/journalist Jay Mazza links to me. Trumpter Kermit Ruffins links to Jay. Other people link to Kermit. And other people link to those people. And...

Now there are LOTS of pathways leading to the musicians in that rural fishing village in Brazil. And music which would seldom be heard beyond the village border can be heard by interested people all over the world.

Jay - Salvador Central
Jay Mazza w/ Lionel Batiste
Jay links to me...

The musicodex in and of itself is probably not a mechanism for generating great commercial success, but it IS most definitely a way for news of musicians and their music to penetrate far and widely, outside of usual circles and localities. It is giant steps reducing the wide world to a mom & pop record shop (I'm the pop), wherein musical discoveries can be made and passed on.

Mankind has been making music for at least 50,000 years, and word-of-mouth has been around since humans could talk. Drawing on 21st century technology, we've put them together in a new way...

And you're invited.

Kermit Salvador Central
Kermit Ruffins links to Jay Mazza...

Airto - Salvador CentralBelpa - Salvador CentralBobby - Salvador Central
Airto Moreira - Belpa Mariani - Bobby Sanabria

This could be the start of something big...

by writer Ben Paris
The Good, the Bad, & the Beautiful
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A Tour Guide to
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A Tour Guide to Salvador

Salvador, the City

Salvador & Its Spirit

A Short History of
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A Short History of Salvador da Bahia

Carnival in Salvador

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What Brazil Does Best...

Salvador's Music Site

The World Cup in Salvador

World Cup Salvador

Salvador's Old City: Pelourinho

Salvador's Old City

Salvador's Neighborhoods, Streets,
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Salvador's Neighborhoods

Blood, Sweat, & Prayers: Salvador Sites
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Once Upon a Night in Brazil:
A Short History of
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A History of Brazilian Music

Sweet Fields, Bitter Harvest:
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Music of Bahia

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Salvador's Music Site

About Us

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The Sacred & the Profana: Festas


Food & Eating Out in Salvador

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Salvador's Beach Scene

Salvador's Beaches

Islands in the Bay

Islands in the Bay

What's On in Salvador

What's On in Salvador

Frequently Asked Questions

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Ubiquitous Deities: Candomblé


Capoeira: Dance Like a Baryshnikov, Hit Like a Kalashnikov


Salvador's Afoxés & Blocos Afros

Salvador's Afoxe's & Blocos Afros

Percussion Classes in Salvador:
Heaviest Hands

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Brazilian Music
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Group Lodging in Salvador:
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Learning Portuguese:
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S.O.S. Brazil: Volunteer Work

Volunteer Work

How to Avoid Being
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How to Avoid Being Robbed & Cheated

Off Salvador's Beaten Track

Off Salvador's Beaten Track

How to Get Around:
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How to Get Around

Black Market: Bahian Bazaar

Black Market

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