Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teachers and the Beloved Dead of Afro-Brazilian Music

After completing a Capoeira Angola session today I had an a-ha moment, connecting the various Afro-Brazilian music traditions in their love for their dead teachers. We spoke of honouring our mestres (teachers), louvação in Portuguese. Not just our mestres, but Deus (God), Nossa Senhora (Mother Mary), etc.
Most African traditional religions value the place of their ancestors in their descendents lives, this was a heritage that was brought to Brazil by slaves from both Sub-Saharan Africa (Angolan, Congolese) and West Africa (Nigerian, Beninese, Togolese)

Here's one example of a tradition where this is relevant: Jongo.
Jongo is a musical tradition based in South-Eastern Brazil (also known as Caxambu).
Jongo is related to a tradition called Jinongonongo brought to Brazil by Angolan slaves being a guessing game, involving some symbols with mystical or paranormal effects.
In Jongo they pay respect to the previous leaders, jongueiros/jongueiras(if female) and souls of the old black slaves also known as the almas santas or holy souls.
Here is a video incorporating Jongo music by the Brazilian group Jongo da Serrinha and respect to a founder and teacher Dona Maria do Jongo.

Another example is Congado.
Congado is a musical tradition of Afro-Catholic heritage involving the traditions of Sub-Saharan slaves (Bantu) in Brazil which adapted to their lives as Catholics (although it was not completely accepted by the church in Brazil and is performed in the streets through processions).
Congado involves leaders known as capitães (captains) who are in the major processions (e.g. Moçambique which is named after the slaves from Mozambique). Capitães and other leaders are revered by the members of the Congado procession as well as Catholic figures like Saint Benedict (São Benedito). For instance, in Rio dos Mortes, as the procession passes the cemetery, respect is shown to the congadeiros who passed on, to those who gave them (their descendents the tradition) (Pereira 2011).
Here's a video of a Congado procession dedicated to Saint Benedict:

 Sources used:
Pereira, A 2011, Um estudo etnomusicológico do congado de Nossa Senhora do Rosário do Distrito do Rio das Mortes, São João del-Rei, MG. URL:

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