Night of the silent drums

[back online after 4 days in fishing village 250km SW of Rio. I still haven´t found a way of getting photos uploaded]

Maracuta blocoThe last big event we saw after leaving Olinda was a ceremony of memorial to the slaves who died in the Brazilian liberation. It usually runs as one of the highlights of the Recife Carnival but they were running it at a crossroads outside our hotel.

The music, dance and songs are very different from what we´ve seen before; far more African. These `Maracuta nations´ are very ritualised and have European and African references. Firstly there´s a standard bearer who is always dressed in Louis IV costume complete with wig and embroidered waistcoat. Then there´s a series of figures who represent the Court; ladies in waiting – often very elderly women – who twist and spin in large hooped dresses, one of then carrying a black doll representing African ancestry. There´s a king and queen and slave attendents (all in a European style costume) carrying an umbrella canopy over them.

These are accompanied by large troupes of drummers – the largest had 50 drums – and a singer who would chant verses about the ´nation´ or about returning to Africa. The chants would be returned by the entire ´nation´.

The beats were incredibly hypnotic and subtly-changing. A reason to carry a tape recorder, not a camera.

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