Cantigas de Roda (Swirling songs)

I was born in Itaibó (district of Jequié), village with unique street, “interior from interior” of Southwest Bahia, on 27 July 1968. In the playfulness of young age, I was striking the rhymes in the yard of the house of Didico and Dona Roxa (my dear mother’s parents), and soon after, in the yard of Aunt Lia’s house in Apuarema, another small nearby village where I lived when I was about 4 years old. Play swirling songs was a fun opportunity, singing, self-discovery and flirtatious:

Soloist: – Two little birds

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Dropped on tie

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Give me a kiss

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Give me a hug

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Give me another kiss

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Give me another hug

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – Choose another

Chorus: My lady

Soloist: – To be your partner

Chorus: My lady

We were between 10 to 20 children hand in hand, forming a circle and rotating clockwise, two children in the center of wheel staging who narrate the verses quoted. The soloist was an adult (or an older child) who had to “take care” of the children to prevent the “excesses”. Songs like this introduced us the mysteries of sexuality and eroticism in a wonderful way. But there were several other games, such as storytelling of my aunts, the work songs coming from employees of the place of my father and my uncles, etc.

Carouse and Feast of Cosmas and Damian

The good humored José Miguel, my dear father, an amateur singer of sambas and serenades; Dona Gloria, my wonderful mother, who was more frequent in Catholic litanies and novenas, but made double with His Miguel when the fun was at home; my four brothers and my little sister lived all in the momentum of this couple. There were many times that they woke me at dawn with a drumming touch of spoon and enamel dish, like the one of the drummers from Recôncavo Baiano, like of Edite do Prato. Early on, I accompanied my father in his serenades at the houses of friends and bars. My affinity with the music was even more acute through the LPs, victrolas, radios, tape recorders, toy instruments and other sound sources with whom my father put me in touch. My memory exudes musical moments, but none are as strong as the feasts of São Cosme e Damião, concentrated in the month of September, on the 27th, when the African-Brazilian religions celebrate Ibejis Orishas, assimilated with the Catholic saints Cosmas and Damian, as they are called the Act and Passio healers of ancient Aegean (current Ayas in Asia Minor). My parents, in favor of a grace that wished to achieve, offered a great celebration for those miracle workers, with ample food and drink distributed to hundreds of people: relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and many other residents in the neighborhood. The party had music all day: we sang clapping, while 7 children (up to 7 years of age, each) were eating, sitting in a circle on a straw mat. After that, they served caruru (as we call one of the foods that made up the dish and the party as a whole) for many participants – long line. After the meal, we sang the Catholic litany. In the end, we sang from the terrace of people that made the big samba in front of the oratory, celebration moment when the children were not allowed to witness, but always got along a way to break through the siege and in a little corner of the room presenciávamos the turns and the drumming of ogãs. I participated in a number of carurus of Cosmas and Damian, which left me sonorously drenched songs to the present day, even after many years without participating in these celebrations. Over time, the Catholic Church and other Christian religions intensified the repudiation of the feast, due to mixing with African-Brazilian religions – not to mention the successive “news” of the consumer society – so that such manifestation diminished markedly. But I believe that the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian will never fade, it is just going through a time of overt oppression.

Rock, MPB, Paraíba, “culture”

Later, around the year 1985, as a teenager, I had other musical and intellectual milestones. My older brother, Walmick Oliveira, became rock lover and MPB, which gave me the rich urban sound of the 1970s (Led Zeppelin, Hendrix J., J. Joplin, Clara Nunes, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil …). Another brother, Abraham, adored the social sciences and literature – a wealth that was expensive to me. Another fortune: knew Caruaru, through my uncle Joe Brejeiro (actually married to Aunt Dete, my mother’s sister) when he took me to a holiday trip to Campina Grande (city from Paraíba state), where his family lived. I already knew Caruaru, neighboring city of Pernambuco, was a musical place, but had no idea that many musicians meet in a trade show: Trios of Forró, Pife bands, Emboladores, duo of guitarists and others. It was so overwhelming; I could not restrain myself and cried: “Uncle, I want to live in Pernambuco.” Ze Brejeiro, whom my parents trusted my first big trip dind’t like my comment and scolded: “That’s bullshit, shut your mouth, our destiny is Campina.” I was quiet yes, but only lip service. And he was right: years later, I attended a degree in music (erudite guitar) in the capital of Paraiba, João Pessoa. After the course, I started talking to my friends about my desire to study the “Brazilian rhythms” and, in one of those conversations, her friend Beatriz told me that Professor Maria Ines Aiala (letters) was recruiting students and graduates for a research on the coconuts, cultural event occurring largely in the Northeast. Maria Ines wanted a musician in her team. It was through this great figure I met the academic term “popular culture”. Smart, critical and acidic, she showed me the intellectual work as Mário de Andrade and made me realize that I was born and grew up immersed in aura of some cultural practices and it had never crossed my mind the need to conceptualize them as “culture”. After all, even so for me, “culture” was only what we learned in schools.

Pernambuco, Ethnomusicology, Batuque Book

During my last years of residence in Singapore, I founded the rock band Os Caba (name inspired by the phrase ” os cabras de Lampião”), referenced in Mangue Beat Movement, which was at its peak and was led by Recife band Chico Science & Zombie Nation. In 1994, I was approved in a open procedure and began to work in Pernambuco Conservatory of Music and my dream of living in Pernambuco was finally coming true. Aportei in Recife with the band name Os Caba and searched musicians to take the project forward. Shortly after starting work in Pernambuco Conservatory, I met Carlos Sandroni, who introduced me to a research area with an almost strange name: Ethnomusicology; not sounded totally exotic because, a year ago, I heard that bad word of mouth Manuel Veiga in Singapore. Then go! I was tracing the beginning of a journey that took on and brought to the present day: experience and record sound practices incautiously called “popular culture”. Under the guidance of Sandroni, I attended Specialization in Ethnomusicology (UFPE). Soon after, I met Tarcisio Resende – a member of the band Os Caba and the group founded soon after O Chá de Zabumba – and we began to design the Batuque Book, which can be read more accurately elsewhere in this site by the namesake link of that project.

Then I attended a second degree (Pedagogy) and then the Masters in Ethnomusicology (UFPB), also under the guidance of Sandroni. Having released four CDs of Chá de Zabumba group, I felt the lack of a more solid basis for writing and I decided to devote more work to academic studies than the musical performance. In 2010, I began my PhD in Music – Ethnography of Musical Practices (Unirio) – under the guidance of Professor Elizabeth Travassos, a sensational professional, who died in the middle of my course, which led me to look for another advisor. So Felipe Trotta was a great find: an astute professional, humorous and writing as I like to write. It was from him that I could produce a thesis that questions some constructs on the polarization “forró pé de serra versus electronic forró”. I left the doctorate with a feeling that I had a gain in writing: Mission accomplished!

While I was in my PhD, I developed gradually a solo work. With a text on the dance, won the “Award Funarte Centenary of Luiz Gonzaga,” through which produced and launched the Batuque Book Forro. At the time, I was fortunate to get closer to Dominguinhos, experience some of his wisdom and with it burn the DVD of this ongoing project. While performing this work I also enjoyed the company of other great artists: Herbert Lucena, Maciel Melo, Bozo, Gennaro…. It was a rich phase of my life and, despite having done a few shows; I deepened my artistic career and my intellect.

In light of what I just narrate and what I describe in the session on the Batuque Book, you can see that I practice ethnomusicology as a process of self-knowledge and building friendship. I cross my individual dash (Swirling songs, the son of a samba singer and celebrants of Cosme and Damian party) with the procedures of anthropology (ethnographic research) and other social sciences. So, I’ve been experiencing various musical traditions – like coco, maracatu, caboclinho, forró, frevo – that helped me to understand and respect the African-Brazilian religious practices (Umbanda and Candomblé) and the sacred Jurema (Amerindian), which are linked to such songs.