Saturday, August 16, 2008


I rested at "home" in the Pousada for thirty minutes to gather myself and charge my camera, then set out to find the dueling bands and dancers. Shortly into the party it started to rain. This theme continued all weekend, causing dancers to run from the streets to stand under the eaves of buildings and boughs of old trees while the bands boogied on. Bars were full with whole families covering three generations, all enjoying the party. Busses offloading tourists continued to pull in and leave as people caught slices of this festa. The days became a collection of simultaneous parties in different neighborhoods from ten until midnight, or later. Walking streets, I had memories of Clarksdale, Mississippi on the Delta, a former bastion of cotton and plantation commerce, now like this town a shadow of itself. Many buildings were just facades with no interiors. Souvenir sellers seemed to have rented abandoned shells for the weekend, rigging lights to give a semblance of propriety. Street food was all over, Caldo de Cana, or fresh pressed Sugarcane juice, acaraje, pipoca, etc.
I spotted Os Filhos de Gandhi who looked vaguely like Garveyites in royal blue and white. Os Negros and half a dozen other Samba bands; some local and some shipped in from Salvador. Listening to their melodies, I heard Zairian zouk music with congas, percussion, guitars and a categinha (sp?) steely-twangy like a Ukelele or a Tres. Three or more vocalists, the lead singers gravely baritones, of Otis and velvet. All generations danced, intoxicated by the music. The town Trannie, over six feet tall, falling out of his lame halter, pulled off four inch heels to jump in. I watched a crippled middle aged man position his crutches above his head to create a counter balance, altering his center of gravity to boogie. Sensuous dancers traded random partners of either sex for overt sexualized pleasure, for hours and hours on end. We were consumed by dueling bands, tribal dancers, grilled meats and swilling of Cachaca, Skoll or Nova Shin beer and a sweetish local Licor Cachoeira flavored with herbs. The bus rides, the anxiety and anticipation had paid off. I had found magic in a foreign place with no points of reference, seething with African inspired culture and warm loving people.
I took a break and crashed when the rains refused to let up. I returned to the street after seven looking for dinner. I ate a decent chicken dinner by the river. Again the beans were superlatively cooked, and the salad fresh and simply delicious. The chicken, unmemorable and the red wine insipid. Walking toward "home" I heard music coming from the refectory. I walked into a duel between Samba de Nago and Samba Sao Felix. The endless sets had the energy of a James Brown or Fela Kuti show, transfusing energy to everyone in the room. I danced until they finished and decided to crash. As I neared the house I heard loud cacophonous sounds coming from the Praca Principal. Free jazz on steroids with a salsa-disco beat. I needed to ascertain what it was. When I arrived two pickup trucks with huge loudspeakers were parked at the far end of the Praca, belting out distorted Latin rock. In reality, it seemed like a cover for the Candomble ceremony that was going on under the stage, with the nucleus of one of the Samba bands providing the soundtrack. I watched for hours as teenagers introduced various Orisha in full costume as they ritualistically embraced Exu and executed their dance, communion with their gods to a capacity crowd. I was stunned by the quality of the performers and the attention to be over sixteen. After 2 hours I was ready to drop and left before it was finished. Fully sated and overstimulated by the activities of the day. From my bed, I heard the drums continue on for over an hour and more fireworks exploded as I drifted to sleep.
Just as I really lost consciousness, near midnight I heard a knock at the front door. Then again, with no answer. I contemplated getting out of bed when I heard a Dona da casa speak to the three new visitors. They were half cocked and looking for a room. My door had been ajar and one of the two men looked in. He recognized me from Salvador. He worked on the concierge and maintenance staff at the apartment Paul Cezanne in Porto da Barra. He started talking to me, asking about Michele. It was all a little close. They had missed the last bus and decided to make it a party weekend. He suggested since we knew each other and there wasn't much room left to sleep, he could park on my floor while his friends, a couple took a bedroom. I look haltingly, thinking, uh-we ain't dat close; not wanting to create ruckus or misinterpret the situation. Before I had to respond, the young son lost his room to the couple and the single guy got the settee. I lost some of my bedding to her son, Gito. It was cool from the

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