Wednesday, October 1, 2008

clap hands

Leaving Analia’s for the third time that day, we made an agreement to meet at ten Sunday morning to share recipes. ‘Nita has said that Francisca would be taking the Germans to hear another Samba comjunto. I think the other Germans, she was working with, the crew who was filming a Public TV multi-segment, something like Roots of Culture (my words) would be shooting. The younger crew, the students were editing their work and recovering from the accumulated total of their 10 day blitz on Brazil. Francisca was out with the film crew, no one knew exactly where.

The masterplan was to hear the Samba and then go to a Caboclo Terreiro that would also be filmed by the TV crew. I asked if anyone knew if the Caboclo was the one scheduled in Cachoeira or in Muritiba? They were clueless. Nita had said something about the Samba being in a barraca below the Caquente joint, close to the water. I knew enough from walking the city to try and figure it out.

At the small Praça de Sé just before Caquente I found a few guys, in their late teens setting up an elaborate sound system. I asked if it was for a Samba show, and they pointed to the open garage door behind me. In the archway of the entrance obstructing my view of the interior was a handsome dark chocolate skinned man speaking with a woman off to his left. I asked him, and he said, “Pois vamos ter samba depois de Caruru.” “Caruru? Onde-Quando-where, when? “ “ Vai dentro agora!”

Through the front door, I stepped into the empty sitting room and heard the singing and clapping. Moving through the living room into the adjoining kitchen I found a cluster of people, mostly under 12, festing. On the stairs leading up to the bedrooms were a few photogs and a local TV film crew. I felt a bit embarrassed walking all the way up into a strangers house unannounced, (try that in Harlem), but decided that there were other people shooting images; just jump in. The older folks quizzically looked in my direction, but seemed to chill as I just started taking pictures. This was a view to the core traditional celebration of the holiday that had been described to me, and I have previously shared with you. The seven young children were seated at the dining table. They were serenaded for an hour with singing and clap hands.

Though it was shortly after being at Analia’s I had another plate of Caruru in my lap after the singing had ended. They expected over 200 guests from the hood, and they wanted me to get a plate while it piping hot. The hostess, a lovely woman who was the wife of the man who had directed me inside the house needed me to see her back stock. In a shed behind the house that connected to her husband’s beer garden, she had eight or so stock pots with all of the cooked elements ready to be reheated and served through the night.

I pulled a chair up next to a sweet woman, whose dude poured us beer while she clued me into local Cosme & Damião traditions. I was both in pig-heaven and trying to eat and run. Right about now at the Igreja dos Pretos (Church of the Blacks) a Caruru and Poésia was scheduled. I had run into the woman whose house I had stayed in back in August on the street. She had invited me to stop by. I said hi to the kids, and we had arranged to meet at the Poésia gig.

Before I knew it, I wasn’t leaving. I put my plate down, walked round to the front of the house and parked in a chair next to the homemade altar, and waited for the Latin reza (hay-za, prayer song), and then Samba to begin. Two hours later, again beaming with glee I was walking towards the Caquente clubhouse hoping to find the other Samba. Just past that Praça, what little street lights existed in that part of town disappeared. After I passed the clubhouse in the dark, with no reflected light nearby to guide or alert me to street tuffs, I decided to look for directions. I heard footsteps at my rear. Turning, I saw a late middle aged strong boned woman with a pre-teen girl walking in my wake. I stopped, waiting for them to catch up to me.

“Alo, Boa. Com licença, voces conhecem onde é a Samba de Roda?” The woman stopped. The white floral motif in her shift had a dim shimmer in the dark, her dimpled smile was kind; godmotherly. “Não sei nada de Samba hoje a noite. Mas, tem reza encima, la.” -I don’t know about any Samba tonight, but there is a prayersong up the hill, up there. “Devo subir nessa escada?”-I have to climb up that stairway? “Sim.” Yes. “Obrigado. Boa.” Thanks, goodnight.

Again, up a steep stair, this one of painted white stone. This time not into a favela but into thick woods, a small open building on my right, another a bit further; Oh!-I got it, I am walking into a Terreiro. Terreiro Mucumbi, Filha de Iansan was one of two Casa de Angola Terreiros in Cachoeira and São Felix. I was told that there were close to hundred Terreiros in town and this was one of the oldest. I had not been to an Angolan house. This one was old and worn in the right places. The Terreiro or terrace, looked down this steep hillside to the river. In a room adjacent to the ceremonial chamber I could see a TV on, with something like a local movie of the week droning through the doorway, slightly ajar.

Here in Cachoeira the regs were a bit more relaxed. Yes you should wear white, and men trousers; but rules were bent. I was burnt and wanted to have an out. The service had just begun, I decided to stand outside and not get a seat. As people arrived, one of the ceramic assentamento jars (used to store your waters and the energies that connect you to your Orixa), was raised above each celebrant’s head, circling it counterclockwise, winding down to the shoulders and then the contents were thrown out into the bush as brief spiritual cleansing.

Shortly after I arrived, my friend of the floral shift and her teen charge walked up, huffing. She, they received their cleansing and as she stepped inside she was venerated as a key figure, possibly the Makota, (right hand to the Mae de Santo aka lieutenant governor) of the Terreiro. A white wrapper was brought for her to cover her shift and the service was in full swing. Timing is everything.

Before the atabaques began in earnest, a simple rhythm was tapped out by one drummer with his hands, (not the customary whittled sticks), and the Baianas danced a short Samba, the beat a bit slower than the dancing at Caquende. Early on I had noticed that the opening dance in all of the Terreiros was really a Samba. Women stepped through honey instead of the floating lilt step I saw in parties and bars. Here was proof. Now all of the drummers came to the stand and the light energy and air shifted. Church was in session.

The biggest initial difference that I noticed was how different the drumming was. A different kind of insistence to the rhythm. As at Gantois, one of the drummers always played with his hands throughout the ceremony.

After the call to each Orixa was nearly done, I considered going home. It was only eleven, but the day had been full. I stepped down from the patio to sit on a lower thought and consider my options. A dapper man offered me a cigarette, and I agreed. It would wake me up; -it did. We talked. His name; Garçon. He owned a restaurant of the same name, his birthname, Junho, was only known by confidants and family. He suggested that I stay for the Caruru. Oh my. We calculated how many more Orixa needed to be called and I decided to tough it out. We went back and listened until the break.

At the break small sweets and salty dried shrimp empadas setting in tissue papers were distributed with refrescantes. Then bon bons wrapped in red and white foil and covered with streamers came out. I ate a bit, and stuck the rest in my breast pocket. I was out of film, so most of the service is a wispy memory.

I thought that I saw Iansan manifested in the costume and dancing by both men and women. The dancing was great, I was awake, but I could not sustain much more; and definitely not more Caruru. Quietly I slipped away arriving back home to an empty house. I gathered my bedding, dumped my treats in a jar and was down, but not quite out when the crew came in about 90 minutes later.

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