Note from BW of Brazil: A great and timely post today considering that November is the Month of Black Consciousness in Brazil. Much is often said about Brazil’s debt to Africa, not only in its culture, the many words in the Portuguese spoken by Brazilians, but in the very veins, faces, skin colors and DNA of its people, whether they identify as black, afrodescendente or not. The word Samba, Brazil’s most popular musical rhythm, was derived from the word semba, a word common to many West African bantu languages (1). Below, become familiar another of Brazil’s enduring cultural practices that have been kept alive for centuries by the descendants of Africans brought to the land that would come to be known as Brazil centuries ago. Be sure to also check out the videos at the end of the article.
Jongo: The living memory of black ancestors in Brazil
by Kauê Vieira
Also known as caxambu and corimá, jongo is a dance of African origin and danced to the sound of drums. A part of Afro-Brazilian culture, the rhythm was brought to Brazil by Bantu blacks, kidnapped to be sold as slaves in ancient kingdoms of Ndongo and the Kongo region, comprised today by much of the territory of the Republic of Angola. The dance had a strong influence in shaping the samba and also in popular culture of Brazil as a whole.
For the development of dancing feet are always bare and clothes are the common everyday. Thus, a couple at a time goes the center of the roda (circle) rotating counterclockwise, coming close from time to time and making reference to an umbigada (belly bump).
With the end of slavery, blacks received nothing beyond manumission and thus were forced to migrate to the biggest city and former capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. At that time (mid 18th century), the Rio state capital had been suffering from a process of “modernization”, which expelled the poor population from the downtown to the top of the morros (hills), forming the favelas (slums), which would gain momentum throughout the following centuries.
Even with this radical change, black families still continued practicing jongo in places like the morros of São Carlos, Salgueiro, Mangueira and, especially in Serrinha, the latter, one of the only places capable of preserving traditional Afro-Brazilian culture. No wonder, that it is in the capital of Rio, where today we find one of the leading practitioners of the rhythm, Jongo da Serrinha.
The cultural group was created by the Mestre (master) Darcy Monteiro and his family, who invited the old jongueiras Vovó Teresa, Djanira, Tia Maria da Grota and Tia Eulália to form the artistic group Jongo da Serrinha. They also broke an important taboo that prevented the participation of children in jongo. Over the years, the initiative has grown, gained momentum and became a kind of resistance of black culture and its ancestors in Rio de Janeiro.
Jongo da Serrinha was born with the purpose of research, creating cultural products (books, shows, movies, etc.) and disseminating jongo worldwide. Created in the late 1960’s, it is still today a reference of traditional carioca (Rio) culture. One of its most striking albums is the self-titled work, released in 2002. The album, which makes history consecrating itself as the first jongo album released in Brazil, was recorded live at the Tia Maria quintal of jongo in Serrinha, in Madureira, a Rio neighborhood.
The disc has 13 tracks, exalting jongo and showing the public, through music, how the life of slaves was, what their feelings were in facing situations like the end of the slavery era of slavery and the resistance of Zumbi of Palmares’s quilombo, located in the Serra da Barriga, in Alagoas.
Dança (Pontão de Cultura do Jongo)
Jongo da Serrinha – Tia Maria do Jongo (courtesy of CULTNE)
Jongo da Serrinha, em Madureira – Rio de Janeiro
Jongo da Serrinha – Rumos Música (2008)
1. Cited from the Brazilian Music website.