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Gerard Bhague

Latin American Music Review, Volume 27, Number 1, Spring/Summer


2006, pp. 91-103 (Article)
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DOI: 10.1353/lat.2006.0022

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/lat/summary/v027/27.1behague09.html

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Regional and National Trends in Afro-Brazilian Religious Musics : 91

Gerard Bhague
Brown University
Lecture (March 6, 1992)

Regional and National


Trends in Afro-Brazilian
Religious Musics: A Case
of Cultural Pluralism

One may wonder how music can be considered a reflection of cultural values and of worldviews in general.
Ethnomusicology has taught us for some time now that musical styles are
frequently the result of specific cultural determinants emanating from social and ethnohistorical factors of various kinds. Ethnomusicology concerns itself essentially with non-written musical traditions and attempts to
integrate musical expressions of a given culture or community group with
the whole cultural complex of that group. It relies consequently on both
musicological and anthropological perspectives in its analytic approach. It
seeks to explain not only the structure of the musical product of a given
society but also all elementsethnic, social, historical, economicthat combine to establish the uniqueness of that product. To use Charles Seegers
terminology (1977), the field of ethnomusicology is concerned with the
analytical study of the process of variation of a musical text, on the one
hand, and the social context for music making, on the other. The context is
related to questions of musical behavior which reflect the complexities of
the social organization of a given group or community. Because we have
learned from cultural anthropologists that any substantial change in the
organization of a society (or segment of it) is eventually reflected in the
inheritance, cultivation and transmission of such traditions as folk music,
we can assume that a folk or traditional music is, in essence, a synthesis of
the worldview of a culture community, and in particular of the cultural
values of that community. We firmly believe that because of its internally
redundant nature, music is perhaps the most highly structured expressive
behavior of mankind. As a means of non-verbal communication, it is one
of the most powerful tools of human self-expression, self-assertion and selfawareness in relationship to a given social groups cosmovision. Music
also operates as a strong agent of social cohesion, whether in terms of
Latin American Music Review, Volume 27, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2006
2006 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819

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social classes, cultural or ethnic identity. Indeed, music has been shown to
act as one of the main factors in the construction of identity. In the specific
case of Brazil with which I am concerned here, I believe that its musical
reality can only be understood in relation to Brazils social and ethnic
stratification, which correspond to various corpora of music fulfilling various functions and acquiring various meanings in the numerous contexts of
music making.
If we believe along with Clifford Geertz that religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and
motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the
moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic (1973, 90), we soon realize
that musical performance in religious ritual contexts represents a forceful
expression of that symbolic system. It is well known that music and religion
are closely related in many cultures. But, while music may appear simply as
an ornamental, complementary yet essentially reinforcing element of certain
religious practices, it in fact has an organic functionality in most traditional
cultures. In certain religious rituals, music and dance become the main vehicle of religious fulfillment and, therefore, are fully integrated within the
social organization of those religions. As a natural expressive means, music
seems essential in order to bring forth a given cultures ethos. In Northeast
Brazil, and particularly in Bahia (Salvador and the Reconcavo), the conceptions of a general order of existence clearly owe a great deal to the African
cultural presence in that area.
The historical and cultural dimensions of the presence of Africans on the
Brazilian northeast coast and territory have had such an impact on the
configuration of contemporary culture that it is common to assert that the
current Bahian society is African or neo-African. At the most general level
this may be so, but the facts relating to the history of the slave trade in Brazil
point to a lack of a homogeneous black African population. The slaves came
from many different regions of Africa at different periods. They came from
all of the west coast (and even some from the east coast), the Sudanese from
Guinea, Togo, Benin (Dahomey) and Nigeria, and the Bantu from Angola
and Mozambique. The information available is quite incomplete as most of
the archives on slavery were destroyed under the orders of Rui Barbosa
(then Minister of Finance) in 1891 (3 years after the abolition of slavery).
However, Pierre Verger has reconstructed as much as possible the history of
the slave trade between the gulf of Benin and the Baa de Todos os Santos,
from the end of the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. At first the trade was organized with the Congo and northern Angola
(Bantu slaves had the reputation of being excellent workers in agriculture).
By the eighteenth century Bahian businessmen began to export tobacco to
the Gulf of Benin in exchange for slaves. The discovery of the Minas Gerais
and the expansion of large plantations created the need for additional forced

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labor coming from the Benin gulf coast. Despite the 1815 treaty between
Portugal and Great Britain, which in theory abolished the slave trade along
the African coast north the Equator, the trade continued. In the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, Bahia saw an influx of slaves of the most diverse
origins but with Sudanese people predominating. For example, between
183860, some 3,060 slaves of Sudanese origin, among them 2,000 nags,
there were only 460 of Bantu origin (these figures come from the few remaining contracts of purchase and sale at the Municipal Archives of Salvador). The presence of Africans of common origin in this later period may
explain the prevalence of traditions of the most numerous ethnic group
(Yoruba/nag). Although the sugar mill and plantation owners favored ethnic diversity to try to maintain old tribal rivalries, they were unable to control the larger proportions of Sudanese. And yet the slaves tended to gather
in ethnic groups or nations. Hence the diversity of African related religious systems and practices in modern Brazil remains, but the nag or Yoruba
religion predominated over other groups. The various temples or cult houses
have taken different aspects, according to a given nation with which they
traditionally associate. Nowadays, we find in Bahia the following groups:
the traditions of the Benin gulf: nag (ketu, ijex , Yoruba) and gege (Ewe,
Fon) groups; those of the Bantu people: the Congo-Angola nations whose
cult practices derive in great part from the nag ritual but maintain their
linguistic, musical and choreographic idiosyncrasies (an interesting example
of the evidence of the resistance of a Bantu minority to the cultural pressure
exerted by the nags who came later and in larger numbers in Bahia); and
finally the tradition of the Amerindian mixture, known as caboclo incorporated into Afro-Bahian culture. Candombl does not refer in Bahia to a particular nation but is rather a generic term designating all religious groups of
African derivation. The word candombl interestingly derives from three African languages: candombe, designating an old dance of the slaves in the plantations, including the Kimbundo prefix ka meaning custom, use; the Kikongo
ndombe, meaning of or pertaining to black people; and the Yoruba word il,
meaning house, thus candombl means the house of the candombe (or dance
with drums). By extension, it became the generic word in Bahia to designate
the religion itself and the locale of the cult centers.
The multiplication of candombl houses of worship since the 1930s attests to the vitality and popularity of the religions. The city of Salvador,
Bahia, had some sixty-seven houses registered at the Union of Afro-Brazilian Sects (according to Edison Carneiro 1954), of which thirty were of
Sudanese origin, twenty-one Bantu, fifteen caboclo and one designated as
Amerindian. In 1954, the same author counted a hundred houses, while in
1968 anthropologist Vivaldo Costa Lima surveyed some 768 houses. In
1972, I counted a little over nine hundred houses officially registered with
the City Police Department (about 40 percent were ketu/gege; 25 percent,
Congo-Angola; 30 percent, caboclo; and the remaining 5 percent, Umbanda).

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Many houses, however, did not register then and since 1976 such registrations are no longer required, but various estimates put the number in 1989
at over 2,500 centers, with a growing population of Umbanda cult houses.
This indicates that although the whole ritual complex of popular religions
retains its African character, the direct ties to African culture tend to break
down as Brazil becomes more urbanized and industrialized.
As shown by Juana Elbein dos Santos (1976), what maintains the continuity of candombl is the inherent concept and belief, known as ax. This is
the force that assures dynamic existence, that allows things to happen
(1976, 39) and change. Thus, it represents the most precious contents of the
cult center. Without ax, existence would be paralyzed, without any possibility of realization. Ax is the principle that makes the vital process possible. It is transmissible (transmitted through material and symbolic means
to objects and human beings) and it does accumulate. In nag language in
Africa, ax designates the invisible, magic-sacred force of all deity, of all
animated objects, of all things (Maupoil 1943, 334). But this force does
not appear spontaneously; it must be transmitted. All objects, all beings or
consecrated places can only become sacred through the acquisition of ax.
Thus, all the material contents of candombl centers (including sacred drums)
and their initiates must receive ax, and they must accumulate, maintain,
and develop it. As a principle and a force, ax is neutral. It can be applied
to various ends and realizations. It can also diminish or grow, according to
the ritual activity and the behavior of initiates. It is contained in a wide
variety of elements representing the animal, vegetal and mineral worlds,
thus the recognized emic categories of red, white and black blood, all symbols of life: red in the animal world, human or animal blood; in the vegetal
world, such elements as dend oil (epo or African palm oil) and honey (understood as the blood of the flowers); and from the mineral world, yellow
(a variant of red) metal, such as bronze. The white blood refers to saliva,
plasma, semen, all animal body secretions, as well as plant juices, alcohol
extracted from palm trees, and so on (the vegetal world) and salts, chalk,
lead, silver (mineral). As an extension of the concept of ax, there are places,
objects, or parts of the body believed to be impregnated with ax: heart,
liver, lungs, sexual organs, plant roots, leaves, river beds, and stones. Thus,
in all ritual activity, offerings, and initiation or sacralization ceremonies,
there is the implication of the transmission or revitalization of ax (Elbein
dos Santos 1976, 4142). The ax of each cult center and of the gods (orixs,
santos) is implanted in the head of the initiating devotee during initiation
(hence the native expression to do the obligation of the head designates
initiation). Since the cult leader (ialorix, babalorix, or pai/mae de santo)
represents the supreme authority of the religious group, the ax becomes
power that the cult leader transmits to the novices. The latter will manifest
this power through spirit possession. Elbein dos Santos states that:

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the dynamics of spirit possession express, in a psychologically recreated temporal dimension, here and now, dramatized in a personal experience, the
existence of a system of knowledge, of a doctrine. This doctrine can only be
understood as long as it is lived through ritual experienceanalogies, relived myths and legends; knowledge only has meaning when it is incorporated in an active mode. (1976, 45)

One of the most important factors of the belief system of the nags has to
do with the relationship of ax and sound. The word is considered a conducting agent of ax, i.e., a conducting element of the power of realization, (Elbein dos Santos 1976, 46) because the word is also impregnated
with ax, when uttered in a well-defined manner and context. But the word
is important insofar as it is sound. This importance is recognized in the
initiation of the devotee by means of a special rite called to open the
speech (abrir a fala), consisting of placing a special object (symbolic of ax )
on the tongue of the person, which will allow the voice of the orix to be
heard during possession (ibid., 47). That is, it is through speech/sound that
the orixs will be able to communicate directly with human beings. As an
extension, the sounds of ritual instruments and all of their symbolic contents are also conducting agents of ax (atabaques, agog, xequer, adj, etc.).
This explains why not only the sound objects must be prepared or consecrated but also the persons who manipulate them (alab or olubats in the
case of the drums). Perhaps more than the sound instruments, the ritual
song texts possess the dynamic power of sound, since they transmit a power
of action and mobilize the ritual activity. There exists in Bahian candombl
a vast repertory of song texts that are learned throughout the initiation
period and after in the regular religious practice. Some linguistic anthropologists who have studied several African ritual languages valued their
oral tradition to such a degree that they often referred to African cultures
as civilizations of orality (ibid., 4849).
The meaning of the mythical-ritual power attributed to songs and to
music in general is also articulated in candombl language through the expression to be of fundamental principle, to have a basic power (ser de
fundamento). Songs of fundamento are those that possess a special power in
conjunction with a given deity (especially power of invocation) and that
refer to some quintessential myths associated with an orix. This quality of
fundamento is, by extension, applied to the cult leader with esoteric knowledge, such as the techniques and secrets of the If divination practices, of
sacred plants, of rites, and of music. Thus, music acquires in candombl the
same level of significance as the most important elements of religious dogmas and practices and is not conceived as a separate entity. In musical
matters, the authority of the cult leader comes from the recognition of her/
his knowledge of fundamento songs with which he or she can exercise more
efficiently and directly the power of control of the initiates ritual behavior.

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Value is not so much placed on the cult leaders extension of musical repertory but rather on his or her knowledge of such special songs. The leaders
prestige and authority in the community increase through positive results
from the musical and choreographic education of the novices. Initiation
represents such an education and symbolizes at the same time the knowledge and power of the leader, since effectively educating new initiates is
his or her responsibility, and recognition of this fact follows if the newly
initiating persons are able to reveal a satisfactory assimilation of the music
and dance lessons given systematically during the initiation periods (see
Bhague 1984). Particular ceremonies known as saida de ias (presentation
of the ias) aim to a great extent at demonstrating what the ias have learned
in the subject of ritual behavior associated with music and dance. The
belief system and practices of Bahian candombl originate primarily from
the gege-nag religion as developed in Bahia. The Congo-Angola group
assimilated that system (particularly the Yoruba orix ), while maintaining
their own original ritual language and music. The candombl de caboclo, on
the other hand, had little direct relationship with the gege-nag, but incorporated numerous aspects of the Congo-Angola religious practices, including certain drum rhythms and songs, rituals of the pajelana (a combination
of indigenous rituals, with Catholic and spiritualist influences, originally
from Piaui Ind Amaznia) and elements of European popular Catholicism
as well as supposed Indian rituals. The main difference is that the orixs
(known as encantados) do not come down among men but are represented
by caboclo entities (essentially spirits coming from Brazilian Indian ancestors). Thus, the caboclo is considered a civilized Indian, a mestizo of Indian and white descent, and the term itself has come to represent generically
the composite nature of the Brazilian spiritual entity, sometimes in opposition to the African gods. But caboclos represent at once orixs and the national deity in caboclo candombls, macumbas, batuques, catimbs, and
Umbandas. The importance of the caboclo as a national symbol of religious
spirit is nowadays recognized in all candombl centers (regardless of their
professed religious affiliation) where a special shrine is built for their caboclos.
From a sociological standpoint, however, in Bahia the oldest and wealthiest candombl centers (the ketu, nag and gege, and Congo-Angola) discriminate somewhat against the caboclo/Umbanda religious groups which they
consider of inferior status and tradition. Cult leaders of the most celebrated
nag centers condescend to the caboclo and Umbanda leaders who come to
Bahia from all over the country to render homage to their counterparts, in
a sort of pilgrimage to reinforce their own spiritual and charismatic powers. I have witnessed such visits on numerous occasions and it is quite
significant to hear critical, derisive comments by the members of the nag
candombls over such things as the ritual attires of the visitors, their songs
and their music in general. Roger Bastide saw the mythology of such groups

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as caboclo and catimb as radically different from that of candombl. In
African Religions of Brazil (Les Religions Afro-Brsiliennes), Bastide (1978) explained his perception as follows:
The African gods form a family linked by ties of generation and marriage;
they constitute a system. The Amerindian spirits on the other hand are distributed geographically by villages, states, and kingdoms. They come together in a celestial geography, but they are not linked in any way. They are
merely localized, strung out in a decentralized organization. African mythology is modeled on the tribe and the extended family, that of catimb on the
political organization of Brazil as seen through the eyes of a devotee of fairy
tales. When this native Indian mythology was accepted, all the ritual linked
to African beliefs was dispossessed. (1978, 181)

Despite the sharpness of his perception and analyses, Bastide tended to


consider the actual mythical and sociological situations of Brazilian popular religions somewhat too unequivocally. In effect, while there are significant differences between the various ritual practices (such as, for
example, the fact that songs and music call the orix, while the caboclo
only sings after his appearance and that ritual dancing is more closely
symbolic of mythic reenactment among the nag groups), there can be
no question about the fundamental retention of African-related mythology and the general recognition of the African pantheon. Despite the
fact that the gege-nag groups represent the oldest regional (hence most
African-related) religions in Brazil, and the caboclo and Umbanda the
more national, hence more acculturated groups, yet with the largest number of members, all popular religions in Brazil (whether the batuque of
Rio Grande do Sul or that of Belm do Par, and regardless of their
position in the continuum of African versus European origins) owe a
great deal to the African religious heritage. This heritage is especially
evident in the functions and meanings of music within the liturgical observance of the various religions. Although there exists a fairly wide
margin of variables, songs function as sacralizing elements in all religious groups, i.e., the ritual effect of music coming from Yoruba culture
is recognized in all Afro-Brazilian religious dogmas. A brief illustration
of such functions and meaning deals with the sacralization of drums.
In 1944, the American anthropologist, Melville Herskovits (1966), reported the religious significance of drums and drummers in Bahian religions. His data, however, are somewhat confusing because his description
and interpretations of the ceremonies involving drums seem to be the result of a generalization from the various religious groups. The terminology
that he used tends to indicate, however, that he paid a closer attention to
the gege-nag cult group. Yet, some elements of his ethnography are not
characteristic of that group but of the caboclo candombl.

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Despite a certain degree of syncretism with Christian-Catholic elements,
Afro-Brazilian religions continue to be essentially animistic in nature. Since
drums have the primary religious function of calling the gods, and thus of
bringing on spirit possession, they are believed to have a voice of their
own, irresistible to the gods, and their ax needs to be reinforced through
nourishment. Thus a proper spiritual treatment is essential. This treatment not only includes the initial rite of baptism, but occasionally the
actual naming of the drums and annual feeding to prolong and assure
the power received at the baptismal ritual. The term baptism, however,
is not used by candombl practitioners. Rather, the native expression is dar
de comer ao couro (to feed the drum skin). Herskovits introduced the word
baptism in its symbolic meaning of ablution, as part of the rite of passage
from the secular to the sacred world. Yet, he saw in it an example of the
striking quality possessed by such African cults as have survived in New
World Catholic countries, a quality by means of which African and Catholic elements are harmoniously combined (1966, 189). Syncretic elements
have been overemphasized. I subscribe to the interpretation that the apparent existence of features of Christian belief systems was the result of
sociohistorical accommodation in the slave quarters of the plantations.
Today, however, a recognized awareness of the value of traditional popular culture and a valorization of Black ethnicity tend to minimize the socalled harmonious combination. A concrete example would be the use
of water in the baptism of drums. According to Herskovits, the priest or
priestess takes holy water, obtained from a Catholic church, and speaking
entirely in the African tongue employed by the group in its rituals, blesses
the drums while sprinkling them with the sacred liquid (1966, 189). While
this might still be true nowadays among the caboclos, it is not the case at all
among the gege-nag groups. The sacred liquid in question results from the
maceration of sacred plants which are believed to contain a great deal of
ax and are the secret of each cult center. The presence of this liquid is
indeed signified by the special plant songs which appear in the sequence of
the performance. Plant songs (cantigas de flhas) would have no place in
that sequence if it were not for the very nature of this liquid. Once more
music provides the evidence, given the methodic interface between music
and ritual gestures.
Each center is primarily dedicated to the worship of the orix to whom
the cult leader was initiated. The drums become, therefore, the main vehicle of communication with that god. The baptismal ritual is placed under
the sign of that god. The preparation of the drums entails the painting of
their body with the characteristic colors of the god (in the sample case
here, Xang, the god of thunder, fire and lightning, is represented by the
colors red and white. Frequently they are dressed for the occasion (although not a requirement): this consists in encircling them with a cloth
called odj, exactly the same practice as that followed for the initiates in a

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state of possession. In most cult groups the drums are played in a battery of
three, in conjunction with an iron bell (agog) or a shaken rattle. A religious
hierarchy exists between the largest drum (rum) and the medium-sized
(rumpi ) and smallest drums (l ). The rum is played by the master drummer
(alab ) and is considered the most important because it determines the
various changes in the choreography. While dancing, the initiates pay more
attention to it than to the other ones, because they are expected to respond
to its calls. By improvising, the rum establishes a contrast with the smaller
drums which usually repeat a single steady ostinato pattern, as does the
agog. Functionally and musically, the rum appears, therefore, as the instrument par excellence. This hierarchy, however, is not manifested in the
baptism ceremony. Each drum is treated equally.
The ritual takes place shortly after a new set of drums has been constructed. There is no basic difference between this first ceremony and the
subsequent annual feeding of the drums, with the exception of the painting
and occasional naming. The cult leader, or less frequently the master drummer, officiates. She/he begins by consulting the gods through divination to
make sure that the particular day chosen for the ceremony is appropriate
for the god under whose sign the ceremony takes place (kola nuts or cowry
shells are used for divination purposes). Orikis or prayers of offering are
said concurrently with the divination game. If the divination signs (256)
should prove consistently negative, the ceremony would be postponed,
although in actual practice such an occurrence is very rare. The drums are
placed in a slanting position, which is only permissible on this occasion.
Several dishes for the food offerings are placed in front of the drum heads.
This food includes blood, the sacred liquid mentioned earlier, salt, palm
oil, and honey. Of these, the foods with more ax are the blood and the
herbs or plants. The ritual use of blood is clearly an African trait in this
context. As the most manifest symbol of life, blood, especially running
blood, is necessary in the most liturgically significant Afro-Bahian rituals.
A feathered animal (a chicken, preferably a cock) will be sacrificed for
each drum. At the moment the head of the animal begins to be severed, an
appropriate song (sacrificial song as a native category) is sung: Ogum
choro, choro . . . Eje choro, ilu pao, i.e., Ogum conducts ceremony, the blood
is flowing, ilu. The reference to the god Ogum is justified by the fact that
Ogum, the god of war and metal tools, should be invoked in conjunction
with the use of the sacrificial knife.
Two more songs are performed as a further offering of the blood to the ilus
(incidentally the pentatonic and hexatonic melodic structure of the songs is
typically Yoruba). All the songs are accompanied by the agog alone, the
baptism being one of the few musical occasions of candombl in which singing is not accompanied by drums. The cycle of plant songs follows, introduced by the greeting word assa (repeated three times) to Ossanha, the god of
all vegetation. In theory, the order in which the plants should be invoked is

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well set, involving sixteen different plants grown in both the West African
and the Brazilian Northeastern coasts. Most of the Yoruba names of plants
continue to be used in Bahia: irok, odundun, eurepepe, agtiba ol, and so on.
These plants are known by all cult leaders, who also act as medicine men in
most cases. Since herbs and plants are considered to be one of the critical
secrets of a given cult center, all plant songs are not generally sung if a member of another (rival) center is present, in order to avoid revealing these secrets. The song texts are, in general, traditional Yoruba or Fon texts although
the numerous linguistic and phonetic alterations prevent a meaningful literal
translation of such texts, even by a Yoruba-speaking person. The tones of the
language especially have been lost.
With the performance of these songs a true baptism, i.e. in the sense of
immersion, takes place. The drums are sprinkled with the sacred liquid,
the sacralization of which occurs at the time of the gathering and macerations and involves offerings to Ossanha and singing. Plant songs may include songs for ipessam (plants of the mimosa, begonia and borage families),
agba- ( a type of morning glory), eurepep (a water primrose) and peregum
(a dracaena type). The last plan song of this cycle corresponds to the mariwo,
the African oil palm. The Yoruba song text here signifies good wishes of
wealth and good fortune (ifo-mon means to attract money). After this, the
placement of the cocks head in one of the dishes in fron of the drums is
signified by the song ori abodi, o guegue manio (the severed head is the
fulfillment). The greeting words of the text of this song mix Yoruba (ajum , food, omo, money, ache , clothing) and Portuguese (paz, prosperidade,
sossego, peace, prosperity, tranquility). Food offerings songs follow in the
order of salt (iy), honey (oyin) and palm oil (ep). The last offeringperhaps the most significant from a strictly religious viewpointis that of the
head of the animal. Indeed, the head symbolizes the new life conferred
upon the instruments (Ilu bori ia-um). This is why this offering is followed
by two songs of general joy (Op ir , I call happiness, cheerfulness) and
thanksgiving. The last songs of the performance (10 to 15) generally belong to the specific repertory associated with the orix for whom the drums
were baptized. In the specific case of Xang, it is by greeting Xang
(kaw, kabie sil , Welcome, we prostrate ourselves before you) that the
worshippers reveal the fulfillment of the rite of passage: Xang takes possession of his drums. The latter are referred to in the song texts as omorob
or children of Xang. The ceremony ends with divination (If ) to confirm
that the deity has accepted his new children and devotees. The positive
result of the divination is expressed through applause and shouting and
general rejoicing of the congregation. The drums remain in the sacred
space (barraco) for several hours with a lit candle in front of each drum.
After that period, drums heads and bodies are cleaned. The hides are left
in the sun to dry. They are properly tuned, and then ready to fulfill their
crucial role.

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This ceremony is a clear illustration of the close relationship existing
between liturgical behavior and musical repertories. More specifically, music
operates as an integral component of that behavior since music alone, in
this instance, corroborates the very meaning of the ceremony which is the
sacralization of the instruments. What distinguishes the regional versus the
national trends in Brazilian traditional religious music is the particular style
of each group. The stylistic continuity that can be observed in Afro-Bahian
religious music is most probably a case of cultural resistance during the
various centuries of cultural confrontations which, nevertheless, also involved cultural sharing. The traditional West African style of religious music
(characterized by responsorial singing, overlapping call and response,
monophonic choral singing, accompanied by various percussion instruments) with the predominance of pentatonic and hexatonic descending
melodies is strongly present in the music of the gege-nag. The variety of
accompaniment rhythms resulting from specific rhythmic attributes for each
orix is likewise retained among these groups. But the Congo-Angola music is limited to about three different rhythms, and the music of the caboclo
candombl is almost exclusively based on one rhythm quite similar to that
of the folk samba. Umbanda music, however, displays stylistic changes
that illustrate the cultural integration of the Bahia area, i.e., the effective
penetration of national values into a strong regional and urban cultural
setting. Indeed Umbanda music responds to its deliberate attempt to cater
to all segments of urban society, especially the middle class. And it does so
by relying on a nationally omnipresent and familiar style, namely the folkurban type of dance music most readily associated with the samba. Song
lyrics are mostly in Portuguese as opposed to the African language texts of
the songs from the gege-nag and Congo-Angola groups. In contradistinction to the traditional candombls, Umbanda music repertory is in constant
elaboration, albeit stylistically restricted. But this stylistic limitation appears
the most effective in attracting worshippers from the whole gamut of the
social strata. In effect, it is not an exaggeration to affirm that caboclo and
Umbanda religions and their expressive means (mostly music and dance)
may be the single most important factor contributing to the cultural, regional integration of Brazil today.
A final word about candombl s orixs/santos and their competitors in the
contemporary scene. The relationships of the Roman Catholic church with
candombl in the Bahia area have had a series of ups and downs over the
last few decades. One has to differentiate between the official Catholic
church position vis--vis non-Christian popular religions in Brazil and
the actual pragmatic attitudes of parish priests throughout the area. Many
of these priests have come to the same de facto conclusion as many
candombl worshippers that there is no contradiction in professing faith to
both religions. I even heard on occasions priests stating that candombl
members are generally better parishioners than the non-members. I also

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witnessed cases of priests agreeing to celebrate mass in homage to a particular cult leaders caboclo, and even seeing at such events spirit possession
taking place at the precise moment of the elevation! There is, for the most
part, a pacific coexistence with the Catholic church.
True confrontations have occurred in the last few years between candombl
centers and Protestant sects, especially evangelicals and Pentecostals. It is
quite significant that the Bahian archbishop of the Catholic church has
pronounced himself, on occasions, in favor of candombls, an attitude perhaps more telling of the relationship of the Catholic relationship with Protestantism than that with candombl. Since 1989 a holy war (guerra santa)
has been declared between candombls and the Universal Church Kingdom of God. Pastor Gilmar Teixeira Rosas, particularly, has made public
accusations that have mobilized not only candombl members but the
Movimento Negro Unificado, and various organizations, such as the blocos
afros. Because of its enormous success, the Protestant missionary movement has become a truly socio-political threat to candombl. But as an
ethnomusicologist, I venture the definite opinion that Protestant hymnody,
as practiced in Bahia, has a very long way to go to become competitive
with candombl religions and its musical expressions.

References
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Patterns of Candombl Music Performance: An AfroBrazilian Religious Setting. In Performance Practice:
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