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Day 32: Salvador

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Churches are everywhere in old Salvador. This one is right outside my window.
Michael Palin - BrazilI ask him why the drum is so important in Brazilian music.

'Because of the African heritage. The presence of Angolans and Nigerians and slaves from Benin and Ghana and Fanti-Ashanti brought the percussion. Through the drums we express our feelings, our love for the culture and heritage.'

'Are the children growing up now losing their attachment to African culture?' I ask.

Joćo is emphatic.

'They are gaining an Afro-Brazilian identity. They don't want to be Africans, but they are proud to be from an African background and have a consciousness that this is a positive thing; being black, being strong, being beautiful.'

Oddly enough, Brazilian interest in Africa doesn't seem to have been reciprocated. A recent air service between Rio and Dakar in Senegal had to be abandoned for lack of interest.

The theory is one thing, but the practical display of the Olodum sound, given by thirty children from the school, ranging in age from five to eighteen, is quite another. They perform in the streets of the Pelourinho, without warning the locals in advance. It's a stirring thing to watch. The drummers are in floridly designed T-shirts and uniform white cotton trousers and the half-dozen girl dancers are in loose, swinging dresses in Rainbow Nation colours. All are expertly and enthusiastically marshalled by their tall, gangling, drum-master Pacote, in blue baseball cap, 'Escola Olodum' black T-shirt and long red shorts. He starts it all off with a resounding cry.

'Let's wake up the Pelourinho!'

As they drum away, Pacote listens to each of them and gives advice and instruction, none of it more inspiring than his own example of joyful driving energy. For an hour the streets vibrate with the sound and by the end even those they've woken up are applauding. As they disband I walk down the street to take a wide-shot of them all. Beside where I'm standing a pile of uncollected garbage is stacked against the wall. I look again and see that there's a young man sprawled asleep in the middle of it. Initiatives like Olodum will never solve everything.
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Inside the Pousada the sturdy grille on the front door shows security remains a big issue in these poor inner-city areas.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 32: Salvador
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Salvador
  • Book page no: 137

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  • Sightseeing
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 18 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 16 
  • Pole to Pole


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