Photo Essays: Recife Carnaval
Nowhere is the extraordinary cultural diversity of Brazil more evident than in the nation’s regional musical traditions. Traditional Brazilian music styles such as bossa nova, samba batucada, samba reggae and axé have for years overshadowed those from the northeast. In the northeastern state of Pernambuco, an elaborately staged tradition called maracatu exists at the historical, social, religious and rhythmic core of the numerous modern and folkloric musical styles of the region. Beautiful handmade drums, bells and costumes representing a Baroque Portuguese royal court are central to the performance of the music and dance of its oldest form, maracatu de baque virado (“maracatu of the turned-around beat”). Also called nação (“nation,” a reminder of its African-nations origins and the Kings of Congo who assumed leadership roles within the Brazilian slave communities), its customs can be traced back to the late-seventeenth-century slave trade in the port town of Recife. Although secular, the music is closely linked to the candomblé religion brought from Africa during the time of slavery. Variations of the tradition include maracatu rural, also known as maracatu de baque solto (“maracatu of the loose-beat”), a 20th-century fusion of carnival traditions that is performed in the interior of Penambuco.