Vale Festejar! in São Luís (IV): Bumba-meu-Boi
Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
Vale Festejar in São Luís: Bumba-meu-Boi, with European, Indian and African roots.
Jesus in a can or bottle.
Following the Portuguese Dances, percussion of the Tambores, and the Dança de Lelê, it was time for the traditional highlight of the cultural night. All seats were occupied now. The small bars at both sides were meeting points for hungry and thirsty visitors. One of the most obvious sodas that was sold, was Jesus Guaraná. This pinkish, ultrasweet soda is only produced and sold in the state of Maranhão. The Coca Cola Company has obtained the exclusive rights, but under the strict condition that the soda must not be sold outside the state of Maranhão. That is why Jesus is not commonly found in the Southeast. The name of Jesus has nothing to do with the Bible, but is the name of the inventor of the still secretly kept recipe: druggist Jesus Norberto Gomes. At the convention center, I joined the long queue and ordered a can of Jesus.
Festa Bumba-meu-Boi is dedicated to the death and resurrection of a … bull.
The tradition goes back to the 18th century, in the northeast of Brazil. In the regions that were dominated by sugar plantations and extensive cattle breeding. In that era, the oldest sotaque, one of the three styles of this typical Brazilian folklore, was invented. This sotaque is de Boi de Zabumba, with strong African roots. The (large) drums determine the rhythm of the dance ritual.
In 1868, the second sotaque, the Boi de Matraca, was created. This sotaque contains more Indian roots, and the rhythm is determined by the matraca: two pieces of woods that are hit to each other. These wooden pieces may vary in size and produced a contagious rhythm, when they are played by a large crowd.
The third sotaque is only fifty years old, and was created in 1958. Orchestra leader Francisco Paiva from Axixa (Maranhão) introduced wind instruments (among them saxophones and clarinets) in this folklore. That is why this sotaque is called Boi de Orquestra. All three sotaques do not only have differences in instruments used, but also in rhythm and choreography.
You might consider the performance as a kind of an opera: a lot of drama, dance, but also with some elements of comedy and parody. The story is about a slave couple: Pai Francisco (or Mateus) and his pregnant wife (or girlfriend) Mãe Catarina. They lived and worked on a farm of their master: the Portuguese Amo. Amo had a herd of cows, and his favorite bull was Fama Real, also known as Boi Estrela. Pregnant Mãe Catarina was motivated to eat the tongue of the best bull of their master, in order to give birth of a healthy child. The worried Pai Francisco lured the best bull into the shrubs and killed the animal. The tongue was cooked and eaten by Mãe Catarina. The owner Amo directly missed his best bull and he ordered to assemble all his slaves and servants. Initially, no one had seen or heard anything. However, one of the servants was en eye witness when Pai Francisco lured the bull into the shrubs. He then had heard the sound of a gun shot. Pai Francisco was put under pressure, and he then confessed his crime. Amo was furious and he forced Pai Francisco to revive the animal or to he should be killed. A doctor was called in, but this man was not able to revive the slaughtered animal. At the end, a traditional indian medicine man was called in, and he miraculously managed to revive the bul. Pai Francisco’s life was saved. Amo became a happy man again, and forgave his slave. At the end, everyone was happy, and celebrated a big party.
Not a sharp picture, but the image
clearly shows the enthusiasm of
Festa Bumba-meu-Boi is mainly celebrated in the North and Northeast. Another variant is celebrated in the far South. Gradually, this folklore is gaining popularity in larger parts in Brazil, even in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Each region has its own styles, traditions, and rhythms. For those who admire folklore, it is very interesting to witness all different styles in various regions.
In the region of São Luis, more than two hundred associations and dance schools are active with Bumba-meu-Boi. You might compare them to the samba dance schools in Rio and São Paulo, although the latter schools are much larger.
During the festival, six Bumba-meu-Boi dance schools perform at night. The first school has a limit of thirty minutes to present their performance, the other schools have a limit of one hour. These time limits were grossly exceeded. As a result, the final group managed to start at 2 am, while the program brochure planned their performance at 1 am. Each school expresses the same story as I have written in the previous paragraph, but they each present a different choreography, clothes, and music group. The school represents one of the three styles. As a result, the audience may enjoy a varied program of different styles, rhtyhms and music. A mixture of African, Indian, and European styles. Multicultural at best.
- Travel in Brazil: MARANHÃO (20). Vale Festejar! in São Luís (III): Dança do Lelê (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: MARANHÃO (19). Vale Festejar! in São Luís (II): Tambor-de-Crioules (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: MARANHÃO (18). Vale Festejar! in São Luís (I), Dança Portuguesa (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: MARANHÃO (12). Colorful Sunset at the Beach in Atins (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)