Salvador and the State of Bahia


November, 2004:

Please note that the Villa-Lobos Website is no longer being updated.

This resource will remain on the RDPL server.

"Have you ever been to Bahia?..."
"No?... Well then, let's go!"

Picture: the famous Lacerda Elevator in the capital city of Bahia, Salvador. The photo is from the excellent website of Embratur, the official Brazilian tourist ministry.
Sheila Thomson's Maria Brasil includes a Song for Bahia, with a beautiful song in RealAudio format: "Quando eu penso na Bahia" by Ary Barroso. I was first exposed to Bahian music in Walt Disney's monument to the U.S.'s wartime Good Neighbor Policy, Three Caballeros, starring Donald Duck; it's great to learn more about it.  That film includes a couple of great Barroso songs.
The music of Bahia shows up in many of Villa Lobos' works. The last movement of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 is a northeastern dance called the Miudinho. Tarasti talks about this samba-like dance: 
    "...women danced it with their upper body all but motionless and with almost unnoticeably quick movements of the feet in a fast and always even rhythm." (Tarasti, Heitor Villa-Lobos: the life and works, p. 205.)
Again, Sergio Koreisha's highly recommended Meu Brasil website is the best single source for general information on Salvador and Bahia.
David Wilson, Dean Graber, Sean McKaughan and Egídio Leitão have put together an excellent article on the music of Northeast Brazil, in the latest edition of the online magazine Real Brasil. 
Project SAMBA Socio-Anthropology of Bahian Music (UFBa) is part of the AXE Afro-America Black Pages in Bahia (Brazil) site.
The Roughguides site mentioned in the Real Brasil article includes a useful guide to the music of Bahia and other Northeastern states. "An outrageously high proportion of the major MPB [Música popular brasileira] stars comes from Salvador and around..." according to this article. Bahia was the source of many of the African songs and rhythms that Villa Lobos incorporated into his music. This strong African influence from Bahia (along with Caribbean and North American influences) has made its way into MPB as well.
Marvellous views of sites and people from Bahia are included in the Postcards from Bahia exhibit of photographs by Lita Cerqueira.
"Villa-Lobos very likely first heard the music of Debussy (reportedly the piece Cakewalk from the children's Corners) during his trip to northeast Brazil, specifically Bahia in 1907 or 1908." - Gerard Behague, Heitor Villa-Lobos: The search for Brazil's musical soul, p.9. 

As I come across references to "Africanisms" in Villa Lobos' music, I'll put them here. This is a start: 

  • Tarasti (Heitor Villa-Lobos: the life and works, 1995) notes, on p. 141, an "idealization of an original candomblé tune" in the Choros no. 11 (score no. 93.)

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