Thursday, August 10, 2006

Samba de Roda

Last night I attended a Samba de Roda session. Samba de Roda is very different to what I had in my native land, although it is also very Brazilian in flavour. People who do Samba de Roda, which is usually from Bahia, call carioca Samba 'Samba Urbano', which I am not quite familiar with or a fan of, either. So, it was an entirely novel experience for me.

In Samba de Roda, there is a circle of people with one bass drum improvising (like in Italian Renaissance Music style called 'Basso Ostinato') and a tambourine (a very Gallician instrument that became a symbol of Brazilian folk music), but participants mainly clap their hands in a syncopated 2/2 or 4/4 rythmn and one lead singer sings a line and everybody else 'responds'-- all lyrics and melody are already previously rehearsed and memorized, though. We had a traditional Samba de Roda leader coming all the way from Bahia (the Recôncavo Baiano area, a buried treasure chest of African-American Folklore), Nêga, with a powerful contralto voice and that exquisite coloratura typical of black people. In every song, one person steps forward to the centre of the circle and dances, waves, mimes somebody, do something with their bodies. There is still a very strong focus on spontaneity, which is made possible by very strict ettiquete and standards everybody is expected to meet.

For example, one lead singer leads alone the whole song and everybody else only responds, and most of the time only one person is allowed in the center of the circle, and if two people go, it must be a heterosexual couple. I can imagine the sexiest women in the circle could all go together, but the Samba scene is naturally very homophobic, and two men together for them is a fight. This is the most heterosexist continent on Earth, after all.

I was called to the centre of the circle, the third person to be called, and I was really appalled, and couldn't think of anything to do. I was embarassed for not being able to clap in the rythmn, but I couldn't put my hands down either, so I just clapped in the second beat of the compass and the rest of the time I would wave my hands in front of my chili-red face, protecting it from all those strangers full of expertise. A 'Pulp Fiction' reference. Thanks again, Tarantino! Then, when the circle was already hot and everybody felt more at ease, I was called again and I did things with my arms I learnt from Michael Flatley and my Odissi lesson last month. I'm sure I looked pretty gringo, but I had a good time, anyway.

It was a kind of Artist Date, the solitary expedition to unknown lands without expectations. I failed to clap my hands in the steady rythmn they had for each song during most of the 2-hour session, and by the end I was honestly tired of the repetitive themes and melodic lines. Too many descendant thirds and references to sea tides and fishing.

I can't help imagining my boyfriend there, all excited. He's a huge enthusiast of Samba, and those two hours would be a taste of Heaven for him.

In time: I was approved for a VERY important Intermediate Storytellers' Workshop yesterday!! I'm very excited about this, and can't wait for Monday, when the classes start. The workshop (which comprises four evening meetings) is taught by Meninas do Conto, an awesome storytelling group who taught me my first basic storytelling workshop last year. They rock, and so do I (especially one month from here)!

Storytellingwise, things are flowing so smooth that I can't help concluding that I was born to do this and a Higher Power wants me to walk that Path!