Before there was the oh-so-famous samba, there was the jongo, which is an African “belly-bumping” (umbigada) dance that can be traced back to a Bantu people of modern-day Angola. The belly-bump, in Kimbundu (a Bantu language), is known as the “semba“, which is where the word “samba” comes from.
While for both religious and entertainment purposes, there is also a more magical side to the Jongo. The bonfire serves not only to tighten the skins on their drums but also to illuminate the spirits of their ancestors. The drums are considered consecrated as if they were ancestors themselves of the community. The circular dance with a couple in the middle invokes fertility and the rich metaphors used in their “pontos” (short and easy to remember verses) are understood only by those who are jongueiros, or jongo participants. The uncertainty in the meaning also serves to keep the rythym (“tava durumindu, cangoma me chamô / tava durumindu, cangoma me chamô / disse levanta povo, cativeiro já cabô”).
Within communities where jongo is practiced, the elder jongueiros, known as “jongueiros cumba“, are respected for their knowledge and power. Metaphors used in the dance attest to their wise nature, such as one that says an elder once planted a banana tree on the night of a party and by the morning it was full of bananas, ready to eat.
Historical research shows that the Jongo was used as a way to maintain traditions of African cultures that spoke any one of the 400 Bantu languages. It is believed that these practices aided, both organizationally and communicatively, in the resistance against slavery. Even to this day, the jongo is practiced in many of the cities where it initially took root here in Brazil, such as in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais.
From the 1970’s and onward, there has been a resurgence of the jongo, especially in Rio de Janeiro. By the mid-1990’s, the First Meeting of Jongueiros was created and since then it has continued to occur every year, attracting over 1,000 jongo practicioners per event in more recent years.
Check out the videos (in Portuguese) below for a better idea of what the jongo looks like![video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXbEhFrNXMM]
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Obrigada Adam, for this wonderful post!
I love Antonio Nóbrega!
Actor, dancer, musician, folklorist, multiple artist; he is an ambassador of Brazilian culture. (especially North Eastern, and the one from Pernambuco). He writes, acts, directs, performs, composes, sings, plays instruments! Through his concerts, and projects (like the one you show in your post) he broadcasts, spread, and explains the imaginary of this diverse pot that Brazilian culture is. He explains it in a very interesting way, and his body of work is backed-up not only by his personal experience as a Brazilian, but also and mostly by extensive studies and research. He is amazing!!!
Some of his thoughts:
“Brazil has a unity inside its diversity. For example, the main components that originated frevo, are present in the the whole country: the ‘capoeiristas’ (capoeira dancers/players), and the marching bands existed in all corners of Brazil. We have a Brazilian ‘body’ that is not subdivided in diverse pieces. Each little piece brings in itself a little of the original main Brazilian body. After all, we have a cultural heritage shared by all Brazilians”
The video below is his talk/performance during the TED Amazônia in November of 2010, where you can have an idea of how deeply surrendered to his art this ‘recifense’ is. It is in Portuguese, but even for the ones who do not understand the language, I would recommend watching anyways – his speech is given in 15 minutes. In the first 5 minutes he speaks while a video shows some of the many dancing/cultural expressions spread throughout Brazil, North through South. Then in the remaining 10 minutes, he performs his speech!! Yes! Using his own body, he gifts us with a perfect translation of the talk his just ended, Amazing!
In these other two videos, I confess I am “puxando o anzol pra minha sardinha” …because I am also from Recife, and these are from the same series Danças Brasileiras, but this time he talks about frevo. 🙂
Amazing skills in dancing frevo are so beautiful to watch!
[video - part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch]
[video - part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch]
Again, Adam, thank you. All your posts about Brazil and Portuguese are beautiful, warm, and make me not only happy, but with a feeling of satisfaction for being part of a culture that makes others happy.