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Peter Gammond

A 19th-century African-American dance. It originated among plantation slaves (c.1850 reputedly to parody the promenades that opened the plantation owners formal balls In the 1890s it became commercial entertainment and it was used for social dancing at the turn of the 20th century The music is a ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Capoeira combines various elements, including dance, combat, music, and song. It is performed to live music, with two capoeiristas taking turns at the center of a roda, or circle, formed by the players, musicians, and spectators. At the head of the roda is an ensemble of percussion instruments called the bateria. The bateria usually includes three berimbaus (bow-shaped instruments), an atabaque (a long, cylindrical drum), one or two pandeiros (tambourine-like instruments), an agogô (a double-headed bell), and a reco-reco (a small instrument with a corrugated surface). The bateria's rhythm and pace dictate the style and speed of the play in the circle, and the songs sung by the musicians often comment upon, criticize, or encourage the physical play.

Article

The festivals known as Carnival are public celebrations of European origin that have been profoundly transformed by diverse New World African cultures throughout the Americas. Although Carnival is celebrated in many Latin American and Caribbean cities, this description will focus on four different Carnivals: two in Brazil, one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in Salvador, Bahia; one in the Caribbean, in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and one in the United States, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born in Havana on 5 August 1900. Her full family background is unknown, but she was born to parents Nicolás and Francisca in Pueblo Nuevo, a largely black neighborhood of Havana. She was raised in a housing complex named El Africa, surrounded not only by the heavy presence of Afro-Cuban religion, but by negros de nación (African-born blacks who had been brought to Cuba as slaves; Cuba imported slaves up until the 1860s and did not formally abolish the practice until 1886). It was due to her upbringing, immersed in African-derived music, dance, and religion, that Fresneda would eventually serve as a principal informant to folklorists and scholars, including preeminent anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, seeking to document and preserve these cultural practices.

Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution there were very few professional Afro Cuban folkloric musicians and dancers and Fresneda worked in various service occupations for many ...

Article

Christopher Dunn

Dissatisfied by the options available to Afro-Brazilians during Carnival, a group of young black petroleum workers from the working-class neighborhood of Curuzu-Liberdade organized Ilê Aiyê (Yoruba for “House of Life”) for the 1975 Carnival. The group's founder and president, Antônio Carlos dos Santos Vovô, cited three principal sources of inspiration: local Afro-Brazilian culture rooted in the Candomblé religion; the North American Black Power and soul movements and their Brazilian spinoffs; and the liberation of former Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique.

As a parallel response to some of the elite Carnival groups who informally excluded people of color, Ilê Aiyê established a blacks-only membership policy, which it still maintains. Although Ilê Aiyê was criticized in the local press for “introducing racial politics” into the Bahian Carnival, it soon received moral support from established pop stars such as Gilberto Gil who recorded a pop ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judith Jamison started dancing at the age of six at the Judimar School of Dance. At seventeen, she left to study psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After three semesters, she returned to Philadelphia to continue her dance training at the Philadelphia Dance Company (now University of Arts).

After a 1964 appearance with Agnes de Mille's dance troupe in New York, Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) in 1965. Because of this company's financial difficulties, she danced with the Harkness Ballet for the 1966 season. But in 1967 she returned to AAADT to become its premier dancer. With this company she toured the world, dancing in Cry (1971), her signature dance, which Ailey choreographed to honor the strength and dignity of African American women. For her performances, she won an award from Dance Magazine in 1972 ...

Article

Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...

Article

Olodum  

Aaron Myers

Olodum was founded in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, on April 25, 1979. That year marked the beginning of the abertura (opening), the gradual return to democracy after fifteen years of military rule in Brazil. Many rights were curtailed during this period and, as a result, Carnival became an increasingly important occasion for voicing political concerns and asserting cultural pride. The 1970s in Salvador, Bahia, witnessed the emergence of blocos Indios (Indian Carnival associations) and blocos Afros (African Carnival associations), whose presentations at the annual pre-Lent Carnival celebration revolved around indigenous and African themes. Olodum emerged out of this bloco Afro movement just as abertura was paving the way for increased social, political, and cultural activism. Olodum's name comes from Olodumaré, the name of the supreme Yoruba deity.

Drum, voice, and liberation ideology are the foundations of Olodum's music. Every February, Olodum brings together some 200 large surdo ...

Article

Ben Penglase

At the end of the nineteenth century, just at the time of the abolition of slavery in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro's Praça Onze was the center of a neighborhood composed largely of Afro-Brazilians. Many of these people were recent migrants from the state of Bahia, and the Praça Onze neighborhood became known as “Pequena África” (or small Africa). Tia Ciata moved to Rio from Bahia at the age of twenty-two, and during the day worked selling home-cooked food at a food stall. Tia Ciata was also deeply involved in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. At night and on the weekends she hosted gatherings at her home in Praça Onze that united some of the most famous black Brazilian musicians and composers, probably serving as one of the birthplaces of Samba music.

See also Afro-Brazilian Culture.