Back from Bahia

4 06 2007

Dan here, just back from the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) meeting in Bahia, where I presented a paper looking at the intersection of early Jamaican mento records, eBayers in Jamaica and eBay’s potential role in the theory of historical ethnomusicology. I’m glad to say that it went very well. A big thanks to the panel chair (thanks Jocelyn!), both my co-panelists (thanks Gage and Carla!) and all the folks who came and had such nice things to say to me after my presentation. They were really appreciated!

(The CSA is not only a great multidisciplinary conference, but they do a great job of picking cities for conventions; because it is so resonant with Black Atlantic history, Bahia was a great choice; next year’s conference is in San Andrés, one of the few places in the Caribbean outside Jamaica where mento is played. Yes, I am definitely looking forward.)

I’d never been to Bahia (or even South America, or even below the equator) before, but I loved it. It’s a really interesting place with nice people, great food (I ate so much moqueca that I probably don’t need any for a little while, although I wouldn’t mind finding some caju…it goes so nicely in a caipirinha) and of course, wonderful music. Predictably, I spent a bunch of time hanging out in Bahia’s “historic” district, Pelourinho, where there’s a ton of music. Samba’s everywhere, lots of it on the street and none of it I saw (even the staged “folkloric” show) was bad.

In Pelourinho, performance is everywhere. One night we caught a nice samba street dance, another couple of nights we saw capoeira groups practicing out in a square. On one of the nights, the CSA sponsored a “cultural night” at Olodum’s HQ, which featured four groups playing styles typical to Bahia. However, it seemed like every night we were there we ended up drinking beer and following samba reggae groups around. These groups really transform the feeling in Pelourinho quite dramatically. The vibe goes from this (early in the day):

Early

To this…

later_2

and this…

later_1

…in a matter of hours. It is a TON of fun. (Yes, there is a group of drummers, right in the middle of that second photo; they’re the ones wearing yellow.)

All in all, a great place to go and to learn about. If you want some more quick, computer based sources on Brazil, there are a couple of great sites you can go to for pre-trip and, if you’re connected to the internrrd while you’re there (and I don’t see why you couldn’t be, given the number of wifi and internet café options in Bahia), in-trip travel information, Bahia Online and Brazilmax.

Look out for more thoughts on and pictures from Bahia in the next couple of days.

DTN

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