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Reply To: When Mythology meets Dance and Sounds,” with Dr. Monica Martinez”


    Monica, thank you for your very kind and thoughtful answers to my questions. Although I am now retired as a musician, race as well as religion always has an important backstory that should be explored in many cultures, and as an Afro-Latin/Brazilian percussionist that “weave” of the different cultural mosaics has always been a fascinating topic for me. The “Quilombos” for instance, most notably the legendary one in Palmaris, which was wiped out by the Portuguese military because they became such an embarrassment to the King back during the days of slavery was as a stark example of this evil that hopefully the human race will someday overcome. The favelas whose themes are so beautifully displayed in the yearly celebration of Carnival are a testament to this rich heritage, and indeed the Capoeira Dance as martial art as well as self-defense that was used by the slaves to defend themselves had a deep spiritual connection with this heritage as well.

    The Candomble’/ Santeria – Orixas/Orishas or deities through which the spirits manifest themselves is a very different relationship to the devote or worshiper than the Catholic Christian, and as you mentioned the ceremonial and the cultural context is very different as well since much of it is West and Central African by heritage and indeed throughout much of its’ history in the Southern Hemisphere and Caribbean has been a source of spiritual refuge and nourishment as well as identity; often masked behind the Catholic Saints but celebrated and worshipped with the spiritual “shrines” embedded in many of the homes, each with a patron god or saint assigned to an individual through which one’s path and protection and spiritual divination is received or revealed. The spiritual ceremonies sometimes involved possession of the deity by the individual where the god being summoned actually becomes present within the individual consciousness. But this ceremonial aspect is often hidden in secret from public view.

    The “folkloric rhythm systems” from these different African Tribes that have come down through this transatlantic crossing have had a deep impact and relationship to musical art-forms, one of the most notable here in the US are examples of American Jazz, Blues, Soul and Gospel music, as well as the Dance; and whose heritage can be traced all the way back to the slave trade especially visible in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Here in Nashville a new African American Museum of Music has just opened in the last year or so, but the pandemic has been a hurdle to overcome in seeing it and I’m very much looking forward to visiting it when the danger of the Covid protocols eases a bit more.

    I’m so very sorry that the pandemic has wrecked such havoc in your country; I saw today in the news that the government in Shanghai, China has completely put the entire city on lockdown. Many of us here in the states are now getting our second booster because the new variant “ba.2” is starting to surge. These are difficult times to navigate for us all, and I hope your covid travail there will end soon.

    As to my modest background as a Nashville percussionist this music was always an inspiration and I hope others will come to appreciate and know it better. Thank you again for your very kind reply and I hope your upcoming Carnival will be a joyful one.