I have been on a bit of a sabbatical in Brazil.

When travelling, and in my search for solutions and equations for sustainability (and for inspiration), I look for democratic and engaged communities.

Surprisingly, this isn’t always a sophisticated animal, but can be as powerful and as simple as a willingness to discuss problems.

or… a song.

For five days I visited an ecologically protected island off the coast of Bahia. Bahia, a province located in the North, with the capital Salvador is known for Axe (pronounced A-scheh) music, a samba reggae.
The five day Carnival, a National holiday, would have just wrapped up on Wednesday and the Axe should have revived many a weary soul.

The richness of music is one of the most charming aspects of Brazil. The contractor working on my friend’s home, in Sao Paolo, shared a video of his performance. Audiare, a contractor extroardinaire (with more skills than I’ve seen of many Burnaby contractors) comes from the North and practices a northern music called Forro. He presently lives in a poor neighbourhood far from where I met him. On the video you may tend to excuse the bad singing of some of the other performers when you consider the soul and impetus, expressing with gusto songs of love…

Audiare plays the accordion. You can see his father in the video – and what pride! Audiare as a youth, I was told, pleaded to his father for an accordion, … a good and an expensive one. His father was one to appreciate his son’s drive, and juggled finance, perhaps creating a little magic out of nothing in the process, to get what his son wanted.

He plays very, very well. And he sings powerfully. I could have been happy to give praise for effort. However; Audier requires no such pandering.

The people understand the power of music. Grassroots music on the island of Boypeba wafted up to our moutnaintop home from the Boypeba radio station, piped in through small speakers on the street of the village below. Bringing music throughout the day…. and with wonderful strong rythms that translated, even through such small speakers posted high on electrical polls.

One of my favourite memories, was hearing the pure rythms of the berimbaus wafting up from the beach, the rythmic accompaniment of Capoeira. Capoeria is a martial art dance largely composed of sweeping leg moves. The black slaves adopted the form to protect themselves from cruel landowners in the Bahia coastal region in historic times. It’s origin is in Angola, Africa, a dance similar with a much slower form: …. I confirmed with the chef who provided our delicious local fair of dinner that this was indeed Capoeira music and not some music rendition from perhaps a boom box.

And now to the element of the Ecological reserve. Much of Brazil has been stripped of all of it’s original beauty by the Portuguese colonists who frantically removed resources to bring back to Europe. Little is left of the original fauna on the mainland as you drive from Salvador to Valenca… There is community after poor community. There are occasional sugar cane plantations, and grassy fields were cattle roam. The one consistent commitment to infrastructure is the 4 lane, meridian divided highway.

In contrast the Ihle de Boypeba retains a viable fishing village culture, and an intact jungle.
It is located at the edge of a complex system of Mangroves. The speedboat from Valenca takes a winding trip through the mangroves rather than venture the high seas Atlantic route. The water excursion passes rural coastal town with their trademark colonial style church, blue wooden trim and whitewash plaster walls.

For more background: a Boepeba island summary

The island has been declared an ecological sanctuary and large beach resorts and hotels have been banned. The island is on a bit of a ill trajectory contradicting the tourism furor of Mono de Sao Paolo on Ilha de Tanara an island to the North, popular with Brazilian tourists. As we learned from visitors it is popular for its party atmosphere. Few people I encountered in Sao Paolo, or any Brazilians! had every heard of Ihla de Boypeba. Boypeba is quiet by comparison. Only small Poussada’s (a Brazilian “Bed and Breakfast”) are embraced.

The profits from the holiday home which we stayed are donated to preserving the island culture and ecology.

An interesting study of non-emitting transportation: kids lay back inside wheelbarrows by the boat launch awaiting the next arrival of tourist or island delivery of staples.

There are no cars on the island, many mule drawn carts and one tractor that provides more stable long-journey transport.

It is a simple life, but as music engages the dance. The island is most charming.
I was introduced to a gem of Brazilian music with an encounter while visiting the Home Museum (Museu da Casa Brasiliero) in Sao Paolo. My friend facilitated her Portuguese classes with Zeca Baliero compositions, and recognized him at the next table during lunch. The songs are a good example of unadulterated Brazilian music hightened with pop metaphor. Zeca Baleiro takes his influence from these NorthEastern traditions described.

Zeca Baleiro will be visiting Vancouver this year. And I only hope for a great big celebration and musical fest!!!!

It is good to be back! Hello!!


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