Rare 1950s Photos of Candomblé in Bahia
Who knew a hidden Afro-Brazilian religion would turn out to be the forebear of contemporary samba? Until recently, Candomblé has been shrouded in mystery among Brazilians and outsiders alike. Brought over during the 17th century slave trade, West Africans evolved their clandestine worship on the sugarcane plantations of Brazil’s northeastern region Bahia. The highly mystical and animistic ceremonies were seen as occult, and Candomblé practitioners did so in total secret.
Sound Clip: Candomblé Ceremony
The highly percussive drumming with a set of three conga drums, or atabaque, accompanied the gatherings, where animal sacrifice and possession by a lesser deity was part of the itinerary. Worshippers would use the music to fall into a trance-like state and summon Orixás or spirits as a way of communing with the higher power.
Today, anyone who has traveled to Brazil during Carnival season would recognize these beats as epicurean Brazilian samba. But to think they derived from a spirit-born sound across the Atlantic, as a way for the Povo de Santo to cope with their captivity, that's another story all together.
I stumbled upon these photos on the Flickr page of Luiz Fernando Reis, apparently accumulated from a special ceremony in 1952 when Candomblé would be outlawed for another 25 years.