Stirring Up Heat

Stirring Up

Located in the northwest of Brazil, Roraima, which was upgraded from territory to state
in 1988, is the least populated of the 26 Brazilian states, with a mere 1.16 inhabitant by
square km (0.39 square mile). Brazil’s extreme northern point, the Roraima mount at the
Pacaraima mountain range, is in Roraima, right on the border with Venezuela and Guyana.
According to the 1995 census, the state has 262,201 residents, 40,000 of whom are
Indians, constituting the third largest Indian population in the country. The reservations
take up half of the state 225,116 square km (86,900 square miles) territory, roughly the
size of Utah. The native presence, especially of the Yanomami, whose reservation occupies
9.4 million hectares, has created several conflicts. Many see it as an impediment to the
growth of the state.
Roraimenses contribute a diminutive 0.11% to the Gross Domestic Product. The main crops
in the area are manioc, orange and corn. They also raise cattle and swine. Logging,
diamond and gold mining, and ceramics are some of the other economic activities.

Despite all the uproar in the last two decades and a half, the
Amazon is still an impressive and mostly intact forest with a size two thirds of the
continental U.S..
By Brazzil Magazine

The summer season of Salvador, in the state of Bahia, fertile soil of Brazilian music,
has produced a new yet, some would say, inevitable germination—musical groups made up
of women, such as As Meninas (The Girls), Dengo de Mulher (Coyness of Woman), and Didá
Banda Feminina. These groups take advantage of the great selection of talent available in
this land rich with musical tradition from Dorival Caymmi to Caetano Veloso and Gilberto
Gil, and on to Olodum and Carlinhos Brown. Growing up in Bahia must indeed feel like a
call to create.

This author happened to be in Salvador when a small ad appeared in A Tarde, the Soteropolitano
(from Salvador) daily newspaper. It announced the launching of the first CD of Didá Banda
Feminina, a group with which I was already familiar from their work with Caetano Veloso’s Tieta
do Agreste movie score. I had also on another occasion seen them perform outside the
restaurant/cultural complex Solar do Unhão. The ad mentioned that there would be a
special participation by Veloso and Daniela Mercury. This was scheduled for the evening of
Festa de Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea, and promised the appearances of 30 new, young
goddesses. The party, and I was sure it would be just that, was to take place in the centro
histórico, Pelourinho.

Being someone who doesn’t turn down an opportunity to see Caetano Veloso, I headed for
the historic district and found the square in front of São Francisco Church fenced off. I
bought my ticket for $15, which included the CD, and headed inside. I got to talking to a
cameraman, Judson, whose enthusiasm for the band was clear. He introduced me to Neguinho
do Samba, the leader of the band, and a man of no small reputation. When he went off to
his press conference, Judson proceeded to tell me with much emotion that some of the girls
in the band are former street children.

The name of the group refers to a Yoruba expression that means power of creation or
generation. And indeed, the band bursts with creativity as well as power. Many of the
young women appear on stage as well as on the CD with masks—muzzles. This makes
reference to the legendary slave, Anastácia, a woman who resisted all the impositions of
a prejudiced society. The idea of using Anastácia as a symbol emerged during a march that
took place on the International Day of the Woman in 1994 in Pelourinho, Salvador.

Each of the women in the march represented a great woman of history such as Indira
Gandhi and Irmã Dulce, who are recognized for great feats. Irmã Dulce was the beloved
Brazilian nun for whom the process of beatification is being petitioned by many faithful
who can testify to her miracles. The figure of Anastácia attracted much attention and
sparked the interest of participants as well as spectators as to who she was. In her life,
Anastácia was very beautiful and consequently the object of envy, prejudice, and sexual
abuse. She was a peace loving person who alleviated the suffering of others. She was
muzzled for speaking openly of her desires, but even after that, she continued to perform
miracles. Her muzzle was then removed. But she was ill and did not have much time for her
good deeds. After developing gangrene, she died. I personally wish I had known about that
beautiful symbolism on February 2nd in front of the church.

As Neguinho do Samba says: "Bahia is a cauldron where everything is created. In
every ghetto, every alley you see a musician—a poet. Bahia is a catalyst for this.
The music is a natural result. We have here an independent market to a certain point. The
people sing everything and easily accept the new. After Didá emerged, several other
women’s musical groups appeared: De Batom, Batom Lilás, Arte de Saia. They do not, like
we, make samba reggae. They play pagode, which is very much in fashion. But they
are very good."

Neguinho explains that this is neither a religious nor a feminist act. For this man,
the creator of samba-reggae, it is the culmination of a dream of his for the last 10 years
to create a feminine group. Not always an easy task, he managed to keep the idea alive
that women, too, can play drums and that a feminine percussion group would fit like a
glove on the rhythmic, national scene.

Neguinho made three attempts in the past decade to fulfill his dream. This current
project has been in the works for four years. "This time it’s a go," says
Neguinho. He is betting on the maturity of his pupils, most of them students born in the
outskirts of Pelourinho and grown up hearing the drums of Olodum. The
"godparents" of Didá are Baiano artists Caetano Veloso and Daniela
Mercury who also participate on the CD.

Daniela Mercury interprets "Barrela," a song in which Neguinho pours his
heart out in reverence to his own mother. Caetano sings a delightful axé version of his
classic "Tigresa." At the Carnaval, just past, the band paid tribute to Caetano,
who has been invaluable to the band. On the day of the launching Neguinho was heard
saying: "When we honor him, it will be small in comparison to what he has done for

Neguinho explained that he draws on the temperament and talent of every girl and young
woman, some 30 in all, ranging in age from 14 to 17. I was surprised to hear that among
the enthusiastic women are two Argentines and one Swiss who bring their own musical
tradition with them and help emphasize the strength of togetherness through artistic

The majority of the songs come from the heart and soul of Neguinho, and the album is
permeated with exaltation at the beauty of Bahia. But even with the climate of Carnaval,
there is still room for commitment to racial issues—one of the hallmarks of the
group. The song "Ódio Vazio" (Empty Hatred) speaks of the struggle in which
Zumbi (a slave warrior and hero) and Malcolm X played their leading roles.

This first CD of Didá Banda Feminina is proof that the realm of axé music does not
live solely on obvious rhymes and predictable sounds. Didá produce an unorthodox mixture
of sounds, thus extending the rhythmic and percussive attributes which characterize the
style. The arrangements are a mix of samba de roda, typical of the recôncavo
of Bahia, and incorporate elements of rock, uniting African drums, electric guitars,
keyboard, flute, and saxophone. In addition to being the musical leader of Didá, Neguinho
is mentor and spiritual guide for the girls. He brings with him his rich experience of the
years with Olodum. In fact, many critics have already dubbed Didá the "Feminine

Didá Banda Feminina is not Neguinho’s only creation. Escola de Música Didá is
another. In 1988, after participating on an album with Paul Simon, Neguinho do Samba gave
up an imported car to swap a large house in Pelourinho. The beginning was difficult,
partially because of public attitude. After all, "women cannot devote time to a band,
since they have to straighten out the house and care for the family."

Currently, the school has some 200 students, men and women, who take classes in string
instruments, woodwinds, keyboard, percussion, drums, composition, Afro and flamenco
dancing, theater, capoeira, and English. The students pay a monthly fee of $20,
sadly insufficient to maintain the school and salary of the teachers. Neguinho completes
the budget with the income he receives from his copyrighted songs. So far, he has not
succeeded in securing a permanent support, and private sources have not yet discovered his
worthwhile efforts. No doubt, the CD will spread the word of the good work coming from
Escola de Música Didá as well as the infectious sounds.

As I was getting ready to end my trip to Brazil, Didá Banda Feminina was preparing for
its first national tour.

Kirsten Weinoldt was born in Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969. She
fell in love with Brazil after seeing Black Orpheus many years ago and has lived
immersed in Brazilian culture ever since. E-mail:

Convite Invitation

Neguinho do Samba

Venha meu amor
Venha pra Didá
Com seu jeito lindo eu sei
Que vou te amar, te amar, te amar, te amar
Quando olho nos seus olhos
Vejo a felicidade
Quando olho pra você
Quero tanto lhe ter
Sempre do meu lado
Dividindo meus abraços
Meus carinhos só com você
Venha meu amor
Penso a noite inteira em você
Penso a noite inteira em seu calor
Quando viajo saudades trago
Saudade sinto
Se com você não falo

Come my love
Come to Didá
With your winning ways I know
I’ll love you, love you, love you,
love you
When I look into your eyes
I see happiness
When I look at you
I want so much to have you
Always at my side
Sharing my embraces,
My affections only with you
Come my love
All night I think of you
Think all night of your heat
On my journeys I take my longing with me
Longing is what I feel
If I don’t speak with you


Didá de Salvador Didá from Salvador

Aroldo "Me Trate Bem",
  Neguinho do Samba

A Didá é rainha do sol
Deusa negra uma força maior
Que encanta esta terra tão linda
Oh! Bahia tão querida
Pelourinho, lá não tem
Branco e negro são todos irmãos
E a mistura das raças defende…
…essa miscigenação
Eu vou/Eu vou
Vou dançar lá no Pelô
Eu vou/Eu vou
Com a Didá de Salvador
A Didá nasceu em um lugar abençoado
Lugar de um povo honrado
Que viveu a escravidão
Ali cresceu
Com muita garra e muita
Hoje o povo todo escuta
A Didá que é tradição
Vieram os brancos e aos negros se juntaram
E se conscientizaram
Que todos nós somos irmãos
Eu vou/Eu vou
Vou dançar lá no Pelô
Eu vou/Eu vou
Com a Didá de Salvador
Tem Jamaica, América e Japão
Tem São Paulo e Rio de
Tem gente do mundo
Eu vou/Eu vou
Vou dançar lá no Pelô

Didá is queen of the sun
Black goddess—a major force
Who enchants this land so beautiful
Oh, Bahia so dear
Pelourinho, there is no distinction there
White and black are all brothers
And the mixture of races defends
…that interbreeding
I’m going, I’m going
I’m going to dance in Pelô
I’m going, I’m going
With Didá from Salvador
Didá was born in a blessed place
A place belonging to an honest people
Which lived through slavery
Grew up there
With much courage and much struggle
Today all the people listen
To Didá which is tradition
The whites came and joined with the blacks
And they were aware
That we are all brothers
I’m going, I’m going
I’m going to dance in Pelô
I’m going, I’m going
With Didá of Salvador
There’s Jamaica, America, and Japan
There’s São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro
There are people from the whole world
I’m going, I’m going
I’m going to dance in Pelô

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