Welcome to beautiful, benighted Brazil! The site you're on began as, and still is, a Guide to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil & Environs. "Bahia" is the old spelling for "bay", and the great bay which gave (the Brazilian state of) Bahia its name has a couple of unique distinctions:
1) More slaves entered this bay than were taken to any other place on the planet.
2) These slaves (or enslaved people rather), in vast testament to the human spirit, created arguably the most soulfully and physically uplifting music ever sung and danced to.
This music in Brazil is analogous to the delta blues and early jazz in the United States in that it is the deep source of so much which would develop out of it. But unlike the blues, known worldwide and played from Tokyo to Timbuktu, this primordial Brazilian music — still played by the descendents of the people brought to work the sugarcane plantations here — is virtually unknown, even in Brazil. Disparagement yields untold lost riches. So...
In order to alert the world to this music's existence, and that of the splendid people who make it, we've borrowed from pre-Civil War African Americans' "grapevine telegraph" (you know, origin of the expression "I heard it through the grapevine"?), allowing anybody to participate in recommending these people to anybody who might land on the recommender's page. But now the magic manifests itself:
For this to work for Raimundo Sodré and João do Boi and Bule Bule, it has to work for Herbie Hancock and Tommy Peoples and Quincy Jones. Because we're not talking about recommendations which reach to the next page and stop. We're talking about internet vectors, long series of recommendations, forming a vast interlinked grapevine capable of taking people from one person to any number of people in any number of places, playing any number of styles and variations of styles of music. Thus one might start with someone one knows personally, a friend maybe, or with somebody one knows of, a highly talented and respected musician, and wind up...God knows only where...there are pathways to (among so many other, better known, places) even the little villages on the far side of the Bay of All Saints, where so much inhumanity was unable to kill perhaps the noblest human virtue of all: the desire not merely to survive, but against all odds, somehow prevail. Music and the arts are powerful stuff. -- Sparrow Roberts
Vast culture is in intimate details. We'll take you there!
Walking Tours of Salvador's Historical Center
Unless we are a part of it, or it is presented to us, history is invisible to us. Who would know that behind the small Catholic church across from a public square dedicated to poet Castro Alves (containing his statue, upon the dramatically outstretched hand of which a cup of beer is often irreverently inserted in images having to do with Carnival) existed the house of an African princess and priestess responsible for the foundation of the Afro-Brazilian religion candomblé in its Brazilian form?
And who'd know that beyond the small bar filled with locals drinking beer and infusões is an excellent and inexpensive restaurant area, also very local (the place is O Cravinho, on the Terreiro de Jesus)?
And who'd know that it was a company owned by General Electric which bribed Salvador's archbishop and knocked down a great church in order to provide a place for its streetcars to turn around?
And that within that church had been organized a lay society of slaves which had gone on to build their own church in the Largo do Pelourinho?
You get the idea...
We are Americans who've lived the past over-twenty years in Salvador (Ben Paris writes fiction; Pardal "Sparrow" Roberts writes this site and runs Cana Brava Records, a specialty record shop dedicated to real Brazilian music, located in Pelourinho for the past 10 years).
One or the other of us will guide you through this introductory tour, which will also cover explanations of wider aspects of Salvador and the far side of the bay (the Recôncavo).
We can be contacted in the following manners:
Whatsapp: +55 71 9976-2049
Cell: +55 71 9976-2049
Or just stroll through the door of Cana Brava Records in Pelourinho, map below!
P.S. We've taken the BBC/Lonely Planet through Carnival (for their jointly published magazine), and France Inter (French National Public Radio) to a Candomblé festival in Santo Amaro, Bahia. We took the BBC's Radio 3 to São Braz, Bahia for roots samba (samba chula), and produced a show for David Dye and his World Café, which was broadcast coast-to-coast in the U.S. by NPR (National Public Radio), per the link at the top of this page.
More Extensive and Further Afield Tours
Film & Photography Expeditions & Production
There's a long tradition of writers willingly exiling themselves to foreign and exotic (in the different senses of the term) places, whether it be for inspiration or personal inclination... Ben Paris, of New York City, has spent the past two decades in Salvador, in the seaside neighborhood of Itapoan, where fishermen put out to sea in jangadas (dugout canoes) to fish in ways unchanged for thousands of years, where the drums of candomblé (West African religion) sound into the night, and where samba enlivens the public squares on weekends. Too bad Moorehead (The White Nile & The Blue Nile) and Hemingway never made it to Bahia...
Ben Paris in Cachoeira, Bahia
Contact Form at the bottom of this page
Whatsapp +55 71 8812-4576
Cell +55 71 8812-4576
Tours for individuals, couples and small groups...tours for large groups (per cruise ships, etc).
Any questions, feel free to write and ask!
The Bembé do Mercado in Santo Amaro, Bahia
We've done scouting for fashion photo shoots and translations for American film crews...
Originally from New York City, Ben has been living in Salvador for most of the past 20 years, and he knows the city inside and out, like the proverbial back of his hand. He's also an inveterate traveller* into the Recôncavo, the region around the bay which was the birthplace of Bahia's culture.
There's a Ben Paris story here (previously published elsewhere)...
→ A Note On Afro-Centric Tours:
Mateus Aleluia, of Cachoeira, Bahia, of the wonderful, legendary vocal trio Os Tincoãs, has a story that he heard somewhere along his 68 years...
"A Bahian slave once said to his master: 'You have conquered us, but our culture will conquer yours.'"
And it has... By default, any tour of Bahia of any depth will include profoundly African elements, whether they are acknowledged or not.
We work with music and musicians here, proudly so, in that some of these musicians are the most important in Brazil as representatives of their non-mainstream musical styles.
One of these is the great Bule Bule, Bard of the Bahians Backlands, a repository of the folk and musical memory of his people, a cornucopia of songs and stories.
As a special part of our tours, Bule Bule is available to give presentations in Cana Brava Records, singing, talking (as we translate) and answering questions from guests. Bule Bule is as authentic as they get, the realest deal, and in that Brazil's magic is in its music, this is a rare opportunity for vistors to experience up close and personal this particular aspect of what makes Brazil so special.
Dr. Ken Dossar of Temple University and Bule Bule of Bahia
in Salvador Central's Cana Brava Records on Friday, August 9th, 2013.
Here, if you'd like an idea of what we cover in terms of intellectual content during tours of Salvador, are our notes!
How much history is involved is up to you though! We can go light!
The first Europeans closeby were Spaniards under the command of Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who on January 26, 1500, landed to the north of what is now Bahia, close to the location of present-day Recife (capital of the state of Pernambuco). Pinzón had also been the captain of the Niña (as in the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) when Christopher Columbus made his maiden voyage to the New World.
Next to arrive was the fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral, who was actually on his way to India via a wide southernly swing out into the Atlantic Ocean (to avoid unfavorable currents) before heading east around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Cabral's fleet landed in the territory which would come to be called "Brazil" (in English anyway; in Portuguese it's "Brasil") on the 21st of April, 1500, anchoring at a site he named "Porto Seguro" (or "Safe Port"; Porto Seguro is now a town located in present-day Bahia).
Then on November 1st in 1501, a ship captained by Amerigo Vespucci put into an enormous bay (November 1st is All Saints Day, and for this reason Amerigo named the bay "Bahia de Todos os Santos" -- "Bay of All Saints"). Amerigo also gave his own name to the entire continent via the use of a latinized form of it by mapmaker Martin Walseemüller in 1507. "America" at first applied only to the continent of South America.
Sometime between 1509 and 1511 a ship sank off the coast of Bahia, and one of the few survivors was a man named Diogo Álvares Correa. Diogo was well-treated by the Tupinambás (after supposedly coming very close to being eaten by them) and from them he received the Indian name "Caramuru" (caramuru was the Tupinambás' name for a type of fish, and it is supposed that the new name had something to do with its soon-to-be owner having been found in the water).
Caramuru came to be so highly regarded that he was given Paraguassu -- daughter of the Tupinambá chief Taparicá -- as a bride. Salvador's first church -- Nossa Senhora da Graça -- was built by Caramuru and it is there that Paraguassu's body was eventually laid to rest. The church still stands (much grander than it was originally) and it was from the church that the neighborhood which grew up around it took its name: Graça ("Grace"). Catharina Paraguassu's mortal remains (she received the European name upon being baptized in France) are there to this day.
Daniel Defoe's protagonist was a planter in Bahia before setting off and shipwrecking off the coast of Venezuela (written in 1719).
Visited Bahia, entering the Baía de Todos os Santos in the Beagle in 1832.
Farol da Barra
A ship sank of Rio Vermelho on May 5th, 1668, and so the Forte de Santo Antônio was fitted with a lighthouse -- the first in South America -- beginning in 1696 and finishing in 1698.
It went through several modifications and was electrified in 1937.
The fort itself was first built sometime between 1583 and 1587. It was occupied by the Dutch in 1624 and was retaken by the Portuguese the following year.
Forts in Porto da Barra
To the right looking out to the water: Forte São Diogo; built between 1609 and 1613.
Left: Santa Maria; built 1614.
Antônio de Frederico de Castro Alves, 1847-1871
Wrote Navio Negro ("Black Ship"), an anti-paean to slavery. His play Gonzaga was produced at the Teatro São José (inaugurated in 1812, destroyed by fire in 1923).
The statue is by Pasquale De Chirico, born in 1873 in Naples. De Chirico went to São Paulo, where he met Teodoro Sampaio, who recommended him as sculptor for statues around the amphitheater in the School of Medicine. He arrived in Bahia in 1903.
More often than not, Castro Alvis is portrayed during Carnival with a beer cup in his outstretched hand.
Igreja da Barroquinha
Built between 1722 and 1726. Almost destroyed by a fire in 1984.
Reopened in on September 26th, 2008 as a cultural performance space. Behind the church in 1807 the terreiro for Oxossi was established by freed African mãe-de-santo (head priestess) Iyá Adetá.
Barroquinha and Candomblé
Members of the royal family Arô were captured in the city of Iwoyê in 1789 by the army of the kingdom of Daomé (now Benin)...this was the native city of the mother of the king, Aláketu Akibiorru, and all indications are that Iyá Adetá was brought together with this group. After some nine years of captivity Iyá Adetá managed to get her alforria (buy her freedom) and went to live in Barroquinha, where she held ceremonies in her house.
Unlike in Africa, people from various Yoruba ethnicities participated in the ceremonies at Barroquinha, which therefore united a wide variety of orixas, unlike in Africa where a village temple would be dedicated to only one deity.
With the burgeoning population of Gêge-Nagôs, Tia (Aunt) Adetá wanted a larger house and grounds devoted solely to candomblé. The grounds behind the Igreja de Barroquinha were of trees and a swamp which also bordered on the gardens of the monastary of São Bento. This land belonged to a couple belonging to the irmandade (brotherhood) of Nossa Senhora da Barroquinha, a white brotherhood which divided the administration of the church with the black brotherhood of Senhor dos Martírios. Rental of this land began to be negotiated in 1804 and terminated in 1807. Unfortunately at this time, from 1805 to 1809, Bahia was governed by the tyranical Conde da Ponte, who prosecuted candomblés and sambas...but in 1810 the Portuguese royal family sent the Conde dos Arcos to modernize Bahia. This conde became an honorary member of the brotherhood of Martírios and promoted African cultural manifestations as a means of attempting to prevent different nations from uniting in opposition to the regime. It was around this time that ceremonies began to be celebrated.
Eventually the terreiro was forced out and gave birth first to Casa Branca (Ilê Axé Iyá Nassô Oká) and then Gantois (Ilê Axé Iya Omin Iya Massê). It's not exactly known when this occurred, but by 1855 Casa Branca was active in its present location in Engenho Velho de Federação.
The principal percussionist (ogã) for the Gantois house of candomblé is our great friend Gabi Guedes! More on Gabi here!
Upon the death of the mãe-de-santa of Casa Branca Iyá Marcelina, her two daughters Maria Júlia da Conceição and Maria Julia Figueiredo disputed the post. Maria Julia Figueiredo gained the upper hand, being next in line-of-succession anyway, and Maria Júlia da Conceição left to found Gantois in 1849 on land owned by a Fleming of that name.
The Igreja da Barroquinha was the first seat of the Irmandade da Boa Morte, which was moved to Cachoeira when the irmandade was barred from the church (when?) and some of its leaders, having received alforria, left Salvador for the Recôncavo.
Salvador's first town square, where the town's open air market was located and where the town pillory was first located, at the market center.
Sometime between 1602 and 1607 -- period of the Governorship of Dom Diogo Botelho -- the pelourinho was moved by governor's decree to the Terreio de Jesus.
But the Terreiro de Jesus was the site of the Jesuits' church and school, and the screams and groans interfered with church services and teaching. So it was removed again and repositioned at the bottom of the Ladeira de São Bento(where Praça Castro Alves is now located).
Again it was removed, for the penultimate time, in 1807, and taken to the largo which would come to bear its name. It would stand there for another 28 years, being removed for the final time in 1835.
Begun in 1869 and inaugurated in 1873, with two hydraulic elevators. The elevator was named "Elevador Lacerda" in 1896 in honor of its builder.
72 meters high. Electrified in 1906. In 1930 two more cabins were added and the tower was redone in art deco.
Palácio Rio Branco
First seat of government in Brazil, built by Thomé de Souza, who arrived in 1549.
Reformed in 1910 to present style, then renamed to present name in honor of a politician, the Barão do Rio Branco, a politician and diplomat.
The palace was bombarded from the Forte São Marcelo in 1912, then rebuilt in 1919.
Bombarded by the then president of Brazil because of a revolt of sailors protesting their treatment (whippings, etc.).
Built in 1549, housed the city jail at the time of the 1935 Malé Uprising.
Ladeira da Rampa
Where old Mercado Modelo (built in 1912) stood. The statue by Mário Cravo, Rampa do Mercado (popularly called "A Bunda" by soteropolitanos), is there now. The old Mercado Modelo burned down in 1969, the fire starting mysteriously and most people believing that it was started at the mayor's behest.
Alfândega and current Mercado Modelo.
The new and current Mercado Modelo was created out of the old customs house (built 1861) in 1971.
Ladeira da Misericórdia
Was first called Rua Padre Nóbrega, and it was here that Salvador's houses of ill-repute grew up, these eventually coming to be called after a shortened version of the Padrés name: bregas.
Santa Casa da Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy)
Founded as a hospital in 1549 in its present location, was at that time a simple construction covered with straw. In 1696 a building of stone was built on the same spot, and the hospital was renamed São Cristóvão. In 1808 the first medical school in Brazil was founded -- a Escola da Cirurgia -- with classes held in the hospital. In 1832 the now-called Academia Médico-Cirúrgica da Bahia was transferred to the old Colégio dos Jesuitas on the Terreiro de Jesus. The street out front is named for the institution.
The Colégio dos Jesuitos was built by Manuel da Nóbrega in the early years of the 1550s.
Praça da Sé
Result of the destruction of the Catedral da Sé in 1933, and the surround buildings, for the tramway.
Nobody knows when the cathedral was first built, but by 1570 it had been rebuilt in alvenaria (sandstone). Between 1652 and 1672 it was built in its last form.
Cruz Caida built in 1999 by Mário Cravo.
Brazil's first bishop. Arrived in 1552. In 1556 he renounced his post, and that year was eaten by Indians after being shipwrecked off the coast of what is now Alagoas but was then Bahia.
Present-day Alagoas -- old Bahia -- was also the location of the quilombo of Palmares. Zumbi was born there in 1655, but when he was 6 years old he was captured and given to a missionary to raise, from whom he learned Portuguese and Latin. He escaped in 1670 and returned to Palmares.
In 1678 the governor of the capitánia de Pernambuco approached the quilombo's king, Ganga Zumba, with an offer to free all runaway slaves if the quilombo would be disbanded and all within would submit to the authority of the crown. Ganga Zumba accepted.
But Zumbi rejected the proposal and challenged Ganga Zumba for his position as king. Ganga Zumba was killed, and Zumbi became king.
In 1695 federal troops finally destroyed Palmares, although Zumbi escaped. He was captured a year later and killed. His head was salted and presented to the governor (Melo e Castro).
Terreiro de Jesus
Named for the church built by the Jesuits in the 1550s. The first was of taipa (clay and sticks).
Mem de Sá (third governor-general of Brazil) had it built in its present form in 1572 (he's buried under the principal altar).
Faculdade de Medicina
Was built in 1808. Destroyed by fire in 1905 and rebuilt in the present fashion.
Igreja de São Pedro dos Clérigos
Licence for construction given in 1709.
Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Domingos
Begun in 1731 and concluded 6 years later. Cosme de Farias died in 1972.
Is the site of the boarding house where Jorge Amado lived in 1927, working as a police reporter for the Diário da Bahia. His first work "Lenita" was written here in 1929, under a pseudonym, together with two co-authors. He moved to Rio in 1930.
Largo do Pelourinho
As Portas do Carmo. Demolished sometime between 1784 and 1788.
Igreja do Rosário dos Homens Pretos
Nossa Senhora do Rosário was the name given to the Virgin Mary by São Domingos de Gusmão, or Saint Dominic in English, the founder of the Dominicans, who "received" a rosary from Mary in a church in southern France around the year 1200. The first brotherhood of the Rosary was founded by the Dominicans in Cologne, Germany, in 1408. The brotherhood arrived in Brazil in 1685, and eventually became a society of black men. They met in one of the side alters of the Igreja da Sé, before a statue of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, which was eventually transferred to their new church and remains there to this day.
By 1704 they'd raised money to begin the church and received permission from the archbishop to build a church at the city gates. The towers and facade were begun in 1780. There's a slave cemetery in back.
Foundation of the Filhos de Gandhy.
Baixa dos Sapateiros
Rio das Tripas; Ary Barroso
Solar do Ferrão
Built toward the end of the 1600s by a Portuguese merchant. It was passed to the Maciel family, who lived there until 1756. They gave their name to that part of the Old City.
Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos
From its first location in the Igreja dos Quinze Mistérios (Church of the Fifteen Mysteries) in 1832, to its present location in Pelourinho (acquired in 1883), this society of black men and women has for 172 years endeavored to help others in need by everything from purchasing freedom from slavery then to buying medicine and paying funeral expenses now.
In 1827 a group of free black men joined together to form an organization dedicated to the freeing of slaves and support each other and others financially. In that black people were not allowed to form civic organizations, these men formed a religious brotherhood in the Capela de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Quinze Mistérios 1832, which they called the Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Soledade Amparo dos Desvalidos. In 1851 legislation was passed allowing the formation of civic societies by black men, and the organization was renamed the Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos. They bought the building they presently occupy on the Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco, 82, in 1883.
Igreja de São Francisco
The keystone was laid in 1708, the church was finished in 1723 and the convent in 1752, with everything completed in 1782.
Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco
Was begun in 1702 or 1703, facade is carved sandstone.
Table of Contents
An Introduction to Salvador da Bahia
A Brief History of Salvador da Bahia
Pelourinho: The Centro Histórico
Our Cana Brava Record Shop in Pelourinho, specializing in samba and related styles
Important Salvador Sites
Festas: The Sacred & the Profana
Carnival in Salvador, Bahia
Candomblé: Ubiquitous Deities
Capoeira: Dance Like a Baryshnikov; Hit like a Kalashnikov
Salvador's Afoxés & Blocos Afros
Fiction from Bahia
The Music of Bahia
› Currently working musicians from Bahia are here!
A Short History of the Music of Brazil
› Currently working musicians from Brazil are here!
A Tour Guide to Salvador & Environs
The Beaches of Bahia
Fab Apartments to Stay in While You're Here!
Salvador Central Members/Nodes
There's a lot of spectacle in Bahia...
Carnival with its trio elétricos -- sound-trucks with musicians on top -- looking like interstellar semi-trailers back from the future...shows of MPB (música popular brasileira) in Salvador's Teatro Castro Alves (biggest stage in South America!) with full production value, the audience seated (as always in modern theaters) like Easter Island statues...
Carlinhos Brown's Museu do Ritmo (Rhythm Museum; an entertainment venue) all done up Bahian faux tribal showbiz style...glamour and glitz and press agents...
Carlinhos Brown: Man with a Shtick...er...Stick
And then there's where it all came from...the far side of the Baía de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints), a land of subsistence farmers and fishermen, many of the older people unable to read or write...their sambas the precursor to all this, without which none of the above would exist, their melodies -- when not created by themselves -- the inventions of people like them but now forgotten (as most of these people will be within a couple of generations or so of their passing), their rhythms a constant state of inconstancy and flux, played in a manner unlike (most) any group of musicians north of the Tropic of Cancer...making the metronome-like sledgehammering of the Hit Parade of the past several decades almost wincefully painful to listen to after one's ears have become accustomed to evershifting rhythms played like the aurora borealis looks...
So there's the spectacle, and there's the spectacular, and more often than not the latter is found far afield from the former, among the poor folk in the villages and the backlands, the humble and the honest, people who can say more (like an old delta bluesman playing a beat-up guitar on a sagging back porch) with a pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine) and a chula (a shouted/sung "folksong") than most with whatever technology and support money can buy. The heart of this matter, is out there. If you ask me anyway.
Alumínio Saturno, resident of Pitinga, Bahia, chuleiro and subsistence farmer; now with God