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Reportage BRAZIL: thanks to the poverty! Roberto Mendes and the Chula

Chula, Samba de roda, Samba carioca: three music genres that are very similar and put together the taste and the character of the whole Brazil. A music that everybody in the world likes, knows and envies, it express itself through the energy of the syncopate rhythm, the saudade of the song and the sensuality of the dance. A music that has its roots in the black Africa and grows its character in the Brazilian territory with the slaves’ songs.
Walking through the stalls of Santo Amaro da Purificação, I’m going to discover with Roberto Mendes the origins of the Samba in a country that has been able to transform the poverty in a strongbox of cultural and musical richness. Roberto says: “Santo Amaro da Purificação is a family, I think that it’s the only place where the poverty has been generous... because we have wonderful songs and a delicious food. Who can prepare a good dish with pork ears, skin and feet if not the necessity to do it? Only the necessity can create a good kitchen like the Reconcavo bahiano one. In this way the fajoulada bahiana was born, invented by the slaves that mixed the things that white people didn’t use. The food determines people’s culture and their sound is the Chula”.    VERSIONE IN ITALIANO - VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL
HISTORICAL SOURCES: The Chula is considered the antecedent of the traditional Samba like all the Brazilian genres, it’s the result of a syncretism of different musical cultures. In the XVI century the Portuguese began to deport to the so called Reconcavo Bahiano Region – that includes only few towns of the Bahia State, among those there’s Santo Amaro de Purificação – the first Angola slaves, the promoters the Bantu culture. In the  XVIII century was the turn of the Sudanese slaves of the Beni culture. The mix between these two African cultures, with the Portuguese and in part with the aboriginal ones, gave origin to the Portuguese Chula Aldea, that is a labour song used in the sugar cane fields and during the parties that the slaves had after many forced labour hours. A musical richness generated by the poverty and the labour of a population that had sound and rhythm in their blood and was able to translate every labour movement in a rhythm, every moan in a song. Some sources say that the Chula later generates the Samba Carioca thanks to the migration of the bahian blacks to Rio de Janeiro in the XIX century

THE CHULA: according to Roberto Mendes the Chula is abehaviour translated into a song. The words are about love, nature, the rhythm is snappy and syncopated, the dancing is lively and sensual, but at the same time it's elegant. One day I asked to Roberto how can words, rhythm and dance of this genre be so cheerful, if they are the result of many trials, injustices and a miserable life lost working for the colonizer owner. Roberto answered me in a simply way, as it was the most obvious thing of the world: African People never renounce to the cheerfulness and they live the sadness in a different way compared to other people. The Chula is generated by the necessity to sing in order to maintain this cheerfulness”.

songs in honour of the women who created, with the instrumentalists, a circle, and inside of it they danced at the Samba rhythm. That's why they give it the name “Samba de Roda” that literally means “Samba in circle”. Roberto tells me that years ago only the women used to dance the Chula and, according to the tradition, they can dance only when you play, while when you sing, they accompany the song with the claps of their hands. Today it seems that these details are not longer taken into account, so the Chula and the Samba de Roda are often associated to the same dance

THE FOLLOWING MP3 IS A CHULA DO RECôNCAVO written by Roberto Mendes and played with the group "Roberto Mendes & Coisa de Pele": Roberto Mendes (violão), Arinaldo Nascimento (Rebolo), Sinho do Cavaco (cavaquinho), Dagmar Ferreira (repinique), Didhe Prado (pandeiro). The title is Linda Morena. Roberto Mendes is considered one of the most estimated Brazilian composer and guitarist of the last twenty years. He's a great expert of the musical tradition of his home country. Roberto is the only Brazilian guitarist who uses a particular and difficult technique to play the Chula do Reconcavo and the Samba de Roda. He wrote pieces and collaborated with very famous artists like Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Paulinho Boca. He travels always into America and Europe, but he always can't wait to come back to his beautiful and simply Santo Amaro da Purificação.  
Translation and subtitles by: Anna Finotti


Thanks to: Roberto Mendes, "Roberto Mendes & Coisa de pele" Ana Paula Guede

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