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Report BRAZIL: Pernambuco, the heart of the music. Indios Fulni-ô AUDIO - VIDEO

I’m in Garanhuns, a small town in the state of Pernambuco (Brazilian nordeste). I’ve decided to change my route and leave in this way the coast so rich in music but – alas! – also in tourism that in part impedes my researches, in order to enter the heart of Pernambuco that seems to be the heart of Brazilian music. It’s here, in fact, that the musical genres that most represent the Country are deeply rooted. VERSIONE IN ITALIANO
THE COINCIDENCE: Elaine is a São Paolo great photographer who shares with me this journey inside Brazil, We known by coincidence on the combos which was taking us to the wonderful Itamaracá Island where I had to meet Lia de Itamaracá, an important singer of Ciranda (a Pernambuco popular genre). Elaine is carrying out a project very similar to mine: she goes alone across Brazil photographing music. It’s incredible how development, dynamics, problems, contacts, experience of the project fit together with mine. But she started her travel from the north of Brazil in order to come down, I do the contrary. We met in Olinda (see the post: Olinda che linda) and so we decided to join our forces and walk along together for a while, then everyone will go on theirs own way.

MUSIC RICHNESS: Pernambuco offers an enormous quantity of music and musical genres.
The amount of material, joined with the travel problems like the sudden displacements that often occupy many time for reaching the hardest zones, the unfavorable weather conditions (we’ve been staying in Garanhuns for two day due to the rain) don't enable the fast and steady blog updating. The quantity of things to be written and documented is – fortunately – enormou. In this state I had the good fortune to know the Ciranda of Lia de Itamaracá, who has been declared living heritage of the culture from the UNESCO, Ana Lucia’s Samba de Coco and then forró, Frevo, Maracatú, Capoeira and so on; then after two days traveling by bus, car, motorbike and...by foot, Elaine and I - through the suggestive landscapes of the interior – reached a native community called Fulniô. A native who lives in Olinda gave us the contact to visit the aldeia (village).
THE TRIBE AND THE SACRED RITUAL: the community lives in an aldeia near Aguas Belas a town 300 km far from the coast of Pernambuco. It’s known as the only community of the Brazilian nordeste which preserves the old Ia-té native language. The aldeia is divided into two parts and one of these is in the middle of the forest, but we - and in general the white man - cannot enter. This is, in fact, the site where in September and October people celebrate an ancient and sacred ritual called Ouricuri. Nowadays nobody knows what it is exactly because the religion of this culture forbid to tell and reveal the secrets of the ritual. The belief says that who tell something to someone will die by a strange death...
Who is now telling us this is Vera, a native who has welcomed us and accompanied – without losing sight of us – during our whole adventure in the aldeia. Vera is a native with very particular features, she tells us to be a not-at-all-native, but to have some white and black race features. Her dark blue eyes are very beautiful. Her name in in Ia-té is Tafireskane. This is the name the Quesique of the tribe gave her when she was born. The other aldeia, that on the contrary allows the access to everyone, is very close to the town of Aguas Belas. It’s a group of cement hovels not so cared and disposed with no order. Here the architecture is very different from the Tekoa Kõ e nju aldeia that I visited in the south of Brazil (see the post: Tekoa Kõ e nju). This part of the aldeia is also a FUNAI (fondação nacional do indio) seat. Fulniô people are integrated with the population they call "civilizada" o “branca” (these two terms indicate all the non-native people). Many of them work in the public sector as for the police, the municipalities, in FUNAI bureaux, etc. But during the Ouricuri period they have the permission to leave their job in order to devote completely to the ritual.
THE RITUAL FOR ME: Vera has prepared for us a dance and music show. She says that what we will see aren’t the songs and dances of the mysterious ritual, but only a demonstration of how they are committed to preserve and let know their own culture. The group join up; it’s composed by six men and three women and a series of children who are looking at us a little bit scared. We all get on a wrecked bus with our instruments and costumes in order to reach the borders of the forbidden territory. During the journey on dirt and full of holes roads, Elaine and I – in the group we seem two white spots – try to have a dialog with our companions who unexpectedly reveal themselves very nice and friendly. Children look at me furtively and when I cross their eyes they turn their head and – blushed – they guffaw. The sense of “extraneousness” that I perceive is so deep.
On the bus they have a big wood pipe and adults and children in turn breathe in black tobacco. When it's my turn I take a puff but accidentally some smoke goes me down. Classic movie scene: I – totally purple – cough and the natives are now laughing at me. It wasn’t tobacco, it was fire powder.
THE DANCE PREPARATION: we arrive near a very beautiful lake. The landscape and the quiet are really evocative, but the big electric cables plough the background and ruin that great shot. Everyone goes in the lake to purify, then the preparation for the show begins. In order to paint their bodies they use colors made by resins and typical fruits of this area, for the black they use the coal. They prepare all instantly. They use warrior costumes and symbols that are typical of this community. Elaine enjoys the time with her camera, I try to record all the possible. Then I walk around for a while with Vera who explains me some details of “public domain” about the ritual: there are some areas of the aldeia where women cannot enter, then during the whole period of the ritual it’s forbidden to practice sex, drink alcohol, listen to music. The ritual needs also to elect the authorities who represent the community which must stay isolated for three months. I cannot know nothing about the modalities and phases of the ritual. The group is ready to dance.

MYSTERIES: choreographically, the show is no doubts suggestive, but I'm quite unsatisfied because each attempt to investigate the meaning of words and movements of the dance has been put aside with vague explanations and in my opinion previously prepared. It’s an homage to God to ask him to preserve our land and our culture”, “It’s a song to thank you for your presence here” says Vera. After the performance I walk for a while with the quesique who shows me the different plants of the aldeia and their therapeutic functions. He says he can treat every indisposition without using chemical or pharmaceutical cures. The dancers go again into the lake to clean their bodies from the dye and then we come back all together to the aldeia. Many natives go away to work, I remain there with Eleine, Vera and some inhabitants in a small house with a table and a sofa. I – stubborn – continue to make more specific questions about music and culture, but I continue to take out few information. I ask to explain me at least what’s about the song I’ve recorded. Among them they speak in Ia-té, and I’ve the impression that before giving me any explanation they consult together. Also in the aldeia in the south of Brazil happened the same thing: in this occasion they communicated in Guarani and before answering me they waited for the Quesique’s allowance.

LEFT WITH A BITTER TASTE: The adventure has been undoubtedly interesting, but once again I came back home with a bitter taste in my mouth and a strong feeling that I haven't had even a little contact with a culture that I really desire to know more in detail and from that I really can learn something. Anyway, in these days I'm in touch with a girl from Manaus who is waiting for me. She explains me that even experts and researchers who have been in contact with native Amazon communities for many years didn't have the opportunity to go over the knowledge "boundaries". It’s something that I can understand, considering the cruel submission in the past times imposed by the white man, who, in reality, in this land he would be the intruder. But my curiosity still remains unsatisfied and so still very deep.

The following is a song (cafurna) that the Fulniô group offered me during the performance I’ve described above. The instruments are few because the music is based completely on the voice. They used maracas and caxixi, nothing else. There’s only one person of the group who sings verses and then the rest of the group answers him in unison.  It’s him who direct the dance. So the modality of the song works like in the Samba de coco (I hope to find the time to talk about it); talking with Vera I discover that some rituals include this genre which actually has also native origins, as a result of the meeting between the slaves escaped from the inside and the natives. Unfortunately I cannot publish the text and the translation of its words, despite my fond attempts to know them. According to what they explained me, the song talks about the aldeia: in the past it was built up with straw, then the white man set fire to the village and the community move along the whole region until the day they joined to create this new community. I know that this group has already performed in public and they also recorded something, but I cannot find this piece in the archive. I’m in touch with an expert of the Ia-tè language, let’s see if he can help me. In the meantime, enjoy this audio clip.

THANKS TO: Fulniô Community, Beto Hees (Lia de Itamaracá’s producer), Lia Menezes (for all Pernambuco contacts), Olinda Capoeira school (for the performance they offered to me), Ana Lucia (a samba de coco singer from the area of Amaro Branco in Olinda), Eleine Santana (www.elainesantana.com.br), she took these photos of the native community.

Translation by Barbara di Fede



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