Roots and origin of Maracatu

Rainha do Darue

Maracatu” is a type of music from the north-east of Brasil. The Maracatu as such emerged from the music and tradition of African rooted slaves and is now found in the heart of the state Pernambuco, especially in the cities Recife and Olinda.

The Portuguese of the kingdom Dahomey with its capital Abomey (today Benin) exported members of the tribes Fon, Nagô, Yoruba, Adja, Ewes and Minas from the harbour of Porto Novo.

In addition to the slaves, the culte of Voodoo (Orixa in Yoruba) was also brought to South America. As a result of the mixture of the religions from the Central-African tribes, Candomblé developed. A majority of songs and prayers from Brasil to Haiti and Cuba are still composed in Yoruba, Nago or Goun, a further East-African language. The “Congo” was a collective name by the Portuguese.

(For further informationen see Pierre Fatumbi Verger)

The term “Maracatu” means a vociferous convention of coloured people and it had a concurrent negative overtone. The slaves were allowed to accomplish their tradition and religion publicly within the carnival season where the coronation ceremony was celebrated by the queen and the king. The participants of the procession were garnished with baroque garments as a hand-me-down from the Portuguese. The king and the queen were accompanied by a court: earls, barons, dukes, ambassadors with their ladies, pennant- and shield-bearer, lance-bearer, drummers and dancers, court ladies and the Dama-de-paço the highest court lady who carries the doll called Calunga during the procession. The doll symbolizes the ancestors, the deceased queens.

The Maracatu, as it is performed nowadays, has been played in this way since the 17th century: The (gongue) bell is the commanding part, the (caixas) snare drums, the shekeres and the (ganzas) shakers construct the rhythm basis. The (alfaias) deep wooden drums play diverse varieties of (toques) rhythms.