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Reflections on Brazil

 

Written by Judy Piazza, 2/03, on returning from Brazil

I can still smell Brazil in my clothes ... I am reluctant to wash them. Their scent reminds me of the salt air, of shrimp vended on crowded beaches along with sun lotions and all nature of other items, of Brazilian night sounds, of samba, sensuous and smooth guitar riffs, intense atabaque beats, mesmerizing berimbau strains punctuated by bells, pandeiro, caixixi, and artful capoeira moves, of exotic heat and humidity, of husky evening sounds as insects and toads proclaim their presence still on the degraded land ... and the people, dressed in all ways and colors, quick to smile, confident with their bodies, stirring up the heat day and night with the hum of movement and conversation. My mind lulled by the relentless intoxication of my senses to a point of shadowy thought, allowing for vivid direct, primary experience. Music caressed my spirit, sang my heart, danced inside and out, as rhythms riveted my attention, pricked my nature, rocked my soul. I sensed the status quo of my existence twisting, turning inside out, giving way to release, acceptance, expansion.

Ritual became the rasa of each day. After fresh tropical fruits, ripe to pungency, with delicious Brazilian cafe and sweet breads, we sang for hours most days ... drones, chants, orixa songs, blending our voices to provide the background, the canvas for the rest of the day. What followed varied ... travel, ceremony, instruction in dance, more songs, rhythms, beach visits, artful shopping, walking, walking, walking throughout the Peleringho in Salvadore, or in the mountains outside of Rio to bathe in the waterfall, or in Recife, Olinda, or at the beach ... It was a dream come true, steeped in the culture of Brazil, of candomble and the orixas. I WAS IN BRAZIL!!!, like a wide-eyed child. One night enraptured by Brazilian guitar strains and sensuous melodies ... one night dancing in ceremony in repetitive motion for ten hours to haunting Portuguese songs and hymns ... one night mesmerized by the sights, sounds, beauty, and dazzling brilliance of whiteclothed undulating bodies, adorned, making their way around the circle as one body, moved by the continuous rhythms of stick and hand on wood and skin ... another night fascinated yet feeling disconnected as a sea of people danced in the streets in front and behind of huge trucks carrying popular entertainers during pre-Carnival festivities (the sound systems were the best I've heard anywhere!).

My senses were stimulated beyond ... the smells of salt water fish, open air markets brimming with meats, ripe fruits, herbs ... sweat dripping from my pores, humidity and heat like a blanket over everything ... the warm waters of yemaya to swim in, float upon, dive under ... the heat of sand too hot to walk on ... the crispness of a waterfall too cold to stay under for long ... the beauty and stillness of a hummingbird poised in the waterfall's mist to drink from the spray against a background of white noise ... the despair of whole families begging for food, for life ... the wide, deep eyes of children ... sleek, wet, beautiful skin, dark hair ... the colors, chipping paint, and stories of ancient architecture ... igrejas, churches everywhere, adorned and gilded, with images known and unknown, honoring syncretized saints and Afrikan orishas simultaneously ... the sound of a car-mounted speaker announcing promotions followed by strains of "Ave Maria" fading in and out of my range of hearing ... the kindness and generosity of those around me who offered healing and help. A knee injury kept me in place for a few days (dancing samba on cobblestone, hilly streets did me in I think) ... still, receptive, resting, quiet, I had the gift of listening to the land around me in a different way, feeling the rhythms of the day and night as I've done before on different lands. I set up a bed on the terrace at the converted horse ranch/retreat center we were at, and stayed there watching the sun brighten to brilliance, feeling the heat seep into every crevice, watching the workers and their horses slowly moving to do their chores ... everything in slow motion, yet intense. Particles of burnt debris landed on me every once in a while, and flecked the bed. Burning rubbish?? Burning rainforest?? I wasn't sure, but the reminder that the lushness and diversity, the gold of this land that we depend on throughout the planet, had been sacrificed for agriculture, for cattle, for greed, was poignant. The intensity and relentlessness of the Maracatu strains with trombones, trumpets, snares, bass and incredible double bell from this area north of Recife fit the surrealness of the landscape, as both expression, and well as some sort of escape, or maybe accelerated evolution. The men dancing energetically, running circles, the costumes larger than life, gaudy, gilded ...

Brazil ... the Land of Enchantment ... truly an incredible place in its breadth, scope, expression, music. With gratitude to Silvia Nakkach and Alba Lirio of Vox Mundi, to all the teachers I had the good fortune to be with there (Edvaldo, Baixina, Silvia Rita, Vera, Ciba, Papel, Ipu, Cidalia, Yomar), to Estela, to those I met and befriended as part of our group, and to the Great Spirit that moves through all, I salute you ... and I remain humbled, excited, anticipating Life.