By Judy Piazza
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, 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, and rocked my soul!
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 Pelourinho in Salvador (Bahia), or in the mountains outside of Rio to bathe in the waterfall, or in Recife (Pernambuco) to check the intensity and relentlessness of the Maracatu strains with trombones, trumpets, snares, bass and incredible double bell. 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 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 white clothed 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.
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.
“Brazil, the Land of Enchantment…truly an incredible place in its breadth, scope, expression, and music”. With gratitude to Silvia Nakkach, Alba Lirio and all the teachers I had the good fortune to be with there 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.
*Judy Piazza is a recording artist, music therapist and educator. She has travelled to Brazil, Peru, Central America, India, and Japan to study and experience the rhythmic and vocal traditions of natives of these countries – www.resonanceandrhythms.com